A Voice in How Employees Are Treated: Worker Wins

Registered nurses at Del Sol Medical Center and Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso

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:

Every Texan United Members Ratify First Union Contract: Every Texan United, the staff union of Every Texan, ratified their first union contract after a 15-month process. Management recognized the union in February 2020. Union Member Katie Martin Lightfoot said: "Every Texan’s contract shows how partnership between unionized workers and management helps us live our values and advance our mission. "We’re excited to see more Texas nonprofits organizing their workplaces and we hope our contract can help raise the bar for our sector here and across the country."

Employees at Code for America Join OPEIU: Code for America workers signed authorization cards to indicate their effort to unionize with the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 1010 in order to advocate for better compensation and improved promotion policies, among other goals. Ash Camp, an organizer and Code for America employee, said: "A union gives independent contributors a seat at the table. Unionizing allows us to rethink the barrier between staff and management, so that regular staff can have a meaningful say in decisions that affect them and benefit the organization collectively."

El Paso Registered Nurses Ratify Contract: Registered nurses at Del Sol Medical Center and Las Palmas Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, have approved by an overwhelming margin a new collective bargaining agreement with HCA Healthcare, the large hospital chain that operates the medical centers. The new three-year contract announced today by National Nurses Organizing Committee-Texas/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) will strengthen COVID-19 safety measures and provide increased economic security for some 650 registered nurses at the two hospitals. “This is a very solid contract that addresses significant health and safety protections for nurses and our patients,” said Las Palmas registered nurse Juan Anchondo. “These protections have been a very high priority following the pandemic crisis our nurses and our community have gone through over the past year.” The ratification follows a tentative agreement last week for HCA RNs at two medical centers in Brownsville, Texas, and new contracts in recent weeks at HCA hospitals in Florida and North Carolina.

Whitney Museum Workers Vote for Representation with UAW: Workers at New York's Whitney Museum voted to join UAW Local 2110 in a 96-1 vote. The nearly 200 workers covered by the union launched their drive in May, citing a lack of job security. The Whitney agreed to voluntarily recognized the union in June, but the workers claim that management refused to recognize more than 50 workers as part of the union. In a message on Instagram, the union said: "We are looking forward to sitting down with Whitney Museum leadership to start the bargaining process. Celebrations ahead!"

Wyoming Democratic Party Voluntarily Recognizes New Staff Union: Leadership of the Wyoming Democratic Party voted to voluntarily recognize a new staff union, becoming the 17th state Democratic Party to unionize in recent years. The new union is affiliated with the Electrical Workers (IBEW), which represents other state party workers across the country. The state party chair, Joe Barbuto, said: "To have our staff take this additional step and unionize is really terrific. So, I’m not only voluntarily recognizing the union, I’m proudly recognizing it, too."

Texas AFL-CIO Celebrates Pilgrim’s Pride Workers Voting Union YES: On Thursday, July 22, working families in Texas celebrated workers at Pilgrim’s Pride, a poultry plant in Waco, Texas, voting overwhelmingly to form a union with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 540. There are some 400 workers at the plant. Texas AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Aguilar (UA), who provided hands-on help in the closing days of the union drive, stated the following in a news release: “Congratulations also to UFCW. Polling shows tens of millions more workers in this country would join a union if they could, and UFCW organizers are making it possible for thousands of workers to do just that through their commitment to organizing in Texas. They are engaged in some of the toughest union organizing in some of the toughest places, and this victory shows that when workers fight anywhere, workers can win anywhere. It is especially appropriate this hard-won victory arrives in the middle of a national action week in which organized labor is working to pass the PRO Act,” said Aguilar.

USW Tech Workers Ratify Historic First Contract at HCL: The United Steelworkers (USW) on Thursday said that workers have ratified a first contract with Google contractor HCL America Inc., covering about 65 employees who are based in Pittsburgh. USW International President Tom Conway (not pictured) said the three-year contract improves wages, job security and working conditions. “After close to two years of hard work, patience and solidarity from our members at HCL, we are proud of what we achieved in this agreement,” Conway said. “More than ever, our struggle with HCL shows that all workers deserve the protections and benefits of a union contract.” Members of the USW bargaining committee said that HCL’s treatment of workers illustrates why unions are more important than ever and pointed out the consolidated complaint issued against the company by the National Labor Relations Board over unfair labor practices.

AFGE, VA Reach Historic Settlement, Resetting Contract Negotiations: The AFGE National VA Council (NVAC) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) have reached a historic settlement to restore workplace rights and overturn anti-worker policies implemented by the Trump administration during the past four years. The July 20 settlement also resolves pending litigation and outlines the parameters for the upcoming negotiations of the new collective bargaining agreement—the largest union contract in the federal government. “I’m proud to share that all of your work—and that of our union as a whole—has paid off in historic fashion,” said NVAC President Alma Lee (not pictured). “After four years of bad-faith negotiations and anti-worker behavior at the bargaining table, the VA has agreed to a global settlement with AFGE. We’re essentially creating a clean slate for future negotiations between the VA and AFGE, restoring Title 38 official time, and remedying the damage done by the Trump Executive Orders.”

Jobs to Move America Staff Sign First Contract: Workers at Jobs to Move America (JMA), represented by the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU), IFPTE Local 70, signed their first collective bargaining agreement, a year after JMA voluntarily recognized the union. The contract includes salary increases, guaranteed leave, formalized career advancement pathways, a robust grievance procedure and other gains. Mo-Yain Them, a union representative, said: "We are excited our first contract had every single member—from current to former staffers—contributing their insights to ensure that JMA has a thorough onboarding process, a supportive probationary period, and a strong work-life balance to help all JMA staffers achieve our mission for the long term."

Workers Win Fair Contract at Frito-Lay: For 20 days, members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 218 in Topeka, Kansas, were on strike, demanding a fair contract from Frito-Lay. The union members saw an outpouring of support from the community. And this past weekend, the union secured a new contract that made significant gains for its members. Members of the local were striking over forced overtime, which the new contract addresses. BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton (not pictured) said: “BCTGM Local 218 members employed at Frito Lay in Topeka, Kansas, have shown the world that union working people can stand up against the largest food companies in the world and claim victory for themselves, their families and their communities. More than 600 BCTGM members hit the streets in a fight for a better quality of life and to have a voice over how many hours in a week they can be forced to work.”

Members of AEMTC Win Historic Contract: For two weeks, the members of the Air Engineering Metal Trades Council (AEMTC) at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee went on strike over wages, health care, long-term disability benefits and dignity in the workplace. These members stood together in solidarity, fighting for a fair contract. After days of tough negotiations, management and the union reached a three-year agreement that includes cumulative wage increases of 9.25%, while maintaining health care coverage and the long-term disability program. The union celebrated what it said is the largest wage package in the council’s history, and this is the first time in more than 40 years that it didn’t have any givebacks. “They tell us that membership in the South has to operate smartly,” said Metal Trades Department President James Hart (UA). “The members of the AEMTC in Tennessee not only acted smart, but stood their ground, fought for what was right, and they won in their struggle for fair wages, good health care and dignity on the job.” The contract was ratified last Friday.

EcoTarium Employees Vote for Union, Despite Museum Opposition: The Worcester science museum, The EcoTarium, announced on July 8 that its workers have voted to join AFSCME Council 93, over the objections of the museum board, reported the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. The union vote was covered in a recent article in the Worcester Business Journal. “We have voted for a voice in how our museum is run and how employees are treated,” said Catrina Vear, an EcoTarium employee, in the museum’s press release. “I am proud that my teammates and I worked so hard to secure this place at the table, and we hope this will afford us safety and respect as we continue to give our very best to this museum and to the community we love. We are hopeful that the board and leadership will collaborate with staff in good faith, and realize that investing in the staff helps ensure that we carry out our mission fairly and sustainably for years to come.”

Governor’s Signing of Unemployment Reform Bill Huge Win for Working Mainers: The Maine AFL-CIO applauded Gov. Janet Mills for signing the legislation, LD 1564, An Act to Amend the Laws Governing Unemployment Compensation, into law on Tuesday. The bill will help fix the state unemployment system and strengthen our workforce training programs. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring and summer, thousands of Mainers struggled to receive unemployment benefits due to understaffing, a flood of claims and an urgent need to modernize Maine’s unemployment system. Several of those Mainers testified in support of LD 1564 during the public hearing for the bill. “This is one of the most significant and meaningful pro-worker reforms to Maine’s unemployment insurance system in decades,” said Cynthia Phinney (IBEW), president of the Maine AFL-CIO. “LD 1564 was developed with input from hundreds of Mainers we assisted during the pandemic. It will modernize Maine’s unemployment insurance program to ensure that Maine workers will receive timely and adequate unemployment benefits and that our system runs smoothly to help people get back into good-paying jobs and high-quality apprenticeship and training programs. We applaud House Speaker [Ryan] Fecteau, Sen. Eloise Vitelli and Gov. Mills for recognizing the urgent need for reform and passing this important legislation.”

USW Reaches Tentative Agreement with ATI to End Three-Month Unfair Labor Practice Strike: The USW announced on July 2 that the union has reached a tentative agreement with Allegheny Technologies Inc. (ATI) on a four-year contract covering 1,300 workers at nine facilities who have been on strike against unfair labor practices since March 30, 2021. USW International Vice President David McCall, who chairs negotiations with ATI, said that the union was able to keep pressure on management to engage at the table, thanks to the solidarity and support of the membership at all locations for the duration of six months of bargaining and three months on the picket lines. “The unity of USW members at ATI has proven that we can accomplish great things when we stand together to fight for the respect and dignity of a fair contract,” McCall said. “Despite management’s repeated attempts to divide and conquer its workers, we showed once again that our solidarity is a tremendously powerful force.” In the coming days, USW members will review the details of the proposed new contract and return-to-work agreement with their negotiating committee before a ratification vote, which will be scheduled as soon as possible. Broadly, the proposed agreement provides lump-sum payments and meaningful wage increases and maintains a premium-free health insurance plan for union members without establishing a permanent lower tier of benefits for new hires. If the proposed agreement is ratified, the recall process would begin immediately, and USW members are expected to return to work shortly after the ratification process is complete.