Almost 250 Refresco workers in New Jersey, mostly Latin American immigrants, voted in June to join jjhe United Electrical Workers union (UE). Their victory was the largest National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) win in the U.S. by a group of blue-collar workers in the first half of 2021, and came over a year after workers at the plant staged a walkout to protest the utter disregard for their safety shown by management during the pandemic.
The union win came, according to UE, after years of abusive treatment by supervisors, low wages, paltry benefits, sexual harassment, an unforgiving attendance system that penalizes workers for getting sick, and constant schedule changes.
An indication of the new awareness of workers to the values of belonging to a union is the way workers in small shops have begun to unionize. One recent example of this is the vote of 39 employees at Greenlight Bookstores’ two locations and Yours Truly Stationery store, all in Brooklyn, NY to join the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union. The co-owner of Greenlight says that they will “voluntarily recognize the union.” Several other bookstores in the New York City area have already voted to join RWDSU over the past two years.
In a similar action, workers at Colectivo Café in Milwaukee, closely voted for a union, Local 494 of the International Union of Electrical Workers. However, the closeness of the vote will make contract negotiations with the company difficult.
One of the reasons for the expansion of charter schools over the past couple of decades is the desire of states and local cities to get around the heavily unionized teachers in public schools. But charter school staffs are increasingly organizing in the face of the work loads and other undesirable conditions in many chartrer schools. In one of the latest actions on this front is the vote of the 142 teachers in North Bend, Oregon’s virtual charter school, Virtual Academy, to join the state’s American Federation of Teachers.
Who Gets the Bird, 8/2-19/2021