MORE GRAD SCHOOL WORKERS SEEK TO UNIONIZE
Over the past month, graduate workers affiliated with the United Electrical Workers (UE) at Northwestern University in Chicago, Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore launched organizing drives with rallies and record-breaking numbers of workers signing union cards. Workers at all three campuses are seeking a living wage, more support for international student workers, and a voice at their universities.
Together with graduate workers at the University of Chicago, these campaigns cover over 10,000 workers.
They join UE organized graduate school workers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology which won representation several months ago and is currently drawing up bargaining goals in preparation for upcoming negotiations with MIT.
UE News, 11/5
SEVERAL BALLOT INIATIVES GAIN RIGHTS FOR WORKERS
With public approval of labor unions at 71 percent, the highest in 56 years, three states and the nation’s capital voted this year to pass initiatives that raised labor standards and working conditions for employees. In Illinois voters passed an amendment to the state constitution to guarantee the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively prohibit the legislature from passing a so-called “right-to-work” law. In Nebraska, voters increased the minimum wage from $9 to $15 in incremental steps over four years and Nevada the minimum wage was raised to $12 an hour in two years. And in Washington DC minimum pay for tipped workers will go up from $5.35 to $16 an hour in five years without forfeiting any tips.
The Century Foundation, 11/10
STARBUCKS WORKERS AT OVER100 STORES STAGE ONE-DAY STRIKE
Workers at more than 100 unionized Starbucks stores went out on strike for one day earlier this month in protest against the company’s stalling tactics – refusing to bargain with the union at unionized stores, cutting working hours, firing 150 union supporters, selectively providing raises and benefits at the non-union stores, and installing hostile managers at the union stores. The one-day strike took place on Red Cup day, a Starbucks company tradition when it hands out cups to its customers.
RAIL STRIKE LOOMS AGAIN AS LARGEST UNION’S MEMBERSHIP REJECTS CONTRACT
The country’s largest union of rail workers, the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD) has voted to turn down the contract negotiated with the aid of the White House a month ago. The major issues that were not resolved in the proposed contract, said the union are the attendance policies if the rail companies that are reflected in sick time, fatigue, and lack of family time that are not easily seen but are deeply felt by the membership, said a union spokesperson. “It’s destroying their livelihoods.” A strike could begin as early as Dec. 9.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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
COLORADO LAW NOW GIVES EQUAL PROTECTION TO DOMESTIC WORKERS
A new Colorado law, enacted in August, extends to domestic workers in the state the same protections enjoyed by other workers. They had previously been excluded from the 1935 National Labor Relations Act. Colorado thus joins a few other states that have brought equal benefits as other workers under the federal law.
Domestic workers include people who care for children, tend gardens and clean other people’s homes, among other jobs. The law says that these workers are “employees,” the same as if they worked in a factory or office and can file complaints with the Colorado Civil Rights Division against employers for things like cheating them on salaries, discrimination and harassment.
These workers have been underpaid and unprotected by labor laws throughout most of the United States. Colorado had previously passed legislation establishing a minimum wage and overtime requirements for them. The new law extends their rights to those of regular salaried employees.
APOLOGIZE STARBUCKS AND PAY BACK
In a major ruling Aug. 25 the NLRB ordered Starbucks to repay all benefits illegally denied to workers at hundreds of its stores that voted for a union. It also ruled that Starbucks issue a written apology to the affected workers for the harm it caused and that CEO Howard Schultz record a video admitting to these illegal actions.
More Perfect Union, 8/25
UNION DRIVES ALSO HITTING SOUTH
Southern states, long a haven for non-union shops, are not escaping current union activity. For a description of organizing at Dollar General stores and other locations and how workers in these states are learning the benefits of union organizing, click on the link below.
MICHIGAN STORE BECOMES FIRST CHIPOTLE RESTAURANT TO VOTE UNION
In Lansing, Mich., a Chipotle facility became the first in the Mexican grill’s chain to vote union. The restaurant chain operates 3,000 facilities in the US. The union drive is backed by the 1.2 million-member International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The workers are demanding higher pay and improved schedules.
BILL IN CONGRESS PUSHES FOR DOMESTIC WORKERS BILL OF RIGHTS
Across the country, domestic workers have been among the most exploited. These workers, both employees and independent contractors, provide services in private homes as nannies, house cleaners, home care workers, cooks, and other jobs. A large majority of them are women of color. Their median hourly wage is $12/hour, barely enough to live on, no less to support others in their household.
In the past few years, a number of cities like Seattle have taken measures to protect the rights of domestic workers. In July, Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards awarded over $71,000 in back pay, interest, and civil penalties to a live-in domestic worker who had been robbed of her rightful pay by an employer who failed to pay the city’s minimum wage and overtime pay.
Now, a bill in Congress, originally introduced in 2019 by then Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Cal.) along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), and reintroduced in 2021 by Gillibrand and Jayapal and Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-New Mex.) sets up a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. which codifies their workplace benefits and rights and increases the tools to enforce the law. In July the House Education and Labor Committee held a hearing on the legislation that exposed the conditions facing these workers.