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:
Together, We Win: Senate Sends Postal Service Reform Act to Biden’s Desk: On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed the Postal Service Reform Act by a broadly bipartisan vote of 79-19. Together, the labor movement ensured it happened. America’s postal service unions are celebrating this landmark win to strengthen our U.S. Postal Service (USPS).
“This is a monumental victory for letter carriers and all Americans who depend on the Postal Service for affordable and high-quality universal service,” National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) President Fredric Rolando said. “I want to congratulate and thank all the NALC members who lobbied their members of Congress to win passage in the Senate and the House. Thanks to your support, dedication and action, bipartisan postal reform, that was 12 years in the making, has finally passed in both chambers.”
“It is not an exaggeration to say that this bill is one of the most critical pieces of postal legislation in modern history—the struggle to win postal reform has been 15 years in the making,” said American Postal Workers Union (APWU) Legislative and Political Director Judy Beard. “Thanks to the efforts carried out by postal workers, our sister unions, allied organizations and the American public, comprehensive postal reform is now a reality.”
“The Postal Service Reform Act repeals the burdensome 2006 mandate for the USPS to pre-fund its retiree health care benefits and aligns retiree health care with the best practices in the private sector that lower premiums for NPMHU members and our fellow postal employees as well as safeguarding benefits. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the legislation will save the federal government over $1.5 billion over the next 10 years,” National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU) National President Paul Hogrogian said. “I look forward to President Biden signing this bill into law and providing the Postal Service with much-needed fiscal stability.”
“The first overhaul of the Postal Service in more than a decade, this crucial postal reform legislation provides the Postal Service with substantial financial relief to help it remain viable well into the 21st century. I would like to personally recognize Chairman Peters, Ranking Member Portman and Majority Leader Schumer for their bipartisan efforts to get postal reform all the way to the finish line,” said National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA) President Ronnie Stutts. “I also want to thank all of the senators who voted ‘yes’ to help put America’s Postal Service on firm financial footing.”
ATU Scores Two Landslide Union Election Victories in One Day: Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 in Maryland won two separate union elections by overwhelming margins last Tuesday, showing that transit workers are fed up with being mistreated and ready to organize and fight back. Overcoming what the workers called “disgusting union-busting tactics,” Loudoun County Transit employees voted 71–2 to form a union with Local 689. And workers at James H. Duffy Co., a private school bus contractor, unanimously voted 18–0 for union representation. “Companies in this region better take notice. You can either spend thousands or millions of dollars on union busting campaigns or you can use that money to take care of your workers,” said Raymond Jackson, president and business agent for Local 689. “And for any workers at a transit company where they feel disrespected and underpaid, come meet with us, our doors are always open.”
After Three Years of Organizing, IAM Members Win First Contract: More than 100 workers at the Cascades Containerboard plant in Niagara Falls, New York, ratified their first union contract earlier this week after voting almost three years ago to form a union with the Machinists (IAM). In their long struggle for respect at the bargaining table, the IAM members at the Canadian company rallied support from across the labor movement as well as members of Congress. “I could not be more proud of these members for their solidarity, courage and dedication to get the first contract for each other,” said IAM Eastern Territory General Vice President Brian Bryant. “This has been a long time coming, and there aren’t many groups that could continue to display the solidarity and patience these members have. The longer the process has gone on, the more resolve these members have shown.”
GMG Union-WGAE Members Ratify Strong Agreement: Members of the Gizmodo Media Group (GMG) Union-Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) have won a powerful new contract, ending their six-day strike. They were the first digital media workers to organize with the WGAE, and on Wednesday, they overwhelmingly ratified a contract that achieved a long list of their goals. The new agreement covers workers at a number of popular websites owned by G/O Media, including Gizmodo, The Root and Lifehacker. “After six days of striking and four days of strong physical and virtual picket lines, our bargaining unit is thrilled to have a new contract,” the bargaining committee wrote. “Ninety-nine percent of the GMG Union voted to ratify the return-to-work agreement that raised wages for all union members, increased parental leave and minimum severance, required trans-inclusive health insurance and beat back management’s attempt to control how we spoke about our working conditions.”
Groundwork Workers Ratify First Union Contract: Workers with the Groundwork Collaborative Union ratified the first collective bargaining agreement in the company's history. With the ratification of the contract, the workers at Groundwork have secured increased pay, paid time-off, telework, promotion, hiring and other benefits. “Our members are so excited to enact this first contract as a critical step toward ensuring that staff—especially our Black and brown coworkers—are heard, supported, and valued in our workplace,” said Heather Henriquez a member of the Groundwork Collaborative Union.
Alaska Safeway Workers Secure New 3-Year Contract: The 1,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1496 that work for Carrs Safeway in Anchorage and Eagle River, Alaska, voted unanimously to approve a new contract. The new deal covers three years and includes significant pay increases, increased upward mobility and earning potential, improved access to dental and vision insurance and improved workplace safety.
Times Tech Workers Form One of the Largest Tech Unions in the Country: Tech workers at The New York Times voted to certify their new union, The Times Tech Guild, an affiliate of The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA), becoming one of the largest tech unions in the U.S. Negotiations will begin for their first contract and the workers are focused on improved pay, diversity and equity and more fairness in the workplace. The new unit represents about 600 software engineers, product managers, designers, data analysts and other workers. “We’re just elated and really soaking in what this means, not only for us as tech workers at The Times and for The New York Times but also for the tech industry as a whole,” said Nozlee Samadzadeh, a senior software engineer. “I think this is going to be the start of a wave of organizing in the tech industry.”
REI SoHo Workers in New York Overwhelmingly Vote to Join RWDSU-UFCW: Workers at the REI Co-Op in Manhattan voted with an 86% majority to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW). “History was made today! We’re excited to welcome the workers of REI SoHo into the RWDSU, marking the first-ever unionized REI store in the whole country,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU-UFCW. “These workers have vast expertise in their field and have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to serve the outdoor community. They have stuck together through a horrendous union-busting campaign and have come out the other side stronger. The workers of REI SoHo are ready to negotiate a strong contract that will allow them to uphold the co-op’s progressive values while providing the top-notch service REI customers have come to expect. With a seat at the table, workers can make working at REI safe and sustainable for years to come.” The new bargaining unit will cover more than 100 workers, including all full- and part-time sales specialists, technical specialists, visual presentation specialists, shipping and receiving specialists, certified technicians, operations leads, sales leads, and shipping and receiving leads. “I am proud to be here in this moment with my coworkers at REI SoHo as a part of this new wave of unionization efforts that is sweeping the nation,” said Claire Chang, a member of the union’s organizing committee. “As members of the RWDSU, we know we will be able to harness our collective strength to advocate for a more equitable, safe, and enriching work environment. A union is necessary for many of us to achieve more stability and security in our lives which could allow for us to explore and play more outside of work!”
New Jersey Food Processors Win New Contract That Raises Wages and Protects Benefits
UFCW Local 152: More than 70 members of UFCW Local 152 ratified a new contract with Aunt Kitty’s Foods in Vineland, N.J. Aunt Kitty’s is owned by Hanover Foods; this location produces chili and soup for other companies. The new three-year contract includes large across-the-board wage increases, protects existing health care benefits and allows members to opt in for voluntary supplemental benefits, including life and disability insurance and sickness. Members also can pay into Local 152’s fund that assists members suffering financial hardship because of illness or injury. Many members also will receive additional paid sick leave.
SAG-AFTRA Reaches Agreement with New York Public Radio Over Unfair Labor Practice Claims: In 2021, SAG-AFTRA filed an unfair labor practice claim with the National Labor Relations Board. This week they reached a settlement and SAG-AFTRA has withdrawn the claim. Provisions of the settlement include “an extension of just cause protections to reporters and on-air hosts; a one-time 3% wage increase in July 2022 for all bargaining unit employees making under $100,000 per year; enhancements to NYPR’s parental leave policy; and a resolution of claims brought by the union regarding personnel issues pertaining to individual staff members.”
BCTGM Members at Jon Donaire End Strike, Ratify New Contract: Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 37 (in Los Angeles) members on strike against Rich Products-owned Jon Donaire Desserts plant in Sante Fe, California, voted on Wednesday to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, bringing an end to the strike that began on Nov. 3, 2021. The new contract provides wage increases, maintains health care coverage and improves working conditions—demands that workers fought for. About the agreement, BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton said: “This has been a long and difficult fight for our striking members and their families. With each new day on that picket line, fighting for what they deserve, our members grew in strength, courage and determination. The Jon Donaire members made enormous sacrifices in order to achieve a fair contract that provides significant wage increases, maintains their excellent health insurance and improves working conditions. The BCTGM is grateful for the tremendous fraternal support we received from across the labor movement throughout the country—from Los Angeles to Buffalo, N.Y., the backyard of Rich Products.”
Workers at iHeartPodcast Network Secure Voluntary Recognition of New Union: After weeks of negotiation, workers at the iHeartPodcast Network have secured voluntary recognition of their new unit, which is represented by WGAE. The 110-member unit consists of writers, producers, editors and others in storytelling roles in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York. “We’re incredibly excited to win official union recognition and secure our seat at the table to bargain for appropriate wages and benefits, accountability mechanisms, and other long-standing issues for our colleagues and ourselves,” said the members of the iHeartPodcast Network Organizing Committee. “We now look forward to engaging in good-faith negotiations with the company, and are confident that this process will ensure the continued success and stability of the podcast industry.” Top priorities for the new union are raising wages and benefits to industry standard levels, job growth opportunities, job security, better working conditions and other gains. The workers will now begin negotiating their first contract.
IAM Members at Hawaiian Airlines Overwhelmingly Ratify Strong Contracts with Job Protections, Pay Raises: Some 2,500 IAM members overwhelmingly ratified strong five-year contracts with Hawaiian Airlines on Wednesday. These union members won the best job protections and largest pay raises for clerical and related agents, as well as ramp, aircraft and ground support equipment mechanics in the airline’s history. The new agreements provide significant wage increases, limit employee contributions for health care and raise mandatory overtime pay. “Our members at Hawaiian Airlines and across the transportation sector have kept the world moving through[out] this pandemic,” said Richard Johnsen, IAM’s chief of staff to the international president. “They deserved a contract that gives them the respect they have earned, and I’m proud to report that this has been accomplished.”
UFCW 7 Gets Another Victory in Colorado: The same union that led a successful strike against King Soopers in January has scored another victory for working people in Colorado and Wyoming. UFCW Local 7 reached a tentative agreement with Safeway and Albertsons stores. The contract covers 5,400 employees and will provide wage increases and substantial gains in health care, vacation and sick leave. “This agreement, which was secured without the need for a strike, ensures that workers receive paid sick leave, fair pay, a safe workplace, and access to affordable health care,” Local 7 President Kim Cordova said.
Texas National Guard Members Join Texas State Employees Union: Members of the Texas National Guard joined the Texas State Employees Union (TSEU), an affiliate of Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Texas AFL-CIO. These workers spoke up about the unacceptable working conditions the state has provided them while they have been deployed at the Texas-Mexico border. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said: “The Texas AFL-CIO welcomes Texas National Guard troops joining the Texas State Employees Union. We applaud TSEU leadership for extending its vision to help our troops address the inexcusable work environment they are navigating in ‘Operation Lone Star.’ Texas National Guard troops bravely serve our state and nation on many fronts, including disaster relief. They did not sign up for unclear assignments outside their traditional jurisdiction, late paychecks, or disruption of everyday lives and threats to mental health caused by an open-ended, politicized deployment. Members of our Texas National Guard serve with pride. They deserve better than what Gov. Greg Abbott has created—an ill-defined operation with no end in sight. All workers deserve a union. National Guard members subjected to this stunt know that using their voice together is how change happens. The Texas AFL-CIO joins with TSEU in demanding that the state respect their work in a manner consistent with their sacrifice.”
Duke University Press Workers Vote to Join The NewsGuild-CWA: After a turbulent year of organizing, workers at Duke University Press have successfully voted to join TNG-CWA. The university contested the election, but the National Labor Relations Board repeatedly denied requests for a new election. The workers are asking Duke to respect the election results and begin bargaining. The new union is seeking to negotiate a $45,000 pay floor for all employees and to improve paid medical leave and parental leave benefits.
Nurses Celebrate Step Forward for Gender Equity in California’s Workers’ Comp System: Last week, members of the California Nurses Association/NNU (CNA/NNU) applauded the California state senate for passing a bill that will ensure that nurses and other health care workers are automatically presumed to be eligible for workers’ compensation if they experience some common work-related conditions. California already has laws on the books that grant many public safety workers who are predominantly men presumptive eligibility for certain conditions. “It’s so common that nurses have to jump through hoops, while we’re sick or hurt, just to receive paid time off for illnesses or injuries that we got at work,” explained Cathy Kennedy, RN, president of CNA/NNU. “The disparity in workers’ comp protections is sexist. Our heroic first responders and law enforcement workers deserve all the protections they have. Nurses are simply asking for those same protections.”
Air Traffic Controllers in Tennessee Join NATCA: The National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) announced on Monday that workers at the John C. Tune Federal Contract Tower are joining the union. Located in West Nashville, Tennessee, John C. Tune Airport (JWN) is the busiest general aviation airport in the state. Workers at the tower serve the needs of regional, corporate and private aircraft. “JWN [workers] joined NATCA because of the dedicated and passionate members who will go above and beyond to help protect our rights and working conditions,” said JWN Facility Representative Keith Cole. “Being a part of NATCA means that we have a union that cares for its membership and is ready to fight day in and day out to protect our rights and benefits.”
Workers at Civic Tech Company Win Recognition for Wall-to-Wall Union with OPEIU: A supermajority of eligible employees at Nava PBC requested voluntary recognition of their union on Thursday, and earlier today, their employer agreed. The unit of 171 employees at the public benefit corporation organized with Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Tech Workers Union Local 1010. Workers’ goals are to promote transparency in internal company policies, ensure pay equity, increase staff well-being and retention, and to attract new talent in a highly competitive space. “As I’ve grown as a software engineer, I’ve seen the company grow by hundreds of people,” said Sharon Warner, a senior software engineer at Nava since 2016, who explained the company’s growth has made the prospect of a union contract ever more appealing. “One unfortunate side effect of that growth is the distance between workers and leadership has grown, too. Our union will provide a framework for how to scale and maintain an open, transparent culture.”
Staff at New America Vote to Join NPEU: A supermajority of staff at nonpartisan public policy think tank New America voted to join the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU). More than 60 eligible employees are covered by the new unit, which comes as the result of two years or organizing. The workers are seeking to build a more equitable and supportive workplace through improving transparency in pay and promotions, improving benefits and addressing organizational inequality related to race, gender, disability and immigration status. In a statement, New America United said: “We are all honored to work at New America and are deeply committed to its mission. We believe that a union is the best way to work towards the vision of New America we all hope to fulfill.... We are excited to begin the collective bargaining process and a new, more cooperative chapter in the path-breaking work that takes place every day at New America.”
King Soopers Workers Approve New Contract: Workers at King Supers (owned by Kroger Co.) went on a 10-day strike at the start of the year and that action led to a tentative contract that was recently approved by the workers. The new three-year contract covers 80 stores and includes $170 million in wage increases and additional health care investments. More than 95% of workers will see pay increases of $2 or more in the first year.
Credit Union Workers in Rochester Unanimously Join CWA: Workers at Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union in Rochester, New York, won voluntary union recognition last week after unanimously expressing their desire to form a union with CWA Local 1170. The workers organized as part of the Committee for Better Banks, a CWA project. Genesee Co-op regularly collaborates with unions and other organizations, to advocate for a more just financial system. “We are incredibly proud to welcome Genesee Co-op credit union workers into our union family and take steps forward to a strong contract that improves their wages and working conditions,” said John Pusloskie, president of Local 1170. “Organizing a union is no easy task, but these workers have come together with a determination to truly create a better workplace for all.” He praised the credit union for respecting its workers’ right to form a union.
National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) Players Ratify First Union Contract: Members of the NWSL Players Association ratified the first collective bargaining agreement in NWSL history. The new contract includes increased salaries, increased minimum salaries, improved retirement benefits, housing stipends, a new free agency system and improvements to player safety. “From our inception, the Players Association has put players first,” said NWSLPA president Tori Huster. “Our mission in this historic CBA was to put this same philosophy at the center of NWSL’s future. With the amount of care and attention that we have given this process since Fall 2020, we are proud that players can confidently enter the tenth season of the NWSL in a better position than ever before.”
Vice Media Postproduction Workers Overwhelmingly Approve New Contract: Postproduction workers at Vice Media ratified a new three-year contract. The new deal reduces working hours without reducing compensation. The agreement was approved by 97% of eligible employees, who are represented by Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 700, the Motion Picture Editors Guild. The workers are based in Brooklyn and work on unscripted television, digital video and broadcast news. The contract ensures that the lowest-paid workers get the biggest increase. “Behind every piece of content on a screen there are hundreds of talented workers losing sleep and time well-spent with their loved ones,” said Ilari Polsonetti, an editor for "Vice News Tonight" and a member of the negotiating committee. “Today we said enough is enough, a different way of working in film and TV is possible. I hope what we accomplished here can be a stepping stone towards reclaiming the healthier work-life balance that is so badly needed in our industry.” The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Vice Media for comment.
Workers at Elizabethtown Gas Form a Union with UWUA: Seventy workers from Elizabethtown Gas’ customer experience team have voted overwhelmingly to join the Utility Workers (UWUA) Local 601. The new members of Local 601 work in the call center, billing department and walk-in customer service centers. They are joining many of their co-workers who were already represented by UWUA, including meter readers, first responders, and measurement and regulation techs. “It was time for us to have a voice at the table to promote positive changes in the workplace to benefit us and our families,” explained Matthew Loda, a customer service representative II. “UWUA gives us that voice.” The New Jersey State AFL-CIO’s officers applauded Local 601’s organizing victory and welcomed these new union members into the state’s labor movement.
Newport News Shipbuilding Workers Tentatively Agree to 5-Year Contract: Workers at Newport News Shipbuilding, represented by the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 8888, tentatively agreed to a new five-year contract. The new agreement includes wage increases and pension improvements. Newport News Shipbuilding is the largest industrial employer in Virginia, with 12,000 workers in this collective bargaining agreement, alone. “This is a solid contract with the improvements we fought hard to win,” said Charles Spivey, president of Local 8888. “I believe this is the best deal we could bring back to our membership at this time. We stood our ground to be treated and rewarded as Essential Shipbuilders....We are pleased that the union is continuing to honor all current contract terms and conditions and that we continue to meet our mission in building ships for the U.S. Navy.”
Hundreds of Health Care Workers in Pennsylvania Vote to Join USW: Throughout the country, health care workers are joining together to fight for better pay, better benefits and safety on the job. The latest organizing win comes from some 500 health care workers at Kane Community Living Centers across the Pittsburgh region who voted unanimously last Friday to join USW. Their new bargaining unit will consist of certified nursing assistants (CNAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), dietary and recreation aides, housekeeping workers, and material handlers at the four Allegheny County-run assisted living and senior facilities. The new USW members said the result was a long time coming. “We’ve been striving all year to make this election happen, and I am so glad we can now move on to the work of bargaining a fair contract,” said Desirae Beatty, a 17-year employee at Kane. “We have shown the county and Kane that we can organize and move as one.”
SAG-AFTRA Reaches Agreement with Super Bowl Halftime Producers: Professional Dancers Will Not Be Asked to Work for Free: Following an “open and frank discussion,” the producers of the Super Bowl halftime show have agreed with SAG-AFTRA that professional dancers will not be asked to work as volunteers for the massively popular TV event. In a statement released on Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA said: “It is important to note that [producer] Roc Nation had always contracted for 115 paid SAG-AFTRA professional dancers as part of the stage show. We are grateful to Roc Nation, their producer and in particular our member Jay-Z, for their collaboration and commitment to professional artists. As a union, we believe all working participants should be paid and compensated for their labor, and we will be advising our professional dancer members that they should not be rehearsing or working on the Super Bowl Halftime Show without compensation. Like millions of Americans, we are looking forward to this seminal moment in hip hop history.” The agreement follows complaints from professional dancers who had been encouraged to volunteer to work the field show without compensation.
New Partnership Expands Veteran Job Opportunities in Southern California’s Utility Sector: The Utility Workers Military Assistance Program (UMAP), in partnership with UWUA Local 132 and Southern California Gas (SoCalGas), recently launched a new program to tackle homelessness among veterans through training and employment opportunities. UMAP’s effective training-to-placement model will benefit 40 veterans over the next several months, and those who successfully graduate will work for SoCal Gas as leak technicians. “This exciting new partnership between UMAP and SoCal Gas will create a clear path forward for veterans who otherwise may have faced uncertainty about what to do next after leaving the military,” said UWUA Director of Veterans Affairs and Workforce Development Rick Passarelli. “Veterans are looking for a hand up and not a handout, and this program is a lifeline when they need it. We’re excited this program can begin to benefit veterans in California.”
New York Veterinary Workers Among First in Nation to Unionize: Workers at Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Services in Brighton, New York, became among the first workers at a veterinary hospital in the country to join a union, voting by more than a 2-1 margin for the union. The new unit will be affiliated with the IAM. The workers are seeking better pay and better working conditions to help them fight burnout and turnover. "We're gonna band together and actually be able to have the conversations we've been hoping for and hopefully they'll be good negotiating partners through that process with us," said Sam Estes, an ultrasound technician and organizer.