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:
Michigan Medical Techs Vote 92% YES to Join Michigan Nurses Association: A group of medical professionals in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan voted on June 27 to form a union with the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA). The techs at UP Health System–Marquette voted to join the union, with 92% voting yes. It was a 159–13 count vote, according to a press release from MNA. The techs are the third group of health care workers to unionize in the Upper Peninsula since the start of the pandemic. They were preceded by nurses at Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital and health care professionals at the Chippewa County Health Department. Both groups voted to become a part of the union within the last year. “The past year of COVID crisis has really brought us together and shown us how much stronger we are when we are united,” said Kerri Beckman, a medical technologist at UPHS–Marquette. “We all need each other to keep moving forward. With a union, we will be able to retain quality employees to make sure that we can always provide the kind of patient care our community deserves.”
Mission Nurses in Asheville, N.C., Ratify First Union Contract: Registered Nurses at the HCA Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, ratified their first union contract. The nurses, represented by National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United, secured a series of gains in the new contract, including wage increases of up to 17%, patient care protections, guaranteed breaks, a ban on mandatory overtime, hospital-provided personal protective equipment and testing, workplace violence prevention, the creation of a diversity committee and more. “This pact provides substantial measures to ensure nurses have a stronger voice for safe staffing, new health and safety measures for a safer hospital, and economic improvements to keep the bedrock nurses our community needs, at the bedside," said Mission RN Sarah Duvall.
Utah State AFL-CIO Applauds Salt Lake City Workers’ Wage Increases: The Utah State AFL-CIO applauded Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and the Salt Lake City Council for recognizing the value of the city’s dedicated and highly skilled union workers. Mendenhall recognized law enforcement officers, firefighters and all the city’s workers, and used the event to announce an agreement with AFSCME members for a 4.5% pay increase. “I am thankful for the leadership of Mayor Mendenhall. She gets it,” said Utah State AFL-CIO President Jeff Worthington (BLET/IBT). “She knows the value of the diverse and professional workforce who make Salt Lake City a world-class community.”
Laborers Local 942 Members at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home Fight Back Against Low Wages: On June 11, Laborers (LIUNA) Local 942 members and supporters joined together to take action in front of the Fairbanks Pioneer Home. NANA Management Services has recently proposed wages for new employees at about $13 per hour, far less than local fast-food restaurants are offering for new employees. During the action, the rallying cry was simple: “Subpar wages equals subpar care!” Local 942 organizer John Corbett said, “Our members take care of individuals who paved the way for our town. They deserve to be taken care of by working people who receive good wages. To do anything else would go against what our community stands for.” Scott Eickholt, business manager for Local 942, had this to say: “With the recent fight for $15, our expectations are reasonable. I’d invite any of NANA’s management to come to Fairbanks and try to raise their family on even $15 per hour. These workers are expected to have the skills to serve safe meals and clean for our elders, to the highest standard. The least they can ask for is the wage NANA is currently paying while we negotiate to memorialize the standard.” Eickholt recommends anyone interested in supporting the members of Local 942 in their fight to call NANA Management Services at 907-458-2229 and tell them to pay a fair wage to their dedicated employees.
Colorado AFL-CIO Passes Landmark Agricultural Workers’ Rights Bill: The Colorado AFL-CIO successfully worked for passage of the Agricultural Workers’ Rights Bill into law. Colorado’s governor signed the bill giving agricultural employees the same rights as all other workers, including the right to unionize and be paid at least the state’s minimum wage. The signing took place after months of the Colorado AFL-CIO working day and night to lobby representatives. Senate Bill 87 removes agricultural employers and their workers as an exemption under the state’s Labor Peace Act, which would allow agricultural workers to form and join labor unions with the right to collectively bargain for pay and working conditions. Dennis Dougherty, executive director of the Colorado AFL-CIO, addressed the crowd at the June 25 bill signing. “It’s about time! It is about time! I am so proud to be standing in front of you today, and to the agricultural workers throughout this state: We see you; we hear you; the Colorado AFL-CIO loves you. We have painters, electricians and nurses here, all in solidarity with our farmworker brothers and sisters. Thank you so much. Thank you to the sponsors. Thank you to the governor, the amazing coalition that made this happen and, again, the agricultural workers—the 30,000 that now have the ability to join together to collectively bargain. We welcome you with open arms. It’s a great day. Thank you.”
Workers at Change.org Win Voluntary Recognition to Form a Union with CWA: On June 30, workers at Change.org, a global platform that empowers people to start and win campaigns that address pressing issues in their lives and communities, announced they have formed a union, Solidarity at Change, with the Communications Workers of America’s (CWA’s) CODE-CWA project. A strong majority of some 70 eligible Change.org workers in the United States voted for the union, and Change.org’s management has voluntarily recognized the group. “During the pandemic, I was just grateful to have a job,” Erni Poché told NPR. Poché is an associate campaigner at Change.org in New York City, where she says she has to work a second job to make ends meet. “I live in New York City. That [salary] doesn't go a long way.” Workers like her also are calling for increased diversity among the organization’s leadership. The new bargaining unit, called Solidarity at Change, will be a part of CWA Local 9410 in San Francisco. Change.org workers in Canada are also organizing with CWA Canada. They have filed for certification under the Canada Labour Code; it is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks.
American Jewish World Service Union Wins Voluntary Recognition: Workers at American Jewish World Service (AJWS) recently formed the AJWS Union, which has secured voluntary recognition. AJWS is a leading global Jewish human rights organization. The AJWS Union is affiliated with Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 153. “My colleagues and I are excited to have joined together to form the AJWS Union,” said Hannah Fajer, a spokesperson for the union. “Every day, we uplift our core values of dignity, humility, inclusivity, accountability, and courage. We are proud to work for a progressive human rights organization that supports labor rights, and we are eager to further align AJWS’s internal practices with the organizational values that drive our work around the globe.”
Kenosha Council Passes Resolution Supporting American Jobs Plan: On June 14, the Kenosha City Council in Wisconsin passed a resolution in support of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan. The Kenosha County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council supported the resolution, which was introduced by Alderman Curt Wilson, a UAW retiree. The council voted 16–1 on the resolution that backs the $2.3 trillion proposal. Wilson said the city has a number of infrastructure projects that could potentially benefit from funding in the jobs plan, including highway extensions, street and sidewalk improvements, Lake Michigan shoreline improvements, improvements at city parks and upgrading the city water utility infrastructure. “The president’s American Jobs Plan will help municipalities and communities like ours all over the country,” Wilson said, adding that the plan takes into consideration not only a wide range of infrastructure needs but also the creation of “good-paying jobs for hundreds of thousands of Americans, and more.”
UFCW Workers at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls Reach Contract Agreement: Workers at the Smithfield Foods pork processing plant who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 304A reached an agreement on a new contract. The new contract includes increased wages, a bonus, guaranteed break time, an optional three-week leave of absence and other benefits. “With this new contract, meatpacking workers are sending a powerful message that it is time for every company in the industry to step up and recognize the incredible sacrifices made and danger faced by these front-line workers who helped millions of Americans put food on the table during this health crisis,” said B.J. Motley, president of UFCW Local 304A. “Today’s new contract for Smithfield meatpacking workers in Sioux Falls provides the strong pay and benefits that these brave men and women have earned on the front lines of this pandemic. In the past year, these South Dakota essential workers put their own health at risk every day to keep our food supply secure.”
Zara Workers Join UFCW: Workers at Zara in Connecticut voted to be represented by UFCW Local 19. More than 40 workers voted for the union because they wanted a voice in the workplace. “Zara has proven to be an upstanding employer, honoring a well established and well respected neutrality agreement,” said Local 919 Secretary-Treasurer Jason Dokla. “We look forward to fruitful negotiations on our new members behalf!”
MSNBC Employees Vote for Representation with Writers Guild of America, East: About 315 workers at MSNBC, including producers, bookers, writers and fact checkers have organized with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). A clear majority of employees signed a letter seeking voluntary recognition, but management has requested a full vote. “We as journalists believe that democracy works, as a nation, state, country, city or in a workplace; things work better when policies are made with input from the people,” said Andrew Joyce, a lead organizer and segment producer at “The Rachel Maddow Show.”
Catalist Workers Win Voluntary Recognition: Staffers at Catalist, a firm that provides data and related services to progressive causes, have formed the Catalist Union, affiliated with CWA. Management agreed to voluntarily recognize the union. Negotiations on the union's first collective bargaining agreement will begin soon. “All of us who work there really hold the values that a unionized workforce is a better workforce,” said Faith Davenport, a data services engineer. “We really look forward to banding together as workers to create a union ourselves and use that to collectively strengthen Catalist so that we can better serve the progressive movement.”