The week in US unions, June 25-July 2nd, 2022
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, a Teamsters affiliate and one of a dozen and a half unions involved in national rail bargaining with the largest freight carriers, are taking a national strike vote. The vibe I get from workers I’m in touch with is that (1) a national rail strike is never going to happen (depending on who you ask having to do with the Railway Labor Act and its reliance on a Presidential Emergency Board, or because the unions just could never actually get organized to pull it off in their sorry state, or because the rail union leaders just don’t have it in them), and (2) that we are extremely close to a precipice we rarely get close to, namely the July 18th cutoff for the “cooling-off period” mandated by the Act. Basically on or before July 18th, the President has the power to convene a board to negotiate a final settlement between the employers and the unions but what happens if the settlement doesn’t hold is sort of fuzzy. The upshot is nobody really thinks 120,000 railroaders are going to strike in a midterm year during a supply chain crisis but then again people keep being wrong about things.
And rather than speculate, I can tell you about two big expected strikes that definitively did not occur this week: that of 6,000 UNITE HERE Local 54 casino workers in Atlantic City, NJ and around 700 GM Subsystems (GM’s wholly-owned subsidiary that exists only to undermine the main GM-UAW contract and create a whole different tier of workers on a whole different contract, and oh by the way is usually brought into plants under the guise of bringing electric vehicle production on line even though the jobs in question rarely have anything to do with electric batteries or EV drivetrains or anything, they just tell locals that are desperate not to have their plants close that this is the only way — ok, sorry, this is too long for a parenthetical) UAW workers, who were fifteen minutes away from striking at four plants in Michigan but reached a tentative agreement. Fun fact about the latter near-miss is that not only are UAW GM Subsystems workers on a different contract, but the UAW main contract at GM forbids GM workers from joining the picket line in support even off the clock. Back on the casino front, a much smaller strike at Bally’s Twin River Casino in Lincoln, RI, threatened by 200 food service workers with UNITE HERE Local 26, has been delayed at least two weeks as the parties agreed to an extension.
The ILWU remains vocally averse to striking on the West Coast ports as their contract expired at the beginning of the month. But “strike” or “don’t strike” aren’t the only options, as those who follow the west coast ports know; the New York Times has a piece on how any labor disruption could affect not just the 22,000 dockworkers in question, but whole economies around the docks (not to mention everything that relies on materials that enter the country through our west coast ports).
OK, but aside from all these strike threats, there are actual workers on strike in this country. 1100 workers with UAW Locals 180 and 807 in Racine, WI and Burlington, IA respectively have hit the two-month mark on the picket line. A few dozen mechanics and others with Machinists Local 1484 are on strike at Mercedes-Benz of San Diego. Starbucks Workers United members struck in Dallas, and members in Cleveland protested union-busting as did workers in https://fox4kc.com/news/starbucks-employees-across-kc-metro-come-together-after-two-employees-were-fired/Kansas City (but didn’t as far as I can tell, actually walk off the job.)
Delta pilots at major air hubs across the country organized their signature protest/pickets, as they work under a long-expired contract (though the Railway Labor Act, which covers airline workers as well, basically means that contracts stay in effect even when they expire which is maybe better than the alternative but also de-incentivizes employers from coming to the table).
In the world of grocery store labor, both Teamsters at Costco (who represent about 17,000 Costco workers in California and the East Coast, but not in the rest of the country) and Kroger workers in Indiana with UFCW Local 700 voted down their latest contracts.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
The UAW Presidential race just heated up, with a new credible challenger to incumbent president Ray Curry announcing his intention to run. Shawn Fain is a longtime national staffer at the UAW, out of the Chrysler (now Stellantis) department, and has made waves for publicizing some of the internal workings of the incumbent administration. The other heretofore announced challengers to Curry have either never held local office (let alone have a national profile or bargaining experience) or are facing disqualification due to being retirees. The UAW Convention, where nominations and important resolution fights will take place, will happen at the end of the month, and getting on the ballot is easy. The hard part is winning the first-ever direct elections of national leadership, set to take place by mail ballot in the fall.
The longtime head of the Rhode Island NEA is retiring.
New election fillings at the NLRB: 87 Starbucks workers at three stores in Independence, MO, Staten Island and Wantagh, NY have joined the organizing wave with Workers United; while that’s a very light week for Starbucks Workers United, I’d say NLRB data is wonky enough not to make it statistically significant, plus I certainly haven’t seen anything to indicate that Starbucks organizing is slowing down. The Trader Joe’s independent union movement has officially spread to Minneapolis, with 80 workers filing for a union election there. 80 healthcare workers for the Cape Regional Physicians Association in Cape May, NJ are unionizing with UFCW Local 152. 48 school bus drivers for Student Transportation of America in Crownsville, MD are unionizing with UFCW Local 1994 (have to imagine this was related to the bus driver strike there last fall). 40 hospital techs at CHI St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, OR are joining the Oregon Nurses Association. 30 event production workers at Brooklyn Bowl in Philadelphia (which is actually owned by Live Nation) are organizing with IATSE Local 8. 22 parking production assistants in Newark, NJ, who I think are working on Wu-Tang: An American Saga are joining CWA. 20 workers at Indianapolis social services non-profit Step-Up are unionizing with AFSCME Council 962. 15 workers for Raytheon on the White Sands Missile Range, NM are joining Machinists Local 2515. 14 subcontracted workers at a Merck pharmaceuticals facility in North Wales, PA are joining UA Local 420. 13 veterinarians for the Wildlife Conservation Society in NYC, at the Central Park Zoo, Bronx Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Park Zoo, and New York Aquarium, are unionizing with AFSCME DC 37. 12 digital newsroom workers at Newsday in Melville, NY are joining GCC Local 406-C (Teamsters). Ten dispensary workers at Ascend in Boston are joining Teamsters Local 25 and seven more at Mayflower Medicinals are joining UFCW Local 1445. Nine staffers of the Tennessee Democratic Party are joining IBEW Local 429. Seven maintenance workers at the Universal Studios HQ in Los Angeles are joining Operating Engineers Local 501. Five workers at car shipper International Auto Logistics in El Cajon, CA are joining Teamsters Local 683 Three production workers at Mendel Steel in Bethel Park, PA are joining the Iron Workers.
Organize the South?: 157 nurses at the Coral Gables (FL) Hospital are organizing with NNU (is Miami the South?). 65 paramedics at UF Health Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL are organizing with AFSCME Council 79. 60 janitors for Servicon in Fort Worth, TX are organizing with the Machinists. 56 drivers for Keurig Dr Pepper in Irving, TX are organizing with Teamsters Local 745 (is Texas the South?). 35 workers at Avis Budget car rental in Savannah, GA are organizing with the UAW (Georgia is the South). 30 tugboat workers for Moran in Savannah, GA are unionizing with Masters, Mates, & Pilots. 26 workers at the REA Magnet Wire Company factory in Ashland, VA are organizing with IBEW Local 666 (it’s north of Richmond, but I think it’s the South). 14 fast food workers at Tuckers Onion Burgers in Norman, OK are organizing with Teamsters Local 886, which is kind of fascinating (is Oklahoma the South??). 12 clerks at Kroger’s massive Memphis distribution center are joining Teamsters Local 667 (which already reps the warehouse workers). Five workers at New Orleans energy efficiency non-profit Energy Wise are joining IBEW Local 130. Five construction workers at the army base in Fort Stewart, GA are joining AFGE Local 1922.
NLRB election wins…: Starbucks Workers United went eight for nine this week, adding 211 new members in stores in Seattle (x2), Boston, Cambridge, MA, Pittsburgh, Denton, TX, Madison, WI, and Westerville, OH. The one loss was in Newtonville, MA, where 12 workers voted 2-5 against the union. 97 Aramark dining workers at Kutztown University in Kutztown, PA, whose union fight Paul Blest covered back in February, voted 37-21 to join the Pennsylvania Joint Board of Workers United. 57 workers making ships for Vigor in a shipyard in Ketchikan, AK voted 26-19 to join SMART Local 23. 23 firefighters who work at an airport in Carolina, PR voted 12-8 to join Hermandad de Empleados de Oficina, Comercio y Ramas Anexas de Puerto Rico. 10 therapists at Abington Manor OPCO nursing home in South Abington, PA voted 6-0 to join RWDSU Local 262. Seven clericals at the Cannon Air Defense Complex in Yuma, AZ voted 6-0 to join Machinists Local SC310. Four pharmacists at a Safeway in King City, OR joined UFCW Local 555 in a 3-1 vote, but five more at two stores in Sherwood and Hillsboro, OR deadlocked against the union.
…and losses: 130 workers at the Meadows Psychiatric Center, which Paul Blest also covered, and which workers describe as “a 21st Century Asylum,” voted 36-67 against joining SEIU Local 668. 100 workers at Hospital Damas in Ponce, PR voted 25-43 against unionizing with ULEES, Unidad Laboral de Enfermeras. 41 workers for contractor Home Improvement Services Company in Anchorage and Fairbanks, AK voted 2-10 against joining the Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters. 18 workers at Greyhound in Phoenix voted 3-4 against joining Machinists Local 519.
Security guards: 32 guards at the CDC’s facility in Fort Collins, CO are joining the SPFPA. 30 guards at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Southold, NY are joining either the FCGOA or SSOBA.
And for a bigger picture view of the new organizing moment we’re in, check out Angela Bunay and Dan DiMaggio’s great piece at Labor Notes, which tracks how workers at REI, Target, Trader Joe’s, Apple (whose big win in organizing the first retail store in the country with the Machinists in Towson, MD I neglected to mention in last week’s round-up) have been inspired by Starbucks and Amazon, in exactly the kind of CIO-style inspirational cross-workplace movement-building the labor left has long clamored for.