The week in US unions, April 16-23, 2022
For Convergence, I wrote about this very newsletter, a topic that may interest you as someone who is currently reading this newsletter. Check it out here.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
5,000 nurses with independent union CRONA will begin a strike at Stanford and Packard Hospitals in Palo Alto, CA tomorrow morning; their contract expired at the end of March and management has already moved to cut them off their healthcare. Meanwhile, over 8,000 NNU nurses across 18 Sutter Health facilities across Northern California held a one-day strike on Monday; they’ve been in contract negotiations for nearly a year, and are, like nurses across the country, fighting for safe staffing ratios.
A specter is haunting Midwestern higher education. Indiana University grad student workers remain on a recognition strike with the UE. Undergrad student workers at Kenyon College in Ohio are on strike, also with the UE. University of Illinois–Chicago grad student workers are on strike with AFT. Their faculty counterparts downstate at University of Illinois–Springfield have authorized a strike and given their ten-day notice as well. Staff at Augsburg University in Minneapolis with OPEIU Local 12 held a contract rally, after bargaining for over a year.
Around 50 nursing home workers with 1199 New England in Windsor, CT went on strike starting Friday morning; the union has settled contracts at dozens of other facilities they’d threatened to strike, but Windsor Health & Rehab hasn’t come to a deal. Speaking of nursing homes, a new academic study came out this week that showed that unionized nursing homes had 11% lower patient mortality rates during the pandemic, which represents, you know, thousands of lives. And speaking of 1199 New England, a few dozen mental healthcare workers for Sound Community Services in New London, CT have begun a three-day strike, protesting a 1% raise over the past five years, among other indignities, as the state outsources mental health services to non-profits like theirs.
Coffee workers at local Philadelphia shop Good Karma who recently unionized with Workers United held a (one-day?) unfair labor practice strike against management’s union-busting. I feel compelled to periodically reiterate that something like this would be nearly unheard of just six months ago but now is more or less part of the fabric of the cafe economy in this country.
Municipal workers with SEIU Local 620 for the city of Santa Barbara, CA held a mid-day rally against a contract offer of 3% over 2 years, which, even in non-inflationary times, is extremely weak tea. Meanwhile, down the coast, their counterparts in Los Angeles County with SEIU Local 721 have begun a strike authorization vote this week.
The 3,000-member Air Line Pilots Association chapter at Alaska Airlines has announced a strike authorization vote, to conclude in late May. Since airline labor is under the Railway Labor Act, this is less of an imminent threat than in the rest of the private sector, as they’ll need legal permission to strike (which was most recently thwarted for BNSF workers); but it’s real, and it’s an escalation, and worth keeping an eye on, especially after many informational pickets.
IBEW Local 304 members held an informational picket at the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant near Burlington, KS as the company appears to be threatening layoffs, refusing a work-from-home policy, and giving management more paid leave than union employees. No clue if this could grow into a bigger action, but another one to keep an eye on.
SAG-AFTRA members are currently voting on a new contract covering commercials, with 93% approval from the national board (which might sound like a very good sign for ratification, but then, votes like this are unanimous in many unions (I have no idea what the culture is in SAG-AFTRA, just saying)). Contract highlights include 5-10% raises, and a ban on remote nude auditions (OK the latter is maybe not a ‘highlight’ but seemed notable).
The Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority in San Jose, CA is trying to pay Deloitte Consulting $1.9 million to consult on the agency’s “work culture,” but ATU Local 265, whose members suffered a mass shooting last year, is pulling out of the process. The other three unions covered, AFSCME Local 101, SEIU Local 521 and IFPTE Local 21, are still supporting the deal.
Bargaining has begun between manufacturer Arconic and four Steelworkers locals (Local 105 in Davenport, IA, Local 115 in Lafayette, IN, Local 309 in Alcoa, TN, and Local 420A in Massena, NY). The contract covers around 3,000 workers, and expires on May 15th.
The threat of VA facilities closures continues to roil the VA unions, with AFGE members and electeds rallying in Manhattan this week against the tentative closure/consolidation plan. Elsewhere in AFGE, the 14 EPA locals are seeking to bargain a scientific integrity article into their contracts.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
UNITE HERE Local 2 and Local 2850 in the Bay Area have voted to merge, but will retain the Local 2 name; the union now represents 15,000 workers across the hospitality sector.
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler went on a New York Times podcast with Jane McAlevey and said a lot of things about the labor movement and the Democratic Party and why the mainstream unions have failed to organize, none very satisfying.
New election filings at the NLRB: 450 non-tenure-track faculty at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, CA are organizing with SEIU Local 1021. It was a quiet week for Starbucks Workers United, with a mere 285 workers at 11 stores filing for elections (I am kidding; this campaign remains jaw-dropping in its scale and speed) in New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Albany & Amherst, NY, Fresno & Goleta, CA, Tucson, AZ, Portland, OR, Gardner, MA, Valley Park, MO, and Westerville, OH. 190 EMTs and paramedics for Armstrong Ambulance in Arlington, MA are organizing with Teamsters Local 25. 159 subcontracted janitors and maintenance workers who work at the VA facilities in San Juan, Ponce, and Mayaguez, PR are organizing with SEIU Local 1996. 125 food production workers (though I have no idea what food they produce, Google is very vague) for PSSI in Waco, TX are unionizing with UFCW Local 540. Not to be beaten to the punch by the Workers United campaign in NYC that went public last week, 107 Apple Store employees in Atlanta have filed for an election with CWA as the big brand retail revolution rolls on. 100 Aramark food service workers at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA are organizing with Workers United; this campaign went public last fall, but I guess waited to file until now, though Paul Blest had a good story on them in February.
Smaller shops: 69 resident advisors at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY are unionizing with UFCW Local 1, as part of the wave of undergraduate unionization efforts. 68 radiation technicians at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, CA are unionizing with IBEW Local 47. 68 stage hands at Five Flags Center, an events venue in Dubuque, IA, are organizing with IATSE Local 191. 61 workers for PTG Live Events in Milwaukee are joining MASH (Milwaukee Area Service & Hospitality union). 45 paraprofessionals at special needs private school Clare Woods Academy in Wheaton, IL are unionizing with the Machinists. 35 workers at what used to be my local cafe City Feed & Supply in Jamaica Plain, MA are organizing with the IWW. 35 workers for Engert Plumbing and Heating in Knoxville, TN are joining UA Local 102. 35 workers at the Packaging Corporation of America in Bedford Park, IL are unionizing with GCC-IBT Local 415-S. 29 workers at Curaleaf dispensary in Phoenix are joining UFCW Local 99.
Tiny shops: 20 “tech specialists” at UPS in Ontario, CA are unionizing with Machinists District Lodge 947 (UPS is canonically the Teamsters’ turf, but I believe the Machinists rep mechanics and other very small groups of workers at different hubs). 20 construction workers for Amerigal Construction in Glenn Dale, MD are organizing with Laborers Local 11. 15 workers at a CVS in Calexico, CA are unionizing with UFCW Local 1167. 13 front-of-house workers at 856 Brewing Company in Bend, OR are forming an independent union. 12 more post-production workers are joining CWA, this time with North Center Productions and Possible Productions in NYC. 11 workers at the Amherst Cinema Arts Center in Amherst, MA are forming what appears to be an independent union with legal help from the Pioneer Valley Workers Center. 11 tower technicians for QualTek who I believe climb and maintain cell towers in Henderson, NV are unionizing with CWA. Ten workers at the Lux Pot Shop dispensary in the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle are joining UFCW Local 3000 (which is still filing petitions as Local 21, despite having changed their name after a merger). Nine workers at a Mitsubishi dealership in Commack, NY are joining UAW Local 259. Seven workers at AV company Waveguide in St. Louis are joining IBEW Local 1. Seven technicians on Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, CA are joining Machinists District Lodge 725. Six building engineers at a downtown office building in DC are joining Operating Engineers Local 99. Five drivers for UNFI in Rocklin, CA are joining Teamsters Local 150. Five insulation distributors for IDI in Elgin, IL are joining Teamsters Local 330. Four staffers for FLOC in Dudley, NC, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, are forming a staff union. Three maintenance workers at Suiza Dairy in Aguadilla, PR are joining Central General de Trabajadores.
NLRB election wins…: 347 medical residents at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, VT voted 209-59 to join CIR (SEIU). 115 tree trimmers for Asplundh in Golden, CO voted 66-41 to join IBEW Local 111. As usual, the Starbucks NLRB official vote results lag well behind the news, as Starbucks Workers United have been cleaning up all week, reaching something like two dozen unionized stores; per the NLRB, at the Seattle Roastery, in a serious dagger to Howard Schultz’s heart, 104 workers went union in a 38-27 vote. Plus 23 workers at Storyville Coffee also in Seattle voted 11-4 to join UFCW Local 3000. 19 clericals at Virtual Computing Technology in Coronado, CA voted 9-0 to join Machinists District Lodge 725. 15 dispensary workers at Cannabist in Deptford, NJ voted 14-1 to join UFCW Local 360. 14 pharmacists at 10 Walgreens locations in the East Bay, CA voted 9-4 to join UFCW Local 5. 13 workers at a dispensary owned by GTI in Niles, IL voted 12-1 to join Teamsters Local 777. Ten workers at electric utility DTE in Berkeley, CA voted 7-2 to join IBEW Local 1245. Nine techs for MV Transportation in Denver voted 3-0 to join the dubious IUJAT United Service Workers Union Local 455. Four building engineers at the MC Hotel in Montclair, NJ voted 2-1 to join Operating Engineers Local 68 A-D. Four biomed techs at Fountain Valley Regional Hospital in Fountain Valley, CA voted 3-0 to join NUHW. All three customer service reps at sanitation company Recology in Pacifica, CA voted to join Teamsters Local 350.
…and losses: 52 warehouse workers for Canon in Menlo Park, CA hit a heartbreaking deadlock at 23-23, thus not joining Teamsters Local 853. In what technically goes in the loss column for now, the NLRB counted additional ballots that were cast late (but not technically after the deadline, I don’t think) in the election at the Cheektowaga, NY Starbucks, which was the second to officially go with Workers United; the recount brought us to 10-10, with a single challenged ballot remaining. 28 more coffee workers at Old City Coffee in Philadelphia narrowly lost their union vote, 13-15. Ten workers at the General Hospital in Castañer, PR deadlocked 5-5 in two votes on whether to join 1199 SEIU.
Decertifications and raids: 84 workers for DFA Dairy Brands Ice Cream in Salt Lake City voted 6-25 to decertify Teamsters Local 222. 27 workers at a Lexus dealership in San Diego decertified Machinists Local 1484 in a 6-14 vote.
Security guards: Eight guards at One Constitution Square in DC are joining either SPFPA or the Fraternity of American Protective Officers (or it may be a raid).
Outside the NLRB: Workers at my local water utility, the Washington (DC) Suburban Sanitary Commission, have voted to unionize with Teamsters Local 730 under a new Maryland law. I haven’t seen any reporting on it, but a helpful reader has kept me updated on new elections being held under the Federal Labor Relations Authority among Department of Defense healthcare employees under the reorganized Defense Health Agency; two units voted to join AFGE over the Laborers this week, with over a dozen more votes scheduled.
The NLRB released some big news on Starbucks on Friday night, namely that they’re taking the company to federal court over their firing of three workers in Phoenix, as well as taking legal action against the company for their firing of the infamous “Memphis Seven.” For Labor Notes, I wrote up the current (well actually now already out of date, as the Starbucks Workers United prairie fire does not obey publication schedules) state of retaliation at Starbucks. For Vice, Paul Blest went deeper on it.
Finally, the Amazon Labor Union rallied with some big names (Bernie Sanders, AOC, AFA-CWA President Sara Nelson, APWU President Mark Dimondstein, and a bunch of badass Teamsters Local 804 UPS workers) ahead of voting at the 2,000-ish member sortation facility LDJ5 on Staten Island, which starts tomorrow; votes will be counted May 2nd. I think Sara Nelson put it best: “There is no fucking labor peace.”