The week in US unions, October 2-9
There was tons of union activity this week, and I did my best to keep up. For Labor Notes, I wrote about the UFT, the Frontier CWA strike, spoke to Kellogg’s strike leaders, and the John Deere UAW contract. I also went on Hasan Piker’s twitch stream to talk about unions and strikes which was very fun.
New election filings at the NLRB: 115 workers at Garden Fresh Salsa in Ferndale, MI are organizing with UFCW Local 876. 113 non-tenure-track faculty at Bates College in Lewiston, ME are organizing with SEIU Local 1989. 75 employees at non-profit (plus charter school? I couldn’t tell) Common Ground in New Haven, CT are unionizing with UAW Local 2110. 66 nurses at the Berkshire Visiting Nurses Association in Pittsfield, MA are organizing with the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 50 aircraft mechanics for Lockheed Martin at Luke Air Force Base in Arizona are joining Machinists Local 519.
Small shops: 31 mechanics at Cherokee Freight Lines in Stockton, CA are organizing with Teamsters Local 439. 25 ACLU staffers in Chicago are unionizing with UAW Local 2320, the national legal services local. 22 drivers for Al Scannavino Trucking in Stockton, CA are organizing with Teamsters Local 439. 22 “chaperones” at the Trail House child detention facility in El Paso are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 351. 21 tree trimmers for Asplundh in Neosho, MO and Nevada, MO are unionizing with IBEW Local 53 in two separate votes. 20 workers at a CVS in San Mateo, CA are joining UFCW Local 5. 16 workers at Otis Elevator in Barrigada, Guam are joining the Elevator Constructors Local 126. 14 clericals for CT Transit are joining ATU Local 425. 13 water utility workers at NW Natural Water of Oregon in Sunriver, OR are organizing with OPEIU Local 11. 13 workers on Fort Bliss Army Base are joining Operating Engineers Local 351. Nine office workers at Albergue Olimpico in Salinas, PR are joining Programa De Solidaridad Utier, which I don’t know if that’s separate from Utier, the union that I believe mainly represents electrical workers in PR (though I know very little about Puerto Rican unions). Nine cannabis workers for Temescal Wellness in Framingham, MA are unionizing with SEIU Local 509. Five dispatchers and mechanics for Durham school bus company in Trumbull, CT are joining ATU Local 1336. Three workers at mold removal company Greenworks in Wall, NJ are joining IBEW Local 400.
Recent NLRB election wins…: 89 aircraft mechanics and clerks on Fort Hood Army Base voted 37-26 to join the Machinists. 52 construction workers for Omni Excavators in DC joined Laborers Local 11 in a 16-0 vote. 33 nursing home workers at the Mark Twain Caring Center in Poplar Bluff, MO unionized with UFCW Local 655, 18-3. 27 workers at medical waste processing company Stericycle in Elizabeth, NJ voted 12-10 to join Teamsters Local 813. 25 union staffers for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, whose members are currently voting on a fifth tentative agreement after weeks on a contentious strike, have unionized with UFCW Local 367 in a 16-1 vote. 25 doctors and 21 drivers for Tri-State Asphalt in Morris, IL voted 13-5 to join Teamsters Local 179. 21 early childhood workers at Wild Lilac in Portland, OR voted 13-2 to join ILWU Local 5. 20 housekeeping staff at a Genesis-owned nursing home in Wallingford, CT voted 13-0 to join 1199 New England. 16 doctors and healthcare workers at Indigo Urgent Care in Tacoma, WA joined the Union of American Physicians and Dentists Local 206 (AFSCME) in a 9-2 vote. All six RNs at the Gabert Medical Clinic in Glendive, MT voted to join Montana Nurses Association Local 21 (AFT). Four clerical transit workers in Bridgeport, CT voted 2-1 to join ATU Local 1336. One of two workers at Flight Safety International Defense Corporation voted to join the Machinists, the other didn’t vote, so now they’re union.
...and losses: In one of the biggest losses of the year, RWDSU got crushed, 76-212, among 387 workers at a Keurig Green Mountain plant in Windsor, VA. 16 workers who make adhesive labels for Celestik in Fletcher, NC voted 5-8 not to join Teamsters Local 61.
Decertifications and raids: A decertification petition has officially been filed among the 584 Beaumont, TX Exxon refinery workers with Steelworkers Local 13-243 who’ve been locked out for almost six months; the union says the company is union-busting, which it cleary is.11 workers at a luxury apartment building in Midtown, NYC voted 5-4 to stick with 32BJ SEIU. Six workers at wind energy company Siemens Gamesa in Fairless Hills, PA decertified the Steelworkers in a 1-3 vote. Company union National Production Workers Union Local 707 tried to raid a unit of 20-some workers at Hacienda Landscaping in Minooka, IL represented by 3 unions, the NLRB ruled they had to do separate votes, and the five cement masons voted 4-1 to stick with Cement Masons Local 502.
Security guards: 89 guards in Austin, TX voted 37-26 to join SPFPA. The Special and Superior Officers Benevolent Association is raiding 70 Garda armored car guards and drivers who are currently with the United Federation of Special Police & Security Officers in Edison, NJ, and they’re also raiding 28 guards at the Intrepid Museum in NYC, who are currently with SPFPA Local 511. 40 security guards with the Special Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association at the Hunts Point Produce Market (where cops arrested striking Teamsters in January) are getting raided by the National Security Officers Benevolent Local 971/550. Another 25-guard unit in DC currently with URSO is being raided by Protective Service Officers United.
Outside the NLRB: The Michigan Nurses Association fended off a raid of its largest local, representing University of Michigan nurses, by an “independent” union backed by the AFT, and headed by the former executive director of MNA, who was removed in 2019; the 6,000 nurses voted by 58% to stick with MNA. 12 workers at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic, New York, became the first farm workers in the state to unionize -- with RWDSU Local 338 -- after the passage of a new law that gives these workers unionization rights for the first time. City workers in Lawrence, KS are organizing with Teamsters Local 696. The Pennsylvania state labor board ruled against the Steelworkers’ appeal of their narrow loss (due to employer interference) among grad student workers at Pitt in 2019; the union says they’ll appeal again.
Dave Jamieson wrote about how HelloFresh is spending tens of thousands of dollars on union-busting lawyers to try to beat back the UNITE HERE organizing drives. This should be illegal, but is not.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
Active strikes: 1,400 workers at Kellogg’s four “ready to eat cereal” plants in Battle Creek, MI, Omaha, Memphis, and Lancaster, PA struck early Tuesday morning, and I spoke to two leaders of the Michigan local for Labor Notes. Kellogg’s has a two-tier workforce, with the lower tier workers getting to transition to the top tier once a more senior worker retires. Now the company wants to foreclose that transition program, meaning no new hires, and none of the current lower-tier employees, will ever get a pension or the decent wages that current more senior employees get. Plus people are working 80-hour weeks, and the company wants to cut hundreds more jobs. This is the third big household name brand strike by BCTGM workers since July, and Harold Meyerson wrote about what that might mean for the labor movement.
The biggest strike in the country remains that of 2,000 CWA Local 1133 hospital workers at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, NY. C.M. Lewis wrote it up for The Nation. If you’re looking to support these strikers online, they’re distributing a social media toolkit you can use to show your support.
2,000 telecom workers at Frontier Communications across seven CWA locals in California went on an unfair labor practice strike for one day after the company failed to show at a scheduled meeting. The bigger context here is these workers have authorized a strike and are fighting for a contract, after extending their last one for a year due to the company filing for bankruptcy (and then immediately paying their executives over $30 million in bonuses). I wrote it up for Labor Notes.
The 2,000-member strike (well, the number actually on strike seems to have fluctuated quite a bit) of Washington state Carpenters could be near its conclusion, as workers vote on a tentative agreement, with ratification vote results expected Monday evening.
The over-400 Heaven Hill distillery workers in Bardstown, KY who’ve been on strike with UFCW Local 23-D for a month now are hoping to see an end to the strike soon. The company immediately cut off their health insurance coverage, which is a nasty tactic that should be illegal (and if you want yet another reason we should have universal healthcare, it’s because this kind of employer leverage makes it massively harder for workers to take a risk on a strike).
The 700 Operating Engineers Local 39 members who’ve been striking Kaiser in California for a few weeks now seem to be keeping up the energy, and one of the job sites in Oakland said trash failed to be picked up due to picketers blocking the garbage truck, so hopefully management is feeling the pain. Management will certainly feel the pain when the 37,000 other Kaiser workers who are authorizing strikes in three states (with UNAC/UHCP, Steelworkers Local 7600, OFNHP, and UNITE HERE Local 5) join the 700 engineers.
350 SEIU UHW hospital workers at Sutter Delta Medical Center in Antioch, CA struck this week against understaffing. 400 non-nurse hospital workers at Springfield, OR’s McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center held a two-day ULP strike with SEIU Local 49, at least in part over management’s attempt to outsource support staff. It could be just a preview of a longer strike, the union says.
40 workers at Erie Strayer, which manufactures heavy machinery for concrete production in Erie, PA, are on strike with Ironworkers Local 851.
A dozen or so drivers for Johnson Brothers beverage distributors in North Kingstown, RI are still on strike for their first contract with Teamsters Local 251 after many weeks.
The 300-member UAW Local 509 strike at SSP Aerospace in Burbank, CA ended their strike after two weeks, and I didn’t see a single news item on it (I’m just going off of reports from folks who’ve visited the picket line).
Transit: The Reno, NV bus drivers on strike (again!) with Teamsters Local 533 are now back at the table with mega contractor Keolis. Somewhere between 25 and 100 non-union school bus drivers in Anne Arundel County, MD struck this week, as part of the ongoing bus driver shortage. On Thursday, they delivered a notice of their intent to unionize with UFCW Local 1994. Iowa City school bus drivers with Teamsters Local 238 are pushing for pandemic hazard pay. Elsewhere in bus driver shortages, Louisville, KY’s paratransit service is facing service delays due to driver shortages, while contractor MV Transportation can’t be bothered to settle a hazard pay deal with ATU Local 1447, so what do you expect? San Mateo County, CA transit workers have a new contract with Teamsters Local 856.
Strike watch: The impending massive IATSE strike continues to impend, but even more impendingly than before, as members voted to authorize a strike by 98%. That’s a good number, but strike authorizations pass, that’s why unions call them. A much better number is their whopping 90% turnout. The union leadership says the strike is “a matter of days, not weeks” away. Hell of a show of force. Alex Press wrote about the potential strike in the New York Times, and Labor Notes republished an interview Austin DSA did with a potential striker. Meanwhile, IATSE Local 11 struck for one day at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA (which I will note is owned by my uncle’s brother, and I will say here, what the fuck, Uncle Billy, what the fuck) forcing the cancellation of a performance of Mamma Mia! and quickly won an agreement of some kind on wages. IATSE Local 22 stagehands at the Kennedy Center in DC have also authorized a strike. Meanwhile, the ticket takers at Bethesda, MD theater the Strathmore are still on strike watch with IATSE Local 838.
10,000 UAW members at Deere will be voting on their tentative agreement tomorrow, and I wrote about it for Labor Notes. Most egregiously, the offer eliminates pensions for all new hires (which is, like, the opposite of what members hoped this contract could do, namely restore post-retirement healthcare and beef up the existing pension). Members are so mad about the UAW corruption scandal, the weak wages put forward while Deere makes record profits, and the information blackout from the union they’ve been under for the past week, that I humbly submit a $5 bet that they vote the contract down, which would put a strike back on the table. But we’ll see; I’ve spoken to a very small sliver of the 10,000 workers. I also spoke with Labor Express Radio about Deere (though that was before contract details came out).
250 St. Paul, MN Public Works workers represented by three unions -- Laborers Local 363, Teamsters Local 120, and Operating Engineers Local 49 -- have voted to authorize a strike. To be clear, this is in addition to Public Works workers in Minneapolis, who have also authorized a strike. Another 150 Operating Engineers Local 49 waste water treatment workers in the Twin Cities are voting on a strike authorization as well.
Food service workers at DePaul University in Chicago have voted to strike with UNITE HERE Local 1, as have their union siblings at nearby Northwestern University. UNITE HERE Local 11 members at USC are speaking out as well.
There is strike talk, despite a no-strike clause, among National Women’s Soccer League players, whose union is the latest AFL-CIO affiliate, over pay, racism, and harassment. Players held in-game demonstrations against harassment and abuse across multiple games this week. There are also rumblings about the possibility of a Major League Baseball strike, as negotiations drag on.
Columbia University student workers with the UAW have authorized another strike; they went out this spring, but the strike ended in sort of a fiasco with the strike being “paused” without a contract or a vote of the membership, and then the union’s bargaining committee being voted out in response. Meanwhile, Illinois State University grad workers’ union leaders with SEIU Local 73 are supporting the latest contract offer from the administration, which could avert a strike there.
76 K-12 support staff in Harrison City, PA, outside of Pittsburgh, have authorized a strike with SEIU 32BJ. Teachers in East Stroudsburg, PA have also authorized a strike, and are working under an expired contract; they last struck in 2018.
110 hospital workers in Eagleville, PA, outside of Philadelphia, have authorized a strike with PASNAP. AFSCME Local 2650 hospital workers at Michigan hospital network McLaren have voted down a tentative agreement, bringing them one step closer to a possible strike.
Protests and info pickets: The El Camino College Federation of Teachers rallied against being denied their cost-of-living adjustment despite the state funding the Torrance, CA community college to pay it. AFSCME Local 1072, representing workers at the University of Maryland, rallied with student groups on campus. One of the big issues is a push to consolidate bargaining with the university across campuses, which was passed in a state bill but vetoed by the governor. AFT Local 6156, aka the Grad Labor Organization, Brown University’s grad student workers union, has filed several unfair labor practice charges against the university, for things as basic as failing to collect dues. Faculty negotiations at University of Illinois - Springfield are going poorly. University of Chicago non-tenure track faculty with SEIU Faculty Forward have a tentative agreement. Northern Michigan University AAUP faculty are voting on another tentative agreement after turning one down in late September.
In Providence, RI, Bannister nursing home workers info picketed with 1199 New England as the facility brings in out-of-state workers but refuses to pay the union members their “short staffing pay,” among other issues.
The union staff of the UFCW (represented by the Washington-Baltimore News Guild) went public with their frustrations over negotiating a new contract.
Spirit Aerospace Machinists in Wichita, KS were apparently going to reopen their contract talks, but the company backed off over vaccine mandate-related concerns that I don’t fully understand. Hundreds of members rallied in protest of the mandate that Spirit says it’s enforcing based on Biden’s mandate for federal contractors.
Contract settlements: [Oprah “you get a car” voice]: 7,500 state workers in Nebraska with AFSCME Local 61 (the Nebraska Association of Public Employees) have a new contract. Maine state workers with SEIU Local 1989 have a new contract. Billings, MT educators have a new contract, as do teachers in Independence, OH and Wellington, OH K-12 workers, as well as Tippecanoe County, IN educators. Philadelphia principals (represented by Teamsters Local 502, one of the odder Teamster locals I’ve seen) have a new contract. Highway and maintenance workers in Genesee County, NY with AFSCME Local 392 have a new contract. Fleet mechanics who work for the city of Bangor, ME with AFT Local 6071 have a new contract. City workers in Hillsdale, MI with Teamsters Local 214 and IBEW Local 876 have a new contract. At least some Albany, NY city workers are getting a raise, but it’s complicated. Parma, OH firefighters with IAFF Local 639 have a new contract. 350 members of UAW Local 3044 have a new contract at steelmaker Cleveland-Cliffs’s mill in Rockport, IN. The highway and courthouse workers in Greene County, IL, represented by the Steelworkers, are facing a board that has now rejected their union contract twice, after working without a contract since January.
Cops and jail workers: Toledo, OH cops have a new contract that has wage increases and no reform measures, if you’re wondering how defunded the police have gotten. San Antonio cops’ union just agreed to a 12th contract extension. Nebraska prison guards with the FOP are trying to get the governor to intervene in prison understaffing. A Missouri judge issued a decision excoriating the jails for stopping union dues collection when a contract expired in 2019.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
In the Twin Cities, the Carpenters and the Operating Engineers came out in support of an anti-rent control campaign.
The small but mighty UE came out against any backdown from the reconciliation-infrastructure package deal in Congress. I haven’t tracked it closely, but this of course breaks with the AFL and AFT’s positions from last week.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
At Labor Notes, I wrote about the 2700 K-12 therapists in NYC who organized a “vote no” campaign on their last contract, then turned the “vote no” campaign into basically a caucus in the union, and then won union leadership. This is, in miniature, what a broader challenge to the sleepy (or worse) status quo in many unions would look like, and I think is a valuable lesson for union members everywhere.
A group of IBEW members, motivated by a very, very bad contract in Orlando’s Local 606 and other concessions being imposed primarily in the South, are headed to Nashville this weekend to protest the National Electrical Contractors Association conference at with IBEW President Lonnie Stephenson will be speaking. Will hopefully cover what’s happening in that union in the next week or so for Labor Notes. Would love to hear from any southern IBEW members who have thoughts on the matter.
The head of the New York Sergeants Benevolent Association has resigned after the FBI raided his home and office, and everybody in NYC politics seems very happy to see him go.
WHYY is doing blow-by-blow coverage of IBEW Local 98 president Johnny “Doc” Dougherty’s trial, if you like court dramas.
The UAW held its member forum on moving to a direct elections system, and it was great to hear from working members on how they think their union should be run. On Rising, autoworker and UAWD (the proto-TDU-style caucus in the UAW) leader Scott Houldieson laid out what’s at stake in the referendum and beyond.
Ballots have started hitting mailboxes in the Teamsters election. Meanwhile, a former top Teamsters official closely associated with the Vairma slate has been found guilty, again, by the judge who oversees internal Teamsters malfeasance. Jacobin headed to the Teamsters for a Democratic Union convention last weekend and reported back. Ballots are due back on November 15.