A Decadeslong Struggle: Worker Wins

A Decadeslong Struggle: Worker Wins

Despite the challenges of organizing during a deadly pandemic, working people across the country (and beyond) continue organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life. This edition begins with:

In Historic First, RWDSU-UFCW Organizes Farmworkers in New York: The New York State Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) certified Local 338 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) on Sept. 27 as the union to represent 12 agricultural workers employed at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic, New York. This is the first union certification for farmworkers in New York since the 2019 passage of the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which grants agricultural and farmworkers the right to collectively bargain. Local 338 first filed to represent the vineyard’s field workers on May 28 of this year. “For the first time we can call farmworkers in New York State union members. For far too long, farmworkers have worked to nourish our communities without necessary workplace protections for themselves or their families,” said RWDSU-UFCW President Stuart Appelbaum. “It was a decades-long struggle to win farmworkers’ right to organize in this state, and now workers at Pindar Vineyards are seeing the seeds they planted come to fruition by becoming the first in the state to be recognized as a union.”

SAG-AFTRA and Telemundo Agree to Tentative Three-Year Deal: SAG-AFTRA members working at Telemundo have agreed to a tentative new contract that expands residuals and other forms of pay, enhances overtime and rest periods, and strengthens protections against sexual harassment and abusive behavior. “The fact that Telemundo is the largest employer of Spanish-language talent in the United States makes this agreement all the more significant and impactful,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “It contains meaningful and tangible gains—both in terms of safety provisions and compensation—that can improve the quality of members’ lives. Thank you to Chief Negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland for his great work on behalf of members.”

UAW Members at John Deere Reach a Tentative Agreement with Significant Gains: The UAW announced on Saturday that the union has reached a tentative agreement with John Deere for a new contract. The union said it has made significant progress in negotiations, though more details have not been released as the proposed contract now goes to UAW members for a vote on Oct. 10. “Our UAW–John Deere national bargaining team worked tirelessly to create substantial gains for members,” said UAW President Ray Curry. “We want to thank the UAW bargaining team and their families who sacrificed time apart on behalf of UAW members.” “Substantial hard fought gains and protections were achieved due to the efforts of the UAW negotiators supported by the solidarity of our members,” said Chuck Browning, UAW vice president and director of the union’s agricultural implement department. Last month, UAW members who work for John Deere had voted to authorize a strike. More than 12,000 workers will be covered under the new contract.

Doctors Hospital of Manteca RNs to Join California Nurses Association/NNU: Some 200 registered nurses at Doctors Hospital of Manteca in California voted overwhelmingly last week to join the California Nurses Association/NNU (CNA/NNU). “We are so proud of our RN colleagues at Doctors Hospital,” said CNA/NNU President Cathy Kennedy, RN. “In joining together with the 100,000 other CNA members across California, you have taken a bold and dramatic step to strengthen protections for your patients, your families, your co-workers and all Californians.” Insufficient staffing and wages, and eroding patient care motivated the Manteca nurses to seek union representation. They join the 5,500 registered nurses represented by National Nurses United (NNU) at 14 hospitals operated by Tenet Healthcare, one of the largest for-profit hospital chains in the United States.

SAG-AFTRA and NPR Agree on New Nationwide Contract: More than 500 National Public Radio (NPR) audio and digital public media professionals, represented by SAG-AFTRA, overwhelmingly approved a new successor contract last week. Highlights from the contract include significant gains in fully paid parental leave, commitments on advancing diversity and inclusion in hiring practices, a more equitable salary system, more transparency in the promotions process, and wage increases. “Congratulations to SAG-AFTRA members at NPR on their new contract,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “The power of collective action was on display for all to see with the successful ‘Wherever we are, we make NPR’ social media campaign. It demonstrates what’s possible when members stay engaged and stand together. We thank NPR for recognizing the significant contributions of our SAG-AFTRA members.”

CWA Scores First Combined Organizing and Contract Victory in Banking Industry in 40 Years: Workers at Beneficial State Bank, who are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), set the example for how to organize in the banking industry to become the first union of bank workers to successfully form a union and negotiate a contract in 40 years. CWA predicts this will be the beginning of a larger trend in the industry and that other workers will copy the example set by the Beneficial State employees. The bank employees organized to improve poor conditions that include chronic understaffing, unreasonable employee performance metrics and dehumanizing company policies.

USL Players Association Reach Landmark Agreement with USL: Players in the United Soccer League (USL) announced they reached an agreement in principle on a collective bargaining agreement for the USL Championship, its top division. The new framework would continue through 2025, and the USL Players Association (USLPA) said the new agreement will increase the league’s investment in players and improve the overall experience for players. The agreement establishes a minimum compensation structure for players, new standards for player contracts, per diem rates and public appearance fees, new requirements for working and living conditions, and a new grievance procedure. “Today is a great day for the growth of soccer in North America,” said USLPA executive committee members Tommy Heinemann, Connor Tobin and Trey Mitchell. “This Agreement is the culmination of nearly three years of work and negotiation towards meaningful progress for players. It will elevate the status and professional standards of the USL, and significantly improve the compensation levels and working conditions of professional players. The unwavering commitment and engagement from the player pool have allowed us to secure an agreement that will substantially change what it means to be a USL Championship player.” The USLPA was recognized as the official representative of the players in 2018 and is the largest professional soccer players association in North America.

Brookings Institution Staff Secure Voluntary Recognition of New Union: Workers at the Brookings Institution have secured voluntary recognition by management of their new union, Brookings United. The union is a member of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union Local 70, an affiliate of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees (IFPTE). The Brookings United Organizing Committee said in a statement: “We are extremely excited to begin this new chapter in Brookings’s rich 100-year history. This has been a team effort since the beginning, and we are incredibly proud and inspired by the hard work it took to get to this turning point. With the recognition of our union, we will be setting a new standard for representation in the workplace. Our strength as contributors is rooted in our shared mission of promoting workplace diversity and inclusion, ensuring Brookings is competitive among peer organizations, and expanding work opportunities for staff to better prepare the next generation of leaders. This union is a much needed step forward in achieving those goals. We are looking forward to beginning contract negotiations with our colleagues in service of our mission.”

Shoal Creek Strike Leads to Victory for Miners: Members of the Mine Workers (UMWA) Local 1948 ratified a new collective bargaining agreement with Peabody Energy, which runs the Shoal Creek coal mine in Alabama. The workers had been on strike since Oct. 4, 2020. More than 60% of the members voted to ratify the new agreement, which includes wage increases, health care protections and a ratification bonus. “This will provide an economic boost not just for our members and their families, but also to the communities where they live,” said UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts. “And it provides a roadmap to settling the six-month strike at Warrior Met Coal in the same region.”

New Contract Secured by IBEW Local 1253 Includes Pay Raises: After months of stalled negotiations with the National Electrical Contractors Association, an arbitration panel has approved a new three-year contract for members of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1253 in Maine. “It was very tough going, but the negotiating team of [Local] 1253 was steadfast, we didn’t waiver and we didn’t settle,” said Chuck Fraser, the lead negotiator on the bargaining team. The contract includes raises of 3.7%, 3.4% and 3.3% over the next three years. “The decision didn’t reach our targeted goal, but it’s acceptable. We were shooting for $6, but we’ve had some pretty significant raises in recent contracts,” Fraser said. “For the history of the local, what we’ve received is pretty unprecedented.” The arbitration panel settled on a $5.30 per hour increase over the course of the contract.

45,000 TSA Officers Win Right to Appeal Adverse Actions: After 20 years of fighting for the same right to appeal adverse actions, transportation security officers (TSOs) at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have finally won. AFGE has pushed for decades to make sure that TSOs get full workplace protections, better pay and unconditional access to appeals at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board for adverse actions such as removals, lengthy suspensions and demotions. Managers at TSA and most federal workers already have the ability to appeal covered adverse actions, and now TSOs will finally have the same rights. “Today is an exciting day for our union and TSA officers across the country,” said Hydrick Thomas, president of AFGE TSA Council 100, which represents more than 45,000 TSOs at nearly 450 airports across the country. “For 20 years, we’ve been fighting to have the same appeal rights as our managers and fellow federal employees at different agencies throughout the government. We’ve been fighting to be treated as equals, nothing more, nothing less.”

Ohio Chemical Workers Overcome Employer Opposition to Join UFCW and IBT: More than 140 workers at two INEOS Pigments plants in Ashtabula, Ohio, joined the International Chemical Workers Union Council/UFCW (ICWUC/UFCW) and the Teamsters (IBT) on Aug. 27. INEOS is a global chemical company, and INEOS Pigments is one of the largest producers of titanium dioxide in North America. This organizing victory is the result of a five-year effort to organize workers at INEOS Pigments. The company refused to recognize the ICWUC/UFCW or the IBT, and its efforts were supported by the previous administration’s National Labor Relations Board. INEOS Pigments also hired union-busting lawyers to hold captive audience meetings at the plants. Despite these obstacles and intimidation tactics, these workers persevered and formed a union because they wanted a voice in the workplace and the same benefits as some of their unionized colleagues, who are represented by the United Steelworkers (USW). “In spite of the company’s anti-union tactics, these workers stood together for a better life,” said ICWUC/UFCW President Lance Heasley. “We look forward to working with the Teamsters and having the support of the Steelworkers as we begin to negotiate a strong, first contract for these workers.”

BCTGM Ratifies New Contract with Nabisco: Members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) overwhelmingly ratified a new contract over the weekend with Nabisco, ending a strike that started last month and spread to five different Nabisco worksites across the country. Workers who make Nabisco products were demanding a fair contract that recognizes the hard work and the sacrifices they have made throughout the pandemic. “This has been a long and difficult fight for our striking members, their families and our union. Throughout the strike, our members displayed tremendous courage, grit and determination,” said BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton. “We offer our deepest gratitude to AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler for directing the full resources and power of the AFL-CIO at the federal, state and local levels in support of our striking members and our union. This support was critical to the success of the strike.”

AFGE National Leader Appointed to Defense Business Board in Historic First: AFGE reported that its national vice president, Cheryl Eliano, has been appointed to serve on the Defense Business Board. It’s the first time a union representative has ever served on the panel, which provides the secretary of defense and other senior leaders at the Department of Defense (DOD) with independent advice on best business practices for application by the department. “I am proud to be the first and only union representative ever asked to serve on the Defense Business Board,” Eliano said. “The Defense Business Board is a strategic partner in helping the Department of Defense improve its business practices, and ensuring that the voice of rank-and-file workers is included in those discussions will be an asset. I look forward to working with the other board members to develop proposals that further the interests of DoD’s mission, its employees, and the public.”

Working People Turn Back California Recall Effort: The results of the California recall election are in and we have decisively defeated the anti-union side. As of publication time, 68% of the votes have been counted and nearly 64% of voters rejected the effort to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, compared to 36% who supported it. The labor movement helped lead the “No” campaign on the ground in the state as Newsom pursues a strong pro-worker agenda. More than 2,500 volunteer union members from across the country helped make over 1.3 million phone calls to union families in California. This result would not have been possible but for the nationwide solidarity of the labor movement. Now, our attention turns to the important policy battles ahead as well as the upcoming elections in New Jersey and Virginia.

SAG-AFTRA in Philadelphia Win First Contract After Two Years of Negotiations: SAG-AFTRA members at radio station WHYY-FM in Philadelphia overwhelmingly approved their first contract after a two-year fight. The union represents public media professionals who create content for all areas of the station, including radio, television and digital. Highlights of the contract include pay raises for more than half the unit, six weeks of paid parental leave, increased flexibility in work options and comp time and other benefits. “The wage structures we’ve set up in this contract create a path forward where one never existed before,” said shop steward Nina Feldman. “We’re proud to guarantee some mobility for our colleagues and future employees alike, ensuring that WHYY can become a sustainable place to build a career.”

CWA Wins Voluntary Recognition for Workers at EveryAction: More than 200 workers at EveryAction, a company that provides nonprofits with customer relationship management, donor management and fundraising software tools, won voluntary recognition on Sept. 3 after a supermajority of the workers signed union membership cards. The new bargaining unit includes software engineers, product managers, members of the sales team and other staffers. The EveryAction workers are now members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). “As workers at EveryAction we are committed to making the world a more just, inclusive and democratic place through technology,” said Gabby Weiss, a digital content editor at EveryAction and member of the EveryAction Workers Union-CWA. “EveryAction is a leader in the progressive tech industry and our union joins the growing movement of unionized tech companies that are ensuring their workers have a real voice on the job in order to build workplaces that reflect our values and empower all of us.”

Workers at ZF International Strike for Union Recognition: The UAW reported that workers at ZF International in Marysville, Michigan, went on strike for recognition, after the company reneged on a neutrality agreement to recognize a majority sign-up for their union. The auto parts manufacturer had employed Stellantis LLC workers at the ZF International plant in Marysville. Workers there have clearly indicated they expect to join the UAW, as the current Stellantis workers who are members of the UAW move to other locations. A majority of the workers have signed up to join the union, but ZF did not accept voluntary recognition. “It is unconscionable that the company would choose to put workers through delay tactics and efforts to avoid the union when a majority of their employees have agreed to it,” said James Harris, director of UAW Region 1. “ZF must cease these union-busting tactics and honor their workforce’s wishes by recognizing the employees’ right to bargain at this site, which has been a union shop.” It will be easier for new union members to win recognition with passage of the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act.

NNU Members at MountainView Hospital Ratify New Contract with Additional Workplace Protections: RNs picket outside MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas Registered nurses (RNs) at MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas have overwhelmingly approved a new collective bargaining agreement with HCA Healthcare that includes important new provisions for infectious disease control protections, according to National Nurses United (NNU). “We are pleased to have achieved additional health and safety protections that we have been pressing for from HCA management,” said Nicole Taylor, an RN at MountainView and a member of the nurses’ negotiating team. “These protections are essential to ensure safer conditions at our hospital.” NNU said that under the new agreement, all patients suspected of being infected with COVID-19 will be treated the same as confirmed COVID-19 positive patients, which means nurses will be provided with the same level of protection for both suspected and confirmed cases.

Actors’ Equity Reaches Contract Agreement with the Off-Broadway League: Actors’ Equity Association announced on Aug. 11 that it has reached a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Off-Broadway League. Equity and the League both said the agreement reflects a shared commitment to deliver a contract that addresses the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes new workplace safety guidelines and long-term financial stability for actors, stage managers and producers. The agreement also has new provisions that strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and protocols for addressing issues of harassment and discrimination. “The Off-Broadway League agreed that simply returning to work is not enough; the work needs to be safe and sustainable,” said Equity Executive Director Mary McColl. “Together we have made important inroads on wages as well as worker safety—both on COVID-19 and as it pertains to bullying, harassment and discrimination.”

Virginia Kroger Workers Overwhelmingly Approve New Contract: Working people at Kroger stores in Richmond and Hampton Roads, Virginia, voted 358-12 in favor of a new contract. The new agreement includes $27 million in wage increases, more vacation time, health care protections and other benefits. The contract, which covers 3,100 workers, was secured after the members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400, held a series of demonstrations outside local Kroger stores. “We were very surprised and happy with the changes made to the contract,” said Kroger employee and bargaining committee member Nicole Turpin.

Workers at Greenlight Bookstores and Yours Truly Stationery Stores Win Recognition to Join RWDSU-UFCW: The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) announced on Thursday that workers at Greenlight Bookstores and Yours Truly stationery stores have won recognition for their union. Now workers at Greenlight and Yours Truly will head to the bargaining table to secure fair treatment in the workplace and fair compensation in their first union contract. “I’m excited to be an RWDSU member, especially during this wave of unionization efforts happening across the country! I’m proud to work alongside people who are committed to supporting each other and our collective well-being,” said Ienna Fernandez, a Greenlight Bookstore worker. “It’s time that Greenlight Bookstore and Yours Truly, Brooklyn workers are empowered to define what a safe, just, and equitable workplace looks like—especially for the most marginalized among us.” The workers’ union recognition was finalized on Aug. 23. RWDSU-UFCW will represent about 40 workers at Greenlight Bookstore and Yours Truly locations in Brooklyn, New York.

AFM Local 802 Secures New Contract with the Met: The members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 802 ratified a new contract with the Metropolitan Opera on Tuesday, paving the way for performances to resume for the first time since the pandemic started. Contract negotiations had been ongoing for months and were contentious at times. Local 802 President Adam Krauthamer and members of the Met Orchestra Committee released a statement: “We are thrilled to be returning to regular performances very soon and look forward to reconnecting with our audiences at the Met, at Carnegie Hall, on tour, and at our newly established chamber music series at Weill Hall.” The new opera season is set to start in late September.

WGAE Wins Union Election at MSNBC in a First for Cable News: It was announced on Tuesday that the workers at MSNBC have voted by more than a 2–1 margin in favor of forming a union with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). The newly formed union said on Twitter: “Together, we have made history. This victory is the first of its kind in cable news, and we are so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together.” The 300-member bargaining unit includes writers, producers, booking producers and other editorial staff at every program airing on MSNBC and The Choice on Peacock. The AFL-CIO joins in congratulating the new members of WGAE and wishes them every success as they negotiate their first union contract with MSNBC.

Workers Win Union Rights at Colectivo Coffee: Workers at Colectivo Coffee officially won their union vote earlier this week. As a bargaining unit of about 500 workers in Chicago and Milwaukee, they had lost their first union election in a tie after a brutal anti-union campaign from Colectivo involving terminations. Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 494 contested the result and demanded the challenged ballots be counted. On Monday night, those ballots were counted and workers officially won the election by a vote of 106–99. These workers should have had the union nearly six months ago, but they’ve been in limbo since then as their employer dragged out the process. “Workers at Colectivo Coffee first started organizing years ago,” said Wisconsin State AFL-CIO President Stephanie Bloomingdale (AFT). “The delays and obstacles to forming a union that Colectivo workers faced demonstrate the need for the U.S. Senate to pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to modernize our labor law. This will ensure every worker can exercise their right to form a union, which is the only way to strengthen the American economy.”

IAM Reaches Tentative Agreement at Southwest Airlines: The Machinists (IAM) union reported last week that it has reached a strong new tentative agreement at Southwest Airlines for some 7,000 IAM-represented customer service employees. “This is a tentative agreement that will place our members at Southwest Airlines back at the top of the industry,” said Richard Johnsen, IAM chief of staff to the international president. “The IAM negotiating committee deserves the credit for fighting to ensure our members at Southwest Airlines receive the wages and benefits they bargained for at the negotiating table. I am extremely proud of our members and the negotiating committee for their patience during this process. Our members are an integral part of Southwest, and this agreement shows their value.”

Digital Producers at the Atlantic Digital Optimization Team Win Union Vote: Digital producers at the Atlantic Digital Optimization Team (DOT) have voted to be represented by The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003, in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board that concluded Wednesday, Aug. 11. The 21-person unit, named The Atlantic DOT Guild, consists of digital producers across five states that make up Gannett’s Atlantic Region. The vote followed an aggressive anti-union campaign by management that prompted the New York local to file unfair labor practice charges against the company, which alleges that managers illegally offered benefits to workers in exchange for rejecting the union.

ATU Metro Transit Workers in Minneapolis Vote to Approve New Contract: Members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005 overwhelmingly voted on Sunday and Monday to ratify a new three-year contract. Some 71% of members voted in favor of the contract, which establishes a 6.5% wage increase, improved sick leave and a one-time bonus of $1,000. “We got here because Local 1005 members mobilized again and again, in the sweltering heat and freezing cold, to push back against a pattern of abuse, disrespect, and greed at Metro Transit,” ATU Local 1005 President Ryan Timlin said in a statement to the Star Tribune. Timlin added the union was disappointed that hazard pay did not make it into the agreement, as the goal of the contract was to recognize the brave contributions of the members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kenneth Quinnell
Wed, 10/06/2021 – 16:00

Updated: October 12, 2021 — 6:09 pm