The week in US unions, April 9-16, 2022
This week, my coworker Luis Feliz Leon continues to bring the heat reporting on Amazon, first with a piece for Labor Notes on the second Staten Island warehouse vote, set to begin next week, and second on why and how the “experts” (I am clearly not one, so stop booing me) dismissed the Amazon Labor Union’s chances in the first place. Also at Labor Notes, my coworker Al Bradbury writes on what big-picture lessons we can learn from the ALU, and encourages us all to take heart, and take risks.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
Higher ed: Over 1,000 graduate student workers at Indiana University are on strike for union recognition with the UE. It’s notable not just as a big strike, but as a recognition strike, in the public sector in a red state, no less. It’s also notable as the UE has been on an absolute tear among higher ed organizing, picking up a huge unit at MIT, organizing two new groups of student workers in New Mexico, and undergrad student workers at Kenyon College who, by the way, are also on strike. The UE has represented some grad student workers at least since the 1990s, but the share of the union that are higher education workers has more than doubled in the past year or so. Outside of the UE, 1500 graduate student workers at the University of Illinois - Chicago with AFT Local 6297 are set to strike starting tomorrow; as Jeff Schuhrke points out, the U of I loves to provoke strikes. And on undergraduate student worker unions, Willem Morris wrote up what’s been happening across the country (which is a lot!) for Jacobin. Outside of student workers, hundreds of Illinois State University maintenance, grounds, and dining workers who were ready to walk off the job with AFSCME Local 1110 reached a tentative agreement, averting the strike.
Doormen and building services workers with 32BJ SEIU for 3,000 buildings in NYC held a rally where they announced they’d authorized a strike if no deal is reached by April 20th. BJ is somewhat known for high-profile mobilization, so I don’t know that this means a strike is at all likely, but I’ve learned not to discount potential walk-offs, especially not of 30,000 essential workers in the biggest city in the country.
Hundreds of construction workers with IUPAT Local 2012 in Kansas City are on strike after the Builders’ Association offered just a 1% raise. On Friday, another deal was brought to the membership, who voted to reject it, which means the strike is still on.
It almost gets lost in the sheer volume of new organizing and union-busting, but Starbucks Workers United members are increasingly taking job actions, often before they even formally win their union. This week, two stores in Seattle struck, as did one in Ithaca, and workers in Phoenix and Raleigh held actions outside their stores against the targeted firing of worker leaders in both locations.
Fifty strawberry farmworkers for Acquistapace Farms in Santa Maria, CA struck for a raise this week, apparently organizing with the Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project.
300 nurses with the DC Nurses Association struck Howard University Hospital in DC for 24 hours. Around 40 nursing home workers in Saugus, MA with 1199 SEIU held a one-day strike, featuring everybody’s favorite and most memorable 2020 presidential candidate, Seth Moulton.
As 5,000 nurses with independent union CRONA gear up to strike the Stanford Hospitals in Palo Alto, CA, management has already announced their intentions to cut off health insurance to nurses during a pandemic
Teamsters Local 553 and the New York City Central Labor Council are organizing a rally to mark one year on strike for two dozen UMEC oil & gas workers, as they call on the city to stop purchasing from the billionaire-owned company as they fight for a first union contract.
Municipal workers with AFSCME Local 101 in Santa Clara, CA have authorized a strike. Meanwhile, in Santa Monica, CA hundreds of municipal workers with Teamsters Local 911 rallied outside of city hall as they push for a contract and promise the city that “our actions will continue to escalate.”
Carpenters union members in Minnesota picketed against contractors committing tax fraud, misclassifying employees, and generally using financial tricks to skim public money and screw workers out of pay, as part of a larger union campaign against the practice, specifically targeting contractor Painting America.
A couple weeks back, the Teamsters came close to striking the Red Cross across the country, but reached a tentative agreement; apparently that was just for the Teamsters, as the other unions (the page here displays 10 different insignias) are still putting out petitions for a fair contract.
Contract ratifications: The tens of thousands of grocery workers at over 500 stores in Southern California across seven UFCW locals have ratified a new contract with major gains, after a prominent strike threat. 1800 workers for online grocery delivery company FreshDirect, based in The Bronx, NY, and a subsidiary of Ahold Delhaize (which also owns Peapod, Giant, Stop & Shop, Hannaford, and more) have ratified their first contract with UFCW Local 342, apparently as part of the deal when Ahold acquired the company in November of 2021. SEIU Local 1021 has ratified two contracts with the California College of the Arts, after a four day strike. The St. Paul, MN school board is going to vote this week on the TA they reached with the St. Paul Federation of Educators, averting a strike last month. The arts & entertainment workers with Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, NM have ratified their first union contract with CWA, after a strike threat. 184 city workers in Flint, MI with AFSCME Local 1600 have a new contract with the city.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
There’s an interesting fight in small town Georgetown, SC over the fate of the Liberty Steel mill there; Steelworkers Local 7898 is hoping to avert a move by the city to permanently scale back the operation of the mill, which currently employs sixty or so workers, and to honor an agreement that would have increased the number of mill jobs to 150. Apparently the fight goes back to the beginning of the pandemic, when the mill was forced to shut down, and is now being contested as having been “abandoned,” which has ramifications for its future operations that I don’t fully understand; it’s also tied into the failure of financial firm Greensill, as the Wall Street Journal reported last year. This is one of those ones that I think could have a book written about it, but I’ll leave it at a paragraph.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
Before the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s president-elect Frank Snyder has formally begun his term, there are calls for his resignation over harassment and discrimination against union staffers.
C.M. Lewis very helpfully broke down the numbers from the 2021 LM-2 filings (annual reports unions have to file that show membership, assets, leadership, and other basics) of the major unions; lots of interesting stuff here.
New election filings at the NLRB: In one of (the?) the biggest single weeks for Starbucks filings, a whopping 526 workers at 20 stores have filed for elections with Workers United… roll call: Covington, GA; Durham, NC; Birmingham, AL; Nanuet, NY; Bloomington, MN; Pittsburgh, Philadelphia; Appleton, WI; Ann Arbor, MI; Cincinnati; Marysville, WA; Newport News, VA; Chicago; West Hartford, CT; Denver; Chesterfield, MO; Covina, La Quinta, and Long Beach, CA; Portland, OR; 25 baristas at local spot Peace Coffee in Minneapolis are also unionizing, with UFCW Local 663. 280 hotel workers at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, CA are organizing with UNITE HERE Local 2. The very dubious “International Brotherhood of Trade Unions Local 713,” which has been accused of company unionism in the past and has been tied to extortion schemes at least going back to the 1970s, has filed for an election among 200 Amazon workers in Bayonne, NJ, not far from the Staten Island warehouse that just legitimately unionized; if Amazon has in any way helped the IBOTU pick up enough cards to file (in this case, 60 out of 200 would be the 30% threshold), that’s a huge labor law violation. On the other hand if the IBOTU has just been able to legit scoop up that many cards, I hope the legitimate unions feel the pressure to get moving. My uninformed guess is this doesn’t get to an election; the last time this happened, with a less-than-legit union going after HelloFresh in Jersey to ride the UNITE HERE organizing hype, they ended up pulling the petition.
Teamsters: 105 drivers for Martin Brower, which handles McDonald’s food supply chain, are organizing with Teamsters Local 391. 70 truck drivers for Sysco in Louisville, KY are unionizing with Teamsters Local 89. 28 truck drivers for Comprehensive Logistics in Lorain and Avon, OH are joining Teamsters Local 20. 15 warehouse workers for Bimbo Bakeries in Las Vegas are organizing with Teamsters Local 14. 14 “syrup technicians” for Coca-Cola in Alsip, IL are unionizing with Teamsters Local 727. 13 LPNs at Vanderman Place nursing home in Willimantic, CT are unionizing with Teamsters Local 493. Six airport-hotel shuttle drivers for the Holiday Inn in Des Plaines, IL are joining Teamsters Local 727. Six drivers for Drywall Supply in Faribault, MN are joining Teamsters Local 120.
Other shops: 90 workers who build hydro vac trucks for Badger Daylighting Corp in Channahon, IL are organizing with Operating Engineers Local 150. 57 workers for Larusso Concrete across Washington state are joining the Laborers; one wonders what, if any, connection there is here to the ill-fated months-long concrete strike in the greater Seattle area. 40 social service workers for Community Solutions in NYC are unionizing with OPEIU Local 153. 38 windows and doors installers for Renewal by Andersen in Anchorage, AK are joining the Carpenters. 35 workers for Packers Sanitation in Fort Worth, TX are organizing with UFCW Local 540. 32 social services workers for the Shelter Association of Washtenaw County in Ann Arbor, MI are unionizing with the IWW. 22 actors and stage managers on the touring show Waitress are organizing with Actors Equity. 20 workers at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in Sonoma, CA are unionizing with AFSCME DC 57, as AFSCME’s national museum organizing efforts roll on. 20 nursing home workers at Brighton Rehab in Beaver, PA are joining SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania. 14 workers at Executive Hotel Le Soleil in NYC are joining the Hotel Trades Council (UNITE HERE). 14 workers who make talc for Magris Talc in Houston are organizing with the Boilermakers. 13 radiologists at the Aspirus Iron River Hospital in Iron River, MI are joining AFSCME Council 25. 11 educators at the private Tremont School in Concord, MA are forming an independent union. 11 therapists and aides at The Grand nursing home in Great Neck, NY are joining 1199 SEIU. 10 workers for green utility company Native Energy in Andover, MA are joining IBEW Local 103. 10 staffers at civic non-profit FairVote in Takoma Park, MD are joining Workers United. Seven CVS pharmacists in Orange, CA, two in Santa Ana, CA, two in Anaheim, CA, and two more in Long Beach, CA are joining UFCW Local 324. Seven therapists at Abington Manor nursing home in South Abington, PA are joining RWDSU Local 262. Two dispatchers for MV Transportation in Petaluma, CA are joining ATU Local 1575.
NLRB election wins…: (The NLRB log is behind the news, so we’ll just report out Starbucks wins as they’re logged)173 Starbucks workers in separate Workers United elections across six stores in Eugene, OR, Ithaca, Buffalo, and Rochester, NY (x2), and Overland Park, KS voted to unionize all six stores, for a cumulative vote of 83-17 (Eugene was unanimous; three others had only a single “no” vote); nine other baristas at Three Brothers Coffee in Nashville, TN voted 5-2 to join UFCW Local 1995. 106 faculty members at Dominican University in San Rafael, CA voted 73-14 to join the California Federation of Teachers. 62 workers who manufacture plastics for Celanese in Cantonment, FL joined IBEW Local 733 in a 34-19 vote. 31 RNs at Barrett Hospital in Dillon, MT have voted 18-8 to join the Montana Nurses Association. 15 Verizon wireless retail workers at two stores in Lynwood and Everett, WA voted 11-1 to unionize, in a big breakthrough for CWA, these being the first such stores outside of NYC to go union; workers have told More Perfect Union they hope this can become the next Starbucks-style national campaign. Seven vacuum truck operators for Lehigh Industrial Maintenance in Palmerton, PA voted 3-2 to join Operating Engineers Local 542. Five maintenance workers for US Foods in Corona, CA voted unanimously to join Teamsters Local 848. Three transit clericals for Transdev in Chula Vista, CA voted 2-0 to join Teamsters Local 683.
…and losses: The UAW’s losing streak continued at the Peebles, OH General Electric aviation engine test facility, where 278 workers voted 38-232 against the union; that’s 14% support for the union. 24 carpenters for Unity Construction in Sayreville, NJ voted 6-12 against joining the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters. 24 nursing home workers at Continental Care in Butte, MT voted 1-10 against joining Teamsters Local 2. 19 utility workers for Vicinity Energy in Kansas City, MO narrowly voted, 9-10, against joining IBEW Local 412. 18 workers who service refrigerated displays for Hussmann in Denver deadlocked 6-6 on unionizing with UA Local 208. Ten workers for Pacific Aerospace & Electronics in Sequim, WA deadlocked 4-4 on joining Machinists District Lodge 751. Eight workers at the C-Town Supermarket in Bridgeton, NJ voted 1-5 against joining UFCW Local 152. Five workers for chemicals distributor Univar in Clearfield, UT voted 1-4 against joining Teamsters Local 222.
Decertifications & raids: 18 drivers for Linde Gas in Farmers Branch, TX decertified Teamsters Local 745 in a 5-8 vote. 16 workers at truck repair shop Kremer in Inver Grove Heights, MN voted 5-10 to decertify Machinists District Lodge 77.
Security guard unions: 13 police sergeants at the University of Chicago are joining the Illinois Council of Police (“ICOPS”).
Outside the NLRB: K-12 educators in Richmond, VA are voting on whether or not to make the Richmond Education Association their official collective bargaining organization; the REA has been around since 1900, but now that the school board has legalized collective bargaining under a new state law, educators have to vote on whether REA should officially be heading negotiations. Over in Charlottesville, VA, teachers and support staff are one step behind Richmond, presenting a resolution with majority worker support to the school board to also legalize collective bargaining. Flight attendants with Avelo Airlines, a small low-cost carrier that operates out of a couple dozen airports, have officially unionized with AFA-CWA under the National Mediation Board (airline workers are under the Railway Labor Act).
Workers United has decided it wasn’t enough to take on Starbucks, and has announced its first organizing drive at an Apple Store, specifically the one at Grand Central, in NYC. Hopefully this one catches fire, too.