SECOND APPLE STORE VOTES FOR UNION

An Apple store in Oklahoma City became the second one in the nation in which workers have voted to be represented by a union. The Oct. 14 vote conducted by the NLRB saw 56 workers at the company’s Penn Square Mall voting to be represented by the Communication Workers of America with 32 voting against it.

At Apple’s first unionized store in Towson, Maryland, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, chosen by the workers, is currently preparing to begin negotiations with the company.

Associated Press, 10/15

LARGE RAIL UNION TURNS DOWN CONTRACT PROPOSAL

The narrowly averted strike of rail carriers last month has been put back on the table as members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, affiliated with the Teamsters union, voted against the proposed deal. The union announced October 11 that the deal had been rejected wit 56% voting no. The union represents 23,000 freight rail workers with 12,000 casting ballots in the vote.

Any potential strike won’t happen until Nov. 19 at the earliest with union leaders hoping to return to the bargaining table. At issue is the demand of workers for some sick days. Currently, they get no paid sick days. They have been demanding 13 sick days annually but the rail carriers have refused to budge on the issue. Earlier, the deal was also rejected by members of another union, which has since announced a new tentative agreement. Two other unions, re resenting conductors and engineers are set to begin voting during the week of Oct. 17. The two represent about half of the 115,000 union members at the nation’s freight carriers.

Labor Notes, 10/11

WEYERHAEUSER LUMBER WORKERS STRIKING FOR OVER A MONTH

For more than a month, lumber workers in the Northwest have been on strike against Weyerhaeuser mills and log yards. The issue is simple fairness. The company is demanding concessions from workers, insisting that they start paying for part of health insurance premiums and proposing wages that lose ground to the rate of inflation. This comes as Weyerhaeuser reported a record profit last year of $2.6 billion.  Under the present contract, workers made concessions, like agreeing to a two-tier system that ended pensions for new employees and a health care plan with fewer benefits. They saying now that they are done with concessions, particularly when Weyerhaeuser is raking in record profits. “We want our fair share of what we produce,” declared one of the picketers.

Portside, 10/7

US LABOR DEPT. RECLASSIFIES UBER, LYFT, FEDEX DRIVERS AS EMPLOYEES

Drivers for Uber, Lyft, and FedEx, previously classified as “independent contractors” have been reclassified as employees by the Department of Labor, giving them the rights guaranteed to employees under labor laws. One of them is the minimum wage law, which now guarantees them $15.50 an hour in California and other states where the minimum is higher than the federal one of only $7.25. When expenses they lay out for buying or leasing and maintaining their cars are subtracted from the money they earn, the drivers’ real hourly income is only about $6.20.

The American Prospect, 10/11

CEO PAY ZOOMED SINCE 1978 WHILE WORKER PAY STAGNATED

The compensation packages of corporate CEO’S has increased by 1,460% over the past 44 years, even as pay of most workers could not keep up with the rising cost of living, according to a recent study of the Economic Policy Institute. The rate of income growth has exceeded virtually all other economic factors. The study projects that, taking into consideration stock awards when vested and stock options when cashed in, CEO compensation at 350 corporations will average a staggering $27.8 million. Even considering the value of the stock options when issued but not cashed in, their compensation comes to $15.6 million. Last year, their pay package was 399 times the average worker pay, up from 300 times just a few years ago. Their pay and soaring corporate profits are key reasons for increased union activity in the past two years as workers, who have made big concessions, struggle to achieve a decent standard of living.

Economic Policy Institute, 10/4

RESTAURANT WORKERS AT SFO AIRPORT GET $5/HOUR RAISE AND FREE HEALTH CARE AFTER STRIKE

After a three-day strike, restaurant workers at San Francisco International Airport OK’d a new contract that won them a $5 an hour raise and free health care for themselves and their families. The 1,000 workers are members of UNITE HERE Local 3. They approved the new contract overwhelmingly. They will get an immediate $3 an hour raise and the other $2 will come in September 2024 when their hourly wage will rise from the present $17.05 to $22.05.

Portside, 10/3

LABOR ACTIONS PICK UP THIS MONTH

As we moved into October, thousands of workers around the country are either on strike or threatening one. Filings for union representation so far this year have increased 58% over last year with public support for unions at 71% approval, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Among the biggest recent strikes have been:
15,000 nurses in Minnesota,
4,500 teachers and staff in Columbus, Ohio
2,000 mental health care workers in California,
700 nursing home workers in Pennsylvania
1,100 timber workers in Washington and Oregon,
6,000 teachers and staff in Seattle, Washington,
1,200 casing plant workers in Indiana.

In addition, votes have authorized strikes at:
Kaleida Health facility in Bufalo, NY,
Kroger Groceries in Columbus, Ohio, involving 12,500 workers,
Auto workers at Ultium electric vehicle plant in Lordstown, Ohio, involving 800 workers,
Graduate school workers at Clark University and Indiana University.

And many more…

 The Guardian, 9/26

REFRESCO WORKERS BARGAINING FOR FIRST CONTRACT

Two years ago, workers at the  New Jersey Refresco bottling plant walked out to protest the company’s failure to provide for their safety during the Covid epidemic. They are now bargaining for their firt union contract, represented by the United Electrical Workers (UE). Key to the bargaining issues is the protection of their health and safety. Also at issue are low wages, lack of decent benefits, abusive treatment by supervisors, constant schedule changes causing havoc with their family lives, sexual harassment at the plant, and an attendance system that penalizes workers for getting sick. Refresco was named this year by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health as one of the “Dirty Dozen” for their terrible health and safety record.

UE Action Alert, 10/13; You Tube video

OHIO KROGER WORKERS VOTE DOWN PROPOSED CONTRACT

Ohio Kroger workers, organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1059 have rejected their tentative contract for the third time and authorized a strike. The union represents `12,000 Kroger workers in the state.

NLRB REPORT SUMMARIZES UPTICK IN UNION ACTIVITY

The recently released NLRB report for the just-ended fiscal year shows that new filings for union elections were up by 53% over last year. A major problem at the agency is that part of the attack on labor unions since the Reagan administration has been underfunding which has resulted in the loss of half their field staff. It’s a problem that must be overcome to take care of the big increase in union activity and the need of the NLRB to enforce the nation’s labor laws.

Who Gets the Bird, 10/4. 10/8

By now, much has been written about the narrowly averted railroad workers strike. Although salary issues are nearly always paramount in collective bargaining and was an issue here, the key sticking point was the punishing work schedules that was wreaking havoc on workers lives. Workers were expected to be on call at any time for weeks on end. They couldn’t take time off for a doctor’s appointment or a family emergency without being penalized with loss of pay beyond the loss of the day’s pay or possibly even fired.

The policy comes from a business model increasingly being adopted by other companies. It seeks to enhance its profits by cutting costs, which usually involves cutting the work force, thus cutting labor costs. It means that the existing labor force is pressured to do more and more to make up for it. Rail companies are now reported to be operating with 30 percent fewer employees than 20 or 30 years ago.

Thus, as the freight railroads have racked up record profits in recent years, their workers have suffered from burnouts, marriages and family lives have been upended, and workers’ health has been severely endangered by the scheduling policies.

Although all the details of the rail settlement have not been revealed in the press, it appears that the unions have gained important concessions on this. From initial reports, aside from important salary hikes, the companies have agreed to issue set schedules that allow workers to enjoy time off without being called back at the will of the company. They will also have days off for medical appointments or family emergencies without additional penalties.

The agreement now has to be ratified by votes of the membership of the 12 unions involved.

NY Times, 9/16

Workers at Medieval Times have formed the dinner-theater chain’s first labor union, bringing collective bargaining to a castle in northern New Jersey.

The knights, squires, show cast and stablehands at the Lyndhurst location voted 26 to 11 in favor of joining the American Guild of Variety Artists following a ballot count June i5, according to the union. The National Labor Relations Board, which oversaw the election, has not yet certified the results.

Medieval Times workers in New Jersey have been organizing to improve their pay and working conditions, with a particular focus on safety. The Middle Ages-themed shows involve jousting on horseback and other dangerous stunts, all in front of an unpredictable and sometimes rowdy crowd.

Medieval Times opposed the organizing effort. The company hired a union-avoidance consultant who held meetings at the castle with employees at a cost of $3,200 per day, plus expenses.

The union in Lyndhurst would include about 40 workers, most of them performing in the show or working in the stables, where the castle keeps about two dozen horses. The American Guild of Variety Artists represents workers in other theaters and touring shows, including the Rockettes and performers at Disneyland.

Medieval Times workers often put on two or three two-hour shows in a day and must regularly rehearse to stay safe. Knights mock-fight in heavy gear, smash lances as they ride and jump from horseback, while stablehands and squires handle horses that can get excited by the crowds. The queen and other actors run the show and often have to keep the crowd in check while staying in character.

Huffpost, 6/28

Very few people are still around who remember the year 1947 when the US labor movement  represented one out three American workers. It came after a decade in the thirties when union organizing hit its peak with the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). The CIO provided the militant push that organized the millions of workers in the mass industries – workers who had been ignored by the AFL’s concentration only on skilled craft workers.

And all workers, from skilled to unskilled in one union, provided the worker unity that sustained sit-down strikes in Flint, Michigan, that unionized General Motors and built the United Auto Workers (UAW), strikes in the giant  electrical industry that unionized General Electric and Westinghouse and built the United Electrical, Radio and  Machine Workers Union (UE), and strikes in the steel industry that unionized US Steel and built the United Steelworkers union (USW). Labor was flexing its muscles as it entered the post-World War II years and began to take action to improve wages and working conditions of millions of workers.

But the giant companies would have it no longer. Sparked by the developing cold war abroad and the beginnings of the shameful McCarthy era at home, Republicans began a counterattack. Well financed by big money and pushing the growing anti-communist scare, they gained control of Congress in 1946. A year later, they enacted what became the centerpiece of the attack on labor with the passage of the Taft-Hartley Act, overriding he veto by President Harry Truman. The act, passed mainly by Republicans but with the support of a substantial number of Democrats, was the opening gun in the war against unions that has continued to this day and was accelerated after the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. It was the beginning of the policy that revived union-busting as the norm among America’s corporations.

What was the Taft-Hartley Act and how did it provide the fertile ground for the decline of the union movement? For a detailed description of  the role this law played in the decline of the union movement over the past 75 years, we highly recommend you click on this link to an article in the June 23 issue of UE News, organ of the United Electrical Workers. It conveys some great lessons for working people today who are fighting to organize unions and rebuild a movement for a more fair and just America.

 UE News. 6/23

With a vote on union representation at the Amazon’s JFK8 facility on Staten Island, New York, set for March 25-30, the company had the leader of the union arrested on charges including trespassing on company property.

The union has responded by filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the company violated a December order not to inhibit workers’ ability to engage with colleagues in non-work areas on their own time. The union leader, Chris Smalls, said that the reason for his arrest was “we’ve got an election and they’re scared.”

Portside, 2/28

 

Drivers who deliver food from New York City restaurants will now be entitled to use customer restrooms from restaurants when they’re picking up food. Beginning January 31, the drivers for app-based delivery companies like UberEats, Grubhub, and others will no longer have to resort to the indignity of relieving themselves between parked cars and risking possible arrest and fines.

The new rules, approved by the New York City Council gives the drivers that simple human right to take care of nature’s necessities during their working day. Many restaurants had previously refused to allow them to use the restrooms. The rules come after a campaign waged by Los Deliveristas Unidos, a labor group representing thousands of delivery workers. The effort gained the support of prominent political figures like NY Senator Chuck Schumer, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, City Comptroller Brad Lander and several City Council members who introduced the bill. They were present at a Times Square rally January 23 where workers celebrated their new protections.

A large portion of them are immigrant workers from countries like Mexico, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Mali and others, who historically have been among the most heavily exploited.

More Transparency Over Their Earnings

Among other gains they have received as a result of the new rules are greater transparency from the companies over their earnings, much of which is in tips, usually added onto credit cards customers use to pay for their meals. Workers have complained that companies have dishonestly withheld some of their tips from them. Companies will now be required to disclose how much the customer tips for each delivery and pay drivers at least once a week The city will also set a new minimum pay rate for basic wages. A majority of the drivers earn only $7.87 an hour before tips, far lower than the city’s $15 minimum wage. After tips, their earnings still amount to only $12 an hour. Discussions are currently under way between the Department of Consumer and Worker Protections and representatives of the drivers on the ways to enforce these rules.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez hailed  the development as “expanding the quality of life for people, particularly those who make a living through all of these apps” and expressed the hope that it would become “a launching point for growth in workers rights and greater dignity for workers across the state and across the country.”

The City, 1/23; Portside, 1/28

 

 

 

 

 

 

In what the union described as a landmark agreement, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employers (IATSE) reached a three-year agreement with motion picture and television producers in October. The agreement affects 60,000 film and television workers in 36 IATSE locals across the country.

IATSE member posting a message on the car of a union member prior to the members overwhelmingly voting to authorize a strike in October. Photograph: Myung J Chun/Los Angeles Times/Rex/Shutterstock

Two weeks earlier the union members voted to authorize a nationwide strike, the first in the union’s 128 year history, with 98.6% voting in favor if an agreement with the industry wasn’t reached. In the union’s demands, in addition to pay raises, were a list of  quality of life issues that have been plaguing workers in the industry for years. Workers were often expected to work long hours at a stretch without a break, working into the weekend through Saturday and Sunday.

The settlement includes reasonable rest periods throughout the day including weekends, meal breaks, substantial raises for those at the bottom of the wage scale and retroactive raises of 3% annually. The new agreement affects film and television workers at Warner Bros. Paramount Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and others.

IATSE Special Bulletin, 10/16

Despite the very small number of workers involved, the Starbucks store in Buffalo, NY made history Dec. 9 when it became the first one in the Starbucks chain to vote to unionize. The workers voted 19-8 to be represented by Workers United in an election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board.

Starbucks, the biggest coffee seller in the world, operates nearly 10,000 stores in the United States. It has waged a relentless war on union organizing attempts in Buffalo, closing some stores, and packing the others with new workers who, they hoped, would outvote the pro-union employees there. To counter the union organizing drive they sent in managers and executives to intimidate workers who have been complaining for years about the understaffing, chaotic conditions, restrictions on sick days, low pay and erratic hours.

Although the number of workers is small, the election is significant because it could mark a significant boost in the unionization of other Starbucks stores and among restaurant workers who are the least unionized workers in the country.

Robert Reich newsletter;  NY Times, 12/9;  Vox, 12/9;  AP News, 12/9

With the singing of “Solidarity Forever” occasionally ringing out on their picket line, some 3,000 graduate school workers at Columbia University are on strike in their quest to obtain a fair contact. As many of the university’s faculty members walked out of their classes in a show of support on Dec. 6, the strikers are calling on others to help them shut down the university by not crossing their picket line.

The strike, in its fifth week as of the beginning of December, is the second one this year by the student workers at Columbia. It is currently the largest one in the country at this time. At issue is the workers demand for cost-of-living raises, healthcare that includes vision and dental benefits, and protections against discrimination and sexual harassment. The graduate school workers teach classes, serve as teaching and research assistants, and perform duties, at much reduced pay and benefits, that many of the professors would ordinarily do. They are represented by the Student Workers of Columbia, United Auto Workers Local 2110.

Taking on the perception that the strikers are just students and not workers, Paul Brown, a Local 2110 organizer at Columbia, called on he university to “respect the labor that we put into this institution.”

The strike comes as many universities in recent years have increasingly relied on grad student workers rather than tenured professors to teach classes, thus reducing the cost to the university. “We are the ones who do the research that wins grant money for the university,” said Johannah King-Slutzky, one of the strikers in an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. “I teach my own class. Many of my colleagues teach the same classes that a professor would teach. We’re the ones who have the most face-time with the undergraduates who are paying Columbia’s bills, paying tuition.”

The school has responded with heavy-handed attempts to break the strike. The latest is an email from its Vice President of Human Resources to the strikers that if they do not return to work by Dec. 10 they will be terminated and replaced. Branding it “an illegal form of retaliation,” King-Slutzky pointed out that it is “an unfair labor practice (that) protects us from our labor being permanently replaced.”

 

 

In a stunning upset that reflects the growing militancy of workers and union members, a rank-and-file slate swept to victory in Teamster Union elections last month. The Teamsters United slate routed the incumbent slate that has ruled the union for years by a margin of about two-to-one. The incumbent backed slate had the backing of James P. Hoffa who is retiring. Hoffa has headed the union since 1998.

Defying Hoffa and his slate, the Teamsters United slate captured all national offices, from president down to a majority of the international executive board. Heading the slate, to take office in March, is the President-elect Sean O’Brien, currently President of Boston Local 25 and General Secretary-elect Fred Zuckerman, currently President of Louisville, Kentucky Local 89. They will serve five-year terms.

O’Brien has been sharply critical of the current contract with United Parcel Service and has vowed a campaign to take a more militant stand on future contracts with the company. He is also committed to a full-fledged campaign to organize Amazon drivers.

The vote signals a growing sentiment in the union movement that are fed-up with contracts that  have left millions of workers behind while corporate profits soar.

NY Times, 11/19; Labor Notes, 11/18; Teamsters for a Democratic Union website