According to a Gallup poll taken last August, 68 percent of Americans approve of labor unions, the highest number in more than 50 years.

 

As of late May, the latest count in the drive to unionize Starbucks is 79 stores where the union won the election and only nine where they lost it. Now, at one of those nine locations, at Camp Road in Hamburg, NY, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board, has recommended that Starbucks be ordered to bargain with the union, citing a blizzard of labor law violations by the company to intimidate workers at the store to vote no. Among those violations cited was the firing of pro-union workers, disciplining and spying on others, and  closing stores and changing work policies where they feared the union was winning. The NLRB official, Linda Leslie,  made the rare request that the company be compelled to bargain rather than simply recommending a new election. It is an indication of the extent of illegal tactics Starbucks used and the lack of confidence that it will refrain from doing it again.

Huffpost, 5/20

The Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters is betting on the jobs that will be created by the transition to renewable energy. In February, they purchased a diving school near Philadelphia, where their members – carpenters, millwrights, and piledrivers – are scheduled for training to work underwater doing welding and other skills needed for the construction of offshore wind turbines. The union is anticipating the creation of millions of high-paying union jobs that will be added to the economy by the deployment of clean energy facilities to confront climate change.

Huffpost, 5/20

Staff members of the U.S. House of Representatives are one step closer to gaining union representation after the house, on a party-line vote with Republicans voting no, approved the measure to grant them the right to unionize. The Senate does not have to approve the measure.

Huffpost, 5/20

In the space of a few weeks in May, two Verizon stores in Washington state have voted “yes” to unionizing. Responding in typical fashion, Verizon is spending big on a campaign to break the

union drive rather than negotiate with the union. Central to its strategy is the firing of union activists to intimidate workers. Verizon worker Jesse Mason was the first victim – he has been active in the organizing drive of his own and two other Verizon stores in the state.

More Perfect Union, 5/12

Another piece of this all-too-familiar picture is now taking place in Virginia where workers at Target stores are trying to unionize. In Christiansburg, Virginia, they have filed an NLRB petition for a union election. The company has responded with anti-union videos at compulsory meetings on company time and are expected to use delaying and stalling tactics, as they have at other Target stores, to prevent an election.

The Guardian, 5,18; Portside, 5/18

Earlier labor actions include 5,000 nurses with an independent union at Stanford and Packard Hospitals in Palo Alto, Cal., and 8,000 nurses on a one-day strike at Sutter Health facilities in northern California.

Who Gets the Bird, 4/24

As some 1100 workers walked out on strike May 9, CNH Industrial, which operates 13 manufacturing and engineering plants in the U.S., announced that it will cut off the workers’ health insurance as of May 11. It has also hired so-called “replacement workers” who were immediately ready to go even as the strike had barely commenced. Two unions represent the striking workers at three of the company facilities, UAW Local 807 in Burlington, Iowa, and UAW Local 180 in Racine, Wisc. CNH just recorded the most profitable year in its history.  A major issue is two-tier wage system that sees workers hired after 2004 making $6-$8 less than those hired before 1996, with those hired between the two years making in-between.

Who Gets the Bird, 5/8

 

 

Nurses in many places around the country are staging labor actions, mainly to correct inadequate staffing that puts an undue burden on them and prevents proper care of patients. In Palo Alto, CA, 5,000 nure3ws at Stanford and Packard hospitals were scheduled to begin a strike on April 25. The hospital management has threatened to cut them off their health care. At the Sutter Health facilities in Northern California some 8,000 nurses staged a one-day strike.

Who Gets the Bird, 4/25

Two Boston Starbucks Vote to Unionize

The Boston is one of the latest to see the Starbucks workers’ drive to unionize. Two of the latest Starbucks union wins are in the area, one in Coolidge Corner and the other in Alston. They are the first two Starbucks stores in Massachusetts to vote union, and the vote was unanimous in both, 14-0 in Brookline and 16-0 in Allston.

Portside, 4/11

 

New Independent Unions Need Expert Help

In the wake of a stream of workers organizing among themselves to form independent unions and win elections at Starbucks and Amazon, the concern has arisen among labor activists about the need to provide expert and experienced help to them as they enter into contract negotiations with employers. Multi-million and billion dollar corporations like Starbucks, Google, and Amazon have high-priced lawyers at the bargaining table. They need to be matched with experienced negotiators pushing for the interests of the workers.

That is why a new call is being sounded by labor activists for established unions to recognize the potential these self-organized unions have for the revitalizing the union movement and donate their help for the next stage, delivering union victories at the bargaining table. A number of unions, like the teamsters new president, Sean O’Brien, have responded and offered help.

The American Prospect, 4/11

 

Amazon Accused of Playing Dirty Pool

With a vote for union recognition coming up April 25 at the second Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, NY, workers there are furious at the dirty tactics the company is using. ”They’re really fighting us and they’re playing dirty,” said Madeline Wesley, treasurer of the Amazon Labor Union and a worker at LDJ5, the facility where the vote is scheduled.

She accused the management of condoning bigotry, spreading racist lies about Chris Smalls, the Black ALU president, and sexist lies about her with homophobic slurs. They also blamed her for the suicide of another worker.

The company has reportedly filled the warehouse with “consultants” from other places to spy and intimidate workers into voting against the union. It spent $4.3 million last year for these union busting consultants to employ tactics of all sorts to prevent unionization.

Amazon led the field last year in the number of workers injured on the job, accounting for nearly half of all injuries in the warehouse industry. Some 6.8 percent of Amazon warehouse workers sustained injuries, compared with 3.3 percent at other company’s warehouses.

Labor Notes, 4/14

 

New Union Drive Targets Congress Staffers

While a majority of members of Congress are millionaires their staff members – the people who actually do the work of putting together legislation, meet with constituents, and run their offices – are working often 60 to 70 hours a week at poverty level wages. They work in Washington but can’t afford to live there because of the high cost of living in the city. The wage level is very low because Congress is exempt from labor law, a situation Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Andy Levin have introduced legislation aimed at fixing.

The result has been that staff members usually come from wealthy families who support them or go on food stamps. It has also resulted in a high turnover of staffers who go on to jobs as corporate lobbyists.

Now there is a union organizing campaign underway to gain bargaining rights for Congressional employees. As one observer put it, “A Congress made up of millionaires, staffed by children of the wealthy who are working to become corporate lobbyists will never represent the American people’s interests. Allowing Congressional workers to form unions will provide a level playing field and let true public servants get to work in Washington DC.”

More Perfect Union, 4/15

 

Fordham U. Grad Workers Vote for Union

In another action of graduate school workers, the workers art New York’s Fordham University voted 229-to-15 to form a union affiliated with the Communication Workers of America. The vote on April 7th is the latest at colleges and universities around the country (for detailed stories about similar union drives at other schools, see the Labor News page on this website.)

Bronx Times, 4/8

 

 

 

In Sheboygan, Wisconsin, 265 workers at the Vollrath plant, went out on strike April 4 after new contract talks fell through. The workers are members of Local 1472 of the United Auto Workers union. The  main issue is the union demand that the company end its two-tier wage system and institute one uniform wage system. The  vote to strike was approved by a membership vote of 74 percent in favor.

Sheboygan Press, 4/4; Payday Report, 4/6

Labor union activity appears to be spreading among Kindergatden through 12th grade educators and school staff members across the country. Among the latest cities reporting strikes, strike preparations, and union pushbacks in school systems are: Sacramento (California), St. Louis (Missouri), Dickinson, (N. Dakota), Rochester (New York), Lawrence (Kansas) and Elk Grove (California).

Who Gets the Bird, 4/4

In a memo to the National Labor Relations Board, Its general counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo, urged the board to reverse its precedent that had upheld the widespread employer practice of forcing workers to attend anti-union meetings on company time. The general counsel is charged with enforcing federal labor law. 

While these company-time  anti-union meetings are mandatory for workers, union representatives have been forbidden by the companies to address workers in the shops on their lunch times or breaks.

Abruzzo said she would soon file a brief before the labor board arguing that these coerce meetings are inconsistent with the National Labor Relations Act’s protection of the workers’ right to free choice,  “I believe that the NLRB case precedent, which has tolerated such meetings, is at odds with fundamental labor-law principles, our statutory language, and our congressional mandate.”

The practice of these coercive anti-union meetings and denying unions the right to talk to workers has been a widespread tactic used recently in union elections at Amazon and Starbucks.

NY Times, 4/7

In another significant union vote, workers at the REI store in New York’s Manhattan SoHo district have voted overwhelmingly to unionize. On March 2, they voted 88-14 to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union after an effort lasting nearly two-years. During these two years, the store engaged in a ceaseless anti-union effort to intimidate its employees to reject the union.

The store employed all the usual tactics – from one-on-one “meetings” where managers used pressure on individual workers, to flooding employee rest and break rooms with propaganda and falsehoods about unions.

Resentment among workers had been building at the REI store against inadequate safety measures, callous scheduling policies, overwork and underpayment.

Significantly, the REI workers pointed to the inspiration they received from Amazon and Starbucks workers who were organizing in facilities around the country. “Every new Starbucks that organizes — I also know organizers from RWDSU that have been in Bessemer [Alabama] helping to organize Amazon all those stories are just incredibly inspiring,” said one. “I think organized labor is the future.” Another added. “Just seeing other groups stand up to Amazon, which is a behemoth, stand up to Starbucks which is everywhere, ingrained in every single neighborhood, it was really comforting. I didn’t feel alone. Also, you know, it was an inspiration, because these are people in my same situation, trying their best to stand up for themselves and their co-workers. I feel like I look to these drives, whether they’ve won their votes or not, for constant inspiration.”

Contract talks with REI management are expected to begin within the next three months.

Labor Press

 

 

After a year of running up against a stone wall, tech workers at the New York Times finally won their battle for union recognition. The 600 workers will join the 1300 workers in the editorial and business departments represented by the New York NewsGuild, Local 31003 of the Communications Workers of America. This will make the Times tech workers, the largest shop of tech workers with collective bargaining rights in the country.

The Times fought against the union all the way, refusing their request for voluntary recognition, then forbidding the workers from showing their support for the union, an unfair labor practice under labor law. It took some workplace actions to win the fight, including a half-day protest walkout against the Times attempts to stand in the way of an election for union recognition.

CWA News, 3/10