The week in US unions, November 6th-13th, 2022
This Saturday, November 19th, Labor Notes is holding a New York City Troublemakers School, a day-long conference of trainings and workshops on building a better labor movement; you and any union activists you know should be there. Register for that here.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
Almost 50,000 academic workers with the UAW at the University of California system are set to begin an open-ended strike across the entire system starting on Monday morning; it will be the largest higher-education strike in US history, and the biggest strike in the country since the 2019 General Motors strike. 750 grad workers at Temple University in Philadelphia have officially authorized a strike with AFT Local 6290. On the higher ed non-academic workers side, Smith College dining workers with SEIU Local 211 have ratified a new contract, UNITE HERE Local 1 workers at Northwestern University are facing retaliation, and Sodexo dining workers at New Orleans’s Loyola University are also organizing with UNITE HERE.
And in other record-breaking California labor news, 21,000 Kaiser nurses with NNU are set to hold a two-day strike, one of the largest private-sector nurses strikes ever. 2500 Temple University Hospital nurses in Philadelphia with PASNAP won a contract, averting a strike. Around 400 nurses with SEIU 1199NW held informational pickets at two hospitals in Enumclaw and Burien, WA as they push for a contract with safe staffing provisions. Across the country, workers at Providence, RI’s Butler Hospital picketed for similar demands with SEIU 1199 New England.
After meeting with Marty Walsh, the BMWE’s negotiating committee voted not to extend their deadline for a rail strike, and then, in a re-vote, they voted to, actually, yes, extend it after all, lining up with the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen’s December 4th deadline, in yet another backdown from another rail union. This week will no doubt carry some big rail news, with both SMART-TD and BLET’s results expected to be announced on November 17th, and serious doubts about whether they’ll ratify their deals.
Our other Railway Labor Act negotiations watch isn’t anywhere close to the rail impasse, but it’s not going particularly smoothly, either: ALPA pilots with United are picketing the United pilots training center on Tuesday, and FedEx Express pilots, also with ALPA, are filing for mediation. And it’s not just the pilots: APFA flight attendants are picketing across American Airlines bases.
Some 250 UAW Local 2110 members are officially on an open-ended strike at HarperCollins in NYC.
Some 600 meat, deli, bakery, and seafood department workers across Hawaii’s Foodland grocery chain are taking a strike authorization vote with UFCW Local 480; their contract expired in April of 2021.
ATU Local 689 has authorized a strike against everyone’s favorite multinational transit contractor, Keolis, in Loudoun County, VA; and from the looks of it, in a very solidaristic move, Teamsters Local 533, who struck Keolis three times in 2021, are reopening several complaints against the company (Local prez Gary Watson should put this on his resume: “[Teamsters President Gary] Watson is beyond inflammatory at this point and I have suggested that legal review his statements on the grounds of actionable defamation,” said Rachel Gattuso, who has been hired by Keolis to promote the company in Reno.) ATU Local 618 has won a 25% pay raise to address a drivers shortage at the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority.
Educators in the Penns Manor school district in Indiana County, PA have taken a strike authorization vote; in Lawrence County, PA educators in the Mohawk Area School District are at an impasse and appear to have also previously authorized a strike. Negotiations in Bay County, FL are at a “standstill” according to the local news. Educators in Imperial Beach, CA rallied at the South Bay Union School District for a contract with class size limits and more special education teachers. After picketing at district HQ last month, Montgomery County, MD educators won open bargaining, and negotiations are set to begin soon. Newtown, CT teachers have a new contract; so do those in Dayton, OH.
The Starbucks Workers United strike at NYC’s roastery has entered its third week, and I thought this piece from industry outlet Restaurant Dive was worth reading on the bigger picture of why baristas are organizing, beyond each individual strike action. Oh, and Trader Joe’s bargaining isn’t going all that much better, with Trader Joe’s United filing charges in some of its first negotiating sessions with the company.
Amazon workers walked off the job twice this week in Eagan, MN, as the company forces scheduling changes; I assume these workers are connected with the Awood Center, a workers center in the Twin Cities area that organizes primarily with East African immigrants.
Teamsters Local 145 rallied outside city hall in Shelton, CT against union-busting from the town’s mayor, where city workers have gone four years without a contract. Public workers in New Jersey have been rallying against planned healthcare premium rate hikes of over 20%.
And though I really do not cover non-US labor developments (partly just because this project is already quixotic in its scope), there were just some great non-US pieces out at Labor Notes this week. Read about: the general strike threat in Ontario; workers fleeing China’s largest iPhone factory; and an update about Mexico’s exciting independent union movement.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
I don’t have a particular piece to cite here, but it remains wild that UNITE HERE seems to be the core tactical field team that has carried the Democratic Party to Senate majorities in both 2020 and 2022; and wild that there’s no real expectation that they’d get some particular legislation or political favor out of it, just because the favor is just not having a GOP majority itself. Maybe that will change, and they’ll cash in in some clearer way, but it’s pretty clear they provided the field margin in Nevada (and maybe Arizona, and maybe will do so in Georgia).
One political favor labor could ask is to save the National Labor Relations Board from what its staff union is terming “budgetary armageddon.” And it’s not just the staff union sounding the alarm; the NLRB Chair Lauren McFerran described the situation as akin to “Lucille Ball at the chocolate factory” and General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo talked about delays in case processing. This stuff is obviously poison for any new organizing strategy that relies on the NLRB. Who needs the GOP running the Board when you can just wither it away through flat funding?
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
There are just over two weeks until the ballots are counted in the UAW election, and the federally-appointed election monitor has found the incumbents illegally used an email list to contact 600 voters. Now, that may not sound like many, but with turnout currently standing at less than 9% (with, again, more than two weeks left to go in a mail-in election, but still) in a five-way-contested race for the presidency, it could end up mattering; and I think it’s fair to wonder what other resources might’ve been quietly misused for incumbent advantage. But we’ll see; I would be surprised if there weren’t a runoff for the top spot.
A federal judge has nullified the 2020 leadership election for Teamsters Local 668, a 6,000-member local based in St. Louis, around violations of federal law around preserving the secret ballot. Similarly, the Department of Labor entered into a voluntary agreement with Steelworkers Local 7600, representing 7,500 Kaiser Permanente support staff in Southern California, agreeing to rerun a leadership election from 2018.
Amid all the pilot labor activity, APA (representing American Airlines pilots) is considering a merger with ALPA (representing pilots at 40 or so carriers); APA originally broke away in the early 60s.
Amir Khafagy has the scoop on a group of IBEW Local 3 members who are suing their (former) union for $100 million for ending the disastrous NYC Spectrum strike without a membership vote.
New election filings at the NLRB: 225 social services and healthcare workers for non-profit Comprehensive Life Resources in Tacoma, WA are organizing with SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. 100 First Student school bus drivers in Amarillo, TX are organizing with Teamsters Local 577. 59 grocery store workers at a third location of MOM’s Organic Markets in College Park, MD (this one has a pinball arcade in the back, very cool) have filed to unionize; interestingly, not with Teamsters Local 570 who has won two of the chain’s 22 locations, but with UFCW Local 400. 52 workers at the just-opened Saab Aerospace jet manufacturing facility in West Lafayette, IN are unionizing with Machinists Local 2018. 43 baristas in Columbus, OH are joining the Starbucks Workers United movement. 11 building engineers at Chicago’s Field Museum are joining Operating Engineers Local 399. Ten workers at HVAC contractor UD Contracting in Fort Knox, KY are joining UA Local 502; eight workers at HVAC contractor Multi Air Services Engineers in Seattle are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 302. Eight firefighters and EMTs at the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company in Frankford, DE are joining IAFF Local 5121. Five veterinarians at Eye Care for Animals in Chicago are joining Machinists Local 701 (who I thought only represented auto mechanics, but it’s a little late in the day for jurisdictional opinions). Four workers for Marathon Pipe Line in San Diego are joining the Steelworkers.
NLRB election wins…: 348 physicians assistants at Montefiore Medical Center in The Bronx, NY voted to join the existing unit of SEIU 1199 in a 221-26 vote. 65 workers at a second MOM’s Organic Market, in Timonium, MD, voted 42-3 to join Teamsters Local 570, after another store unionized in Baltimore this summer. 59 Starbucks workers at three stores in Philadelphia, Arlington, VA, and Shavano Park, TX voted to join Starbucks Workers United in a combined 34-18 vote. 56 educators at a St. Louis charter school in one of the largest charter networks, KIPP, unionized with AFT Local 420 in a 34-17 vote. 49 knights, squires, trumpeters, and others at Medieval Times in Buena Park, CA won their bid to join AGVA, 27-18. 18 workers at Sunday Goods weed dispensary in Tempe, AZ voted 10-4 to join UFCW Local 99. Nine building engineers for Citi bank buildings across Northern California voted 7-0 to join Operating Engineers Local 39. The three employees of Alcorn Fence Company in Riverside, CA who decertified their union last year are now once again members of Iron Workers Local 509 after a unanimous vote.
…and losses: 131 workers at Titan Concrete across South Florida lost their bid to join Teamsters Local 769 by one vote, 54-55; there were eight challenged ballots so it’s possible this one could flip, but that’s got to be heartbreaking. Seven “budtenders” at Power Plant, a weed dispensary in Portland, OR, voted 2-3 against joining UFCW Local 555.
Decertifications and raids: I’m not sure that it’s a raid or if the latter was just trying to get on the ballot, but the independent Digital & Media Workers Union unanimously beat out SAG-AFTRA in a vote among five digital journalists at San Francisco radio station KCBS. Yet another Hasidic business, kosher grocery store Aron’s Kissena Farms in Queens, is seeking to decertify once-company-union Local 17-18 (now an affiliate of UFCW, and no longer a company union after an election a couple years ago in which the mostly-immigrant workforce took over their corrupt union, at which point the employers decided they weren’t enough of a sweetheart union to maintain their sweetheart deals).
Outside the NLRB: Workers at Buffalo’s Lexington Co-op Markets sought voluntary recognition with Workers United but were rejected by management; presumably they’ll take their case to the NLRB, like so many Starbucks Workers United members before them. 39 instructors for medevac helicopter company Air Methods voted 23-15 to join OPEIU through the National Mediation Board.