The week in US unions, November 13-20

Thanks for your patience on this slightly-delayed issue. Realistically, I will probably delay next week’s edition a few days (or might just do a mega-roundup in two weeks’ time) as I’ve got family in town for Thanksgiving. Hope you get some time off work and enjoy it.

STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS

The epic John Deere UAW strike has ended after five weeks with an immediate 10% raise and the death of a proposed tier of pensionless new hires; the final ratification tally was 61% yes, a flip from the vote on the near-identical deal presented two weeks earlier, which went down by 55%. The new offer had a bit of a sweetener, but it seems clear that a good chunk of workers assessed that they’d won as much as they were going to win in this contract cycle -- which was a lot. In addition to the above, they also won back their cost-of-living adjustment, boosted their pensions, and got some improvements to their departmental quota pay system. More importantly, they showed the country that you can strike and win big. They rejected two consecutive contract offers, more than doubling the money Deere wanted to put on the table, and weren’t afraid to buck their union leadership when they felt unheard and unready to stop fighting. The next UAW Deere contract isn’t up until 2027, but I would expect this strike to feature heavily in the UAW national election campaign that will likely kick off in early 2022, presuming the “one member, one vote” referendum passes.

That leaves the UAW Local 2110 strike at Columbia University as the largest ongoing strike in the country, in terms of number of workers. Grad students at Harvard with UAW Local 5118 almost joined 2110 on the Ivy League picket line, but reached a last-minute tentative agreement this week, though it might get voted down. Also in Boston, also with Local 2110, workers at the Museum of Fine Arts struck for 24 hours.

As for the largest non-open-ended strike in the country, that award goes to the tens of thousands of sympathy strikers at Kaiser with SEIU UHW, IFPTE, OPEIU, NUHW, and the California Nurses (NNU) walking off the job. The “sympathy” in question is with the 700 or so Operating Engineers Local 39 members who’ve been on strike for over two months. Though the big contracts were settled by last Saturday, the Guild of Professional Pharmacists’ 2,000 members were still ready to walk, though they got a last-minute deal as well, as did the couple thousand UNAC/UHCP therapists who are gunning for a first contract; obviously all of these have to pass ratification votes. 

Meanwhile, 14,000 Kroger grocery workers with UFCW Local 455 at about 110 stores in and around Houston are on the edge of what would be the year’s biggest strike. These workers have been working under a contract that Kroger just went ahead and imposed late last year, that changes their health plan, locks workers into a new wage scale, and apparently has stopped collecting union dues, according to a worker I spoke with. 

At the University of California, two big UAW unions of a combined 24,000 or so workers have authorized strikes by impressive margins; over 10,000 members of Student Researchers United, the new union that has not been fully recognized by the administration, voted to strike, along with thousands of post-doctoral workers with Local 5810. Talk about a credible threat. The 6,000 lecturers with UC AFT who had also threatened a strike reached a tentative deal with the university system, averting what would’ve been a big one.

IATSE has ratified its two big contracts, ending a months-long strike threat among over 60,000 film and TV workers. Because we live in the dumbest possible timeline, the big contract was actually voted down by the majority of voting members, but due to IATSE’s electoral college-style system, it was ratified anyway. Luckily for the national leadership of IATSE, their next elections aren’t until 2025, the year after the next contracts are up, but leadership elections are also delegated, so any would-be challengers have a tough row to hoe. Local elections on the other hand, are next year, at least in some locals, and there is open talk of voting out the leadership, especially in unions like Local 80, where the members voted two-to-one against the contract. The head of Local 871, Crystal Hopkins, preemptively jumped ship, voicing apparent regret over the ratification process in a resignation letter; she had been a leader of the “vote no” movement in 2018, and won local union office that year, but publicly supported the contract this time around.

Other hospitals: SEIU 1199 WV/KY/OH, representing 1,000 strikers at Cabell Hospital in Huntington, WV, says the company’s offers during bargaining this week have been getting worse, not better, as the strike nears its three-week mark. 2200 workers at Lansing, MI’s Sparrow Hospital are just wrapping up a strike authorization vote with the Michigan Nurses Association. Dozens of UPMC workers in Pittsburgh held a one-day strike with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania as they keep pushing in their years-long fight to win a union at the massive healthcare employer. Dan DiMaggio recapped the Buffalo hospital strike win by CWA Local 1133 for Labor Notes. Meanwhile, 700 St Vincent nurses with the Massachusetts Nurses Association remain on strike in Worcester, MA with no updates, as far as I’ve seen; the other 8-month-long strike, that of the UMWA miners in Brookwood, AL haven’t seen any movement in the past week either, though a judge did extend the ruthless, unjust injunction against picketing into December.

Kellogg’s and BCTGM are apparently set to meet for bargaining again on Monday, after a few weeks of deadlock and inaction; meeting is a good sign, but no way to know if it means the strike is anywhere closer to a conclusion, seven weeks in.

K-12: The striking Scranton, PA educators have a tentative agreement, ending the largest official K-12 strike since the pandemic began, with a ratification vote set for Tuesday. Around 100 school bus drivers with Teamsters Local 572 in Long Beach, CA struck this week, as did cafeteria workers in Wake County, NC. School bus drivers in Berkeley County, SC held a sick-out this week, and school bus drivers in South Burlington, VT are officially unionizing; read Michael Sainato on the general school bus strike trend. Teachers in Rohnert Park, CA have authorized a strike. The two unions representing Las Cruces, NM teachers and support staff have both declared impasse in negotiations with the district; the school bus drivers struck last month, so I wouldn’t be surprised if members are interested in exploring that option. Teachers in Kingsford, MI, on the Wisconsin border, have filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district over a failure to bargain in good faith, and teachers in Chillicothe, OH took a similar step. Teachers in Russiaville, IN have a new one-year contract, which brings up the minimum salary to a whopping $41,250. 353.5 teachers (I don’t understand either, but that’s what the local news says) have a new five-year contract in Shaler, PA, outside Pittsburgh. In Mt. Prospect, IL, two elementary school unions have opened negotiations on their contracts, which expire at the end of this school year. On the other side of the state in Pleasant Valley, PA, educators picketed the school board meeting as they fight for a new contract. In Boston, SEIU Local 888 is calling on the district for enhanced security over concerns about violence in the schools.

The third Teamsters Local 533 strike of 2021 in Reno, NV rolls on against transit mega-contractor Keolis. Around 200 transit workers are on an unfair labor practice strike, against the backdrop of contract negotiation breakdown.

Wheelchair attendants for subcontractor Bags, Inc. at the Orlando International Airport held a one-day strike with 32BJ SEIU Florida; these workers make less than $8 an hour. Meanwhile, at the Denver airport, SEIU Local 105 janitors struck and won $4/hour raises. In Arizona, airport concessions workers for mega-contractor HMS Host with UNITE HERE Local 11 are planning a 7-day strike to start Monday.

Members of UNITE HERE Local 274 are on strike at Philadelphia’s Wyndham Hotel as of Sunday morning.

Nursing home workers in Burlington, NJ with 1199 SEIU struck for 24 hours.

AFA-CWA members for regional carrier Piedmont protested at the Charlotte airport; they authorized a strike some weeks back, though the Railway Labor Act makes that prospect more complicated than in the rest of the private sector. 

Around 350 aerospace manufacturing workers with IAM Local 388 have authorized a strike at Eaton in Davenport, IA.

Contract votes at two Ingalls-run shipyards in Newport News, VA and Pascagoula, MS did not go as the leadership planned; in Virginia, the members of Steelworkers Local 8888 voted down their contract, two-to-one, and is now talking openly of a strike, and in Mississippi nobody knows what happened because the leadership said simply that they need to do a “revote” among the 13 unions at the shipyard. That sounds to me like it went down hard but who knows.

Teamsters Local 264 ended their 10-day strike with an agreement from Friendship Dairy in Friendship, NY

2500 rail workers for Chicago’s Metra commuter rail have a tentative agreement after authorizing a strike. Likewise, the 365 members of SMART Local 1594 will not strike the Norristown, PA commuter rail after all, reaching a tentative agreement after authorizing a strike, just like their Philly SEPTA counterparts.

After three years without, 300 Boston Globe employees with the Boston Newspaper Guild have a new contract

Colorado WINS, the statewide union of 30,000 state workers in Colorado, has its first contract under a new law allowing state workers to collectively bargain.

AFSCME 3399, representing 80 municipal workers for the city of Takoma Park, MD, is pushing for raises that keep up with inflation -- 5.4% -- while the city sticks to its offer of a measly 1.8%, despite the supposed progressive bastion receiving millions in federal money in the American Rescue Plan Act.

IATSE Local 114 is picketing the Merrill Auditorium in Portland, ME after the city-owned venue announced it would be looking into using non-union stagehand labor.

INTERNAL UNION POLITICS

The Teamsters have counted the votes in the election of international officers, and it was an absolute rout, with the Teamsters United O’Brien-Zuckerman slate creaming the incumbent-backed slate, two-to-one. It’s hard to overstate how big a deal this might be for the US labor movement, but the mainstream press is starting to get it. At minimum, we will likely see a massive UPS contract campaign, as the largest private-sector union contract expires in the summer of 2023. I would also expect the Amazon organizing to take on a higher profile, having been such a focus of the campaign. The new officers aren’t set to take office until March, but the upcoming DHL contract could be a first test-run for whoever is taking over the Package Division of the union, plus the national carhaul and freight contracts (though shadows of their former selves) will be important tests for a reformed Teamsters union. The results really shine a light on the important work of Teamsters for a Democratic Union, the rank-and-file organization that will now have a lot more institutional power, and likely a raised profile among the membership, opening new possibilities for organizing on the local level, and challenging weak local incumbents (especially those who were on the opposite side as their local membership in this past election).

Meanwhile, the UAW referendum is hot on the Teamsters election’s heels, with voting closing on November 29th. The Toledo Blade looked at the referendum as voting winds down. My sense is this thing is going to pass, possibly by a wide margin, which will kick off a campaign season in the union in preparation for their convention next summer.

Johnny Doc has resigned from the top post of IBEW Local 98 in Philadelphia, after being convicted on bribery and other public corruption related charges.

NEW ORGANIZING

New election filings at the NLRB: 

Teamsters: 90 drivers and warehouse workers for Penske in Auburn, WA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 174. 55 freight truck drivers with EPES Transport in Chester, VA are organizing with Teamsters Local 322. 48 logistics workers for Intermodal Transportation and Rail in Kansas City, MO, are organizing with the Teamsters. 40 Pepsi warehouse workers in Harrisburg, PA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 776. 38 EMTs for Western Maine Health in Norway, ME are organizing with Teamsters Local 340. 24 sanitation workers for Republic Services in Great Falls, MT are organizing with Teamsters Local 2. 11 drivers for Aramark Uniform Services in Savannah, GA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 728. Ten stockers for Chateau St. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, WA are joining Teamsters Local 117. Five drivers for rental company EquipmentShare in Columbia, MO are unionizing with Teamsters Local 833. Four school bus driver for Dattco in Andover, CT are unionizing with Teamsters Local 671.

Everybody else: 76 non-profit workers at Care for the Homeless in the Bronx are organizing with DC 37 (AFSCME). 62 casino workers at Wynn Las Vegas are organizing with the UAW (who, yes, have a substantial gaming division, representing 10,000 workers across nine states). 50 healthcare workers at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Yonkers, NY are unionizing with 1199 SEIU. 50 workers at the Citadel nursing home in Glenview, IL are organizing with SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana. 29 workers at Forest Haven nursing home in Catonsville, MD are joining 1199 SEIU, in two separate votes. Workers United has filed for an election at yet another Starbucks location, this time among 28 workers in Mesa, AZ, signaling that their campaign will not be limited to one metro area (and probably freaking out the various corporate VPs about how many floors they’ll have to performatively sweep if this thing really spreads to all 8,000 stores). PASNAP is organizing 27 nurse anesthetists at Temple Physicians in Philadelphia. 17 workers at Ecumen nursing home in Owatonna, MN are unionizing with UFCW Local 663. 15 transit workers for the Butler Transit Authority in Butler, PA (operated by MV Transportation) are organizing with ATU Local 1743, and 14 transit workers for First Transit in Exeter, RI are organizing with ATU Local 618. 13 teachers at Summit Academy charter school in Lorain, OH are unionizing with AFT Local 6570. Ten cement masons for contractor Interwest Construction in Seattle are unionizing, but the NLRB filing lists, I kid you not, five separate unions vying to represent them; maybe a clerical error at the NLRB, or maybe just insane infighting among the building trades. Ten workers at Coca-Cola in Sparks, NV are joining Laborers Local 169. Five maintenance workers at Princeton University are joining SEIU Local 175. Four building engineers for BGIS in Irvine, CA, and two more in San Diego are joining Operating Engineers Local 501

NLRB election wins…: 77 workers at Duke University Press eked out a win, voting 36-35 to unionize with the Washington Baltimore News Guild after filing for an election over six months ago. 54 workers at rock climbing gym Earth Treks in Arlington, VA voted 28-14 to unionize with Workers United’s Mid Atlantic Regional Joint Board. 20 electricians for contractor APT based in Fort Washington, PA voted 10-1 to join IBEW Local 98. 13 maintenance workers at Fort Bliss, TX voted 6-5 to join Operating Engineers Local 351. The ACLU of Arizona is now a union shop, after 12 staffers voted 9-1 to join UAW Local 2320, the legal services local. Eight LPNs at Manor View nursing home in Montrose, PA voted 4-3 to join SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, though the larger unit voted against it (see “losses” below). Eight behavioral assistants at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis voted 4-0 to join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. One valiant sprinklerfitter voted for UA Local 669, thereby unionizing eight workers at Electronic Systems Consultants in Columbus, OH. Four bakers at the Safeway in Wilsonville, OR are now with BCTGM Local 114 after one of them voted to join the union (and the others didn’t vote).

...and losses: 49 workers at GE utilities subsidiary Fieldcore in West Chester, OH voted 16-29 against joining Machinists District Lodge 34. 24 support staff at Manor View nursing home in Montrose, PA voted 9-12 against joining SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

Decertifications and raids: 25 TV workers for Fox in Las Vegas stuck with NABET-CWA, voting 14-9 not to decertify. It looks like the bogus Production Workers Local 707 tried to raid Teamsters Local 727’s 12 members at CCS Trucking in Chicago (though I could have the raid direction the wrong way around), and they split the vote, 3-3, which means they’ll have a rerun where “non-union” is no longer an option on the ballot, as I understand it (though I could also have that wrong).

Security guards: 110 security guards in San Antonio are joining SPFPA. National Security Officers Benevolent Association Local 971/550 successfully raided a unit of 36 security guards at the Hunts Point Terminal (where Teamsters Local 202 struck in January) from the Special Patrolman Benevolent Association, in a 20-1 vote. 24 security guards in Florida City, FL are also joining SPFPA.

Workers at Tudors Biscuits in Elkview, WV, organizing with UFCW Local 400, marched on the boss to demand union recognition and had the cops called on them.

Several unions are suing the Attorney General over the right to organize the Connecticut National Guard.