STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
Education: The 48,000 University of California academic workers of UAW Local 2865, UAW Local 5810, and Student Researchers United have claimed the mantle of the year’s largest strike. Obviously there’s no way of knowing how long this thing will run, though the ends and beginnings of semesters are always chokepoints on higher ed strikes. Elsewhere in California, AFT Local 1493 at San Mateo County Community College are protesting stalled negotiations. In New York City, UAW Local 7902 adjunct faculty are also on strike at the New School. In K-12 education, Akron, OH educators have rejected the recommendations of a fact-finder, and could be moving closer to a strike. Teamsters Local 597 school bus drivers in Brattleboro, VT are set to strike on December 1st if they can’t get a contract. 500 educators in Covina, CA are inching closer to a strike as the district tries to push a two-tier health plan. In the wake of big gains in Haverhill and Malden, paraprofessionals in Peabody, MA have a new deal that apparently provides a 50 percent raise. DC teachers just won a tentative deal with 12 percent raises over four years, after three years without a contract.
Meanwhile, the rail strike is reaching its long-deferred “put up or shut up” moment, as the last unions announced the results of their votes, with four of the twelve unions – SMART-TD, BMWE, the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, and the Boilermakers – without deals as their December 9th strike deadline fast approaches. It’s a minority of the unions, but they represent a majority of the workers at nearly 70,000. Besides, the consensus among the unions is that those that have a deal will honor the line if any of the other crafts walk. Whether they’ll get to that point is mostly up to Congress; Politico has the basic overview. But the basic options are: (1) the carriers and the unions come up with another set of agreements averting a strike, that then have to pass ratification votes; (2) the unions strike and Congress does nothing, and presumably the carriers get sick of losing all that money and come up with a new tentative agreement; (3) Congress passes the only bill on the floor, the GOP’s Burr-Wicker bill that imposes the PEB on the remaining unions; (4) the Democrats put out a bill that reflects the Walsh-brokered tentative agreement and imposes it on the remaining unions; (5) someone puts out a bill that imposes the Walsh deal plus paid sick days and/or other union demands; (6) they kick the can with a bill that extends the cooling-off period. The question is what will get to the floor, and what can Congress pass?
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Elsewhere in big strikes, this month saw Starbucks Workers United’s “Red Cup Rebellion”; a coordinated day of strike action across 110 stores to coincide with the company’s “Red Cup Day,” one of the heaviest sales days of the year, which inaugurates the holiday season at Starbucks. The NLRB is also petitioning the federal government for a nationwide cease and desist against the company firing workers for their union support (which is already illegal, but our labor law is broken by design). Separate from the nationwide action, Starbucks workers in Buffalo and Memphis struck.
For Black Friday, Amazon workers and allies around the world protested, though as far as I can tell, only one of these actions in the US was a strike, in St. Peters, MO; it’s unclear to me whether these workers are affiliated with the Teamsters or the Amazon Labor Union or totally independent, but it looks like they’ve got a lot of organizational support from local labor and the Missouri Workers Center.
And elsewhere in key infrastructure strikes, about 800 ILA Local 1410 members at the Port of Mobile, AL are on strike against terminal operator CSA after promised federal mediation broke down (or never actually started); the dockworkers have been without a local agreement, while the national ILA is gearing up to negotiate its new national agreement with CSA’s parent company.
Warrior Met UMWA members marked their second Thanksgiving on the picket line, and Kim Kelly has a dispatch from Brookwood, AL. For UAW members at Case/CNH in Burlington, IA and Racine, WI, it was the first Thanksgiving on the line, and hopefully the last; Max Alvarez spoke with strikers there. If you’re in the giving spirit, I’ve heard that the Case workers could use some funds; chip in a few bucks to their solidarity fund here. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette strike also lurched on through the holiday, with no big breakthroughs as far as I can tell.
A few other blue collar strikes have popped up in recent weeks, with 130 workers at Nordson Industrial Coating Systems in Amherst, OH walking off the job with Machinists Local 1802 after their contract expired due to a stalemate over forced overtime; several dozen welders with Operating Engineers Local 501 struck aerospace parts producer Arrowhead Products in Los Alamitos, CA but are back on the job; and 100+ workers with IBEW Local 1464 who work on locomotives for Wabtec in Kansas City hit a month on the picket line this weekend.
And in what would’ve reportedly been the largest private sector nurses strike in US history, 22,000 California Nurses Association nurses at Kaiser won a 22.5% raise over four years to avert a two-day walkout. Elsewhere in healthcare unionism, UNAC/UHCP nurses at Maui Health System rallied for raises as they negotiate a new contract.
For Labor Notes, I wrote about what’s going on with (ALPA and APA) airline pilot negotiations at Delta, American, and United. I wouldn’t expect any imminent work stoppages, since airlines are covered under the now-familiar Railway Labor Act and despite the contract rejections and strike authorization, it’s early days in RLA bureaucratic hoop-jumping terms, and apparently things are getting a little less contentious, at least at Delta.
Transit workers with ATU Local 998 marched through downtown Milwaukee in preparation for what could be an open-ended strike; like many other transit systems, bus operators face violence from the public, and rampant understaffing. In Peoria, IL, city workers with AFSCME Local 3464 have opened negotiations for their contract which expires at the end of the year, and are looking for reinvestment in public services.
120 workers with Teamsters Local 117 at IKEA in Spanaway have authorized a strike in the face of a meager wage proposal from the company.
UNITE HERE’s campaign against massive hospitality contractor Sodexo escalated with two strike authorization votes among convention center workers, in Orlando, FL and Las Vegas, plus other possible job actions in New Orleans, Sacramento, and Detroit.
UAW Local 2110 workers at the Brooklyn Museum rallied for a first contract, having filed unfair labor practice charges against management in September. And speaking of museum labor, for Labor Notes, Liam Kelly took a look at the Philadelphia Museum of Art strike by AFSCME Local 397 last month.
Workers who formed New York state’s first legally-recognized farmworkers union at Pindar Vineyards in Southold, NY with RWDSU Local 338 also protested against an impasse in negotiations for a first contract.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
After many years of pleading for funding increases, the NLRB has announced that the agency will have to begin furloughing employees if they don’t get more funding basically immediately. Since the GOP took back the House, this has to happen before the end of the calendar year, and since there’s a “debt ceiling” deadline of December 16th, there’s basically two and a half weeks to get it done, the first week or so which will probably be consumed by dealing with the rail strike. If ever you wanted a demonstration of labor’s political weakness, this is probably it; at a time of existential importance for labor’s new organizing prospects through the Board (which, to be fair, is still not where the bulk of membership growth happens), the unions can’t even prevent the further dismantling of the legal infrastructure for labor relations through flat funding and attrition.
And speaking of federal agency dysfunction, Labor Lab came out with a great new report on LM-20 non-compliance, i.e. the extent to which union-busters and those who hire them break the law by not reporting on their activities in a timely fashion. More than 80% of LM-20 filings were delinquent in 2021 and 2022, in case you were looking for another way in which the deck is stacked against workers trying to organize.
If that weren’t enough, Rebecca Rainey has a report on the Mine Safety and Health Administration, where, you guessed it, underfunding and understaffing plus other agency dysfunction means existing mines aren’t getting inspected, and new mines that should be opened in the wake of all the recent federal infrastructure investment will likely be delayed.
But this basic non-functioning of the agencies intended to protect workers’ right to organize is of course not going to be enough for the GOP as they the House; the ghouls at Littler have a useful rundown of their wishlist – I mean, predictions – for a Republican House.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
We are just a couple days away from the vote count in the UAW’s first ever membership-wide election of national officers, which deadline will apparently not change after a judge appears to have rejected a suit to extend the voting period due to very low membership awareness of the vote. According to the federal monitor, just over 100,000 ballots have been received, out of around one million mailed. It’s extremely hard to guess what will happen in terms of outcomes, especially since this is the first vote of its kind in the union, but I’d be pretty surprised if we didn’t see a runoff for the Presidency in early 2023, seeing as it’s a five-way race with multiple candidates with widespread support. It would be quite the political earthquake if the incumbent Administration Caucus didn’t win re-election after 80 years in power, but even so, it won’t be a clean reform leadership, with only about half of the seats being contested. In the meantime, yet another story about UAW financial mismanagement has come out, from Dan Boguslaw at The Intercept, reporting on how the UAW strike fund is systematically underreported to the membership and invested in brilliant things like FTX-affiliated crypto VC funds, while leadership limits fund payouts to actual striking workers.
The IBEW will have new leadership in 2023 in far less dramatic fashion, with President Lonnie Stephenson announcing his retirement, and the executive board being reshuffled to fill vacancies. Speaking of the IBEW, the Business Manager of Hawaii’s IBEW Local 1260 was found guilty of embezzlement and other charges, including rigging a dues increase vote.
Teamsters for a Democratic Union has racked up another local win, with reform-aligned members in Teamsters Local 90 in Iowa sweeping into office with 80% of the vote.
New election filings at the NLRB:
Education: Yet another massive unit of grad workers, this time 3500 at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, are organizing with UE after the university denied voluntary recognition. At Tufts University in Medford, MA, resident assistants are also unionizing, and were also denied voluntary recognition. 134 K-12 educators at a KIPP charter school in Columbus, OH are filing to join the Ohio Federation of Teachers, following in the footsteps of St. Louis KIPP teachers who won their union last week. 56 First Student school bus workers in Dalton, GA are organizing with ATU Local 1212, and nine of their counterparts in Dayton, OH are joining AFSCME (feels like a fun time to note that the Teamsters have a national contract at First Student). 50 K-12 educators at Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School in Philadelphia are unionizing with AFT Local 6056.
Hospitals and healthcare: NYSNA is organizing 800 nurses at Mount Sinai South Nassau in Rockville Centre, NY. 360 hospital workers in two elections at Hospitals of Providence’s Sierra Campus in El Paso, TX are organizing with SEIU Texas. 90 nursing home support staff at Wadsworth Glen in Middletown, CT are unionizing with SEIU 1199 New England. 74 hospice workers for Sutter Care at Home in Sacramento are unionizing with NUHW. 71 nurse practitioners and physician assistants at the Geisinger Clinic in Scranton, PA are organizing with PASNAP. 63 therapists at Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento are organizing with SEIU UHW, as are 24 more at San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Medical Center, both owned by Dignity Health. 25 nurse practitioners at Bangor, ME’s Northern Lights Acadia Hospital are joining AFT (though there may be a turf war happening with NNU). 15 pharmacy techs at USC’s Medical Plaza Pharmacy in Los Angeles are joining NUHW. Ten pharmacists at a Rite Aid in Corvallis, OR are forming the apparently independent “Pharmacy Technicians of Rite Aid Union.”
Food service and retail: 166 more Starbucks workers at seven stores are organizing with Starbucks Workers United in Las Vegas, Queens, Louisville, Brookline and Waltham, MA, Boulder, CO, and Alpharetta, GA. 81 workers at an Apple Store in St. Louis filed to join the Machinists but then withdrew their petition; if they can push through, would be the third unionized store, and the second one to go with the Machinists, as opposed to CWA. 35 baristas at Blank Street Coffee in Brooklyn are unionizing with UFCW Local 1500. 19 workers at Afuri Ramen + Dumpling in Portland, OR have formed the independent “Restaurant Workers of Portland.” 12 bookstore workers at Books-A-Million in Leesburg, VA are unionizing with UFCW Local 400. UFCW Local 400 is getting in on the coffee organizing wave with five baristas at DC’s La Colombe filing for an election.
Other filings: It’s not a new filing, but 900 workers who make electric vehicle batteries for Ultium, a joint GM-LG venture in Warren, OH, have gotten an election date for their vote to join UAW Local 1112, in a high stakes referendum on the union future of EV production. 260 workers at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, MN are organizing with AFSCME Council 5. 159 workers for Block by Block in Boston, which runs those “Business Improvement District” staffing programs, are unionizing with Teamsters Local 25. 128 more New Seasons grocery workers in Portland, OR are organizing with the independent New Seasons Labor Union; 115 grocery workers at Lexington Cooperative Market in Buffalo, NY, having pushed for but not gotten voluntary recognition, have filed for an election with Workers United; and 64 bakery and deli managers across Hawaii’s Foodland grocery chain are joining UFCW Local 480, just in time for their potential strike?. 115 customer service workers at Las Vegas’s Bellagio are organizing with Teamsters Local 986. 110 workers for USPS freight contractor 10 Roads Express in Columbus are organizing with the APWU. 102 workers at Pepsi products company Acadiana Bottling in Youngsville, LA are organizing with Teamsters Local 270. 80 warehouse workers and drivers for Labcorp in Tucker, GA are organizing with Painters District Council 77 (I have no idea why them and not, say, the Teamsters).
Small shops: 36 dispensary workers at Sunnyside in Rockford, IL are joining Teamsters Local 777; 26 at Deep Roots in West Wendover, WV are unionizing with UFCW Local 711; 20 more at Pure Oasis in Boston are joining Teamsters Local 25. 33 workers for Wilkinson Mobile Boilers in Rockland, MA are unionizing with UA Local 537. 30 radio station workers at Charlotte, NC’s WFAE are joining SAG-AFTRA. 30 workers for Chellino Crane in Joliet, IL are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 150. 21 aircraft mechanics at the Elizabeth City, NC Coast Guard Station are joining IUE-CWA. 21 workers who do I don’t know what for federal contractor Akima in Fayetteville, NC, 18 workers for VA IT contractor VETS Veteran Enterprise Technology Services in San Diego, and nine for Leidos at SEAFAC in Ketchikan, AK are unionizing with the Machinists. 17 ironworkers at WC Welding in Fontana, CA are organizing with Iron Workers Local 509. 15 bowling alley employees at Bowlero in Royal Oak, MI are unionizing with GCC Local 25-M. 15 electronic court reporters in NYC are joining CWA. 11 subcontracted fire captains at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN are joining IAFF Local I-101. Nine workers at Westerly, RI’s Savoy Bookshop & Cafe are joining UFCW Local 328. Seven lab employees at the Ferndale, WA Phillips 66 refinery are joining the Steelworkers. Six freight clericals at USF Holland in Cincinnati are joining Teamsters Local 100. Five resident artists (?) at the Sloss Furnaces building in Birmingham, AL are joining the Boilermakers. Five mechanics at the Coffin Butte Landfill in Corvallis, OR are joining Operating Engineers Local 701. Four maintenance workers at Atlantis Health Care in San German, PR are joining Unión General de Trabajadores, SEIU Local 1199. Four air traffic controllers at Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County Airport are joining NATCA.
NLRB election wins…: Due to NLRB site quirks, I missed the big Wichita, KS win among 625 nurses at the Ascension Via Christi St. Francis hospital, where NNU won 378-194; this week, those nurses took their first action, protesting safety protocols after a gun was fired in the pediatric unit. 95 workers at San Francisco homelessness services agency Compass Family Services voted 63-21 to join OPEIU Local 29. 58 more student workers, resident assistants at NYC’s Barnard College, voted 47-2 to unionize with OPEIU Local 153. 56 drivers and warehouse workers for recycling company Ridwell in Seattle voted 37-3 to join Teamsters Local 117. 43 ski lift maintenance workers at Park City (UT) Mountain Resort voted 35-6 to join CWA. 34 journalists at Louisville’s Courier-Journal joined the Indianapolis NewsGuild in a 22-4 vote. 28 nurses at UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Hospital at Home program in Worcester, MA voted 23 to nothing to join the Massachusetts Nurses Association. 26 nursing home support staff at Pioneer Ridge in Lawrence, KS won their union in a very low turnout 5-3 vote, joining Teamsters Local 696. 24 workers at Vital Climbing Gym in Manhattan voted 13 to nothing to join Workers United. 14 freight truck drivers for K8E Trucking in Sacramento narrowly won their union with Teamsters Local 150 in a 7-6 vote. 14 workers for heating oil company Keyser Energy in Rutland, VT voted 11-3 to join Teamsters Local 597. 13 drivers for Nevulis Beverage distributors in Emmaus, PA voted 8-3 to join Teamsters Local 773. 12 workers at Deep Roots Piercing in Seattle voted 6-0 to join UFCW Local 3000. Seven deli workers at Roth’s Fresh Market in Salem, OR voted 5-1 to join UFCW Local 555. All four CymSTAR flight instructors in Omaha voted to join Machinists District Lodge 6.
Starbucks Workers United had mixed results, with four stores splitting 2-2 on joining the movement; 50 workers in Fayetteville, AR and Seattle voted 27-16 to join, and 50 workers in Seaside, CA and Apache Junction, AZ voted 18-26 not to.
…and losses: 317 nurses at Marietta Memorial Hospital in Marietta, OH voted 98-140 against joining Teamsters Local 637. 78 nursing home workers at Heartwood Extended Health Care in Tacoma, WA deadlocked 19-19 on joining SEIU Local 775. 63 dispensary workers at Zen Leaf in St. Charles, IL voted 22-31 against joining UFCW Local 881. 19 workers at fireproofing contractor Firestop Commercial in Henderson, NV lost their bid to join Insulators Local 135 in a 6-10 vote. 14 fiber technicians at Cumberland Electric in Clarksville, TN voted 4-10 against joining IBEW Local 175.
Decertifications and raids: Is nothing sacred? 210 workers at the Jelly Belly factory in Fairfield, CA are facing a decertification attempt against their union, BCTGM Local 125. 97 healthcare clericals at the Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, MN beat back a decertification attempt 41-16, sticking with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. 30 drivers for HD Supply in San Jose decertified Teamsters Local 853 in a 5-21 vote. Not sure it’s a raid or just two unions “filing” or the Carpenters just being listed because they’re obviously involved, but the staff at the Kent, WA Northwest Carpenters Training Center are unionizing with AFT with the Carpenters “intervening” (meaning either getting on the ballot, or they already rep these staffers, the latter seeming most plausible to me).
Outside the NLRB: Workers at the Amazon air hub in Hebron, KY (at the Cincinnati airport) have gone public with their organizing drive; from the looks of it, it’s not affiliated with the Amazon Labor Union or the Teamsters (publicly, at least). 330 library workers at the Enoch Pratt Free Library system in Baltimore voted in a landslide, 218-12, to join AFSCME Council 67. The Congressional Workers Union has racked up another win, with Rep. Chuy Garcia’s staff voting unanimously to unionize, and staff for Reps Tlaib, Pocan, and Takano all filing for elections. The Wisconsin state labor board says that UW Health does not have to recognize SEIU as the union of 2100 nurses at the healthcare system; the nurses nearly struck for recognition this fall, but agreed to take their case to the state labor board, and possibly the NLRB, instead.
In a promising sign, AFA-CWA, the Machinists, and the Teamsters announced a joint effort to organize (rather than fight over) three different groups of workers at Delta – flight attendants, ramp workers, and mechanics respectively.
Workers who tried to form an independent union at Lowe’s in New Orleans have filed unfair labor practice charges against the company after withdrawing their NLRB petition; it remains to be seen whether this mean the workers will regroup and take another crack at formal unionization.
The Washington Post looked at the state of public sector collective bargaining in Virginia, as several groups of workers move closer to winning legally-recognized union contracts in the wake of the 2020 state labor reform law. Workers in many jurisdictions (like Fairfax County Public Schools) are still fighting to win local ordinances.
Finally, in South Carolina, hundreds of workers gathered to found the Union of Southern Service Workers, an outgrowth of the SEIU Fight for $15 movement.
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Hey Jonah, great stuff as always. Quick question--where does the bulk of membership growth happen if not organizing through the Board?