The week in US unions, August 13-20, 2022
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
Healthcare: The largest strike in the country this week remains NUHW’s 2,000 mental healthcare workers striking Kaiser across Northern California. It’s an open-ended strike, which is somewhat more rare in the healthcare sector, and of course comes on the heels of a good amount of strike activity (or at least strike hype) at Kaiser in 2021. Cal Winslow wrote about it for Labor Notes. Elsewhere in healthcare strike activity, things have considerably heated up this week, with 15,000 Minnesota Nurses Association RNs formally authorizing a strike (though still needing a 10-day notice at each of the dozen hospitals in Duluth and the Twin Cities to walk off), over 6,000 more with the Michigan Nurses Association announcing a strike vote at the University of Michigan, and a similar number at Kaleida Health in Buffalo with CWA Locals 1133 and 1168 saying they’ll make a similar announcement soon, plus 2500 nursing home workers at 39 facilities in Pennsylvania have authorized a strike with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania.
Another strike in California just about tied the Kaiser NUHW workers in number, when Frontier telecom workers across several CWA locals are now on their fourth ULP strike in the past year, as the company granted a one year extension which expired in April, has made safety violations, and refused to furnish information to the union. In other California strike watch news, about 1,000 workers with UNITE HERE Local 2 at the San Francisco airport have announced a “strike countdown,” though I haven’t seen a particular date set; 40 workers with BCTGM Local 85 who make Corn Nuts at Hormel in Fresno, CA are on strike, chanting “no contract, no crunch (Post must be sweating about this spreading to Grape Nuts); and oh yeah there was a big walkout at the Amazon facility in San Bernardino, CA, as Caroline O’Donovan and Lauren Kaori Gurley broke at The Washington Post.
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Rest assured, a week did not pass without Starbucks Workers United going on strike, including at three stores in California (while we’re on the topic) in Santa Cruz, Lakewood, and Barstow, CA; I finally got to my first picket line in Olney, MD; workers who’ve been on strike for over a month in Boston were visited by Bernie and Sara Nelson; all six (!) unionized stores in Eugene, OR struck, in a big flex; and in a much bigger flex, the Memphis Seven, an entire organizing committee flagrantly fired by Starbucks months ago, got reinstated by the NLRB and struck the store the next day. All of this will go in the history books, but man, that should go on the front cover. In the meantime, Starbucks continues to fire organizers and is calling foul against the NLRB, pushing for a national injunction on mail-in elections; so yeah, this campaign is going to stay militant and ugly for a while, if I had to guess.
Workers for prepared food distributor Homegrown in Renton, WA struck with UNITE HERE Local 8, in part in protest against surveillance cameras being installed while wages and working conditions go unaddressed, a concern shared by UPS workers, as two drivers write for Labor Notes. Elsewhere in food warehouse/Teamster news, Sysco workers with Teamsters Local 104 in Tolleson, AZ aren’t on strike, but they did walk off a shift (click that video, it’s great) and apparently local businesses are feeling the effects as the company drags on negotiations.
There was a big update this week in the rail labor dispute affecting 115,000 workers, as the Biden-appointed Presidential Emergency Board issued their recommendations for a settlement, which triggers a final 30-day cooling-off period before any potential strike or lockout. The upshot is a serviceable wage package but little to nothing to address the overwork and lack of time off for rail workers which provoked strike threats earlier this year. Joe DeManuelle-Hall interviewed rail worker Ross Grooters for Jacobin, and some of the unions and the rail employers have issued statements. I’m not gonna get into the prediction game here, but will reiterate how massive and historic a rail strike would be.
Education: Columbus, OH teachers are voting tonight (Sunday) on whether to actually walk off tomorrow, in what would be the largest teacher strike in the state in decades. Meanwhile, 400 Dallastown, PA teachers have authorized a strike ahead of the start of the school year, as have 40 cafeteria workers in the Woodland Hills district outside Pittsburgh (including John Fetterman’s home base of Braddock). In higher ed, American University staff in DC with SEIU Local 500 will be walking off the job on Monday, and Barnard adjuncts in NYC have a new contract with UAW Local 2110. Outside of education per se, but elsewhere in UAW Local 2110, workers at Mass MoCA in North Adams, MA held a one-day strike.
500 workers at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant in Middletown, IA, apparently repped by ten different unions, are on the verge of striking, says Forbes. Between Boeing, Collins, Raytheon, and probably others, defense contractors have been locking out and stiffing their workers in all kinds of ways, despite a ballooning military budget. It’s amazing that even the most cynical American-workers-benefitting-from-bloodthirsty-extractive-empire deal is too much to ask from the US capitalist class.
The Steelworkers are still negotiating with Cleveland-Cliffs and US Steel for a contract covering 3,000 workers; this is the kind of bargaining that could sneak up and be a big deal, but doesn’t tend to get much press coverage, so something to watch.
The trades: A Robert De Niro-owned production company is building a new studio in Queens, NY using non-union labor and Laborers Local 79 held a hilarious protest. In St. Louis, the building trades (or at least IBEW Local 1, Iron Workers Local 396, and Elevator Constructors Local 3) have new contracts. Workers with IBEW Local 702 at electric utility Ameren in West Frankfort, IL are in an unspecified “contract dispute.”
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
SEIU-UHW is on the verge of a deal with the California Hospital Association that would let the bosses delay implementing earthquake safety updates (probably important in California) in exchange for raises. Five other unions are opposing the deal, writing “Our unions strongly oppose trading wages for safety.”
Victoria Law has a worthwhile piece in The Nation about unions against prison reform.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
I don’t tend to cover Canadian unions, but Unifor has a new president, from outside the auto sector, which is certainly relevant for the UAW as they hold their first direct elections, and get ready for Big Three negotiations.
New election filings at the NLRB: 400 Amazon workers have filed for an election with the Amazon Labor Union in Castelton, NY, outside Albany; already the company’s anti-union efforts at the facility have reached a fever pitch. 116 security guards at the New York, New York casino which is in fact in Las Vegas, NV are joining the SPFPA. 112 grocery workers at New Seasons Market in Portland, OR are organizing with an independent New Seasons union. 70 workers for Liberty Utilities in Columbus, GA are unionizing with the Utility Workers. 57 hospice workers for Sutter in Alameda, CA are unionizing with NUHW. 55 firefighters I believe at an air base (or somewhere else that would have a private fire department) in Marietta, GA working for Constellis are unionizing with TWU Local 525 (which is jurisdictionally odd, this would normally be IAFF or Machinists turf). 43 mental health crisis intervention workers for the White Bird Clinic in Eugene, OR, a local alternative to using cops to intervene in such cases, are unionizing with Teamsters Local 206. 43 sanitation workers for EJ Harrison & Sons in Ventura, CA are organizing with Teamsters Local 186. 42 stagehands, costumers and others at the Robert W Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta are unionizing with IATSE. 38 drivers for produce wholesaler Imperfect Foods in Clackamas, OR are organizing with UFCW Local 555; Teamsters Local 162 lost a union bid there last year. The 30 strippers and dancers for Star Garden in Hollywood, CA have formally filed for a union election with Actors’ Equity after months of organizing and striking.
Very small shops: 19 retail workers at a Goodwill in Affton, MO are organizing with UFCW Local 655, following in the footsteps of others in the St. Louis area. Yet another 18 workers at a Half Price Books location, this time in Louisville, are unionizing with UFCW Local 227; UFCW has quietly organized half a dozen of this regional chain’s stores over the past year. 18 workers at the Academy House condo complex in Philadelphia are unionizing with AFSCME Local 1739, and 10 at two buildings in Chelsea, NYC are joining 32BJ SEIU. 17 dispensary workers at Harvest Arizona in Scottsdale, AZ are joining UFCW Local 99, and eight dispensary workers at Bloom Medicinals in Springfield, MO are unionizing with UFCW Local 2. 16 RNs at South Shore Endoscopy in Braintree, MA are joining the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 15 transit workers subcontracted out of CT Transit in Hamden, CT are joining Teamsters Local 443. 11 workers at a Vulcan Materials concrete plant in Miller Place, NY are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 138, and seven more who make and transport concrete for Irving Materials in Scottsville, KY are joining Teamsters Local 89. 11 workers at Ralls County Electric Cooperative in New London, MO are joining IBEW Local 2 and seven more at Renville Sibley Cooperative Power Association in Danube, MN are joining IBEW Local 160. Ten workers for contractor Mike Gowen Mechanical in Little Rock, AR are unionizing with UA Local 155. Eight workers in the meat department of the Safeway in Lewistown, MT are joining UFCW, as are three pharmacists at a Safeway in Portland, OR. Eight skilled maintenance workers at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, CA are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 39. Seven eye doctors for Keck Medicine in Arcadia, CA are joning NUHW. Seven parts workers for Cummins in Horseheads, NY are joining Machinists District Lodge 65. Three home heating oil truck drivers for Cernak in Easthampton, MA are joining Teamsters Local 404. Two workers at packaging company Veritiv in North Plains, OR are joining Teamsters Local 206. Two maintenance workers at Loyola University in Chicago are joining Operating Engineers Local 399. Two nurses at Altus Biologics in Wentzville, MO are joining the very company-friendly-at-best (judge for yourself) Congress of Independent Unions.
NLRB election wins…: In one of the biggest manufacturing wins of recent years, UAW Local 140 appears to have won an election among 490 auto parts workers at Dakkota in Hazel Park, MI by a stunning 172-0 count; would love to hear how they pulled that off, if anyone knows, also notable that Local 155 won a 240-worker unit at Dakkota in Detroit 64-1 last year. 227 workers voted to join Starbucks Workers United by a combined 98-34 vote at nine stores in San Francisco, Chicago, Carbondale, IL, Louisville, Wichita, Richmond Heights, MO, Malta, NY, McMurray, PA, and Edina, MN. One store in Reading, MA voted 4-7 against the union, and n the fourth tally of ballots at a Starbucks in Cheektowaga, NY, the union officially finally lost, 8-9, having filed back in November in the initial wave of organizing. 64 school bus drivers for First Student in South Bend, IN voted 18-1 to join Teamsters Local 364. 39 dispensary workers at Zen Leaf in Pilsen, Chicago voted 22-2 to join Teamsters Local 777, while 11 dispensary workers at Maribis in Springfield, IL voted 7-0 to join UFCW Local 881; and if that weren’t enough to confirm the Teamsters-vs.-UFCW turf war over cannabis workers in Illinois is alive and well, the Teamsters made a big show of saying all cannabis workers in the state should join Local 777; elsewhere in weed organizing, 38 workers at a Curaleaf in Phoenix joined UFCW Local 99 in an 8-5 vote, and five workers at a JDRC dispensary in Fall River, MA voted 4-0 to join UFCW Local 328. 30 security guards at the CDC facility in Fort Collins, CO voted 12-1 to join the SPFPA. 21 warehouse workers at wood products distributor Weyerhauser in Albany, OR voted 11-5 to join Machinists District Lodge W24. 11 doctors and nurses at three urgent care clinics run by PeaceHealth in Oregon voted 10-0 to join AFT Local 6552. Nine sanitation workers for Blue Line Transfer in South San Francisco voted 6-1 to join Teamsters Local 350. Five healthcare workers on the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque voted to join Machinists Local 794, 4-0, though the two techs in a separate vote deadlocked 1-1. All three parts workers for Alta Construction Equipment in Batavia, NY voted to join Operating Engineers Local 158, and all three workers at Global Auto Logistics in El Cajon, CA voted to join Teamsters Local 683.
…and losses: 54 workers at Mauser Packaging in Chicago lost a rerun that they had won in May, this time voting 10-35 against joining UFCW Local 1546; in another disappointing UFCW rerun, 20 pharmacists at 11 Walgreens locations in Oakland and Alameda, CA, tied 8-8 on joining UFCW Local 5, in a rerun of an election that the union won in May (and if you want to know why either of these were rerun, you’ll have to FOIA the NLRB). 20 school bus drivers for M&J Bus in Mansfield, CT voted 9-11 against joining Teamsters Local 671, and three school bus mechanics for First Student in Pittsburgh deadlocked 1-1 on joining ATU Local 1743. Ten freight truck drivers for Dependable Highway Express in Fresno, CA tied 5-5 on joining Teamsters Local 431.
Decertifications and raids: Despite the best efforts of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (a billionaire-backed anti-union effort), NNU nurses defeated a decertification attempt at the Maine Medical Center in Portland, ME, by a far larger margin than they initially won their union, which is a great show of force. The Oregon Nurses Association maybe just lost a unit at the Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Ontario, OR, but the local news report is quite confusing.
Beyond NLRB filings: Huntsville, AL utility workers are seeking representation with IBEW, and are showing up at city council meetings to make their case. Commercial production workers who are trying to organize with IATSE are facing severe union-busting from the employers’ association, they say. As are Trader Joe’s workers in NYC, whose store was closed on the verge of them going public with their union efforts, reports Dave Jamieson. And elsewhere in anti-union grocery activity, Whole Foods forbid workers from wearing Black Lives Matter apparel, and the case has found its way to Jennifer Abruzzo’s NLRB, as Josh Eidelson reports. And although I’m skeptical of optimism, let’s end on a better note, with this story of how Korean restaurant workers in Los Angeles won their union contract with an independent union. Workers can, in fact, win.
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