Three weeks in US unions, January 29th-February 19th, 2023
Hi all, apologies for a delayed edition, and just a quick note that because it’s such a mega-edition I left out some lower-frequency stuff (like smaller filings and some stories I hope to feature next week) and some medium-frequency stuff (like strike authorization votes I didn’t have time to compile!) Thanks for understanding, and please do send me things of particular interest you think should be featured next week! Hoping to be back on schedule next Sunday and will catch up on some of the most interesting items.
STRIKES & NEGOTIATIONS
In the past weeks, several extremely long strikes have ended or are moving rapidly in that direction: the UMWA has sent a letter to Warrior Met coal in Brookwood, AL, offering an “unconditional return to work” without a contract, a month shy of the two-year mark of what started as an 1100-member strike, a strike in which pickets were outlawed by activist judges, in which hundreds of workers scabbed, in which miners headed to Manhattan and DC to target the shareholders and politicians behind Warrior Met, and in which, as UMWA president Cecil Roberts put it in his letter to the company, “nothing has materially changed.” In second place, at seven months, the Teamsters Local 251 strike of 40 DHL subcontracted drivers in Pawtucket, RI has ended with a ratified contract. After just under six months, the 50 Kaiser mental healthcare workers on strike with NUHW in Hawaii ratified a new contract. And finally, UAW Local 2110 members on strike at HarperCollins since November are headed back to work this week with a ratified contract.
In transit, the ATU Local 689 strike against private operator Keolis, which runs Loudoun County, VA’s public transit system, is now in its eighth week on strike with the union pushing on the County’s Board of Supervisors (headed by Phyllis Randall, a Democrat who has gotten around $100,000 in campaign contributions from labor, including ATU specifically) to intervene; maybe ATU President John Costa could mention it at his next DNC function. Meanwhile, in neighboring Prince William County, VA, 150 transit workers with Teamsters Local 639 have also walked out on strike against Keolis, shutting down the county’s OmniRide system. Transit workers in Ithaca, NY with UAW Local 2300 ratified a new agreement after eight months without a contract. Columbia, MO transit workers (and other public workers) with Laborers Local 955 rallied for a 10 percent wage increase and against a proposed cut in public transit service; ATU Local 519 transit workers held a similar protest in La Crosse, WI.
Some 600 grad workers at Philadelphia’s Temple University went on strike on January 31st with AFT Local 6290, and though the administration recently announced a tentative agreement, the union is very clear that they are still on strike until the deal gets voted on. Elsewhere in higher ed, Harvard’s clerical union, HUCTW, has begun info picketing for wage increases, 10 months into negotiations. Undergraduate students at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH won a $21 minimum wage after a strike threat, having organized last year.
Around two dozen workers for Mt. Baker Roofing in Bellingham, WA struck for basic things like bathrooms and drinking water, supported by Familias Unidas por la Justicia.
City workers in Portland, OR and Camden, NJ struck; in Portland, 600 members of Laborers Local 483 walked off for three days, with the main showdown at the city’s wastewater treatment plant, and won a bigger wage package. In Camden, 130 Waste Management sanitation workers with Teamsters Local 115 walked off at the beginning of the month, and I honestly can’t find anything on the status of the dispute.
A few dozen workers at Medieval Times in Buena Park, CA walked off the job, causing in-character chaos and other fun, as the workers fight for a first contract, having unionized with AGVA in November.
Coffee workers kept the strike wave alive with Starbucks Workers United shutting down an Atlanta store for an Unfair Labor Practice morning strike, while baristas at Remedy House in Buffalo, NY went on strike and quickly won union recognition with Workers United.
And speaking of unfair labor practice strikes before recognition, REI workers who are organizing with RWDSU in Beachwood, OH walked off the job as the company plays stupid delay games with the NLRB.
200 NewsGuild members at NBC, MSNBC, and the TODAY Show struck for a day in protest of newly-announced layoffs.
The latest technically-illegal strike in Massachusetts closed schools for a week in Woburn, MA, with the Massachusetts Teachers Association showing that their locals aren’t afraid to go up against massive fines and the letter of the law. School cafeteria workers in Hastings, MN are in the second week of their strike against poverty wages with SEIU Local 284, and school bus drivers with Teamsters Local 959 in the Mat-Su Valley, AK have been on strike for the entire month of February, with no deal yet in sight. After much signaling to this effect, SEIU Local 99 school support staff in Los Angeles (of which there are a lot, like 30,000 members) have indeed authorized a strike, with mediation to start this week. And NYC’s UFT is taking its contract campaign more public which is out of character, to say the least, for the union; though the new pattern-setting tentative agreement AFSCME DC37 just announced with the City may accelerate the timeline. In Richmond, CA, after some strike talk, teachers reached a tentative agreement.
40 members of Teamsters Local 916 for massive food processor ADM in Decatur, IL (so massive that I believe these workers operate a power plant specifically for the company’s Decatur operation) have been on strike for three weeks.
Several dozen workers for Cognizant, a contractor for YouTube Music, are on an unfair labor practice strike with the Alphabet Workers Union after the employer tried to end their remote work policy a week after they filed for a union election.
Some 180 Aramark laundry Teamsters averted a strike across five Midwestern states and as many local unions, reaching a new agreement at (I think actually a little bit after) the last minute.
We could soon see a rare insurance industry strike at Madison, WI-based CUNA Mutual Group, where 450 OPEIU Local 39 members have been in a protracted contract dispute and are talking work stoppage…
Around 700 concessions workers with UNITE HERE Local 1 at Chicago’s United Center authorized a strike and aren’t making much progress with megasubcontractor Levy.
IBEW Local 4’s strike authorization vote at KSDK Channel 5 in St. Louis got the formal stamp of approval from IBEW HQ (a formal bureaucratic move), but it’s unclear when these broadcasting workers might walk, with bargaining scheduled through the end of February.
Wichita, KS nurses with NNU held a rally as they enter negotiations for a first contract with Ascension while 300 more nurses organize across town (see below). SEIU Local 1107 nurses in Las Vegas protested a scheduling policy change that somehow makes it even harder to be a working hospital RN.
The rail worker paid sick leave fight is still not over, and BMWE and BRC workers at CSX (then expanded to IAM and NCFO as well) secured a deal for paid sick days (four, not seven or 15 as had been pushed by the unions). I’ve heard rumors of other sick day deals to be rolled out for the, I don’t know, 90 percent of rail workers who aren’t members of those four unions at CSX, but I haven’t seen anything official.
POLITICS & LEGISLATION
Marty Walsh is leaving the Department of Labor to head the NHLPA, where he will double his salary and at least halve the number of people getting mad at him.
Utah’s state legislature is coming after the public sector unions.
Loudoun County, VA is moving closer to local public sector collective bargaining, as firefighters and teachers collect signatures to petition the local authorities to pass an ordinance under the 2021 state law that allows such things.
The federal Office of Personnel Management is telling agencies to take another look at who they’ve excluded from bargaining units and take a more expansive view of who gets to be a federal union member.
INTERNAL UNION POLITICS
The UAW election is in its final days of mail-in voting, with ballots set to be counted in early March; Ian Kullgren spoke to incumbent Ray Curry and gave an overview of the stakes, while challenger Shawn Fain laid out his case in the Detroit Free Press.
And on its heels may be a contested UFCW international leadership election, which I believe would be the first of its kind since the union’s founding in the 1970s. The UFCW reform effort (which I wrote about some months ago for Labor Notes) is coalescing around the “Meet the Moment” candidates, though there remains an uphill battle to hold an actual vote, let alone for any challengers to win such a vote.
New election filings at the NLRB:
Education: 1700 more grad workers are unionizing, this time with the UAW at Boston’s Northeastern University, another effort revived from the Trump era. More undergraduate workers are unionizing: 286 resident assistants at Boston University with SEIU Local 509 (who just organized 3,000+ grad student workers), as well as 96 RAs at Fordham in the Bronx, and 80 more at Troy, NY’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the latter two both with OPEIU Local 153. 70 educators at Brookside School in Cottekill, NY are unionizing with SEIU Local 200; 31 more at a KIPP charter school in Denver are joining the Colorado Charter Teachers Association (which I assume is NEA). 44 teachers and clericals at Oak Park, IL’s School of Rock are inexplicably joining the Iron Workers. Not to be outdone by the grad students, 36 shuttle drivers at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles are joining SEIU Local 721.
Healthcare: It’s not at the NLRB (yet), but 1400 medical residents at Philadelphia’s Penn Medicine have signed onto a supermajority request for voluntary recognition with CIR SEIU. 830 medical residents and fellows at the Loma Linda University health education consortium in San Bernardino County, CA are organizing with the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (AFSCME), and not, notably, CIR; another 44 doctors at the Centers for Family Medicine in Irvine, CA and 37 at Community Health Center of Snohomish County in Everetta, WA are also joining UAPD. 300 nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph Hospital in Wichita, KS are organizing with NNU; 650 other RNs at another Ascension hospital in Wichita organized last year. 150 mental health workers at Shalom House in Portland, ME are organizing with SEIU Local 1989. 150 doctors and podiatrists at Allina’s Mercy/Unity Hospital in Fridley, MN are joining SEIU Local 10MD. 90 social workers at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, CA are unionizing with SEIU UHW. 55 mental healthcare workers at Minneapolis’s Riverside Hospital are joining SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa. 29 mental healthcare workers at Cornerstone Montgomery in Rockville, MD are unionizing with SEIU 1199. 26 dialysis clinic workers at Fresenius in San Diego are joining SEIU UHW. 19 maintenance workers at Los Angeles’s Good Samaritan Hospital are unionizing with Operating Engineers Local 501, and 16 more at Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth, NJ are joining Operating Engineers Local 68.
Teamsters: 196 school bus drivers for First Student (operating as “Apple Bus”) in Huntsville, AL are unionizing with Teamsters Local 402; another 48 drivers for Student Transportation of America in Portland, OR are joining Teamsters Local 206. 110 Republic Services sanitation workers in Mesa, AZ are organizing with Teamsters Local 104; 13 more in Petaluma, CA are joining Teamsters Local 665. 54 workers who make plastic packaging for Graham Packaging in Selah, WA are unionizing with Teamsters Local 760. 50 beer distribution drivers for Premium Distributors in Richmond, VA are organizing with Teamsters Local 322. 21 drivers for Emerald Textiles in Commerce, CA are joining Teamsters Local 986. 16 Pepsico workers in West Branch, MI are joining Teamsters Local 406. 16 dispensary workers at Botera in Brockton, MA are joining Teamsters Local 653. 11 workers for Pittsburgh pallet company 48forty Solutions are joining Teamsters Local 249. 11 oil delivery drivers for Broco Energy in Haverhill, MA are joining Teamsters Local 170.
Other industries: 180 more manufacturing workers for Bobcat in Rogers, MN are organizing with the Steelworkers; the union won one of the biggest blue collar NLRB wins last year among 700 Bobcat workers in North Dakota (as far as I know, only one of the other five Bobcat factories (aside from Bismarck and now, maybe, Rogers) is union, in Gwinner, ND). 156 utility workers at Calenergy in Calipatria, CA are organizing with IBEW Local 47. 130 staffers at Philadelphia nonprofit Community Integrated Services are organizing with AFSCME Local 1739. 128 more baristas are joining Starbucks Workers United in Chicago, Philadelphia, Sacramento (x2), Portland and Hillsboro, OR, Knoxville, and Salisbury, MD; 69 more Blank Street Coffee shift leads and baristas in NYC are joining UFCW Local 1500. 118 workers who work with homeless young people with New Avenues for Youth in Portland, OR are unionizing with AFSCME Council 75. 79 grocery workers at Asian grocery importer Market World in Los Angeles are organizing with the new but growing California Retail and Restaurant Workers Union. 73 workers at a machine shop, Trulife, in Bellingham, WA, are organizing with Machinists District 160. 60 workers at Dulles Drywall in Chantilly, VA are joining Carpenters Local 197.
Smaller shops: 49 ski patrollers at Loveland Ski Area in Dillon, CO are joining CWA. 42 clericals at Penske in El Paso, TX are joining UAW Local 286. 39 hotel workers at the Westin in Itasca, IL are joining UNITE HERE Local 450. 32 workers at PPG Automotive Finish in Strongsville, OH are joining the UAW. 31 workers for Madison, FL’s Tri-County Electric Cooperative are organizing with the IBEW. 30 workers at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center are joining AFSCME Council 8. 27 workers for Duke Energy in Harrison, OH are joining IBEW Local 1347. 25 workers at resale and salvage outfit Urban Ore in Berkeley, CA are joining the IWW. 23 workers at Hertel Hardware & Plumbing Supply in Buffalo, NY are joining UA Local 22. 22 clericals at a Hormel meatpacking plant in Tucker, GA are joining UFCW Local 1996. 17 retail workers at Bob’s Discount Furniture in North Dartmouth, MA are joining UFCW Local 328. 17 workers for Sunbelt Rentals in New Jersey are joining Operating Engineers Local 825. 16 workers who run a mental health crisis hotline in Tempe, AZ are unionizing but the filing is unclear (I mean the listed “union” appears to be a company registered six months ago in Wisconsin, doesn’t make sense, maybe this is an independent union?). 15 ironworkers for New Steel Fabricator in Calexico, CA are joining the Iron Workers. 15 maintenance workers at Chicago’s Midtown Athletic Club are joining Operating Engineers Local 399. 15 workers at Atlanta Gas Light are joining IBEW Local 1997. 14 staffers at pre-apprenticeship program Oregon Tradeswomen in Portland, OR are joining Machinists District W24. 11 electricians for Marathon at their Long Beach, CA terminals are joining IBEW Local 2295.
NLRB election wins…: Two more massive units of graduate student workers have won landslide votes, with UE picking up 3,186 members (that’s nearly 10% of their total reported membership in 2020) at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in a 2,053-67 (!) vote, and UAW picking up around 3400 members at Los Angeles’s University of Southern California after a 1,599-122 blowout. 1,297 hospital techs and support staff at Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, CA voted 720-577 to join SEIU UHW, though it sounds like management is intent on aggressively appealing the vote. 305 workers at the Smart & Final distribution warehouse in Commerce, CA voted 173-93 to unionize with Teamsters Local 630. 238 workers at grocery wholesaler UNFI in Rocklin, CA voted 97-79 to join Teamsters Local 150. 196 “transit ambassadors” who work in MBTA stations for Block by Block in Boston voted 71-2 to join Teamsters Local 25. 172 baristas at twelve locations of Blank Street Coffee in NYC voted 92-15 to join UFCW Local 1500 in two votes; elsewhere in coffee, Starbucks Workers United won four votes (in Portland, OR, Liverpool, NY, Shoreline, WA, and Evanston, IL) and lost two (in Colorado Springs and Penfield, NY), picking up 87 members; UFCW Local 881 won two elections among 25 La Colombe baristas in Chicago, almost unanimously, 23-0; and 34 at Intelligentsia Coffee in Los Angeles voted 17-14 to join IBEW Local 1220 (which is odd because that’s an Illinois local, but a little less odd because they have the only union contract at Intelligentsia). 157 healthcare workers at the St. Joseph Home Care Network in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, CA voted overwhelmingly, 105-6, to join NUHW. 136 non-profit mental healthcare workers for Resilience Medical in New York City voted 79-13 to join AFSCME DC37 under the still-recent non-profits-that-contract-with-the-city neutrality law. Teamsters Local 577 won yet another school bus union vote, with 58 drivers at First Student in Plainview, TX voting 36-4 to join; 41 more school bus drivers for Durham in Providence, RI voted 23-17 to join ATU Local 618. 43 zookeepers at The Living Desert in Palm Desert, CA voted 28-2 to join AFSCME District Council 36. 33 teachers of unaccompanied minor immigrants for Southwest Key in El Paso, TX voted 15-9 to join Operating Engineers Local 351. 21 nursing home workers at West River Rehab in Milford, CT voted 12-1 to join SEIU 1199 New England, as did 16 more at Madison House in Madison, CT, 12-0. 19 construction workers for RNR Concrete in Napa, CA voted 8-3 to join the Iron Workers. All 18 residents at Berkeley, CA’s LifeLong Medical Care voted to join SEIU CIR. 15 workers for Dryden Ambulance in Dryden, NY voted 5-1 to join IAFF Local 709. 15 warehouse workers at Fort Bliss, TX voted 14-0 to join Operating Engineers Local 351. 11 crane operators at Bauman Crane in Chalfont, PA voted 6-3 to join Operating Engineers Local 542.
…and losses: 123 factory maintenance workers for Brown & Root but working at the International Paper factory in Valliant, OK voted 17-97 against joining the Steelworkers. RWDSU also lost in a landslide vote among 56 lumber workers for Patrick Industries in Decatur, AL, 5-48. 44 ironworkers at Shannon Side Welding in Daly City, CA voted 6-19 against joining the Ironworkers. 32 skilled maintenance workers at healthcare facilities company Medxcel in Indianapolis voted 11-17 against joining Operating Engineers Local 399. 22 staffers at non-profit Hello Neighbor, which provides services to refugees in Pittsburgh, voted 6-9 against joining the Steelworkers. 12 facilities workers at a Fort Bliss, TX contractor voted 2-10 against Operating Engineers Local 351.
Decertifications and raids: OK, best I can tell, 1199 SEIU and Boilermakers Local 947 are fighting over a whopping 1,080 home health care workers at Community Care Companies (based in Smithtown, NY but across the state); this made absolutely no sense to me until I realized that Local 947 is actually an IUJAT local (IUJAT being known especially for raiding and/or having sweetheart contracts) that was absorbed into the Boilermakers in 2020 – either Local 947 is raiding 1199 or they’re both going after this unit, which is just very suspect on the 947 front, since they had fewer than 400 members in total as of a year ago and are, you know, theoretically in the Boilermakers as opposed to 1199, one of the largest home healthcare unions in the country. While northern Virginia transit workers with ATU and the Teamsters are on strike, 149 First Transit workers who run Arlington, VA Rapid Transit voted 41-76 to decertify AFSCME Local 3001. 118 school bus drivers and mechanics for Towne Bus in Medford, NY decertified Teamsters Local 1205 in an 11-50 vote. Operating Engineers Local 103 survived a decertification vote, 48-31, among 80 workers who make cement products for Martin Marietta Materials in Indianapolis. The UFT also survived a decert, at Elm Community Charter School in Elmhurst, NY, 12-4. All 17 maintenance workers at another Fort Bliss, TX contractor voted to decertify Operating Engineers Local 351. 12 workers at Gerald Hyundai dealership in North Aurora, IL voted 2-9 to drop Machinists Local 701. Three air traffic controllers in West Tisbury, MA voted 1-2 to drop PATCO.
In auto, a group of workers at Tesla’s Buffalo, NY went public with their union drive with Workers United and dozens were immediately fired, which will be the latest high profile test of whether the United States has functioning labor law (Tesla should’ve known better than to operate in Buffalo if they didn’t want Workers United organizing). And in other auto news, Ford announced that they’ll respect a card check process with the UAW for around 2500 workers who will be making electric vehicle batteries at a new plant in Marshall, MI, a promising sign of the Big Three not outright avoiding the union as the industry goes electric (though it should be noted that Ford is building Blue Oval City, a Tennessee megacampus, that will be important for the future of the union).
Teamsters Local 322 and SEIU Local 512 seem to have reached a turf agreement for city workers in Richmond, VA, newly eligible to legally unionize, with blue collar workers filing to join the Teamsters, and admin and clericals filing with SEIU.
15 staffers at The Innocence Project in Atlanta have joined Teamsters Local 728 after a card check vote.
Jonah - this newsletter is a godsend. It is rare to get just the straight information reported without a bunch of added noise. I appreciate your hard work on it. Cheers.
I'm on the bargaining team for a first contract for my group (at a hospital with SEIU healthcare) and constantly recommend this newsletter to everyone I come across through events with SEIU--it's a fantastic summary of all things labor in the country.