Value Our Work: 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:

Consumer Reports Guild Members Overwhelmingly Ratify New Contract: More than 250 workers at Consumer Reports voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new five-year contract. The workers are members of the Consumer Reports Guild, which has been affiliated with The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA) for more than 70 years. The new contract includes: guaranteed wage increases of 14.2% over the life of the contract, a $3,000 ratification bonus, up to 12 weeks of parental leave at full pay, creation of a joint labor-management Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, expanded use of paid sick leave and more. “I’m extremely proud of the bargaining committee and the support that our Guild colleagues have given us during two often acrimonious years of bargaining,” said Richard Handel, unit chair at Consumer Reports. “From the start, we fought back against management’s retrogressive proposals and piddly wage offers. As a result, I’m happy to say we got to a good contract. We can’t wait for all our union colleagues to benefit from the strong policies they’ve collectively fought so hard to win.”  

IAM Members at Cummins Secure Pay Raises After Nearly Two Months on Strike: After a strike that lasted nearly two months, workers at Cummins locations in New England have achieved the guaranteed pay raises they fought for. After management attempted to implement inconsistent and subjective pay-for-performance rules, the Machinists (IAM) Local 447 members went on strike. They built solidarity with allies, and organized a rally that attracted numerous community organizations and leaders. “Our members at Cummins held strong to get a contract that values their hard work and will make life better for themselves and their families,” said IAM District 15 Assistant Directing Business Representative Mike Vartabedian. “We want to express our sincere thank you to the New England community and elected officials for their unwavering support.” In addition to guaranteed pay raises over the next three years, the new agreement includes more paid holidays, discretionary leave, increased on-call pay and other benefits.

MIT Library Support Staff Ratify First Contract with AFSCME: Library support staff workers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are integral to the work of the university and the success of students. But these workers said they felt invisible at the institution, so they worked with AFSCME to form a union. Now they have ratified their first contract. “A lot of this started in mid-2018,” recalls library associate Lara Day. “There was a lot of continuous distrust from our management. We’d sometimes have a chance for feedback, but rarely anything came from it. We’d put our voices out there but there were no changes. Or, we’d say things and management would do the complete opposite.” In addition to a voice on the job, the support staff were focused on wages, particularly the pay inequities between White male staffers and everyone else. They knew that the best way to address these problems was to join a union. They were right, and the new contract addresses the support staff’s concerns well enough that it was approved unanimously.

UFCW Members in Alaska Secure Better Wages and Benefits in New Contract: More than 1,000 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) who work at Carrs in Anchorage and Eagle River, Alaska, ratified a new three-year contract on March 4. The new agreement includes significant pay increases, improved upward mobility and earning potential, better paid sick leave, increased access to dental and vision coverage, and improved workplace safety. “Members of UFCW Local 1496 voted unanimously to approve an industry-leading contract that is among the most competitive for food and commercial workers in the state of Alaska,” said Local 1496 President Frank Mutchie. “This agreement, which was secured after 10 months of negotiations, ensures workers will receive first day paid sick leave, receive fair pay and wage increases, and have access to affordable, quality health care. The negotiated wage increases means that over the next 18 months, many of our members will earn 17 percent raises, some even higher. This agreement also reduces the length of wage progressions, increasing the upward mobility and earning potential of our members. Furthermore, this contract gives us a real say in scheduling and workplace safety conditions.”

Stater Bros. Grocery Workers in California Ratify a New Contract: On April 9, over 13,000 members of UFCW locals 8GS, 135, 324, 770, 1167 and 1428 who work at some 170 Stater Bros. stores in Southern California ratified a new contract that strengthens wages and benefits, provides guaranteed minimum work hours and protects pensions. The deal was reached after months of negotiations and active participation by tens of thousands of California’s essential grocery workers. “After more than two years of risking their lives to serve California’s communities as essential workers, the members of UFCW stood together for their families and each other, and secured one of the most historic contracts in California labor history,” the UFCW locals said in a joint statement. “This contract is a concrete and direct result of their tireless work.”

San Mateo Nurses Secure Numerous Gains in New Contract: Nurses working for San Mateo County ratified a new contract that includes better pay, more input on protections against COVID-19 and other diseases and improved protections against harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Nearly 95% of the registered nurses, members of the California Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU), vote to ratify the contract. “The nurses are thrilled to have secured this unprecedented contract,” said Margarita Harrington, a surgical clinic charge nurse and bargaining team member. “The improvements included in this contract are important to retain and recruit experienced nurses. We know this, in turn, greatly benefits our patients and our community.”

Workers at Parcast Ratify First Union Contract: Members of the Parcast Union, an affiliate of the Writers Guild of America, East, (WGAE) unanimously ratified their first contract on Monday. Parcast is a popular storytelling podcast production company owned by Spotify. The workers’ new collective bargaining agreement provides significant wage increases, career development and workplace safety provisions, and binding commitments to enhance the company’s diversity, inclusion and equity. “It was a long road, with 15 months of bargaining, to get this deal,” the union’s bargaining committee said. “We’re very happy with the terms of our new Union contract, which we all fought together to achieve. Our unit demonstrated amazing solidarity, all the way to the point of signing a strike pledge, and we’re pleased to be able to move forward together into the next chapter of our effort.”

St. Louis Cannabis Workers Become First to Unionize in the State: Workers at a medical marijuana dispensary in St. Louis voted to join the UFCW, becoming the first cannabis-industry workers in the the state to unionize. The workers at the Root 66 dispensary voted unanimously to become members of UFCW Local 655. “Cannabis workers across the country are voting to join a union because they know it’s the best way to secure good wages and benefits on the job,” said David Cook, president of Local 655. “Workers need economic security and fair treatment in the workplace, and cannabis workers are no different,” he said. “We are committed to helping cannabis workers across Missouri.”

IAM Reaches Industry-Leading Tentative Agreement at Southwest Airlines: Some 7,000 union members at Southwest Airlines will vote on a contract that delivers industry-leading job protections and pay scales, as well as improved mandatory overtime rules. The IAM represents Southwest Airlines’ customer service employees, and its negotiating committee unanimously recommended a “yes” vote for the tentative agreement. Members will decide whether to ratify the four-year tentative agreement in the coming weeks. “Our members should be proud to have stood strong for a contract they deserve,” said Richard Johnsen, IAM chief of staff to the international president. “Thanks to this negotiating committee and the solidarity of our membership, we were able to secure a much stronger tentative agreement that will benefit our members at Southwest Airlines, their families and communities.”

Members of RWDSU-UFCW Win Historic Wage Increases in Contract with Kellogg: On Monday night, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) Local 184-L ratified a new contract containing unprecedented wage increases for workers at Kellogg in Kansas City, Kansas. The new agreement, which covers approximately 570 workers who produce Cheez-It brand snack crackers, brings a 15.5% wage increase over the course of the three-year contract, with an additional $500 bonus for workers in the third year. “These wage increases will help us better provide for our families and improve the quality of our lives. And it’s not just our pay; improved benefits and protected health care with low premiums is what we need and deserve right now,” said Larry Smith, president of RWDSU-UFCW Local 184-L and a worker at Kellogg’s Kansas City plant.

Workers at Condé Nast Request Voluntary Recognition to Form Union: More than 500 workers at iconic magazine publisher Condé Nast delivered a petition to management Tuesday requesting voluntary recognition to form a union with The NewsGuild of New York-CWA. Condé Nast publishes highly regarded titles such as Vanity Fair, Vogue and Bon Appétit. “It comes down to prestige doesn’t pay the bills,” Vanity Fair web producer Jaime Archer told The Washington Post. “We love working here, and we want to keep working here.…If Condé wants to attract the best talent in the business, they have to stop relying on prestige and provide equitable pay and benefits.”

TWU Members at Kalitta Air Secure Their First Contract: Last week, workers at Kalitta Air ratified their first contract as members of the Transport Workers Union (TWU). The bargaining unit of flight dispatchers voted 87% in favor of their tentative agreement with the cargo air carrier. TWU International President John Samuelsen congratulated his members on their new collective bargaining agreement and said: “Organizing drives aren’t complete until workers win the massively important first contract. A winning drive is nothing but an empty shell absent a winning first contract.”

Minneapolis Educators Ratify Groundbreaking Contract: After nearly three weeks on strike, the courageous members of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Professionals (MFT), AFT-NEA Local 59, have won their fight for safe and stable schools. MFT members voted this past weekend to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with Minneapolis Public Schools. The new contract will provide living wages for educational support professionals, retain educators of color and increase mental health support for students all while reducing class sizes and caseloads. Greta Callahan, president of the MFT teachers chapter, said, “We will return to our schools on Monday more united with our students, our communities and each other.”

Google Fiber Contract Workers Overwhelmingly Vote to Form Union with CWA: In a sweeping victory for workers who overcame a relentless anti-union campaign from their employer, a group of Google Fiber contractors in Kansas City, Missouri, overwhelmingly won their union election this afternoon. This is the first officially recognized bargaining unit to be formed with Alphabet Workers Union-CWA (AWU-CWA) Local 1400, an affiliate of CODE-CWA. Alphabet—the parent company of Google—is a multitrillion-dollar corporation that heavily relies on contract workers to rake in massive profits. With this groundbreaking win, these workers are now the first to form a union at Google Fiber. “Today, we are elated to see the [National Labor Relations Board] reaffirm what we have already known—that we enjoy overwhelming support for our union as the workers of BDS Connected Solutions, a Google Fiber subcontractor,” said Eris Derickson, a retail associate at BDS Connected Solutions and Google Fiber. “It was always clear to all of us that together we can positively shape our working conditions to ensure we all have access to the quality pay, benefits and protections we have earned.”

AFSCME Member Activism Wins in Florida Legislative Session: The Florida legislative session drew to a close on Monday. For AFSCME Florida Council 79 members, it was the end of a frustrating yet ultimately successful session. Thanks to nonstop grassroots activism, AFSCME members fought off one of the most aggressive anti-union measures proposed in recent history. Additionally, in what would be the largest budget in state history, legislators released $112.1 billion for the upcoming fiscal year that, thanks to the union’s lobbying efforts, includes more than $1 billion in pay raises for state workers and contractors. Vicki Hall (pictured above, front row center), president of AFSCME Florida and international vice president of AFSCME, said: “We applaud the leadership of both the House and Senate for historic increases for the state workers who provide the vital, essential services our communities need. State workers need both living wages to lift families out of poverty and enhanced compensation for professionals whose pay has not kept pace with comparable private-sector counterparts.”

LIUNA Secures Strong Apprenticeship Requirements in St. Louis: Members of the Laborers (LIUNA) in St. Louis County, Missouri, have won legislation upgrading apprenticeship requirements on projects valued at more than $75,000, helping to ensure top-notch training, quality construction and new opportunities for workers. The Missouri Kansas Laborers’ District Council celebrated its victory and tweeted: “St. Louis County Bill #8 is a big win for union workers. Our apprenticeship program is world class. Our union apprenticeship program ensures top-notch training that helps keep workers safe. And our craftsmanship saves tax-payer dollars!”

Workers at Nava PBC Form Largest Union in Civic Tech: Workers at Nava PBC made history on Friday, winning voluntary recognition to form the biggest union of civic technology workers in America. Last month, they requested a formal card-check process for their new bargaining unit, Nava United, which was organized by the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Tech Workers Union Local 1010. As these new union members head to the bargaining table, senior infrastructure engineer Sean Fern said: “Everyone asks, ‘What are our demands in building a union?’ And yes, this is about improving our conditions at work—like pay and [paid time off]—but the longer we’ve been organizing, the more I’ve realized this isn’t about any particular demand. We’re doing this to get a say in how company policy evolves in the coming years. We’re doing this to improve how both tech and government contracting industries treat workers.”

New York Times Tech Workers Form Largest Tech Union in the U.S.: New York Times tech workers voted overwhelmingly to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The 600-member unit is now the largest group unionized tech workers at one workplace in the country. The New York Times Tech Guild is pursuing five key goals during their first contract negotiations: improved pay (including equity for women and people of color), affordable health care plans, opportunities for career growth, access to remote work and more inclusive policies such as annually publishing the company's diversity statistics and improving efforts to hire, promote and retain workers of color. The workers overcame what they describe as relentless union-busting methods from the Times. The National Labor Relations Board filed a formal complaint against the company's tactics in December.

Denver ATU Workers Ratify New Collective Bargaining Agreement: Members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1001 have agreed to a three-year contract with the Regional Transportation District in Denver, Colorado. The new contract raises wages more than 25% over the life of the contract. “ATU 1001 is pleased with the outcome of our contract negotiations with RTD,” said Lance Logenbohn, president of ATU Local 1001. “The bargaining was conducted in good faith, and many significant improvements were made in wages and working conditions. Under General Manager Debra Johnson’s guidance, the district demonstrated a commitment to its union employees and their well-being that is sure to contribute to our mutual goal of the success of the agency.” In addition to wage increases, the new agreement includes improved retirement benefits, a modified work week, vacation flexibility and more.

Center for American Progress Union Union Members Approve New Contract: Members of the Center for American Progress (CAP) Union voted to ratify a new contract that raises salaries and other agreements. This is the third contract for the workers at CAP since they joined the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU) in 2016. “We are extremely excited to have reached an agreement with CAP management that reflects the priorities of our members. This wouldn’t have been possible without the solidarity of our members throughout these negotiations,” said CAP Union President Marissa Alayna Navarro. In addition to pay raises, the contract improves workplace transparency, increases equity, improves the review process, provides for severance pay, limits overtime work, encourages internal hiring and other benefits.

REI SoHo Workers Become First Unionized REI Store in the U.S.: More than 85% of workers at the REI Co-Op at Lafayette Street in Manhattan, New York, voted to join the RWDSU-UFCW. This location becomes the first REI location in the U.S. to unionize. Workers say they faced a union-busting campaign similar to what Amazon workers faced in Bessemer, Alabama. “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,” stated Claire Chang, a member of the REI SoHo 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! As green vests, we believe ‘a life outdoors is a life well lived’ and in order for that to be viable and accessible to us, we need to be at the bargaining table alongside REI leadership to work out a collective bargaining agreement that works for us. Hence, we’re hopeful that REI meets us in good faith during negotiations for our first contract, while keeping our co-op values in mind and applying them to workers, so we can all demonstrate that we really do go further... together!”