Three weeks in US unions, December 18th, 2022 - January 8th, 2023
Happy new year! The holidays brought an unexpected semi-hiatus, so welcome to one of our three-week mega-editions. Fair warning that there are definitely some items I left out, as is inevitable when I’m playing catchup, so feel free to send me a note and flag anything important you think I missed. Also: this issue marks, somehow, two whole years of this weekly newsletter project. Thanks to all of you who’ve read and shared and chipped in a few bucks to keep the thing going. If you’ve found it useful, please take the time to circulate the newsletter in your union networks, and send me stories about what’s going on in your neck of the labor movement.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
The country’s largest strike is over, with 36,000 University of California grad workers and researchers with UAW Local 2865 and Student Researchers United voting to ratify agreements by about 62 and 68 percent, respectively, in a contentious final stretch. Faculty at Fordham University in The Bronx have voted to authorize a strike with SEIU Local 200. Grad workers at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, NM have ratified a first contract with UE Local 1498, as have RAs at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT with OPEIU Local 153.
17,000 NYC nurses with NYSNA looked poised to take the nation’s-largest-strike mantle, with strike authorization votes nearing unanimity across 12 private sector hospitals; contracts expired at the end of the calendar year, but in the ones and twos, hospitals have reached tentative agreements with the union. With the walkout set for Monday, two of the 12 still don’t have deals – Montefiore in the Bronx, and Mount Sinai’s main campus. If they walk, it will still be a huge strike, around 7,000 RNs. Elsewhere in healthcare strikes, 1800 NNU nurses at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland and Berkeley, CA struck for nine days; my Labor Notes colleague Sarah Hughes covered the contentious bargaining and internal union politics in the leadup to the strike. And 440 workers at Chicago’s Howard Brown Health, an LGBTQ healthcare and social services agency, struck for three days with the Illinois Nurses Association as they fight for a first contract; though the strike is over, the union is still fighting over sixty layoffs the company is pushing. Nurses with SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania have a new contract at UPMC Altoona.
Before the NYSNA nurses walked, the biggest active strike was the CNH/Case agricultural implements strike by UAW Locals 807 & 180 in Burlington, IA and Racine, WI; after months of no movement, the workers voted on a new tentative agreement this weekend, and 55 percent voted to reject it after eight months on the picket line. The strike rolls on. As does the UMWA strike at Warrior Met in Brookwood, AL.
Some 400 UFCW Local 5 members at Macy’s in San Francisco struck for the two days before Christmas; the two-day strike didn’t win them a contract, and now they’re coordinating with Macy’s workers in Seattle with UFCW Local 3000 whose contract expires in February, and Local 5 is gearing up for another strike on Martin Luther King Day.
Ten sanitation clericals in San Jose, CA held a six-hour ULP strike with Teamsters Local 350, which the company probably could’ve managed, but 150 drivers and other workers honored the picket line, shutting down recycling collection. The clericals got a contract.
Workers at Bloom Medicinals weed dispensary in O’Fallon, MO held the state’s first-ever dispensary strike, a one-day walkout as the UFCW Local 655 members pushed for a first contract, having organized this summer.
After the 100+-store “double down” strike in December, Starbucks Workers United members in La Quinta, CA and Ithaca, NY walked out again. Elsewhere in cafes, around 100 workers at Rhode Island’s Seven Stars Bakeries won a first contract with UFCW Local 328 after the company voluntarily recognized the union this summer (it does, sometimes, happen!)
Teamsters Local 320 snow plow drivers in St. Louis County, MN came close to another strike, having walked off in January 2020, but reached a tentative agreement that the union sounds optimistic about.
400-some workers in three Steelworkers locals at the WestRock paper mill in Cottonton, AL rejected a so-called “last, best, and final” from the company to end the three-month lockout; Jacob Morrison has been covering the story for The Real News. Elsewhere in paper, Steelworkers Local 27 members in Baileyville, ME authorized a strike at Woodland Pulp paper mill, but reached a deal before the deadline.
Around 200 Teamsters Local 135 chemical workers at Monosol in La Porte, IN are back to work after a month-long lockout, and appear to have won their core demand of an end to rampant forced overtime.
The NewsGuild has won what is apparently the first union contract at a Texas newspaper, after a 24-day strike at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
K-12: The Akron, OH school board narrowly averted a teachers’ strike, coming to a tentative agreement at the last minute. 35 food service workers with SEIU Local 284 at Hastings, MN public schools have authorized a strike. Teachers in Sparks, NV held an impromptu sickout after a teacher was attacked by a student. The Massachusetts teacher unrest has apparently spread to Quincy, MA, with negotiations going poorly. Teachers in Plaistow, NH are also at an impasse.
SEIU 1199 New England won a new deal for Rhode Island at-home childcare providers; Minnesota home care workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota have a tentative agreement with sizable raises as well.
Hundreds of Uber drivers with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance struck against the company’s legal challenge to NYC’s city-mandated pay increase.
Broadway actors with Actors’ Equity Association have a new contract, their first since the pandemic.
NALC postal workers in Portland, ME held a protest against severe overwork and unsafe conditions.
And speaking of severe overwork and unsafe conditions, read this great, long profile of Teamsters Local 804 and the UPS showdown, and then read Freightwaves on the economics of the potential strike.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
As Congress faced a partisan changeover, the institution got suddenly motivated to do a few things, and managed to pass increased funding for the NLRB (though short of union demands) before the Democrats handed over the House to the GOP, who, despite tripping over themselves, have already attempted to declare that the Congressional Workers Union’s victory in securing unionization rights for Congressional staff is defunct. The Democratic House also passed a bill to expand collective bargaining rights to 100,000 VA healthcare workers (who under some administrative code have had limited union rights), though as far as I can tell the Senate didn’t pass it.
Speaking of the NLRB, management lawyer John Ring is finally off the Board; the Democrats are expected to let his seat stay empty for a while, hopefully making good use of a 3-1 Democratic majority.
OK, this one isn’t union-related per se, but quite notable that the Federal Trade Commission announced it’s banning non-compete agreements, which suppress wages by barring workers for taking certain jobs even after they leave; just a helpful reminder that the federal government can, in fact, use its immense power to intervene on the side of workers, it just chooses not to.
The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in Glacier Northwest, the latest judicial attack on union rights in this country, which would open up private sector unions to massive lawsuits for damages caused by striking. More Perfect Union lays it out in video format. I guess the fact that strike activity is so low that most years it doesn’t even mathematically register in terms of percent of working time lost is just not low enough for the overlords.
The New York Times looked at White House fallout from the rail strike, and SMART President Jeremy Ferguson gave an interview on basically why Biden “did the right thing” which you can just read here and have your own thoughts and feelings on the matter.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
SEIU Local 1000, the California state employees megalocal, has formally ousted President Richard Louis Brown, who won in a surprise, low turnout vote a couple years back, said a lot of wild stuff, and maybe glued the union hall locks shut at one point?
Four staffers of Philadelphia’s IBEW Local 98 plead guilty to federal charges in the runup to the long-delayed Johnny Doc embezzlement trial, which has been delayed again.
New election filings at the NLRB: 290 warehouse workers at Smart & Final in Commerce, CA, a store that I guess is sort of like Costco, or a restaurant supplier, but is on the west coast so out of my retail awareness, are organizing with Teamsters Local 630. Having announced the drive in October, 275 workers at Chicago’s Field Museum have officially filed for a union election withi AFSCME Council 31. 200 hospital techs at Burlington, VT’s UVM Medical Center are organizing with AFT Local 5221 (the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals). 177 animators at Nickelodeon Animation Studios in Burbank, CA, are unionizing with IATSE Local 839, the Animation Guild. 135 workers at Yakima Valley fruit juice processor FruitSmart in Prosser, WA are organizing with Teamsters Local 760. 130 mental healthcare workers at Havenwyck Hospital in Auburn Hills, MI are organizing with OPEIU Local 459. 100 workers at a fifth Trader Joe’s store, this time in Louisville, KY, have filed for an election with Trader Joe’s United, after stores in Minneapolis and Hadley, MA successfully unionized, one in Brooklyn, NY lost their vote, and one in Boulder, CO withdrew their petition before the vote (the latter was with UFCW Local 7, not the independent TJU). 99 dialysis workers at a Fresenius clinic in San Diego are unionizing with SEIU UHW. 60 lumber workers at Patrick Industries in Decatur, AL are organizing with RWDSU. 57 game developers for newly-acquired Blizzard subsidiary Proletariat in Boston have, fittingly, formed a union with CWA. 56 media workers at WROC-TV in Rochester, NY are unionizing with NABET-CWA. 50 front-of-house staff at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre are organizing with IATSE Local 750. 44 zookeepers at the Living Desert Zoo in Palm Desert, CA are unionizing with AFSCME Council 36. 41 workers at Merit Aluminum Foundry in Adelanto, CA are organizing with the USW.
Smaller shops: 31 workers at farmers market operator Freshfarm Markets in DC are organizing with UFCW Local 400. 30 workers at Nichols Crane Rentals in Joliet, IL are joining Operating Engineers Local 150. 27 CNAs at Complete Care, a nursing home in Ocean Grove, NJ, are joining RWDSU Local 262. 26 staffers at the National Network of Abortion Funds, based in Beaverton, OR, are unionizing with OPEIU Local 11. 26 baristas in Riverside, CA are joining Starbucks Workers United, and 11 more baristas at La Colombe in Chicago are unionizing with UFCW Local 881, following others in Chicago and DC. 26 electricians with TL Electric in Corpus Christi, TX are organizing with IBEW Local 278. 23 plumbers at Right Now Heating and Air Conditioning in Caldwell, ID are joining UA Local 296. 18 truck drivers for Huntingdon, PA-based K-12 food supplier Gold Star Foods – with the amazing slogan “Lunch is our favorite subject” – are joining Teamsters Local 110. Ten more counselors at Fairview MHealth in Minneapolis are joining SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Eight workers at Royal Crane Service in Markham, IL are joining Operating Engineers Local 150. Seven staffers at social services non-profit Coahoma Opportunities in Clarksdale, MS are unionizing with Teamsters Local 667. Six staffers at the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council in Juneau, AK are joining CWA. Five freight clericals at CPC Logistics in Torrance, CA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 848. Five warehouse workers at Dr. Pepper Snapple Group in Fairmont, WV are joining UFCW Local 400. Five workers subcontracted out of the El Paso-based Training Rehabilitation & Development Institute, a staffing agency for disabled workers, are joining Operating Engineers Local 501 at three federal and border patrol offices. Three workers at United Rentals Pac-Van in East Moline, IL are joining Operating Engineers Local 150. Three air traffic controllers at an airport in Waukegan, IL are joining PATCO (the Florida-based one, I can’t keep track).
NLRB election wins…: After literal decades of organizing, 3200 Yale grad workers have won their union with UNITE HERE Local 33 in an absolute landslide, 1,860-179. Elsewhere in higher ed, 142 RAs at Tufts University in Medford, MA voted 99-3 to join OPEIU Local 153. 61 healthcare workers at Scranton, PA’s Geisinger Clinic voted 44-4 to join PASNAP. 50 therapists at St. Mary’s Medical Center in San Francisco voted 26-4 to join SEIU UHW. 40 workers for Raimore Construction in Portland, OR voted 10-0 to join the Iron Workers. 36 therapists at Northwest Center in Renton, WA, which serves people with disabilities, voted 18-13 to join UFCW Local 3000. 33 skilled maintenance workers at Palos Community Hospital in Palos Heights, IL voted 21-9 to join Operating Engineers Local 399. 28 hospital techs at Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Kennewick, WA joined SEIU Local 1199NW in a 21-7 vote. 26 workers at Deep Roots Harvest dispensary in West Wendover, WV voted 14-8 to join UFCW Local 711; 18 workers at Nature’s Medicines weed dispensary in Wareham, MA voted 6-3 to join UFCW Local 328. 21 baristas joined Starbucks Workers United in Las Vegas in a 11-7 vote; elsewhere in coffee organizing, 10 workers at La Colombe in DC won that chain’s first union 6-1, with UFCW Local 400 – the same local also notched a win at a MOM’s Organic Market in College Park, MD, the third of the chain’s 22 locations to unionize, and the first with UFCW (the first two were with Teamsters Local 57 0); 57 workers voted 17-4. Elsewhere in grocery, 20 grocery workers at the Dill Pickle Food Co-Op in Chicago voted 3-2 (I think; the NLRB’s data entry is messed up, could be 5-0, or 3-0, I don’t know exactly) to form the Dill Pickle Food Co-op Workers Union. 20 transit workers for MV Transportation in Springfield, MA voted 19-0 to join UFCW Local 1459. 19 paramedics for American Medical Response in The Bronx, NY voted 5-0 to join the dubious Novelty and Production Workers Local 298. 13 chaplains at Seattle’s Swedish Hospital voted 9-2 to join SEIU Local 1199NW ; both at the facility in Edmonds, WA voted to join the union. Ten HVAC workers at Fort Knox, KY voted 6-4 to join UA Local 502. Eight building services workers at 49 Chambers condo in downtown Manhattan, NY voted 4-0 to join SEIU Local 32BJ. Eight subcontracted building maintenance workers at federal courthouses in Seattle and Tacoma, WA voted 7-0 to join Operating Engineers Local 302; seven more at the T. Rowe Price building in Owings Mills, MD voted 4-3 to join UA Local 486, and five more at several Jackson Heights, NYC buildings voted 3-2 to join “IUJAT Local 2”. One out of six First Transit dispatchers at facilities in Glen Burnie and Annapolis, MD voted to join ATU Local 1764, which was good enough to win the union. All five heavy equipment operators at a landfill in Corvallis, OR voted to join Operating Engineers Local 701.
…and losses: In one of the biggest landslides I’ve seen, Machinists District 98 lost a vote among 122 workers who make manufactured houses for Eagle River Homes in Ephrata, PA 11-100. 105 workers who bottle Pepsi products for Acadiana Bottling in Youngsville, LA lost their bid to join Teamsters Local 270, 39-56. Seven lab techs at the Phillips 66 refinery in Ferndale, WA voted 3-4 against joining USW. Four pipefitters at John Henry Foster automation manufacturer in Eagan, MN deadlocked 2-2 on joining UA Local 455.
SEIU UHW won four and lost two elections across the Satellite Healthcare dialysis chain in San Francisco, San Jose, Gilroy, and Morgan Hill, CA; 92 workers voted a combined 59-9.
Decertifications and raids: 235 workers who make fans for Lasko in Fort Worth, TX are facing a decertification petition of their union, Workers United’s Southwest Regional Joint Board. The dubious Novelty and Production Workers Local 18 appears to have successfully raided 102 members of Teamsters Local 781 in a 43-22 vote at Accurate Metal Fabricating in Cicero, IL. It looks like Teamsters Local 901 is going after a 16-member elevator and escalator repair unit for Schindler in Catano, PR who appear to be currently repped by Union Los Gladiadores (which may be a nickname for Elevator Constructors Local 141).
Max Alvarez at The Real News spoke to members and organizers with NYC’s Laborers Local 79 about the work they’ve done organizing undocumented and non-union workers.
Finally, this month the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its annual report on union membership in the US; Seth Harris breaks down what to look for in those numbers. All I can think of is the late great chronicler of the US labor movement’s decline Mike Davis’s line here: “‘Hope’ is not a scientific category… Fight with hope, fight without hope, but fight absolutely.”
Hey there, just wanted to say thanks for this work and I def spread the information in our weekly newsletter. Solidarity!
"20 grocery workers at the Dill Pickle Food Co-Op in Chicago voted 3-2 (I think; the NLRB’s data entry is messed up, could be 5-0, or 3-0, I don’t know exactly) to form the Dill Pickle Food Co-op Workers Union."
It was 3-2. Three in favor of the new union; two in favor of the old union. New union wins. https://www.nlrb.gov/case/13-RC-305839.
Charles Krugel, Attorney for the Dill Pickle Food Co-op