Raising Standards for the Tech Industry: Worker Wins

Despite the challenges of organizing during a deadly pandemic, working people across the country (and beyond) continue organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life. This edition begins with:

Tech Workers Union Local 1010 Launched to Raise Standards for Tech Industry: Workers in the tech industry will get a boost with the launch of Tech Workers Union Local 1010, a new initiative from the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU). The new local's mission is to raise industry standards and provide tech workers with a better future. OPEIU President Richard Lanigan said: “OPEIU has been investing resources in supporting tech workers as they organize to gain rights and raise standards in the workplace for many years, but now we’re focusing and strengthening that effort by having an organization dedicated to, created for and run by tech workers who understand the unique challenges facing the industry. We’re proud to be building solidarity with working people across the sector so together we can ensure tech workers have a strong voice in their workplaces.”

Emily's List Employees Win Voluntary Recognition from Management: Workers at Emily's List have joined OPEIU and secured voluntary recognition after a card-check process. Contract negotiations will begin soon and the new union, officially OPEIU Local 2, will seek open and protected discussions about race and inequality in the workplace, salary and promotion transparency and other protections. Samantha Bauman, an organizer at Emily's List, said: “I’m inspired by my colleagues who organized during one of the most consequential elections in our lifetimes and during a pandemic. Unionized workspaces empower employees. Voluntary recognition is a huge achievement and I look forward to what comes next.”

ACLU Staff United Votes to Join Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU): A supermajority of workers at ACLU voted to form ACLU Staff United, an affiliate of NPEU. They are requesting voluntary recognition and intend to focus on staffing diversity and a clear and equitable process for salaries, benefits, promotions and layoffs. In a statement, the Organizing Committee of ACLU Staff United said: “Every day, the workers of the ACLU work tirelessly to defend all of our rights. Today we have formally asked management for the support we need to do our job by forming ACLU Staff United. We are proud to carry on the ACLU’s 100-year legacy of supporting the rights of employees to unionize and bargain collectively. The ACLU began with our founders taking action to fight the anti-union crusades of the 1920s. As the workers of the ACLU of today, we believe in our mission, the work we do, and each other. We believe that the principles and values we promote and defend through that work should govern our offices as well: justice, equity, transparency, cooperation, and respect. To that end, we have come together to represent, support, engage and empower all ACLU workers.”

Housing Works Employees Form a Union with RWDSU-UFCW: More than 600 workers across all Housing Works locations in New York City voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) by an overwhelming margin on Dec. 23. This organizing victory was the largest union election in New York in 2020 and marked the end of two years of organizing by the workers for fair representation and a seat at the table. Housing Works is a nonprofit that works with people living with and affected by HIV or AIDs and homelessness, and the workers in the bargaining unit handle maintenance, legal work, casework, social work, health care and retail at Housing Works facilities. “We’re proud to finally and officially welcome the 605 workers employed by Housing Works into our union,” said RWDSU-UFCW President Stuart Appelbaum. “These workers experienced a needlessly long fight to unionize their workplace. Their tenacity and fortitude never wavered in this unnecessarily long process, which was stalled by their employer at every turn. Together, they are ready to win a strong contract that will only enhance their ability to care for the Housing Works community.”

USW Strike at Constellium Ends with New 5-Year Contract: A strike of United Steelworkers (USW) who work at Constellium in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, ended after the members ratified a five-year contract with 15% raises, the elimination of wage tiers, seniority protections and other wins. The strike began on Dec. 15 when USW Local 200 went on strike after months of negotiations failed.

Crescent City Nurses Join California Nurses Association (CNA): With a vote of 85%, registered nurses at Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City, California, voted to join CNA, an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU). The new unit is negotiating for safer staffing, a collective voice in patient care conditions, workplace violence protections, proper infectious disease controls and other health and safety protections. Niki Pope, an RN at Sutter Coast, said: “We are thrilled to be joining our 8,000 Sutter RN colleagues to bring a unified voice for advocating for safe patient care for our patients here in Crescent City, as well as throughout the Sutter system, which is even more critical in the midst of this deadly pandemic.”

Google Workers, Demanding Change at Work, Are Launching a Union with CWAWorkers at Google and other Alphabet companies announced the creation of the Alphabet Workers Union, with support from the Communications Workers of America (CWA)—the first of its kind in the company’s history. It will be the first union open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company, with dues-paying members, an elected board of directors and paid organizing staff. The new union is part of CWA’s Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA) project, and workers will be members of CWA Local 1400. It follows successful union drives by other Google workers—like HCL Technologies contract workers in Pittsburgh and cafeteria workers now with UNITE HERE in the San Francisco Bay Area—as well as unions formed by workers at other tech companies like Kickstarter and Glitch. “We are a democratic, member-driven union, with experience building and sustaining worker power at some of America’s largest corporations,” said Local 1400 President Don Trementozzi. “This is a historic step toward making lasting improvements for workers at Google and other Alphabet companies.”

Live TV Musicians Ratify Contract with Streaming Residuals for the First Time: Members of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) who perform live music for shows on ABC, CBS and NBC have ratified a new contract that provides streaming residuals for the first time. The contract covers musicians who appear on live shows that are streamed, including house bands, guest artists, backing musicians and others who work in the preparation of musical performances on the shows. Ray Hair, president of AFM, said that the win “is a fundamental, structural contract change that would not have been possible without the solidarity, activism, hard work, and enormous time investment of all involved in the negotiations, including musicians who created the #RespectUs campaign to highlight the inequities in their contract. I am thankful for the steadfast commitment of the Federation’s negotiating team towards protecting and improving the benefits our great musicians receive for their talented contributions to the television industry.”

New Jersey's Garden State Parkway Toll Collectors Win New Contract with Wage Increases: International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 196 members who work as toll collectors and other jobs unanimously approved new contracts with the New Jersey Turnpike Authority. The new contracts provide wage increases, back pay and other benefits. Chapter 1 of Local 196 represents toll collectors and maintenance workers. Chapter 12 represents technicians and craft persons.Members of both locals have ratified the contract, he said. The old contract expired in 2019 and has roots back to a contract agreed to in 2011.

New Jersey Meals on Wheels Delivery Drivers Win New Contract: After a two-and-a-half year organizing drive, 80 drivers who deliver Meals on Wheels for the South Jersey Transportation Authority have voted to be represented by IFPTE. The divers are mostly African American women and are considered essential employees who deliver Meals on Wheels, shuttle seniors to doctors and other related tasks. The drivers unanimously ratified their first contract. “This victory could not have been possible without the assistance provided by New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech [IUOE],” said President Sean P. McBride of IFPTE Local 196.

Staff at Queens Defenders Join Growing Trend of Unionized Public Defenders: Some 70 staffers at Queens Defenders in New York city joined the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys (UAW Local 2325), becoming the fourth of the city's public defender agencies to unionize. A number of other New York metropolitan-area nonprofit legal groups have also joined UAW recently. The staffers have asked for voluntary recognition from management. “A lot of offices have unionized and we were becoming one of the outliers. This helps us negotiate with the city for fair pay and reasonable caseloads and to be able to represent our clients better,” said staff attorney Christopher Van Zele. In addition to negotiating for their first contract, the lawyers and social workers will be seeking more organizational transparency and diversity in hiring and management.

More Than 100 Registered Nurses in Washington State Organize with IAM: More than 110 registered nurses (RNs) from CHI Franciscan Hospice Care Center in University Place, Washington, joined hands to vote to join the Machinists (IAM) by an 82% majority. Just two and a half weeks earlier, their co-workers who work as master social workers and bereavement counselors at the same facility chose the IAM as well. "I couldn’t be happier for these nurses and healthcare professionals who worked so hard to join the Machinists Union and have a seat at the table," said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. "I am so proud of this organizing team that helped these workers join together and have their voices heard.”