MID-JUNE Bits and Pieces

The Denver Post reports (6/2) that Colorado state regulators has found Southwest Airlines in systemic violation of dozens of state labor laws including paid sick leave for workers with Covid. Under Colorado’s Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, employers are required to provide paid leave for workers with Covid-19 illnesses and quarantines, or other injuries or appointments. Southwest faces $1.3 million in fines for these violations. The airline has responded by bringing a federal suit claiming that the state has no right to impose these restrictions  on its business operations.

Women are now the backbone of the current resurgence of union organizing, reports USA Today (6/7) ”The vast majority of those who lost their jobs in the pandemic were women,” it writes. “And now the vast majority of those organizing their workplaces are women.”

The latest retail establishment to see union activity is a Trader Joe’s market in western Massachusetts. Workers at the Trader Joe’s store in Hadley, Mass. have filed for a union election to represent the store’s 85 employees, the first attempt to unionize a workplace in a chain that has some 500 locations and 50,000 employees nationwide. According to The New York Times (6/8) the Hadley workers have formed an independent union, Trader Joe’s United, rather than affiliate with a national labor organization.

A call to reevaluate the existing labor laws and employers reaction to the current labor upsurge is the subject of a new report by the Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (6/8). The report finds that “American workers are taking actions through union organizing, strikes, and other forms of collective action to address their pent-up demand for achieving a stronger voice and representation at work. But their actions are making clear to the American public the obstacles workers face in forming unions under the election procedures provided in current U.S. labor law.”

The research faculty at the University of Washington’s three campuses have voted, by a margin of  606 to 104, to unionize, reports Portside (6/10). The union, Researchers United, will become part of UAW Local 4121 and will represent 1,450 employees of the university.The new wave of university unionization now counts some 100,000 academic employees at over 40 universities and colleges across the country. (Pvortside, 6/13)

The moves at Starbucks to fire and harass employees who support the union’s organizing drives, sporadic at first, has now moved into high gear in Colorado, according to a report by Judith Kohler in the Denver Post (6/16). As workers at the store  in the Cherry Creek shopping district became the seventh in the state to vote for a union, five people from stores across the state were fired or disciplined for union activities, said the union, Workers United. Since firing a worker for union activities is illegal under the labor laws, the company always creates a pretext. A worker at a Starbucks store in Denver, for example, dropped some food on the counter before putting it in a bag and was fired three weeks later for what Starbucks says was an infraction. With labor laws laxly enforced by the NLRB and the courts since the days of Ronald Reagan, the companies have largely been getting away with it. But the labor friendly Biden administration has appointed NLRB members more friendly to union organizing and companies are now relying on the courts and Republican-appointed conservative judges for favorable rulings. Often the companies simply offer motions for delays so that workers, facing food, housing and financial insecurity, simply move on to other jobs. Workers United now says that some 200 complaints have been filed across the country as more Starbucks stores have voted to unionize.