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:
Labor Movement Defeats Right to Work in New Hampshire: The New Hampshire state House of Representatives voted June 3 to indefinitely postpone the proposed “right to work” bill, delivering a crucial win for the labor movement. Dozens of New Hampshire union members and leaders gathered along the road leading up to the NH Sportsplex in Bedford, where the New Hampshire House of Representatives session was being held temporarily for two days. Union members gathered to urge lawmakers to vote NO on S.B. 61, a right to work bill. “The New Hampshire AFL-CIO applauds the New Hampshire House of Representatives for voting to indefinitely postpone S.B. 61, harmful legislation that would have made the Granite State the first ‘right to work’ state in the Northeast,” New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett (IBEW) said in a statement. “Our labor unions have fought for more than a century to ensure that collective bargaining agreements in the Granite State consist of some of the best union wages, benefits, and jobsite protections in the country. We are extraordinarily grateful for the lawmakers who made the decision today to side with us and our workers.”
Pavement Owner Agrees to Recognize Union, Moves Toward Cafe Becoming State’s First Union Coffee Shop: Ownership at Pavement Coffeehouse has agreed to formally recognize an ongoing unionization effort at the cafe chain with the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE, based on a majority of cards indicating employees’ intent to form a union. If successful, Pavement would become the first coffee shop in Massachusetts to unionize. The company plans to agree to a card-check by a neutral arbitrator and abide by the result. Mitch Fallon, the communications and political director for the New England Joint Board UNITE HERE, said a committee of employees has now secured a majority of union cards. The workers are fighting for a pay raise, an audit of all salaries, increased mental health resources and break time, and more transparency and involvement around management decisions like COVID-19 health protocols. “Assuming that they’re true to their word and we continue to follow down a good path with management,” Fallon said in an article with WGBH, one of Boston’s local NPR stations. “That’s the picture of how unionization is in a lot of places across the country,” said Fallon. “And so we’re really happy that here in Boston we do support unions, and companies like Pavement are recognizing that and making sure that democracy can be found inside of its workplace.”
Southern Maine Public Transit Workers Form Union with ATU: Drivers, mechanics and other staff at Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach Transit (BSOOB Transit) in Maine have unionized with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 714. Some 32 transit drivers, mechanics and other staff joined Local 714 and will soon be negotiating their first contract. “We’re very excited that BSOOB Transit workers voted overwhelmingly to go with ATU, and we look forward to helping them get whatever they want to achieve in their first contract,” said Mike Frager, vice president of Local 714. “As our members in Portland and Bangor can tell you, being part of a union is the best way to achieve better wages, improve working conditions and gain more power in the workplace.”
Staff at the Atlantic Overwhelmingly Vote to Unionize: Writers, producers, fact-checkers, editors, engineers and art directors overwhelmingly voted to form a union with The NewsGuild of New York (TNG-CWA). Management has already agreed to voluntarily recognize the new union. The union's mission statement says: “Over the course of a year marked by uncertainty and isolation, the employees of The Atlantic have come together in solidarity to imagine our shared future. We have faith in our leadership, but in a time of upheaval in our industry and nation, we also wish to ensure that all of the staffers who contribute to The Atlantic’s successes are justly rewarded for their labor and free to speak their mind on matters of concern.”
Nevada AFL-CIO Wins Landmark Legislation Strengthening Workers’ Rights: The Nevada Legislature came to a close the weekend of May 29–30. Nevada’s labor movement fought tooth and nail for legislation that will better the lives of all Nevada workers. Nevada's unions worked tirelessly to pass transformative legislation, including ending contractor misclassification (A.B. 227), allowing home care workers to fight for better working conditions (S.B. 340), and ensuring that those who lost jobs due to COVID-19 were able to return to work (S.B. 386). “I’m proud to join our affiliated unions in the work to pass legislation that will benefit their members and all working Nevadans. Nevada is union strong, and this session shows that!” said Rusty McAllister (IAFF), Nevada State AFL-CIO executive secretary-treasurer.
Landmark Victory for IAM Local 701 and Illinois Auto Technicians: Machinists (IAM) Local 701 achieved a landmark victory at the end of the 2021 Illinois legislative session with the passage of Illinois H.B. 3940. IAM member and Illinois state Rep. Lawrence Walsh sponsored this legislation calling for fair payment for warranty repairs done by Illinois auto technicians. The issues raised in H.B. 3940 were identified by Local 701 more than three years ago after reviewing franchise agreement laws in California and Wisconsin. Currently, auto technicians are paid in warranty and non-warranty retail rates. Once this legislation is signed into law, it will help the entire Illinois auto industry by forcing manufacturers to compensate dealerships at the retail rate for all warranty repairs. Auto technicians represented by Local 701 are guaranteed to get this retail rate. They will fight to organize other nonunion technicians throughout the state of Illinois so they can obtain the same retail rate as IAM Local 701 members.
Urban Institute Staff Win Voluntary Recognition: The Urban Institute Employees' Union (UIEU), an affiliate of the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU), won voluntary recognition from management. The UIEU Organizing Committee said: “The formation of our union is rooted in our commitment to improving the Urban Institute’s principles as a workplace and research institution. We are thrilled that Urban has voluntarily recognized the Urban Institute Employees' Union and look forward to getting to the bargaining table to strengthen the voices of all workers at Urban and ensure that it is an inclusive and nurturing workplace for all its employees.”
Oregon Working People Win Big at the Ballot Box: Oregon's labor movement saw overwhelming success in recent legislative elections. More than 65% of candidates endorsed by Oregon's central labor councils won their races. Nearly half of the endorsed candidates were current or former members of unions. A number were also graduates of the Oregon Labor Candidate School. Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor (IBEW) said: “It is truly inspiring to see so many union members and working people in every corner of our state take time from their busy lives to run for office and be willing to commit to public service. We have always known that when working people vote, working people win. [This] election in Oregon takes that idea a step further and will inspire more working Oregonians to step up and run for office as well.”
UFCW Local 7 Cannabis Workers Ratify First Union Contract: Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 who work at Ohmgro Pure Fire Cannabis Dispensary in Gunnison, Colorado, recently ratified their first union contract. These workers joined UFCW in February because they wanted better wages, an annual raise structure and health care benefits. The three-year contract addresses those issues and includes annual wage increases, improved health care benefits, several paid holidays and a pension. “When workers recognize their true value and their own solidarity, they win! We are honored to have the privilege to represent workers at Pure Fire Cannabis,” said UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova.
Staff at Independent L.A. Bookstore Skylight Books Join CWA: Booksellers at Skylight Books in Los Angeles voted to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The newly unionized workers seek to have management address a dozen issues, including regular staff meetings, guaranteed raises and more equitable hiring practices. Management immediately granted the union voluntary recognition. In a statement, the union said: "We appreciate that our management elected to recognize our union voluntarily, and we hope they can serve as an example for managers of other workers who wish to exercise their right to organize."
San Diego Cannabis Workers at Three Dispensaries Become First in Area to Unionize: Workers at three local dispensaries have become the first in the San Diego region to unionize, and they have ratified new contracts. More than 140 workers voted overwhelmingly to join UFCW Local 135. Todd Walters, president of the local, said: “This contract will create career jobs and promote an industry-setting standard that is needed to ensure that cannabis workers are accepted and valued. This industry-leading contract will create a new model for March and Ash employees, and other members of the industry, by providing training, educational opportunities, child care and more.”
Newsroom Workers at Longview Daily Vote for Representation by The NewsGuild-CWA: The newsroom staff at the Daily News in Longview, Washington, voted unanimously to be represented by TNG-CWA. The union will begin negotiations on a first union contract, and they are seeking higher wages and increased stability. Reporter Katie Fairbanks said: “This is something that we believe will make the newspaper stronger.”
National Nurses United Successfully Organize at Maine Medical Center: Registered nurses at Maine's biggest hospital complex, Maine Medical Center, voted to join National Nurses United (NNU), despite management's use of anti-union consultants. The nurses hope to address inadequate staffing, scheduling concerns, burnout, and lack of meal and break times, among other issues. Jane Crowley, RN, said: “We’ve made history at Maine Med. Now we are ready and excited to begin talks with hospital representatives to strengthen our voice for patients, workplace conditions and standards for the caregivers, and for our neighbors and community.”
AFSCME Celebrates as Nevada State Employees Ratify First Contract: Members of the four bargaining units at AFSCME Local 4041, representing 20,000 state employees, overwhelmingly voted "yes" to ratify their first contract with the state of Nevada on May 16. Members of Local 4041 continue to provide essential services to Nevadans during the pandemic, serving in front-line positions. “Throughout the pandemic, Nevada public service workers risked everything to deliver vital public services needed to crush the virus, while also using their collective voice to advocate for the American Rescue Plan, which includes a multibillion-dollar investment in Nevada communities,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “This contract gives Nevada state employees the respect they deserve. The next step must be for Congress to extend that same respect to all public service workers nationwide, empowering them with collective bargaining rights by passing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.”
Colorado AFL-CIO Welcomes Ski Patrollers to CWA: The Colorado AFL-CIO welcomes the newest addition to our union family as Breckenridge ski patrollers voted to unionize with the CWA. The Colorado Sun recently reported: “The increasing cost of living in and around ski towns—coupled with stagnant wages, year-round workloads and the increasingly corporate ski area ownership model in the rapidly consolidating resort industry—has buoyed recent efforts for unionization of ski patrollers.” Patrollers at Vail Resorts-owned Breckenridge are joining union patrollers in Crested Butte, Steamboat, Telluride, Utah’s Park City and Washington’s Stevens Pass, who are all part of the United Professional Ski Patrols of America, a chapter of the CWA. “The company says they view us as professionals, and I believe that. But then decisions come around and (when) it’s time to treat us like professionals, our concerns are superseded by other concerns,” said Ryan Anderson, an eight-year patroller at Breckenridge. “It feels like first responders always end up on the back burner.”
ACLU Staff United Forms with NPEU: Workers at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have organized as ACLU Staff United, associated with the NPEU, IFPTE Local 70. ACLU voluntarily recognized the new union. In a statement, ACLU Staff United said: “We appreciate that we can now get to the bargaining table to create a better, stronger ACLU for the members of our bargaining unit. We formed this union to ensure workers have a voice on important decisions about our work environment, to promote transparency and accountability, and to ensure equity in our workplace. This is just the beginning of our work and we look forward to speaking more with our bargaining unit members about their priorities and negotiating a contract with ACLU management.”
Idaho State AFL-CIO and the Idaho NewsGuild Join Forces to Win a First Contract: The Idaho State AFL-CIO joined the effort of the Idaho NewsGuild to win a first union contract at the Idaho Statesman, Idaho’s largest newspaper. In the first few hours of a public pressure campaign, the Idaho NewsGuild generated more than 50 letters to newspaper executives to push back against unilateral changes the company has imposed. “We’re going to do what we can to help these folks at the Idaho Statesman,” said Idaho State AFL-CIO President Joe Maloney (IBEW) after a Zoom meeting with activists from the newspaper and area union leaders. “They need justice, and we’re ready to help them get what they need.”
Alaska AFL-CIO Elects Slate of Union Member Candidates: Two union member candidates, Dora Wilson with Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1547 and Carl Jacobs with AFSCME Local 52, and one union-endorsed candidate, Pat Higgins, swept the field in Anchorage city and school board elections this week. Another union-endorsed candidate, Kelly Lessens, is headed to a recount. In addition, in the Anchorage mayoral race, Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 1959 member Forrest Dunbar secured one of two slots for the runoff election on May 11. “This emphasizes what we already know. Anchorage is a union town, and it supports working people. Our candidates ran on pro-educator and pro-union platforms. We’re excited to see what these elected officials will do for our educators, our students and our community,” said Alaska AFL-CIO Political Director Kim Hays (UFCW).
Northern Colorado Central Labor Council Elects Several Worker Champions in Fort Collins: The Northern Colorado Central Labor Council endorsed five candidates running for positions in the Fort Collins city elections held April 6. The council is happy to report that four of the five worker-endorsed candidates won. These candidates not only interviewed with council leadership but also submitted responses to the council’s labor questionnaire, which included questions on local labor issues affecting our members in northern Colorado. We also asked for their positions on the needs and challenges of affordable housing, livable wage and transportation issues all Coloradans face in Fort Collins. “We now have a mayor and three seats of the City Council occupied by pro-labor candidates. The power of labor and the voice of working women and men are winning elections and improving working conditions for our members,” said Kevin Caffrey (SMART), president of the Northern Colorado Central Labor Council.
Thurston-Lewis-Mason Counties Labor Council Wins Hazard Pay in Olympia, Washington: Thanks to the work of Washington’s labor movement, Olympia grocery stores are coming under a new ordinance requiring them to pay their employees $4 more per hour in hazard pay beginning next month. The ordinance, which the City Council passed unanimously on April 13, is intended to recognize the risks grocery workers face during the COVID-19 pandemic. The hazard pay requirement lasts as long as Washington is under a state of emergency as declared by the governor, with the opportunity to revisit the policy in four months. Speaking of the win, Steve Segall, vice president of Thurston-Lewis-Mason Counties Labor Council and member of AFSCME Council 28, said: “Local government is in a unique position to recognize the sacrifices made by workers during the pandemic and have the power to act to protect essential workers, their families and our communities. We appreciate the city of Olympia taking this action.”
Portland Museum of Art Workers Join UAW: Some 35 workers at the Portland Museum of Art voted to join the UAW. Local 2110 President Maida Rosenstein said: "We're very hopeful that it will be a new chapter, and with the museum, we will begin preparing very soon to go into collective bargaining negotiations, which is the whole point of unionizing."
California Labor Federation Wins Rehire Rights for Hospitality and Business Services Industry Workers: After much advocacy from the California Labor Federation, Gov. Gavin Newsom on April 16 signed legislation to create a statewide policy for the rehiring of workers laid off amid the COVID-19 pandemic, bolstering the state’s efforts to ensure an equitable recovery. S.B. 93 requires employers in the hospitality and business services industries to offer new positions for similar work to employees laid off during the pandemic within five days of creating a position. The employee must have been employed for more than six months in the 12 months preceding Jan. 1, 2020, and have been laid off for non-disciplinary reasons related to the pandemic. The California Labor Federation celebrated the win in a tweet: “BREAKING: Gov. Gavin Newsom just signed rehire rights legislation to ensure hospitality workers laid off during COVID are able to return to the job. Huge victory! Thank you to all the UNITE HERE workers who fought so hard to make this happen. And thank you Governor!”
New York Times Tech Workers Join NewsGuild: Tech workers for the New York times have formed a new union, the Tech Times Guild, that will represent more than 650 workers. The new union requested voluntary recognition. The Tech Times Guild posted on Twitter: “As of now, we face a number of challenges, including sudden or unexplained termination, opaque promotion processes, unpaid overtime, and underinvestment in diverse representation. Without a union, we lack the data or bargaining rights to address these issues.”
WGAE Reaches Strike-Ending Agreement: In April, we reported in our Daily Brief newsletter that writers for the television show "The Chase" had gone on strike. Today, we are glad to report that a settlement has been reached to end the strike. The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and ITV Entertainment issued a joint statement. “ITV Entertainment and the WGAE are pleased to have come to terms for writers on ‘The Chase’ to be represented by the WGAE and for the show to be covered by the Minimum Basic Agreement,” the statement said. “We are in agreement that fair and positive work practices are essential to our industry and that, especially during the ongoing battle of the pandemic, the priority is to keep production going and to ensure that people can do their work and build sustainable careers. We are glad to have come to terms and that the process is completed.”
Bath Iron Works Employees in Maine Secure New Contract: Workers at Bath Iron Works in Maine signed a new three-year contract that includes numerous improvements for 200 administrative and clerical workers, who are represented by the IAM. The new contract includes annual 3% pay increases and improved accident and sickness benefits. Local S7 President Jessica Chubbuck-Goodwin said: “The success of these negotiations was due in large part to the hard work and dedication of the Local S7 negotiating committee, the solidarity of the hardworking members of Local S7, and the support and leadership from Machinists District 4.”
Staff at Animal Legal Defense Fund Join NPEU: A supermajority of eligible staff at the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) voted to join the NPEU, IFPTE Local 70. “Despite ALDF management’s attempts to bust the staff’s union,” said interim President Katie Barrows, “the employees prevailed in exercising their workplace right to join together in union. This victory highlights the power of strong worker organizing. We are so proud of ALDF United and are excited to support them as they begin negotiating to make ALDF an even better organization.”