The week in US unions, October 30 - November 6
This week I went on The Dig with Gabe Winant, Alex Press, and IATSE activist Victor Bouzi. If you’re sick of me talking about labor, you should absolutely still check out the last 30 minutes, where Vick talks about the experience of being a union activist in this moment; one of the best interviews I’ve heard on the topic. Also, if you’re anywhere near either Detroit or Philadelphia, you should absolutely be attending the upcoming Troublemakers School In those cities; these day-long Labor Notes workshops for newbies and veteran union activists are incredibly useful, and you can meet tons of union members in your area, across all kinds of industries. If you’re not in Detroit or Philly, check out Labor Notes’s other events, many of which are online.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
The 10,000 John Deere strikers once again shocked the company and their UAW leadership by rejecting a second tentative agreement, this time by a more narrow 55%, thus continuing the strike. The company then announced that that had been their “best and final” offer, which at least some of the bargaining team says they never said before the ratification vote, which would be a big no-no on the company’s part. Deere is now saying they’ll go directly to the members to sell the old deal, but I think the most likely outcome is that they’ll move some money and language around and pick up a majority ratification vote before Thanksgiving, when the company is set to announce its projections for its new fiscal year. They are apparently using some replacement workers and importing some products from overseas Deere plants, but that’s simply not going to make up for the 10,000 strikers, impending planting season, and the already-existing massive paid-for backlog of tractors that were supposed to be delivered months ago. Deere equipment dealers are reporting massive delays and shortages, and frankly the ratification vote was close enough that it’ll be easier for Deere to sell a tweaked deal than to hold out for months and months, unless of course they want to teach the union a very expensive (for Deere) lesson. The company is estimated to be losing $17 million in profits per day.
The Kaiser strike is becoming realer by the minute. Three big unions: UNAC/UHCP, Steelworkers Local 7600, and OFNHP, announced they’d delivered a 10-day strike notice, with a strike slated for November 15th among their combined 32,000 members in Oregon and Southern California. In addition, UFCW pharmacists in Southern California announced their 10-day notice, with a strike date of November 18th, as did the Guild of Professional Pharmacists, an independent union of Northern California Kaiser workers, with their strike slated to last a week. We’ll see what the rest of UFCW (in Washington, where they are info picketing, and Georgia, where they’ve authorized a strike; I don’t believe the DC or Baltimore locals are participating) does, as well as UNITE HERE Local 5 in Hawaii, all of whom have authorized or are authorizing strikes. If that weren’t enough, 40,000 additional Kaiser workers who aren’t currently in negotiations (SEIU UHW, OPEIU Local 29, and IFPTE Local 20) have announced a one-day sympathy strike on November 18th with Operating Engineers Local 39, whose 700 members have been on the picket line since mid-September.
CWA 1133 appears to have won their five-week strike against Catholic Health in Buffalo, most notably winning safe staffing ratios, as well as wage increases, if they ratify the tentative agreement reached this week. Notably, these ratios match what the Massachusetts Nurses Association fought for at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester, MA, with at least one difference between the two strikes (one of which was won in five weeks, one of which continues to break records as the longest strike in Massachusetts history) likely being that the MNA is up against healthcare megacorporation Tenet, who doesn’t want better wages or working conditions to spread through its system, while Catholic Health is only a regional operator. At Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, MI, the Michigan Nurses Association held an informational picket of their 2200 members after their contract expired. They have yet to officially call a strike authorization vote, but they’re openly talking about doing so. At UPMC in Pittsburgh, members of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania are announcing their intent to strike on November 18th; it’s unclear to me how many of the tens of thousands UPMC workers will strike.
We now have dates for the IATSE contract ratification votes on the two big agreements for 60,000 members across 36 local unions: November 12th-15th, so presumably in 10 days we’ll know if they passed or not. As a reminder, IATSE does not go by simple majority rules in their ratification process; votes are tallied across each local, and whichever side -- yes or no -- that wins in each local gets the full tally of the local’s membership counted in its favor. So, like the electoral college system, we could feasibly see a majority “no” vote that nonetheless ratifies the contract. Everyone -- including IATSE leadership -- has acknowledged there will be a substantial “no” vote but who knows whether they’ll actually vote it down. If they do vote it down, it doesn’t mean they’re on strike, by any means. But if the margin is large enough, as it was at John Deere, the leadership may feel they have no other choice to force movement at the bargaining table, though I wouldn’t bet on it.
Higher education: 3,000 more UAW members are on strike at Columbia University for the second time in 2021. At the University of California, a combined 24,000 academic workers will be voting on authorizing strikes across two groups: 7,000 post-docs with UAW Local 5810, and 17,000 researchers with Student Researchers United. Both votes are open until November 19th, so if they walk it will be after then. SEIU Local 73 members at the University of Illinois protested for “essential pay for essential work.” At Tufts University, janitors with 32BJ SEIU held a protest as their contract expired, but was hastily extended to early December. The Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers are voting on a one-year agreement, with members split on whether to lock it in or push for more.
The BCTGM strike of four Kellogg’s plants continues, and Alex Press has the big picture update for Jacobin. The union bargaining committee rejected another proposal from the company, as I understand it, and may be digging in for the long haul. In Memphis, one of the four cities where workers are striking, BCTGM is holding a rally for Kellogg’s workers as well as Blues City Brewery workers who have unionized and are pushing for their first contract. Elsewhere in BCTGM, 140 members of Local 37 who work at Donnaire Desserts in Santa Fe Springs, CA went on strike three days ago; I haven’t seen any local news reports or social media presence, so let me know if you know anything about this one, and thanks Johnnie Kallas from the ILR Labor Action Tracker for the heads up.
Approximately 3% of the population of Huntington, WV is currently on strike, with over 1,000 service workers at Cabell Hospital officially on strike with SEIU 1199 WV/KY/OH, and the Steelworkers Local 40 strike at Special Metals, 500 picketers strong, continuing into its sixth week. (OK, that’s not really how it works, they probably don’t all live in Huntington proper, but you get the idea.)
900 educators with the Scranton Federation of Teachers are now on strike, after four years without a contract; Barbara Madeloni has the story for Labor Notes. In Geneva, OH, 145 teachers struck and won a new contract within the week. Euclid, OH educators submitted their 10-day strike notice and will hit the picket line next week. Educators in Anderson, IN still don’t have an agreement on a new contract, after a 10-hour session with a federal mediator. Educators in St. Tammany Parish, LA are getting a raise and a $1,000 stipend in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
Around 500 members of Steelworkers Local 3057 are on strike against multinational steel giant ArcelorMittal in Shelby, OH after, according to the union, management just got up and left the negotiating table as the deadline expired. Some of the sticking points are, as many other strikes have focused on, securing time off for weekends -- in this case for holiday weekends like Thanksgiving and Easter.
300 members of Machinists Local 588 at Garlock, who make “sealing products,” struck for three days in Palmyra, NY and won a new contract.
250 Teamsters at a Saputo Dairy facility in Friendship, NY are on strike with Teamsters Local 264 over soaring healthcare costs. Elsewhere in Teamsters strikes, 80 workers for medical waste company Stericycle in Toledo and Warren, OH are on strike with Locals 20, and 377, respectively, over changes to their health insurance. About three dozen sanitation Teamsters for Republic with Local 270 in Metairie, LA are on strike, after their contract expired this summer. And about a dozen drivers with Local 251 are still striking Johnson Brothers wine distributors in North Kingstown, RI, taking their protests to liquor stores.
Workers at Blue Circle nursing home in St. Louis went on another one-day strike with SEIU HCIIMK after doing the same in September.
After years of organizing and a prominent hunger strike, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance has won municipal-backed debt relief for drivers.
The SEIU 1199NW strike at Cascade Behavioral Health has ended after something like three months on the picket line in Tukwila, WA. My Labor Notes coworker Sarah Hughes has details.
Two rail unions -- SMART-TD and BLET-IBT -- have filed for injunctions against Norfolk Southern Railroad, which, in the complicated dance that is labor action under the Railway Labor Act, is an important step towards a strike. I don’t know the timeline or scale of this thing, but you should follow my coworker Joe DeManuelle-Hall on Twitter to keep up to date on it.
The contract for 12,000 members of Steelworkers Local 8888 at the shipyard in Newport News, VA expires on November 14th, and, like so many others, these essential workers are pushing for more pay and time off as their employer, Huntington Ingalls, made gains during the pandemic.
7,000 customer service workers with Machinists District Lodge 142 at Southwest Airlines have voted by “overwhelming majority” to reject a tentative agreement.
Members of UFCW Local 876 who work at Kroger in Michigan have also rejected a tentative agreement, though I haven’t seen any talk of a strike.
UNITE HERE Local 7 protested the reopening of Merriweather Lakehouse, a luxury hotel in Columbia, MD, which has refused to honor the right to rehire of staff laid off in the pandemic.
TWU Local 1’s contract with the Akron, OH transit agency expired, but workers didn’t strike; they’ve set November 15th as the potential start date for any work stoppage. TWU Local 234 voted on their tentative agreement with Philadelphia transit agency SEPTA, and apparently some members were unhappy with the deal. I would assume it passed, but I haven’t seen any official statement one way or the other. ATU Local 757 in Portland, OR negotiated new agreements for several groups of transit workers, all of whom received raises as the CDL labor market remains extremely tight. Nine of 14 unions at Chicago commuter rail Metra are in tense contract negotiations with the company, with 1700 workers covered under these negotiations.
UAW Local 893 in Marshalltown, IA averted a strike against Lennox Industries, which makes HVAC equipment. 700 workers across four unions at Daimler truck plant in Portland, OR have new contracts, with raises and pandemic bonuses. Bloomington, IL cops are getting a raise in their new contract. 400 workers at Pilgrim’s Pride poultry plant in Waco, TX have a first contract with UFCW Local 540 after unionizing in June. Home healthcare workers with SEIU Local 2015 in Lake County, CA have a new contract that gives them their first raise in eight years. 300 city employees in Stamford, CT won raises in a new contract with UAW Local 2377.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
This from Ballotpedia was a useful snapshot of public sector employee legislation on the table (or killed) in 2021. The preamble part about public sector union responses to vaccine mandates is notable for the exceptions that are proving the rule: the FOP, the newly-wacky SEIU Local 1000, and two prison guard units of AFGE are the most strenuously opposed. The public sector resistance in NYC seems quite overstated, if I may say so, with a supermajority of city employees (yes, including fire and police) vaccinated and most of their unions signing onto the mayor’s mandate deal.
The Congressional infrastructure bill has passed, which is a big deal for a lot of unions for how much money it will infuse into new projects and existing industries. Obviously it’s a big deal for the building trades and other unions that will work on new infrastructure projects directly, but there’s also telecom funding and electric vehicle subsidies and airport funding and clean energy money that will have an impact on big chunks of the labor movement, and the funding is contingent on union neutrality agreements, which could be huge for new organizing.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
Evelyn Shapiro, head of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, has resigned, along with other leaders, while the council goes into trusteeship over apparent “vote rigging” during the fifth tentative agreement vote that ended the Carpenters strike in Washington state. For a strike that was all about the disconnect between the membership and the leadership, and for the vitriol that was directed at people who made that observation, including members being targeted for organizing for a “no” vote, this is a pretty astounding development.
For Labor Notes, Trent McDonald and I wrote about the academic workers side of the UAW, and the role they’re playing in the movement to reform the union as they organize around the historic referendum. Academic workers are now fully one-fifth of the active membership of the UAW, and have been one of the most active sectors for both new organizing and strike activity. Also be sure to check out More Perfect Union’s video explaining what’s at stake in this referendum.
The head of the Support Personnel Association of Lee County has abruptly announced her early retirement, after school bus drivers organized their own sickouts. I guess that’s one way to deal with your members getting out in front of you. “You’re on strike? Well I quit!”
New election fillings at the NLRB: 290 workers at the Art Institute of Chicago and 275 more workers at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago are organizing with AFSCME Council 31. I don’t usually cover “Armour-Globe elections” (which are basically adding new job titles to existing unions) because it’s more like union expansion than new organizing exactly, but SEIU Healthcare Minnesota is adding over 200 new members to their union at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. 110 workers at Start Elevator in NYC are organizing with Elevator Constructors Local 1.
Small shops: 76 non-profit staffers at Care for the Homeless in NYC are organizing with AFSCME Local 205, presumably under the new neutrality framework won by DC 37 that I mentioned last week. 70 freight truck drivers at Lineage Logistics in Richland, WA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 839. 58 drivers for Sysco in Modesto, CA are organizing with Teamsters Local 853, as are 47 workers in shipping and receiving at Canon in Menlo Park, CA. 45 nurses at Glenbeigh Hospital in Rock Creek, OH are unionizing with the Ohio Nurses Association. 34 non-profit staffers at Common Sense Media in San Francisco are joining CWA. 33 rehab workers at Avantara in Aurora, IL are joining SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana, as are 30 workers at Bella Terra nursing home in La Grange, IL. 26 weed dispensary workers at Curaleaf in Philadelphia are organizing with UFCW Local 1776.
Tiny shops: 22 power plant workers for Exelon in Fort Worth, TX are unionizing with IBEW Local 220. 21 elevator repair workers at Princeton University are joining SEIU Local 175. 19 staffers for Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy in El Paso, TX are joining CWA. 19 concrete truck drivers for LeGrand Johnson Construction in three locations in Utah are joining Teamsters Local 222. 18 landscapers for Garden Cycles in Seattle are unionizing with Laborers Local 242. 12 mechanics at Cherokee Freight in Madera, CA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 431. 12 workers at comics publisher Image Comics in Portland, OR are joining CWA. 11 construction workers for gas utility Eversource in Waterbury, CT are joining IBEW Local 420. 11 HVAC techs at Daikin in Phoenix are joining Plumbers Local 469. Ten workers at Leisure Pools in Burlington, IA (why is there an in-ground pools company in Iowa) are joining the Machinists. Seven security guards who contract for a trucking company in Avenel and Carteret, NJ are joining Federal Contract Guards of America. Seven workers at industrial chemical supplier Chemtrade in Mount Vernon, WA are joining the Steelworkers. Five flight simulator techs for General Dynamics in Milton, FL are also joining the Machinists. Five workers at Lego Land in Goshen, NY are joining Operating Engineers Local 30. Two workers at the US Coast Guard headquarters in DC are joining Operating Engineers Local 99.
NLRB election wins…: 135 hospital techs and support staff at Placentia-Linda Hospital in Placentia, CA voted 64-25 to join SEIU UHW. 113 RNs at San Dimas Community Hospital voted 68-9 to join SEIU 121RN in San Dimas, CA. The Teamsters unionized their third XPO Logistics shop after years of targeting the company, with a 16-13 vote for Teamsters Local 294 in Albany, NY. 34 tree trimmers who are contracted with Asplundh for Penelec (a utility) properties based out of Willow Grove, PA voted 16-2 to join IBEW Local 1919. 22 cannabis workers at Curaleaf dispensary in Mokena, IL, voted 19-3 to join UFCW Local 881, while 16 others at Verilife in Arlington Heights, IL voted 11-0 to join Teamsters Local 777 over UFCW Local 881 (both were on the latter ballot, as the two unions continue to fight over weed worker turf in Illinois). Five air traffic controllers in Danbury, CT voted 4-0 to join NATCA, as did five more in New Bedford, MA (5-0 there).
...and losses: 30 EMTs at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus, NJ narrowly voted (and with very low turnout), 6-7, against joining the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, NAGE Local 5000 (SEIU). Nine quality control techs for Stoneway Concrete in Seattle voted against joining Teamsters Local 174, 2-5.
Decertifications and raids: 76 grocery workers at Rostraver’s Shop ‘n’ Save in Belle Vernon, PA decertified Steelworkers Local 3403 in a 10-23 vote. SEIU 32BJ beat a decertification effort, 6-4, among 11 building services workers at a luxury apartment building in Manhattan. 11 workers at Alta Heavy Equipment Services in South Elgin, IL decertified Machinists Local 701, 10-0.