The past two weeks in US unions, March 5-19, 2022
This one’s another two-fer, and because the double editions can get prohibitively long, plus personal commitments taking away some time I’d usually have for the newsletter, there are definitely things I missed or skipped this week. As always, I think this newsletter pairs very well with the ILR Labor Action Tracker, where you can read a bit more about a few things I didn’t get to. Plus, always happy to hear from readers to see what I should’ve included or what I should make sure to include next time. Hoping this week we get back to a regular schedule after some disruption; thanks for your patience and for sharing this newsletter around!
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
Though the Steelworkers came to a tentative agreement with the big oil employers almost a month ago, led by Marathon at the negotiating table, each of the 200 or so bargaining units that cover 30,000 workers has to vote to ratify local agreements before they take effect. At least two units of Steelworkers Local 5, covering Chevron workers in Richmond, CA and at Marathon in Martinez, CA, voted down their local agreements; and in Richmond, 500 workers will strike starting at midnight local time tonight. There has been very little coverage of the negotiations, but this could be the first shot in a much wider work stoppage, like the one that happened in 2015, only this time against the backdrop of high political stakes re domestic oil supply, massive inflation that is primarily dramatized through gas prices, and a generalized increase in pro-worker sentiment… We’ll see if this thing spreads beyond Richmond, but I imagine they won’t be the only of the 200 or so bargaining units across the country to credibly threaten a strike.
K-12: 4,000 K-12 educators in Minneapolis have been on strike for the past two weeks, primarily over wages, particularly for the 1,000 ESPs (support staff known elsewhere as paraprofessionals); Barbara Madeloni has the story at Labor Notes. While their neighbors in St. Paul settled a tentative agreement (which they just ratified) at the last minute, the strike in some ways feels like the K-12 strike movement picking up where it left off in March of 2020, when COVID derailed the Red for Ed movement birthed in West Virginia four years ago; St. Paul teachers were on strike March 10-13, 2020 (ending the day Trump declared COVID a national emergency; Minnesota closed its schools on March 18). Eric Blanc laid out the national stakes of the Minneapolis strike for The Nation. In Sacramento, over 3,000 teachers and support staff (the latter repped by SEIU Local 1021) have set a strike date of March 23rd, as the district faces major staffing shortages, among other issues. Meanwhile, in San Francisco, 20 educators spent the night at school district headquarters in protest of some teachers not getting paid since the New Year, due to a payroll issue. Literally working without pay in one of the most expensive cities in the country! An hour north, in Rohnert Park, CA, teachers have a tentative agreement after a six-day strike. Mt. Diablo, CA teachers held a practice picket as they threaten to strike next month.
Higher Ed: Around 350 non-tenure-track faculty and adjuncts with SEIU Local 500 at Howard University say they’re ready to strike if a deal isn’t reached by Monday; per their Twitter account, they’re meeting with the administration tomorrow, but a strike seems like a very live possibility. 300 blue collar workers with AFSCME Local 1110 at Illinois State University are talking about striking, after 19 negotiating sessions have failed to yield a contract. 1300 staff at the University of Vermont who unionized with AFT nine months ago are still not close to a first contract, with wages being the big sticking point.
Around 60,000 grocery workers at Ralph’s (Kroger), Albertsons, and Vons (also owned by Albertsons) in Southern California are taking a strike authorization vote across UFCW Locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167, 1428, and 1442. Voting ends on March 26th, but it’s obviously going to be a yes, just a matter of the strength of the turnout and whether that spooks the companies into settling a contract.
The Teamsters Local 174 concrete strike in the greater Seattle area is still on, and still shutting down major construction projects across the region, but 40 workers for one of the six contractors being struck voted to go back to work. The Teamsters say this “good-faith gesture” has been sullied by the company’s delays in calling the returning drivers in to work, which both keeps projects delayed, and, as the union tells it, is a way of spitting in the members’ eye, which is not a great idea after four months already on the picket line. We’ll see if this actually turns into a small lockout, or is just a bump on the road to a resolution to the strike.
After being locked out for about a month, 290 members of UAW Local 128 who manufacture parts for Collins Aerospace in Troy, OH are headed back to work, having ratified an offer from the company. Meanwhile, the strike at fellow aerospace defense manufacturer Eaton in Davenport, IA by 400 members of Machinists Locals 388 and 1191 rages on after a month, and the company is getting increasingly nasty, advertising permanent replacement jobs using banners placed directly above the active picket line.
Amazon workers with Amazonians United walked off the job in Queens and Upper Marlboro, MD this week; Wired has a look at those actions and the deeper organizing behind AU. And in another high-profile national organizing effort, Starbucks Workers United members in both Denver and Overland Park, KS struck this week.
Two dozen TV workers at WTTW in Chicago are on strike with IBEW Local 1220 after a year in bargaining; this is the local’s first strike at the station since organizing in the 1950s.
900 shipyard workers (organized under the Metal Trades Department, but members of the Boilermakers, IBEW, Painters, Laborers, Sheet Metal, Pipefitters, Machinists, Teamsters and Operating Engineers) in Portland, OR and Seattle rejected a contract offer. They authorized a strike in December, and have voted to authorize it again, for good measure. Northwest Labor Press has the story.
The Oregon Nurses Association is openly talking about striking Providence Health, after some members have gone over a year without a contract.
The Long Island Rail Road suspended a 25-year employee who tested positive for weed after coming back from time off for open heart surgery, so now the 1,000 railroad electricians with IBEW Local 589 are threatening a work stoppage on Monday.
BNSF and Norfolk Southern, two of the Class I Railroads that carry freight across the country, have filed for federal mediation over negotiations with SMART-TD (and others, I think, but the release came from SMART-TD) over crew sizes. I assume this is the railroads making their play for one-man crews, which is to say only have to pay for a single worker to operate a massive freight train which is obviously dangerous and totally against the public interest.
100 veterinarians in Brighton, NY who unionized with the Machinists in January are being stonewalled by management, who are insisting there be a new vote across all Rochester metro locations of the business, which is of course bullshit but yet another easy union-busting and contract-delaying tool in the shameless employer toolbox.
Contract settlements: Transit workers with ATU Local 1001 in Denver have a new contract, which bumps starting pay by over 16%. Arts and entertainment workers with CWA at Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM have a first contract after a bumpy 16 months… which is nothing compared to the three years it took cardboard manufacturing workers at Cascades in Niagara Falls, NY to get their first Machinists District 65 union contract. The MLBPA voted to accept an agreement to end the lockout that had begun to threaten big chunks of the baseball season; interestingly, the executive board apparently voted against the settlement, but a supermajority of the teams votes (each gets one, I’m not sure who actually decides which way it goes, or if they balloted the players, or what) were to accept it, so it passed.
Working Mass spoke to construction workers in Boston who’ve been picketing the Marriott at Copley.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
The US Senate passed the Postal Service Reform Act, and while I don’t cover every piece of legislation a union supports, this one is a big deal for the postal unions, which in turn is a big deal for the whole labor movement, considering, for example, that job loss at USPS alone has accounted for 20% of the total union job loss in the 21st century. Among other things, it ends the ridiculous “pre-funding” requirement that says the USPS has to pre-fund every pension and other liabilities it will have to pay out for decades to come, the point of which is to paint the USPS as constantly failing.
A columnist at the Federal News Network says Veterans Affairs labor relations with AFGE is “about to descend into a tooth-and-nail cage fight” as the agency makes noises towards closing a number of VA hospitals and making other changes.
Indiana governor Eric Holcomb signed an amended version of a bill that kneecaps teachers unions (yes, specifically) from efficiently collecting union dues which had been blocked by a judge on what seem like very wonky grounds that necessitated a slight language change. The upshot appears to be that unions will have to re-authorize dues collection from each member each year, which is the kind of onerous hoop-jumping red states like to put K-12 unions through so as to drain resources from what they see as their political adversaries.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
A second top officer of the UAW, Cindy Estrada, Stellantis VP, has announced she won’t be seeking reelection. You’ll recall Terry Dittes, her counterpart who handles GM negotiations, made a similar announcement earlier this month. Meanwhile, the UAW’s external Ethics Officer, Wilma Liebman, has found no wrongdoing in current president Ray Curry’s use of $1900 worth of NCAA football tickets back in 2017. With two of his top officers announcing that they won’t be seeking reelection in the union’s upcoming first direct-membership elections, this is maybe a slight reprieve for Curry, though who knows if he’ll be seeking the top spot or following his lieutenants out the door.
The top two officers of Machinists District Lodge 142, based in Missouri but representing airline workers across the country, are asking a federal judge to lift the trusteeship imposed by the national Machinists leadership and President Robert Martinez. A years-long audit apparently triggered the trusteeship, but it’s also a little convenient that one of the two top officers recently challenged Martinez’s running mate in the national union elections last year. Reprisals for internal leadership challenges in a labor union?! What has the world come to.
The AAUP, the union/faculty association that has collective bargaining rights at dozens of universities (and also has a lot of chapters without those union rights) has affiliated with the AFT. Per the announcement, 20,000 of the 44,000 AAUP members were already in locals affiliated with AFT, but this makes it a national blanket affiliation.
In Washington, the state labor council will soon have a new president, and the statewide teachers’ union has some new executive board members.
New election filings at the NLRB: In another big couple of weeks for Starbucks, and one that really illustrates the geographic diversity (a big problem for corporate) that the Starbucks Workers United movement continues to maintain, 837 workers filed for elections at 30 stores, in Portland, OR (x2), Austin, TX, Augusta, GA, Oklahoma City, Knoxville and Murfreesboro, TN, Denver and Colorado Springs, CO (x2), Independence, MO, Seattle, Leesburg and Falls Church, VA, Louisville, Queens and Amherst, NY, Grand Rapids, Flint, and East Lansing, MI, Miami Springs, Oviedo, and Hialeah, FL, Linthicum Heights, MD, Waban, MA, Los Angeles, Long Beach, Los Alamitos, and Lakewood, CA, and Philadelphia. Plus, though it hasn’t been officially logged on the NLRB’s website, three more stores in Buffalo won their NLRB elections, bringing that count total up to six, with a stunning 93 more store votes waiting to be scheduled, and about a dozen new ones popping up each week. 354 medical interns and residents at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, VT, plus 85 medical interns and residents at Keck Medicine at USC in Los Angeles, are unionizing with CIR (SEIU). 342 workers for airline logistics company Swissport in Newark, NJ are organizing with the Machinists, in what would be the biggest blue collar NLRB win since I started the newsletter. Not too far behind is the organizing drive among 280 workers with the USW at International Automotive Components Group in Arlington, TX (which really sounds like UAW jurisdiction, but with the auto parts industry being nearly 90% non-union and the UAW not appearing to be doing much about that, it’s hard to complain too much). 139 film and TV workers in New York City are unionizing with CWA, including 22 post production workers on “scripted content” for Apple. As far as I know this is the first-ever US union election at the tech giant, which seems like a big deal; as part of the same drive (but separate elections), CWA is organizing 19 post-production workers at Disney, 27 at Paramount, 21 at NBC Universal, 15 at Netflix, and 35 at Warner. 125 workers at the Community Health Centers of Burlington, VT are organizing with AFT, as are 117 staff at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, with AFT Local 9608.
Small shops: 74 truck drivers for UNFI based in Rocklin, CA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 150. 65 workers at the Seattle Art Museum are organizing as an independent union, which is particularly interesting because this same group of workers filed for an election in January with the Painters, but withdrew that petition; this group also filed to unionize independently (though under a very slightly different name) in 2018, but withdrew in that instance as well. NUHW is organizing 58 healthcare workers at a jail in Bakersfield, CA. 51 workers for Pennsylvania Roofing Systems based in Bakerstown, PA are organizing with the Eastern Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters. 45 nursing home workers at Townhouse Center for Rehab and Nursing in Uniondale, NY are organizing with 1199 SEIU. 43 workers for Peak Mechanical and Fire Protection in Brooklyn, NY are unionizing with UA Local 638 (which according to their website was originally chartered in 1884 with the Knights of Labor, which is cool). 39 workers at Grifols blood bank in Gainesville, FL are unionizing with UFCW Local 1625. 32 EMTs for Greene County EMS in Cairo, NY are organizing with the United Professional and Service Employees Union Local 1222, which I believe is primarily made up of units that have broken away from CSEA, and maybe belongs in the “dubious unions” section. 30 workers who build light rail cars for Kinkisharyo International in Palmdale, CA are unionizing with IBEW Local 11. 30 workers at Great Lakes Coffee in Detroit are officially filing for an election after an ongoing recognition strike with UNITE HERE Local 24, 17 workers at Black Coffee Roasting Company in Missoula, MT are forming an independent union, and seven baristas at Three Brothers Coffee in Nashville are joining UFCW Local 1995, joining the wave of coffee workers organizing. The 30 staff of the Physician Affiliate Group of New York in the Bronx are joining 1199 SEIU. 28 ambulance dispatchers for American Medical Response in Tucson, AZ are unionizing with IAFF Local I-60. 28 concrete truck drivers for Aggregate Industries in Minneapolis are organizing with Teamsters Local 120. 27 workers for auto parts company Mobis in South Windsor, CT are organizing with the UAW, in an all-too-rare auto parts organizing drive. 25 glaziers for glass contractor Hershocks in Harrisburg, PA are organizing with Painters Local 252.
Really small shops: 18 maintenance workers at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, MS are unionizing with IBEW Local 733. 16 workers at Safelite Autoglass in Kennewick, WA are organizing with IBEW Local 112. 14 Verizon Wireless workers in Everett, WA are organizing with CWA and facing vicious union-busting, as Andrew Perez and Matthew Cunningham-Cook cover for Jacobin. 12 workers for Fuelcell Energy in Danbury, CT who make – you guessed it – fuel cells are organizing with Operating Engineers Local 478. 11 water utility workers for Aqua Illinois in Mundelein, IL are joining the Utility Workers. Nine editorial employees at Bozeman, MT’s Daily Chronicle are unionizing with the Denver Newspaper Guild. Nine skilled maintenance workers for Allina Health in Shakopee, MN are joining Operating Engineers Local 70, and nine more at St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo, OH are joining Operating Engineers Local 18. Nine workers for excavation company Badger Daylighting in Fort Pierce, FL are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 487. Seven drivers for metal fabricator Lehigh Industrial Maintenance in Palmerton, PA are joining Operating Engineers Local 542. Six building engineers at an AT&T building in St. Louis are joining Operating Engineers Local 148. Six workers for WeCare Denali, a composting and recycling company, are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 150 in Geneva, IL. Six mechanics for US Foods in Corona, CA Teamsters Local 848. Five cleaners for Crothall Healthcare in Rockville, MD are joining Laborers Local 572. Five “computer system analysts” at Fort Bliss, TX are joining Operating Engineers Local 351. Five workers for chemical distributor Univar in Clearfield, UT are joining Teamsters Local 222. Four workers for American Medical Response in Burlingame, CA are joining IAFF Local 2400. Four techs at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital in Fountain Valley, CA are joining NUHW. Four clericals and nurses at Hospital Castaner in Castaner, PR are joining 1199 SEIU.
NLRB election wins…: 58 nursing home support staff at Avista Nursing and Rehab in Saginaw, MI joined SEIU Healthcare Michigan in a 14-10 vote. 40 medical interns and residents at the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center in Lawrence, MA voted 29-10 to join CIR (SEIU). 32 freight drivers for Ryder in Southwest Ranches, FL voted 17-12 to join Teamsters Local 769. 32 RNs at Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA voted 20-8 to join CRONA, the independent nurses union at Stanford, in two separate votes. 19 RNs at Pitman Manor, a nursing home in Pitman, NJ, voted 13-1 to join HPAE (AFT), and 14 more RNs at United Methodist Communities nursing home in Newton, NJ voted 10-0 to do the same. 17 maintenance workers at a jail in Florence, AZ voted 15-0 to join Plumbers Local 469. 14 dispensary workers at Spacebuds in Eugene, OR voted a narrow 4-3 to join UFCW Local 555. 11 workers for defense contractor Pacific Architects and Engineers in Seattle, Yakima, and Spokane, WA voted 10-0 to join Machinists District Lodge 751. Eight clericals at Nellis Air Force Base, NV voted 6-0 to join Machinists Lodge SC711. Seven sprinkler fitters for Central Connecticut Fire Protection in Meriden, CT voted 4-3 to join UA Local 669. All six pharmacists at the Credena Health Pharmacy in Everett, WA voted to join UFCW Local 21. Six dispensary workers at Flowr of Lyfe in Eugene, OR joined UFCW Local 555 in a 3-1 vote. All four building engineers at a mall in San Diego voted to join Operating Engineers Local 501, and both building engineers at the Pfizer Building in Brooklyn, NY voted to join Operating Engineers Local 30.
…and losses: In a big loss, UFCW Local 371 failed to unionize 164 workers who make food ingredients for Glanbia in West Haven, CT, in a 23-82 vote. 55 wine distribution workers at Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in Aurora, CO narrowly lost their vote to join Teamsters Local 455, 25-26. OPEIU Local 11 lost 19-27 among 53 non-profit staffers at Alliance for a Healthier Generation in Portland, OR. 53 school bus drivers for Smith Bus Company in Apollo, PA voted 20-24 against joining Teamsters Local 205. 47 sanitation workers for Waste Management of Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh voted 8-34 against joining Teamsters Local 397. 34 dispensary workers at Nug Wellness in San Leandro, CA voted 8-17 not to join UFCW Local 5. 30 hospital techs at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, OR deadlocked 11-11 on joining Operating Engineers Local 701. AFSCME Council 65 got walloped 2-13 in a vote among 20 medical lab workers at Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital in Grand Rapids, MN. 18 uniform and linen delivery drivers for AmeriPride in Syracuse voted 5-7 not to join Teamsters Local 294. 14 workers who make chargers for the Motor Appliance Corporation in Washington, MO voted 3-6 not to join Machinists District Lodge 9. Nine gaming workers at Resorts World in Las Vegas deadlocked 4-4, thus not joining Operating Engineers Local 501. Eight mold remediation workers for GreenWorks in Wall, NJ voted 1-7 against joining IBEW Local 400. Eight workers for masonry company Northfield Block in Mundelein, IL voted 3-5 not to join Teamsters Local 743. Eight street sweepers in Sacramento for subcontractor CleanStreet voted 3-5 against joining Teamsters Local 150. Plumbers Local 72 did not get a single vote out of the eight hardware manufacturing workers for Carlsen in Rome, GA; six voted no.
Decertifications and raids: NUHW appears to have successfully raided a unit of 827 RNs at Fountain Valley (CA) Regional Hospital, formerly represented by UNAC/UHCP (AFSCME), in a 470-143 vote (with just four “no union” votes). Meanwhile, UNAC/UHCP is apparently hitting back on their side of the turf war, filing for an election among 1,915 mental healthcare workers at Kaiser, currently with NUHW 36 healthcare workers for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (Sutter) in Emeryville, CA voted 20-7 to stick with IFPTE Local 20. 32 workers at Express Scripts, an online prescription drug shipment company (I think?) voted an overwhelming 0-23, dropping Operating Engineers Local 68. Eleven workers who make conveyor belts and similar for USI in Mokena, IL voted 1-10 to drop Machinists District Lodge 8.
Security guards: SPFPA lost a big vote, 54-78, among 188 “child and family protection care specialists” in McAllen, TX; I believe these are security guards who work with unaccompanied children at the border, but I’m not 100% sure.
A few dozen healthcare workers with Piedmont Health in North Carolina have become the first group to successfully unionize through Unit, a new app that seeks to make forming new independent unions easier. It’s VC-funded, and goes against all the “no shortcuts” logic hardwired into most organizers’ brains, and plus like can they actually win a decent first contract if they’re relying on an app? But hey, Unit has now facilitated more new organizing than plenty of local unions, so kudos, and I’ll be curious to see how their first contract fight goes.
The New York Times wrote about choreographers forming a new union, the Choreographers Guild, with help from SAG-AFTRA veterans.
This month is going to go down in history for Amazon organizing, one way or the other, with union vote counts at both Bessemer and Staten Island; but the independent Amazon Labor Union has just made sure April will as well, as they have secured a second union election, to be held next month, at a separate facility in Staten Island, NY.
Finally, my coworker Joe DeManuelle-Hall wrote up a great Twitter breakdown of union-busters Jackson Lewis’s projections and fears for 2022, and it’s totally worth a read, to know the mind of those whose business is crushing unionism.