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The week in US unions, January 15th-22nd, 2023
For Jacobin, I wrote about the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report on union membership in the United States, and the big picture, twenty-year view of where we’re at.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
After eight months, the 1100-member CNH strike is over, with members of the two striking locals (UAW Local 180 in Racine, WI and Local 807 in Burlington, IA) voting by 62 percent to accept a deal. I haven’t seen details, but workers rejected a deal 55-45 two weeks ago that reportedly provided for 28 percent wages but kept some healthcare concessions, so presumably there are at least some tweaks to this offer that swung those 17 percentage points. Part of that may have been the company’s threat to hire 220 permanent replacement workers, which they announced soon before the vote. And Monday, another long industrial strike ended, with BCTGM Local 100-G members at Ingredion in Cedar Rapids, IA voting to end their six-months-long strike; from the little I’ve heard, it sounds like they beat back the worst of the company’s proposed concessions. That leaves UMWA’s strike at Warrior Met in Brookwood, AL far and away the longest-running active strike in the country, which has now entered its third calendar year. I think second in the running may be the UAW Local 2110 strike at HarperCollins, which is now in its tenth week, and marked it with a rally in NYC.
In higher education, the 900 members of University of Illinois Chicago’s UIC United Faculty (AFT/AAUP Local 6456) struck for four days and won a $60,000 floor for non-tenure track faculty, among other gains; UIC is one of the most-struck higher education institutions of the past decade at least. Their SEIU Local 200 counterparts at Fordham University in the Bronx, NYC came close to walking off the job as well, reaching a deal 12 days before a strike was set to begin. A couple dozen K-12 teachers in the UC Lab School system will strike for two days this week as the administration refuses to grant them a contract.
Around 100 maintenance workers with Machinists Local 56 are on strike at Mueller Co. in Chattanooga, TN, which produces water valves; it sounds like it’s primarily a fight over working hours, specifically about the company attempting to limit overtime. It’s also the union’s first strike at the plant since 1976, apparently.
Nursing home workers with SEIU Healthcare Missouri at Hillside Manor Rehab in St. Louis held a one-day unfair labor practice strike who are facing everything from bed bugs to wage theft.
The independent Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) is taking a strike authorization vote, the latest in airline labor unrest; since they’re under the Railway Labor Act and the vote isn’t happening until May, we’re a long ways off from a legally-sanctioned strike, but it’s an escalation. Meanwhile, APFA flight attendants are picketing American Airlines at eleven airports around the country for one day this week; the company has countered with, you guessed it, chili.
Some 1400 utility workers for Baltimore Gas & Electric, who organized with IBEW Local 410 in 2017, are taking a strike authorization vote. Their contract expires at the end of February. Laborers Local 483 in Portland, OR is at an impasse in bargaining a 630-worker contract in the parks, transportation, and sanitation departments, which could mean a strike as soon as February. Subcontracted janitors with SEIU USWW in San Diego County, CA say they’re ready to strike, too. The town of Hartford, NY has declared a state of emergency as they apparently only have one remaining working Teamster snow plow driver and are at an impasse with the union, with snow in the forecast; Saratoga County, NY is also at an impasse, with over a hundred 911 dispatchers and prison guards repped by the “United Public Services Employees Union.”
20 IATSE Local 700 workers who do post-production for Saturday Night Live’s pre-taped stuff have authorized a strike, after organizing in October.
250 nurses with the Michigan Nurses Association at two hospitals – 150 at MyMichigan Medical Center in Alma, MI and 100 at McLaren in Mt. Pleasant, MI – are taking strike authorization votes this week. A few dozen workers with 1199 SEIU at Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain, MA walked off the job for a contract rally, protesting management’s offer of a ten cent raise. Healthcare workers at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, CT held info pickets at several hospital campuses as 900 workers with AFT Local 5123 push for a fair contract. Some 200 supporters and members of the Oregon Nurses Association rallied at the Portland, OR headquarters of Providence Health, as 2,000 nurses at three campuses work without a contract (shout out to Jamie Partridge mean-mugging the bosses!).
180 Teamsters who work at Aramark in four locals (Locals 90, 120, 238, and 554) across five states (South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Illinois) are gearing up for a strike as soon as Friday.
And speaking of Teamsters, UPS Teamsters marked Martin Luther King Day with rallies at a number of UPS hubs demanding the company make the day a paid holiday, one of many demands the union has raised up as they go into their biggest contract fight in decades. In Ann Arbor, MI electrical workers with the IBEW and supporters rallied for the “United Six,” a group of workers of color at United Electrical Contractors who faced racist discrimination from the company and lost their jobs when they spoke up.
Teachers in the Penns Manor school district in Clymer, PA have “unanimously rejected” a contract proposal that would cut family healthcare plans; the educators authorized a strike in November. The Haverhill, MA teachers union has paid the state of Massachusetts $110k for violating a judge’s injunction against striking, and the local school board wants hundreds of thousands more, which the union is contesting. AFSCME Local 1303-467, which represents a few dozen New Haven school nurses, has a new contract after two years of bargaining.
Jeff Schuhrke at In These Times looked at how rail workers are keeping up the fight for sick leave after being shut down by the US Congress and Joe Biden. On a couple smaller carriers, rail workers with the BLET and IBEW ratified new contracts.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
UFCW Local 2 is calling for a federal investigation into the police killing of a meatpacking worker on the job in Guymon, OK.
A federal court upheld a 2019 ruling that blocked some Trump-era NLRB efforts to make union elections take longer, which benefits the employer; there were some administrative items that survived, but it seems like minor good news for workers trying to organize through the NLRB.
New election filings at the NLRB: 150 sanitation workers for GFL Environmental in Wayne, MI are organizing with Operating Engineers Local 324; 22 more for Casella Waste Systems in Tonawanda, NY are joining Teamsters Local 449. 90 nursing home workers at Aegis Living Ravenna in Seattle are organizing with SEIU Local 775. 73 workers at Creature Comforts brewery in Athens, GA are launching the independent Brewery Union of Georgia. 52 baristas in Lynbrook, NY and Portland, OR (who knew they had any non-union stores left?) are joining Starbucks Workers United. 50 mechanics for Amentum at Wheeler Air Force Base, HI are joining Machinists Local 1998. 40 drivers for USPS freight contractor 10 Roads Express in Hazelwood, MO are unionizing with Teamsters Local 688 (which is a little odd; this is usually APWU turf). 29 stagehands at Brooklyn Steel music venue in NYC are joining IATSE Local 4; 11 others at dance studio BodyVox in Portland, OR are joining IATSE Local 28. 29 support staff at Prairie Crossing Charter School in Grayslake, IL are unionizing with AFT Local 504. 27 workers at Four Daughters cannabis grow facility in Sharon, MA are unionizing with UFCW Local 1445. 22 workers at Braeburn Alloy Steel in Lower Burrell, PA are organizing with USW Local 5652. 15 workers at Western Waterproofing Company in Omaha are joining Bricklayers Local 15. 14 warehouse workers for Spartan Logistics in Northwood, OH are joining Teamsters Local 20. 11 sheet metal fabricators at Quicktin in Tacoma, WA are unionizing with SMART Local 66. 10 RNs at New Vitae Health & Wellness in Philadelphia are joining NUHHCE District 1199C (AFSCME). Eight building engineers in Richmond, CA are joining Operating Engineers Local 39. Eight workers at Stetson Building Products in Bettendorf, IA are joining the USW. Four water utility workers in Hannibal, MO are joining the Machinists.
NLRB election wins…: In a mixed result, SEIU Texas won one and lost one election among two units of workers at Tenet’s Hospitals of Providence – Sierra Campus in El Paso, TX; 242 service, maintenance, and techs voted 67-7 to join the union, while 63 “professional” employees voted 3-8 not to. Yet another New Seasons grocery store in Portland, OR has joined the independent New Seasons Labor Union, after 124 workers voted 71-23 to unionize. 77 workers who make “polymerization chemicals” for Nouryon in La Porte, TX voted 40-36 to unionize with the USW. 58 hospice workers for Sutter Care At Home in Sacramento voted 39-9 to join NUHW. 55 faculty members at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts voted 36-2 to form the independent Association of Teachers Training Actors. 38 weed dispensary workers in Rockford, IL voted an impressive 30-0 to join Teamsters Local 777. 33 chemical workers at Ascensus Specialties in Elma, WA voted 23-8 to join Teamsters Local 252. 28 workers at La Grange Crane Service in Hopkins, IL voted 25-0 to join Operating Engineers Local 150. 20 workers at Afuri Ramen in Portland, OR won their union vote, 16-0, establishing the independent Restaurant Workers of Portland (who are also organizing a Potbelly’s location). 19 dancers at the Memphis Ballet have voted to join AGMA (though the NLRB site hasn’t updated with a count). 17 court reporters for Remote Legal in NYC voted 10-2 to join CWA. 14 bus drivers for DS Bus Lines in Amarillo, TX voted 8-4 to join Teamsters Local 577. 13 subcontracted border patrol mechanics in Harlingen, TX voted 8-0 to join Machinists Local 2949. Seven sprinklerfitters for TP Mechanical Contractors in Dayton, OH voted 3-1 to join UA Local 669. Seven maintenance workers at the Hopkinson House apartments in Philadelphia voted 6-0 to join Workers United’s Philadelphia Joint Board. Five veterinarian techs at Eye Care for Animals in Chicago voted 4-1 to join Machinists Local 701.
…and losses: 27 workers at a Curaleaf dispensary in Tucson, AZ lost their rerun election (which they initially won, but was negated for some reason behind a FOIA wall) to join UFCW Local 99, 10-13. 13 workers at a Rite Aid in Corvallis, OR lost their bid to form the independent Pharmacy Technicians of Rite Aid union, 2-11. Nine subcontracted workers at a DC wastewater treatment plant voted 3-6 against joining Operating Engineers Local 99.
34 Starbucks workers in Skokie, IL and Flower Mound, TX voted 24-8 to join Starbucks Workers United; in a rerun of a loss, 25 more in Lafayette, LA voted again not to, 10-10. And speaking of new coffee organizing, Peet’s Coffee now has a union in Davis, CA, after workers there voted 14-1 to join Workers United.
Decertifications and raids: 15 workers for Cardinal Steel Supply on the Mississippi River in St. Louis voted to decertify ILA Local 1765, 2-11.
1400 meatpacking workers at Tyson in Columbus Junction, IA are organizing with UFCW Local 431 in conjunction with workers center Escucha Mi Voz, and the company is putting out some egregious union-busting communications to the workers.
Nickelodeon has voluntarily recognized 177 production workers who were seeking to join the existing IATSE Local 839 (The Animation Guild) unit at the network.
Journalists at Reveal, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, have announced their intent to unionize.