The past two weeks in US unions, May 7-21, 2022
Another two-fer here, and thanks for your patience as always. As I’ve mentioned, most of my time these days is going into preparing for the largest-ever Labor Notes Conference (June 17-19 in Chicago). As we just announced, we’re going to have to cap attendance at 4,000 people, so please, please, please register now if you’d like to attend.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
The CNH farm and construction equipment strike is still on; I wrote it up for Labor Notes, though there’ve been a couple updates. Like so many before them, the 1,100 striking Case/CNH workers with UAW Local 807 in Burlington, IA and UAW Local 180 in Racine, WI had their health insurance coverage cut while out on the picket line, which, I reiterate, should be illegal. Things haven’t looked good for a speedy resolution, with replacement workers instantly put into place, and the strike demands centering on pay parity with the non-union plants, which outnumber the union plants something like ten to three; that said, apparently talks are back on between the company and the union, which is theoretically better than talks not being on, though the local leadership sounds pretty skeptical.
Meanwhile, in another long blue collar strike, Steelworkers Local 5 has filed charges against Chevron in Richmond, CA, where 500 workers have been on strike for over two months. The union and the company haven’t met for over five weeks.
2,000 healthcare support staff with SEIU UHW at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles struck for five days, for the first time since 1979, but have yet to win a contract, and are back at work. As in many labor disputes these days, one of the big issues is wages, with the workers demanding an immediate 8% raise in the first year, and 6% in the two years after that. The current starting wage is around $17 an hour. Elsewhere in healthcare strikes, 50 NUHW mental healthcare workers at Kaiser in Hawaii struck for three days.
As I’ve stressed multiple times, the Starbucks campaign is a major innovation not just in the speed and scale of its new organizing, but in its use of pre-recognition (or immediately after winning an NLRB vote) strikes and the NLRB’s more aggressive approach towards the company; these past two weeks are a great illustration of that. Starbucks Workers United baristas in Columbia, SC (!), two stores in Portland, OR, two stores in Eugene, OR, one in Olympia, WA, and one in Peoria, IL struck in the past two weeks alone. Meanwhile, the NLRB is pushing for a very rare bargaining order at the Hamburg, NY Camp Road Starbucks, one of the few stores in which the union effort failed; the NLRB says that Starbucks’s union-busting efforts were so over the line at Camp Road that it irreparably tainted the vote, and the company should be forced to bargain with the union regardless of the union’s losing tally. I don’t know the endgame here, but it no longer feels inconceivable that the Starbucks Workers United movement could grow to the scale and intensity needed to actually force the company to bargain nationally; I would expect a very, very active summer and fall from Starbucks Workers United.
Teamsters: In what seems like it could be a big deal despite almost no press coverage, 7,000 carhaul Teamsters could be on strike across the country at the six national Teamster carhaul employers (Jack Cooper, Cassens, Active USA, Flint Rail, RCS, and Annapolis Junction Rail) as soon as June 1st. The union has publicly committed to not extend the current contract, and is taking currently taking strike authorization votes across locals. Carhaul is one of the core legacy industries of the IBT, and while it’s way smaller than it used to be (much like the freight contract, down from its peak of half a million workers to thirty thousand or less today) it’s one of the signature national contracts, and could be seen as a bit of a preview run (albeit way, way smaller) for national negotiations at UPS next year. And speaking of Teamsters strikes, over 100 workers at FireKing, which makes safes and other fireproof storage, are on strike with Teamsters Local 89 in New Albany, IN. The company has already begun hiring replacement workers and Teamsters President Sean O’Brien (plus Secretary-Treasurer Fred Zuckerman, who comes out of Local 89) walked the line with the strikers this week. In Pocatello and Blackfoot, ID concrete workers with Teamsters Local 983 are also on strike as the company goes after their pensions and insurance plans. And speaking of Teamsters strike threats, 1200 Teamsters Local 631 sanitation workers for garbage giant Republic in Las Vegas have voted to authorize a strike; their current contract expires at the end of the month, and as the Teamsters have shown many times, they’re not afraid to strike Republic and let the trash pile up.
The editorial employees of Allentown, PA’s Morning Call with the NewsGuild held a one-day strike against the systematic gutting of their newsroom, care of, like many smaller town newsrooms, hedge fund capital juicing local news for pennies. Conditions and salary are just abysmal at a lot of these local newspapers, and many are just straight-up disappearing. NewsGuild workers at TIME Magazine are set to strike tomorrow, on the occasion of the release of the annual TIME 100. The digital newsroom joined the legacy editorial union almost three years ago, and still doesn’t have a first contract.
K-12: In Brookline, MA, educators went on an illegal one-day strike and won a contract in 24 hours after three years without. Educators at the private Blue School in NYC plan to strike for a first contract starting on Tuesday, after management has announced its refusal to recognize the union. Teachers in Calexico, CA authorized a strike, and successfully won a contract about a week later.
Higher ed: Two UE recognition strikes have been suspended for the time being, with grad student workers at Indiana University putting their strike on hold until the fall, when they’ll have a lot more leverage than over the summer break, and Kenyon College student workers doing something similar.
Three thousand Arconic Steelworkers in Iowa, Tennessee, New York, and Indiana nearly unanimously authorized a strike and came away with what sounds like a pretty impressive contract (20% raises over four years being the main headline) just before their strike deadline.
Fresno County, CA jail guards with an independent union have been threatening a strike for some weeks, but have postponed it again after a judge ruled they could only hold a limited job action.
Also in Fresno, CA, 270 bus operators and transit workers have voted to reject a contract and authorize a strike with ATU Local 1027; it’s been over 18 months since their last contract expired.
Airlines: “I want to be clear, our pilots are not on strike,” says the CEO of Alaska Airlines. Not the kind of thing you say when there’s labor peace. The ALPA strike vote officially closes on Wednesday, and it’s airlines, so any official sanctioned strike would have to go clear several other hoops under the Railway Labor Act. And at Southwest Airlines, over 6,000 members of Machinists District Lodge 142 have rejected another contract from the company and authorized a strike.
1300 workers outside Detroit at Detroit Diesel with UAW Local 163 have overwhelmingly (79%) rejected the latest contract offer, and have authorized a strike, though no strike date has been announced.
460 Baltimore County, MD library workers have their first union contract, with the Machinists.
After public pressure, a (blocked) strike threat by the BMWE and SMART-TD, and (probably most crucially) over 700 rail workers quitting, BNSF has finally walked back its insane new attendance policy. This More Perfect Union video on the saga is worth a watch. It strikes me as distinctly the sort of band-aid that can’t fix the gaping wound of deteriorating conditions for rail workers, but then again rail labor is so kneecapped by the Railway Labor Act regime that I would be pretty shocked if there were any wide scale job actions on the rails any time soon. But then again, I keep getting shocked by the labor movement in 2022, so who knows.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
The independent Congressional Workers Union won a key vote in the House of Representatives, formally granting them the legal right to organize a union; now they just have to go ahead and do it. Whether Senate staffers will follow suit is less clear.
In California, the Carpenters have split with the rest of the labor movement over a bill that would fast track some construction projects while skirting some labor provisions. There’s an old joke that half of the US labor movement would sign on to build the gallows to hang the other half. Nowadays, one wonders what percentage of gallows construction projects are even union.
Politico has a piece on Biden and the unions and the big picture, but as this sort of 30,000-foot-view coverage in the mainstream political press often is, it’s pretty light on specifics. Punchline: Joe Biden says he likes unions, but his administration hasn’t accomplished much, but Jennifer Abruzzo is good.
Some of the not-much the Biden administration is just in basic appointments (Abruzzo notwithstanding); Dave Jamieson has a good piece on the federal Mine Safety board, for example, which currently has one ex-UMWA lawyer, two Trump appointees, and two vacancies. Federal workers have been making similar complaints, as the Democrats took until just last week to secure a Democratic majority on the Federal Labor Relations Authority.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
The past two weeks saw internal union elections finalized in three big AFT locals: In the Chicago Teachers Union, Stacy Davis Gates and the rest of the Caucus of Rank-and-file Educators (CORE, whose 2010 win has had arguably the biggest impact on the US labor movement of any internal union challenge since Ron Carey’s 1991 victory in the Teamsters, setting in motion the 2012 Chicago teachers strike that inaugurated a new era of K-12 union activity, in many ways seeding and inspiring the #RedforEd strike wave of 2018 and 2019) were elected to another term. In the UFT in NYC, the CORE-inspired MORE caucus and its opposition coalition fell short, but had some of the best results of any opposition ever to the forever-incumbent Unity Caucus and won the seven high school executive board seats (out of 107 total e-board seats, but still). And in an internal election that was totally not on my radar, the OFNHP healthcare local in Oregon (which most recently featured in the newsletter for its part in the Kaiser strike threat of Striketober) has a new, very young leader who won a contested election against the incumbent. Outside the AFT, Sara Nelson was re-elected to lead the AFA-CWA.
In other big internal union election news, the UAW’s federally-appointed monitor has (finally) announced the rules for the first-ever direct elections of top officers. I tweeted out a couple of stand-out points when the rules first dropped (and will be writing more on this, so if you’re a UAW member with thoughts on the matter, hit me up), but the punchline is that elections will be held this fall, and it only takes two delegates nominating a candidate to get on the ballot. Incumbent Ray Curry has announced he’ll be running, along with a slate of Administration Caucus leaders, the top three of whom are already in office (including Chuck Browning, of John Deere negotiations fame). As for challengers, Curry has already had the privilege of disqualifying some of his publicly-declared opponents, when the monitor allowed Curry to rule on the eligibility of retirees to run for office (which was clearly a conflict of interest). The deck is certainly stacked in favor of the incumbents, but then again, these are the same people who got absolutely walloped in the one-member, one-vote referendum last fall, so I wouldn’t put it past them to lose at least some of their seats. I’ll be watching for whoever UAWD backs.
The IBEW held their 40th convention and there’s a handy roundup of plenty of interesting resolutions that were brought to the floor; one that stands out to me was the rejection of “one member, one vote,” which several locals pushed for over the past year, some directly inspired by the UAW’s referendum in the fall.
OK, look, I’m loath to link to the National Right-to-Work Foundation but they have an interesting update of a case of a woman who’s suing TWU Local 556 after losing her job for refusing to pay dues (which can be mandatory under the RLA) for her religious objections to abortion, tied to the union’s political activity. I don’t know enough about it to say, but curious to know whether this will fully bring the open shop to the RLA-covered unions.
New election filings at the NLRB: 522 post-docs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in NYC are organizing with the UAW. In case you were wondering, the Starbucks Workers United campaign is simply not slowing down, with 452 workers at eighteen stores filing for elections in Seattle (x2) and Bellingham, WA; Salt Lake City; Wichita, KS (x2); Rockford, IL; Vernon, CT; Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, Sylmar, and Barstow, CA; Pittsburgh (x2) and Greensburg, PA; Malta, NY; Bulverde, TX; and Sumter, SC. Quite notably, the Greensburg, PA store is being filed by Teamsters Local 30 which is just as stupid as the UFCW filing in Wisconsin from a few weeks back, though nobody is making too huge a stink out of it, probably because there is just so much gravity to the Workers United campaign that opportunistic jurisdictional disputes feel like a distraction. 225 workers at Kindred Hospital in Los Angeles are organizing with SEIU UHW. 180 workers for (how can I describe this?) trading card (but like not sports cards, as far as I can tell, just like Magic the Gathering etc) distributor Card Kingdom in Seattle are organizing with UFCW Local 3000. 155 workers at Planned Parenthood of Massachusetts are joining 1199 SEIU. 110 school bus workers for Durham in Spokane, WA are organizing with Teamsters Local 690. 100 nurses and healthcare workers at Harper University Hospital in Detroit are organizing I think with the UAW, though the filing lists multiple other unions (which may just be because they represent other workers at this employer). 100 workers at a Target in Christiansburg, VA filed for a union election with the IWW and then withdrew the petition; I remember stopping by on a road trip when they had a walkout over sexual harassment five years ago, amazing to see this particular store show up again in the big retail brand unionization wave. And while dropping the petition is never a good sign, I’ll remind you all that that’s exactly what happened with ALU before they successfully filed and won, so I’m not writing this one off. Funnily enough, there is a Starbucks inside of this Target that is being included in the union petition. 100 freight drivers for 10 Roads Express – a private contractor that transports US Mail – in Harrisburg, PA are organizing with the APWU. 84 nurses at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, OR are unionizing with the Oregon Nurses Association. 80 early childhood educators at Joyful Noise Child Development Centers in Portland, OR are joining ILWU Local 5. 79 editorial employees for The Hill in DC are organizing with the Washington Baltimore News Guild. 75 EMTs at Lawrence General Hospital in Lawrence, MA are joining NAGE-SEIU Local 5000. 68 ironworkers for KBL Reinforcing in Las Vegas are unionizing with the Iron Workers. 66 shipbuilders for Vigor Alaska in Ketchikan, AK are joining SMART Local 23. 50 production workers for Shakespeare Theatre Company in DC are organizing with IATSE Local 22.
Small shops: 40 skilled maintenance workers at a Genentech research campus in Vacaville, CA are organizing with Operating Engineers Local 39. 36 drivers for ATS Group (which I haven’t been able to figure out what exactly that is) in Atlanta are organizing with ATU Local 732, as are three clerks for First Transit. 39 HVAC workers for Trane in Valley View, OH are unionizing with UA Local 120. 38 dispensary workers at Consume Cannabis in Marion, IL are organizing with UFCW Local 881. 36 healthcare workers at the Roski Eye Institute at USC in Los Angeles are joining NUHW. 32 pharmacists at Summerlin Hospital in Las Vegas are unionizing with the Machinists. 31 nursing home workers at Luther Woods in Hatboro, PA are joining NUHHCE District 1199C (AFSCME), and 28 nursing home workers at Livingston Place in DC are organizing with 1199 SEIU. 28 drivers for US Foods out of the Charlotte, NC facility are unionizing with Teamsters Local 71. 16 stagehands for dance company BodyVox in Portland, OR are organizing with IATSE Local 28. 14 food service workers at Bodo Bagels in Charlottesville, VA are joining UFCW Local 400. 13 solar energy workers for SOLV Energy/Aerotek in Bass Lake, IN are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 150. 13 software engineers for HCL America in Cleveland are joining the Steelworkers. 12 maintenance workers at the Omni Hotel in Boston are unionizing with SEIU Local 3. Ten workers at Book Soup bookstore in West Hollywood, CA are joining CWA. Nine sex education staffers for non-profit Speak About It in Portland, ME are forming an independent union. Nine warehouse workers at Hickman’s Egg Ranch in Riverside, CA are joining Teamsters Local 63. Eight workers for Badger Transportation in Kent, WA are joining Operating Engineers Local 302. Eight chemical workers for Ecolab in Marlton, NJ are joining UFCW Local 152. Seven drivers for Grassroots Cannabis in Litchfield, IL are joining Teamsters Local 525. Seven tree trimmers for Asplundh in Cortez, CO are joining IBEW Local 111. Seven social services workers for Advocates for Family Peace in Grand Rapids, MN are joining AFSCME Council 65. Five aircraft simulator techs for Lockheed Martin in Marietta, GA are joining the Machinists. Five workers at a Nissan dealership in Schererville, IN are joining Machinists Local 701. Five drivers for Aramark in Sacramento are joining Teamsters Local 150. Four air traffic controllers at the Jefferson City, MO airport are joining NATCA. Three K-12 maintenance workers subcontracted by Aramark in Tinton Falls, NJ are joining UA Local 9.
NLRB election wins…: 467 workers at 20 Starbucks stores voted to unionize in the past two weeks, with a whopping 87% win margin, 237-34, in Leesburg, VA; Santa Cruz (x2), Lakewood, and Long Beach, CA; Grand Rapids; Miami Springs and Jacksonville, FL (x2); Denver (x3) and Colorado Springs; Linthicum Heights, MD; Latham, NY; Portland, OR (x4!); and Greenville, SC. Workers United also lost at four stores (see below), but that remains a pretty stellar win rate. 275 hotel workers at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, CA narrowly won their union with UNITE HERE Local 2, in a 110-103 vote. 214 school bus workers at First Student in Riverside, CA voted 113-26 to join ATU Local 1756. 113 staff at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia voted 72-13 to join AFT Local 9608. 56 staffers at non-profit Impact Justice in Oakland, CA voted 23-3 to join OPEIU Local 29. 43 UPS workers in Stockton, CA who are somehow not already Teamsters are now Teamsters, having voted 22-17 to join Teamsters Local 439. A couple dozen physical therapists with PAGNY in The Bronx voted to join 1199 SEIU but the NLRB’s vote tallies are too wonky to be sure of details. 21 workers at Centerpoint Adolescent Treatment Services in Winooski, VT voted 14-0 to join the NEA. 17 warehouse workers for Bimbo Bakeries in Las Vegas are also now Teamsters, voting 12-4 to join Teamsters Local 14. 17 workers who make gold products for Valaurum in Portland, OR voted 10-3 to join IBEW Local 89. 14 workers at Executive Hotel Le Soleil in NYC voted 10-2 to join UNITE HERE Local 6 (aka the Hotel Trades Council). Another eight workers for Badger Daylighting, this time in Fort Pierce, FL, voted 7-1 to join Operating Engineers Local 487. The eight editorial employees of the Bozeman, MT Daily Chronicle voted unanimously to join the Denver Newspaper Guild. Five social workers at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, WA voted 4-0 to join UFCW Local 3000. Four subcontracted dining workers at the private Bethany Community School in Bethany, CT voted unanimously to join UNITE HERE Local 217. Four transit supervisors for TransDev in Portland, OR voted in a landslide, 1-0, to join ATU Local 757, and four more TransDev workers in El Cajon, VA voted 2-0 to join Teamsters Local 683; three dispatchers for competitor MV Transportation voted unanimously to join ATU Local 1575 in Petaluma, CA. Four pharmacists at the Safeway in Alamosa, CO voted 3-1 to join UFCW Local 7. All three flight simulator techs in Midland City, AL voted to join the Machinists.
…and losses: 107 Starbucks workers at four stores in Estero, FL, La Grange, IL, Asheville and Colorado Springs voted a combined 33-51 against joining the Workers United organizing tidal wave; obviously totally anecdotal and I haven’t looked at the broader numbers, but it’s interesting that the turnout is a lot higher among the losing stores this week (like, twenty points higher). One explanation would be that management wins when they more effectively turn people out to vote against the union, as opposed to cooling the yes vote. 22 pharmacists at 10 Walgreens stores in the East Bay, CA deadlocked 9-9 on joining UFCW Local 5. 21 workers for truck dealer Kenworth in Dearborn, MI voted 6-15 against joining Teamsters Local 283. 21 workers for Diversified Gas & Oil in Charleston, WV voted 4-17 against unionizing with the Steelworkers.
Decertifications and raids: 1,902 Kaiser workers in Southern California voted 778-445 (with 10 votes against union representation at all) to stick with NUHW over an attempted raid by UNAC/UHCP (a Kaiser worker reached out to object to the term raid, but I don’t know what else to call an attempt to organize members of another union to join your union instead); sounds like internecine Kaiser union fights are alive and well, though I haven’t seen anyone covering it or much talk about it at all. Teamsters Local 710 appears to be raiding a unit of 51 freight drivers for H&H Intermodal in Bedford Park, IL from the company union National Production Workers Local 707; I’ll note that these filings are ambiguous, so it could be the other way around, but I think this is right, and if so, is the rare positive raid. 48 freight workers at Ferguson Enterprises in Pomona, CA voted 9-29 to drop Teamsters Local 166. 16 ready-mix drivers for IMI in Hamilton, OH voted to stick with Teamsters Local 135, 9-6. Two workers at Lighthart HVAC in Saint Cloud, WI voted to drop SMART Local 18.
Security guards: 32 security guards at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, NJ are joining the National Security Officers Benevolent Association Local 971/550. 17 campus cops at Merrimack College in North Andover, MA are forming an independent union. Seven security guards at an amusement park in Kissimmee, FL voted 6-1 to join SPFPA.
Outside the NLRB: Workers at the Financial Times (NewsGuild), the Bangor Daily News (also NewsGuild), and the Amherst (MA) Cinema Arts Center (independent, I believe, but may be Workers United) all won voluntary recognition. It appears UNITE HERE Local 217 won their union at the Graduate Hotel in New Haven, CT as well. Non-tenure-track faculty at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago are organizing with AFSCME Council 31, following others at SAIC and the Art Institute itself. For Convergence, Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon have a fascinating piece on the union efforts among the Texas National Guard. You may recall that in January the DOJ officially opened the door to state national guard unionization efforts, though that was centered on a Connecticut effort.
More Perfect Union has the wild story of workers at Refresco in New Jersey organizing with the UE, winning their NLRB vote, and then having it overturned because an NLRB staffer was five minutes late to the on-site voting session. Luckily, the workers won in a rerun, cementing what was one of the biggest blue collar union wins of 2021, but missing out on untold wages and just generally having their rights as workers denied.
More Perfect Union also has a great video on Apple store workers in Maryland organizing with the Machinists; from the sound of it, Apple might just be the next huge retail brand to see a serious organizing wave (though Bloomberg Law correctly notes that the apparent jurisdictional dispute taking place doesn’t bode well). That is, if Trader Joe’s doesn’t beat them to it: In what might just be another huge union breakthrough, 100 or so Trader Joe’s workers in Hadley, MA are organizing an independent union. More Perfect Union has that story as well (look, they do great work, what can I say). These are both ones to watch nationally.
At Bloomberg, Josh Eidelson reports on the NLRB’s most recent findings against Amazon’s bad behavior. Noam Scheiber had an interesting piece in the New York Times that compares the Starbucks and Amazon campaigns, though I think it’s early days yet for a compare and contrast.
And lest you think all this new organizing is a walk in the park, The Real News has a useful conversation with a group of workers at G&D in Illinois who organized with the Iron Workers and then were clearly illegally retaliated against, lost their jobs, and still have not been made whole, let alone won a union contract.