The week in US unions, January 8th-15th, 2023
Happy Martin Luther King Day, and a shout out to one of the most important labor champions and socialists in history. I will always recommend Going Down Jericho Road by Michael K. Honey if you’re looking for a good MLK labor read, all about the Memphis sanitation strike where King was murdered, and the civil rights movement’s campaign for economic justice more broadly.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
The 7,000-member NYSNA nurses strike at Montefiore Medical Center and Mount Sinai in NYC is over after three days, winning the ever-sought-after goal of lower staffing ratios, with what sounds like some kind of enforcement mechanism in the actual contract (plus a 19 percent raise over three years). The question is whether winning enforceable staffing ratios is enough to address the crisis in hospital nursing; either way, analysts are expecting the rolling nurse strike wave to continue apace.
For Labor Notes, Courtney Smith and I wrote about the ATU Local 689 strike against Keolis, a private operator of the Loudoun County, VA public transit system. It’s the latest of many of these sorts of fights, especially in the DC region, where private operators win a privatization contract on an impossibly low-dollar bid and proceed to aggressively fight the unions, where they exist, to cut wages and benefits. In this case, the company even forced, essentially, a re-vote on the union, which Local 689 handily won. In Charlotte, NC, 500 or so transit workers with SMART Local 1715 at the Charlotte Area Transit System (“CATS”), run by another private operator, RATP Dev, authorized a strike last week, but apparently won’t walk before February; in September, members rejected a contract that would’ve taken away days off in exchange for an 11 percent raise.
180 Durham School Services school bus drivers in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, AK (aka “Mat-Su,” a county the size of the state of West Virginia) with Teamsters Local 959 have authorized a strike over, among other things, a lack of ice scrapers (which seem important for school bus drivers in Alaska in January).
The Starbucks Workers United strike wave was kept alive by a walkout in Tucson, AZ this week.
The Service Trades Council Union, comprised of six unions (IATSE Local 631, Teamsters Local 385, TCU-IAM Local 1908, UFCW Local 1625, and UNITE HERE Locals 362 and 737), recommended their 42,000 members at Disney World in Orlando, FL reject the latest contract offer which includes a $1 raise. The contract expired in October and the unions have been rallying for a new deal.
And speaking of potentially huge entertainment strikes, the Directors Guild of America is signaling to its members that this round of negotiations could be rocky; combined with a much-rumored Writers Guild strike possible in May, it could be a big year for Hollywood labor.
UFCW Local 1496 is at an impasse in bargaining with Kroger-owned Fred Meyer grocery stores in Fairbanks, AK.
Another round of layoffs has hit Twitter janitors, this time with 32BJ SEIU in NYC,
The players of the US Football League (a new minor football league apparently) have ratified their first union contract with the Steelworkers.
The 250 striking HarperCollins workers with UAW Local 2110 will mark their 50th day on strike with a rally in Manhattan, NY; they’re the only unionized big publisher, but have been without a contract since April 2022.
Some high-profile new organizing targets hit milestones this week, with the Amazon Labor Union finally being officially certified in Staten Island, NY by the National Labor Relations Board, nine months since they won their vote. Apple has begun negotiations with its first unionized store in Towson, MD, where workers organized with the Machinists back in June. And CWA’s Alphabet Workers Union won a group of Google contract workers a raise, a milestone for the minority/solidarity union.
The National Postal Mail Handlers Union (LIUNA) is mailing out ballots for its contract ratification vote; I have no reason to expect anything other than smooth sailing here, but with the big NALC contract coming up as well, it’ll be interesting to see how postal workers are feeling about their contracts these days.
Spirit Airlines ALPA pilots have ratified their contract that contains a 34 percent raise over two years; Delta pilots have a new tentative agreement as well, while those at United, APA pilots at American, and SWAPA pilots at Southwest, very much do not, as far as I’ve seen.
Education: 30,000 SEIU Local 99 support staff in the Los Angeles school district have set a date for their strike authorization vote. Teachers in Melrose, MA authorized a strike for Tuesday, but got a new contract in just over 24 hours. In higher education, grad workers with GEO (AFT Local 3550) at the University of Michigan rallied for raises as the university brought in consultants for their new DEI Strategic Plan which does not, apparently, include raises for grad workers. And while I noted that NMSU grad workers with UE ratified a first contract, I failed to note that the University of New Mexico grad workers with UE in Albuquerque, also ratified a first contract.
IAFF Local 1012 firefighters in Coral Gables, FL are at an impasse in negotiations with the city. And in Boston, the police unions are maybe at an impasse (a state board will make that determination), but definitely gearing up for a big political fight. City workers in Canton, OH are the latest to win Juneteenth as a paid holiday in their union contract.
And for the big picture, Bloomberg has a great assessment of the state of strike activity in 2022, by the numbers. By their (proprietary) count, it was a 17-year high in strike activity in terms of number of strikes, though that’s driven largely by over 100 Starbucks strikes (in terms of number of workers, 2022 was less than half of that of the Red for Ed strike wave years, 2018 and 2019). Over 60 percent of the workers who struck were in education; just 5 percent were in manufacturing (durable and non-durable combined).
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Glacier case that, at its worst, threatens to hit unions with extensive damages incurred by companies due to strike activity (which, if you’re thinking that an expansive ruling like that would kind of gut the functional right to strike effectively, yes) and NBC at least thinks our cloaked overlords are going to side with the company. I’ve heard a lot of different opinions on how this one might shake out, but I don’t think there’s much reason to bet on a pro-labor ruling from these folks.
But this week it’s not just the dastardly GOP the unions are mad at; Politico has the story of how some labor leaders feel like Biden’s move to push South Carolina to be the new Iowa in the Democratic Party presidential primaries in 2024 is a major snub to labor, which claims a whopping 1.7 percent membership in the state, the lowest in the country. And in true blue New York, unions rallied at the statehouse against Governor Kathy Hochul’s nomination of an anti-labor judge for one of the top spots in the state judiciary. Luckily these disgruntled union leaders probably have many tools by which to challenge their capture as a very junior partner within the party and we just haven’t heard about them yet.
That said, unions, especially trades unions and workers centers, celebrated a newly-announced Department of Homeland Security policy that would extend protections to non-citizen workers who seek to enforce their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (as I understand it; I’m not a lawyer). Immigration status is one of the clearest vulnerabilities employers exploit when their workers start demanding things like not having their wages stolen, let alone their union rights, and can make it extremely hard to organize those workers (who are for obvious reasons some of the most exploited in the country).
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
The ballots have officially mailed in the UAW runoff election for the three slots that weren’t decided in the first round: President (between incumbent Ray Curry and reform challenger Shawn Fain), one of three Vice Presidents (between two incumbents, as the reformers only ran for two of three slots; Tim Bressler has publicly endorsed Chuck Browning, so he is almost certain to win); and Region 9 Director (between incumbent Lauren Farrell and reform challenger Daniel Vicente). Fain and Curry held an online debate, moderated by Steven Greenhouse, and took up some of the core (and existential) issues facing the union.
And this one’s from a few weeks back, but ALPA’s council chose a new leader to head United’s section of the union, who resigned just two days later after some of his derogatory comments towards women and people of color were made public.
New election filings at the NLRB: I failed to note it when it first happened, but 2,000 workers at Burlington’s University of Vermont Medical Center will soon be voting on whether to join the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (AFT), who already represent the nurses. 500 home health aides for Community Care based in Smithtown, NY are apparently organizing, but the filing doesn’t say with whom; another 225 home care workers for Consumer Direct Services in Las Vegas are unionizing with SEIU Local 1107. 400 undergrad teaching assistants at Brown University in Providence, RI are organizing with AFT Local 6516, the existing grad workers local. 352 RNs at Adventist Health in Lodi, CA are organizing with NNU. 67 workers who I think make and service thermostats for Johnson Controls in Arlington Heights, IL are unionizing with UA Local 597; another 17 in Lenexa, KS are joining UA Local 314. 64 drivers for Dallas recycling company FCC Environmental are organizing with Teamsters Local 745. 55 more REI workers are organizing with the RWDSU, this time at a store in Cleveland; two other stores organized last year. 52 workers at the Beyond-Hello Dispensary in Sauget, IL are unionizing with UFCW Local 881. 40 school bus drivers for Durham School Services in Providence, RI are unionizing with ATU Local 618. 31 drivers at Avis Car Rental in Denver are unionizing with, you guessed it, the UMWA.
Very small shops: 16 mechanics and drivers for Cemex in Ponce, PR are joining either (I think) the Operating Engineers or the Laborers (this could be a raid, the filing is unclear). 15 workers for the ICEE Company in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Amarillo, Wichita, and Siloam Springs, AR are unionizing with UA Local 344. 14 workers for Yecuris, which I think provides mice (specifically “liver-humanized mice”) for drug testing, in Tigard, OR are unionizing with Teamsters Local 206. 13 workers at a Potbelly Sandwich Shop in Portland, OR are unionizing with the Portland Restaurant Workers, which formed out of a ramen shop last year; the Potbelly workers are the first in the chain to file for an election. Elsewhere in Portland, 11 workers at Living Room Theaters are forming the “United Cinema Workers” after going on strike. 12 “care managers” at Monogram Health in Tucson and Yuma, AZ are forming the Arizona Care Managers Union, which looks like it might be connected to the local IAFF, but it’s not totally clear. Ten workers for the Stanislaus Regional Transit Authority in Modesto, CA, operated by Transdev, are joining Teamsters Local 386. Eight drivers for Sky Hop Global in Elizabeth, NJ are joining Teamsters Local 210. Seven workers at Lowell Telecom in Lowell, MA are joining NABET-CWA. Seven staff attorneys who cover housing issues for non-profit RiseBoro in Brooklyn, NY are joining UAW Local 2325. Six flight simulator techs at Aero Simulation in Mobile, AL are joining the Machinists. Four workers at record producer American Vinyl Co. in Asheville, NC are unionizing with IBEW Local 238. Four drivers for “home respiratory care” company Lincare in Wauconda, IL are joining Teamsters Local 301. Four drivers for US Foodservice in Manassas, VA are joining Teamsters Local 355.
NLRB election wins…: The UE has won yet another absolutely gigantic NLRB vote, this time among 2,893 grad workers at Evanston, IL’s Northwestern University, who voted 1,644-114 for the union. 81 educators at the Northwood Academy Charter School in Philadelphia voted 68-4 to join AFT Local 6056. 50 baristas at all five locations of Louisville’s Sunergos Coffee voted 30-14 to unionize with (deep breath) the National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, which is primarily a railroad craft union that is for some historical quirky reason affiliated with SEIU Local 32BJ. Elsewhere in coffee, 34 baristas in Fayetteville, AR and Bethel Park, PA voted a combined 24-1 to join Starbucks Workers United. 35 school bus drivers for First Student in South Sioux City, NE voted 24-6 to join Teamsters Local 554. All 25 RNs at a San Diego dialysis clinic voted to join SEIU UHW, an impressive unanimous win; 33 at a clinic in El Cajon, CA voted 25-8; 13 more at a clinic in Chula Vista, CA voted 9-3. 21 workers at Sunnyside Dispensary in Buffalo Grove, IL voted 16-0 to join Teamsters Local 777; another 11 dispensary workers at Potomac Holistics in Rockville, MD voted 6-3 to join UFCW Local 400. 17 Pepsi warehouse workers in Santa Rosa, CA voted 9-7 to join Teamsters Local 665. All nine building maintenance workers at luxury condo 40 Bond in NYC voted to join SEIU Local 32BJ.
…and losses: 62 workers who make airplane parts for LMI Aerospace in Saint Charles, MO tied 27-27 on joining the Machinists, which means they remain non-union. 15 dispensary workers at Liberty Cannabis in Madison Heights, MI voted 6-8 not to join UFCW Local 876. 10 electricians at Fort Hood, TX deadlocked 3-3 on joining the Machinists. Six customer service reps at the Tulare (CA) County Regional Transit agency, operated by Transdev, voted 0-3 on joining Teamsters Local 517.
Decertifications and raids: GCC-IBT Local 1-L looks to be “raiding” a unit of 240 workers who make high-graphic cardboard boxes (think cereal) for Accurate Box Company in Paterson, NJ who are currently members of the dubious Consolidated Commercial Workers of America, Local 528, NOITU-IUJAT (NOITU standing for “National Organization of International Trade Unions,” ha). 145 Frito-Lay workers in Menomonee Falls, WI held on to their union with Teamsters Local 344 in a 64-46 vote; as far as I can tell, this is at least the second decertification vote at that facility – in 2011, workers voted to drop the union, but looks like that vote was rerun due to employer interference, and the union held on. 62 school bus drivers with All-Star Transportation in New Milford, CT stuck with Teamsters Local 671 in a 31-20 vote. 25 lumber workers at Woodgrain in Cape Girardeau, MO voted 16-5 to stick with Teamsters Local 600.
In a quirk of video game unionism, a few hundred quality assurance workers for ZeniMax, a Microsoft subsidiary, have formed Microsoft’s first-ever union through a card check process with CWA, as the tech giant makes a show of its non-union-busting-ness while it courts federal regulators to let it acquire Activision Blizzard who, in turn, are refusing voluntary recognition to the workers organizing at their subsidiary, aptly named Proletariat.
Elsewhere outside the NLRB, SEIU won a neutrality agreement with Swissport at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport Neutrality agreement at Swissport ORD, after they almost got their license revoked. In Pasadena, CA, CalTech grad workers and post-docs are the latest to announce a union drive with UAW. St. Louis public radio workers are organizing with CWA, and Jacobin has a closer look at the Peet’s Coffee workers organizing with help from Starbucks Workers United.
Extreme thorough ￼labor coverage; 🖖🤠👍