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:
Mine Workers, Next-Gen Battery Maker Sparkz Ink Labor-Management Agreement: The Mine Workers (UMWA) announced today that the union has secured a labor-management agreement with Sparkz, the next-generation battery manufacturer re-engineering the battery supply chain, that would mark one of the largest climate-tech union workforce partnerships in the United States. Sparkz announced in March it will begin construction of a Gigafactory in West Virginia this year to commercialize their zero-cobalt battery, which will employ up to 3,000 workers, and it will partner with the union to recruit and train dislocated miners to be the first group of production workers to be hired. “This agreement is a win-win for the laid-off coal miners who will work in this facility, their families and their communities,” UMWA International President Cecil Roberts said. “This is a first step to putting some of those people back to work in good, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs.”
Missouri Library Workers Officially Form Union with AFSCME: From museums in big cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia to local libraries in rural areas, cultural workers everywhere are joining together to make their voices heard—and they’re winning. On Monday, Daniel Boone Regional Library workers in Columbia, Missouri, announced that they have voted by a wide margin to form a union with AFSCME. This victory is part of a broader wave of workers who are standing up to demand respect on the job and strengthen our communities. “Together we voted overwhelmingly in favor of our union, 101 to 55, and we are excited to officially begin bargaining as Daniel Boone Regional Library Workers United,” the workers said. “The bonds we have built over the last few months have been nothing short of incredible, and we look forward to growing even stronger as a united union family.”
Hotel Workers in California Vote to Form Union with UNITE HERE Local 2: Workers at Marriott’s Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay voted 110–103 to form a union with UNITE HERE Local 2. The National Labor Relations Board will soon certify the election, and the local is confident that the union has won. Workers beat back “an aggressive anti-union campaign” ahead of the vote. “Soon, we’ll be on to negotiations for the affordable health care, fair wages and dignified workloads that workers deserve,” Local 2 said.
Video Game Workers Win Historic Union Election at Raven Software: The quality assurance team at Activision Blizzard subsidiary Raven Software overwhelmingly won their union vote on Monday. The group, known as the Game Workers Alliance, have joined the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the election is a harbinger of growing worker power in a growing industry where workers need a strong voice on the job. These workers have made history by forming the first union at a leading video game company in the United States. “The outcome of this election, the voice of the people coming together to vote yes for this union, is further validation that even a small group of folks in Madison, Wisconsin, standing together in solidarity can face up against a AAA studio giant like Activision, and come out the other side victorious,” Becka Aigner, a quality assurance tester at Raven Software, told The Washington Post. “Now that the fight for recognition is through, we can focus our efforts on negotiations.”
Workers at Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles Ratify First Contract: AFSCME members at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles ratified their first contract with the museum. The two-year deal comes three years after they voted to be represented by AFSCME and includes pay raises, vacation days for part-time and temporary employees, health insurance for part-time employees, expanded paid parental leave and grievance and arbitration protections. “It’s been a long process. We’ve definitely achieved a lot, but there is still more work to be done in terms of shaping the museum field and making jobs within it more sustainable,” said Olivia Leiter, a member of the union’s organizing committee. “We went public three years ago, and have been negotiating for over two years now. We’ve put a lot of time and work into this and I think there’s a general feeling of excitement.”
AFSCME Local 2021 Members Celebrate Pay Raises They Helped Secure Through Their Union: After a year of relentless work, members of AFSCME San Antonio Local 2021 are celebrating imminent bonus checks that are financed by the American Rescue Plan. Facing an uphill battle after San Antonio City Manager Erik Walsh opposed including the premium pay in the city’s draft spending plan, Local 2021 members signed petitions, sent hundreds of emails, made hundreds of calls, lobbied City Council members and generated local media coverage to achieve this win. AFSCME members helped lead the fight to secure passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, which made these bonuses possible. “I went to almost all public town hall meetings across the city and not one person from the public said no,” said Romelia Parvinchi, a big rig driver for the San Antonio Department of Public Works. “Even citizens were saying city employees deserve the American Rescue Plan money for doing public service work during a pandemic. We risked our lives to keep San Antonians safe and public services operating.”
Connecticut Labor Movement Wins Ban on Captive Audience Meetings: Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont signed into law a bill to outlaw employers from forcing workers to attend closed-door captive audience meetings in their attempt to bust organizing campaigns. The Connecticut AFL-CIO, led by President Ed Hawthorne (AFSCME), fought hard to get the bill passed and celebrated its enactment. “In just over six weeks, workers will no longer be forced to attend meetings about their employer’s position on politics, religion, or union organizing,” Hawthorne said on Wednesday. “As only the second state in the nation to take action in this way, Connecticut is leading the way in protecting the rights of working people.”
HFIU Local 36 Wins Wage Increases for Members in Oregon, Washington: Members of Heat and Frost Insulators (HFIU) Local 36 in Oregon and southwest Washington recently secured two contracts that will provide significant hourly wage increases throughout the life of the agreements. Local 36’s journeymen insulators will see their wages increase by a total of $10 an hour in the next four years. Members of the union who work as firestoppers will have their hourly wages increased by $8.50 over the coming three years. The new contracts also provide higher employer contributions to health and pension benefits, increased per diem and new protections against hiring nonunion labor. Local 36 Business Manager Walt Caudle told the Northwest Labor Press that these gains are a result of the union’s long-term organizing success in Oregon and Washington’s insulation trade.
Equity Secures Release from NDAs for Members Who Worked Under Scott Rudin: Actors’ Equity Association (Equity) reached an agreement with The Broadway League that releases its members from nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) that prohibited them from speaking about workplace abuses by producer Scott Rudin. Equity first called for this change when the producer was accused by former assistants last year of abusive workplace behavior, and it became clear that NDAs were preventing far more workers from speaking out. The League also agreed that going forward, its producers will only use nondisclosure language in contracts or riders in limited, approved circumstances. “As new shows develop, we understand that sometimes NDAs are necessary to protect these works in progress,” said Al Vincent Jr., executive director of Equity. “However, NDAs may not and will not be used to protect anyone from the consequences of their own bad behavior. This settlement is a major step in ensuring they will not be used in that way again.” Read more in The New York Times.
WGAE, WGAW Ratify New Contract with CBS News: The Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) ratified on Friday a new collective bargaining agreement covering approximately 260 newswriters, producers, graphic artists, desk associates and others at CBS News. The three-year contract contains significant wins for these workers. “Because our members at CBS News mobilized and made their voices heard, we won a solid contract that raises pay, includes a hefty boost in pension contributions, increases fees and makes transformational gains for longer-term ‘temporary’ employees—severance pay and parental leave,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson. “In a challenging environment, we were able to make real gains.”
Workers at Impact Justice Vote to Form Union with OPEIU: Employees at Impact Justice (IJ) overwhelmingly voted to form a union with Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 29 on Friday, joining thousands of nonprofit employees across the country represented by OPEIU’s Nonprofit Employees United (NEU). Their union, Impact Justice United (IJU), sought voluntary recognition from the nonprofit organization’s leadership in February. But after management’s concerted attempts to stall and disrupt the process, the bargaining unit filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board and overwhelmingly won by a vote of 23–3. “I see Impact Justice United as a continuation of previous efforts to ensure our daily practices are living up to our core values of imagination, integrity and liberation,” said Kaid Ray-Tipton, a senior program associate at IJ.
Steelworkers at Arconic Tentatively Agree to New Four-Year Contract: United Steelworkers (USW) members at Arconic have tentatively agreed to a new four-year contract that includes significant pay increases, improved retirement benefits and other gains. "The hourly wage increases are to make up for the termination," USW Local 105 wrote on Facebook. "Wages are something we can count on in overtime and our vacation rate. We could never depend on PFP which is variable pay, to pay out. We can depend on our wages." The workers previously voted unanimously to authorize a strike.
Kansas City, Missouri, AFSCME Members Secure Average Raise of 12.6%: Members of AFSCME who work for the city of Kansas City, Missouri, agreed to a new four-year contract that will provide an average raise of 12.6%. The new contract provides $16 per hour as a minimum wage for seasonal and part-time workers and $17 per hour for full-time workers. “This is a step in the right direction," AFSCME Local 500 President Reginald Silvers said. “The goal is recruitment, retention and training, and we have solved some of those problems with these negotiations. Local 500 is grateful and appreciative.”
SAG-AFTRA Members Ratify New Commercials Contracts: Members of SAG-AFTRA overwhelmingly voted last week to ratify their new commercial contracts. The vote was 92.25% in favor. The agreements reflect important structural changes in the industry, especially in digital streaming. The two contracts provide $120 million in gains for members, hair and makeup equity for workers of color, increased contributions to the union’s health care plan and much more. “We did it!” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher celebrated. “As we move into a digital age, bold moves and structural changes had to be made.... These contracts create a baseline upon which to build a new future.”
American Rescue Plan Saves BAC Local 5 NY Members’ Pensions: Thanks to the American Rescue Plan that Congress passed and President Biden signed into law last year, participants of Bricklayers (BAC) Local 5 New York’s pension plan will be able to receive about $61.8 million in assistance to save their retirement benefits. The pension plan, which covers 821 participants, was projected to run out of funds this year, and without federal investments, it would have been required to reduce members’ benefits. “I worked hard my whole life and it’s honorable work—there’s nothing wrong with it. And unfortunately, society today has led people to believe that it’s beneath yourself to work with your hands,” explained Local 5 member Doug Bush. “And that’s also what contributed to a perfect storm with this pension.” Local 5’s pension plan is one of many pensions that the American Rescue Plan helped save.
ATU Local 689 Emerges Victorious from Three-Day Strike: After a strong and unified strike, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 bus operators for D.C. Circulator bus system overwhelmingly voted to approve a new contract with their employer. More than 150 union members walked off the job Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C., shutting down Circulator for three days this week. In their new contract, members of Local 689 won double-digit pay increases and stronger retirement security, and prevented changes to Family and Medical Leave Act rights and the outsourcing of members’ jobs. “This is a great day for Local 689,” union President Raymond Jackson said Thursday. “Local 689 D.C. Circulator members did what we do best and won. Transit agencies across the country are now on notice.” The labor movement stood shoulder to shoulder with these bus operators during their strike. Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, (TTD) Secretary-Treasurer Shari Semelsberger rallied workers on the picket line. “My great-grandfather started on the street tracks here in D.C. after he arrived from Italy,” she explained. “ATU Local 689 gave him a life with great benefits and great pay that he could raise a family of six on.”
Mechanics in Puerto Rico Win Organizing Campaign with IAM: The IAM is on a winning streak all across America. And on Thursday, the union notched another victory when more than 200 mechanics and related workers in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, won their campaign to form a union with the IAM. These aerospace workers at Lufthansa Technik explained their campaign began because of various workplace issues, including reduced work hours, irregular work rules, and unfair wages and benefits. “This election is the voice and feeling of all of our co-workers who desire to progress here on the island without the need to abandon our families,” said Jonathan Diaz, senior aircraft mechanic. “We will demonstrate that in Puerto Rico we do good and are better not only as humans but as workers.”
UFCW Supermarket Workers in California Ratify New Contracts with Safeway and Vons: United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) members working at Safeway, Vons, Save Mart, Lucky and Food Max chains in California voted overwhelmingly to ratify new contracts. “The new contracts feature historic wage increases in recognition of Union members’ courageous service in keeping the stores functioning efficiently throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW 8-Golden State. “They also include medical benefit improvements with employer-paid contributions for the plans, adjustments to wage progressions, and the creation of additional Lifetime Income Security Accrual Account (LISA) retirement plans for current and future members.”
3,000 IAM Members at Pratt & Whitney Ratify Contract with Job Security, Strong Benefits: Some 3,000 members of Machinists (IAM) District 26, Local 700 in Middletown and Local 1746 in East Hartford, Connecticut, voted to ratify a new contract with aerospace manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. The three-year agreement, which took effect on Monday, contained significant gains: improved job security, a minimum average of $2,400 in health care savings, strong wage increases and more paid time off. “During the pandemic, our members, deemed essential, took their roles to maintain production, and helped the company remain profitable, seriously,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr. “The IAM continually proves why we are the premier aerospace and defense labor union globally. Our members stood alongside their negotiating committees to demand a contract representing their commitment to the company.”
NABTU Secures Landmark Offshore Wind Project Labor Agreement: Earlier today, there was a major victory for America’s pro-union clean energy future. During a press conference at the AFL-CIO headquarters, North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU) and Ørsted signed a project labor agreement (PLA) to construct the company’s U.S. offshore wind farms with America’s union workforce. Members of the Biden–Harris administration, including Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland, took part in the celebration. The first of its kind in the United States, the National Offshore Wind Agreement (NOWA) sets the bar for working conditions and equity, injects hundreds of millions of dollars in middle-class wages into the American economy, creates apprenticeship and career opportunities for communities most impacted by environmental injustice, and ensures projects will be built with the safest and best-trained workers in the country. Authorized by 15 international union presidents and their local affiliates, the NOWA covers all of Ørsted’s contractors and subcontractors that will perform offshore wind farm construction from Maine down to Florida. This PLA is a significant milestone because it creates an example for offshore wind and other clean energy firms to follow: one where labor standards, environmental protection and good business practices can and should go hand in hand. As AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler remarked, “This is what it looks like to put the words ‘high-road labor standards’ into action.” This high-caliber agreement for working people and the planet reminds us that clean energy jobs can and will be good-paying, family-sustaining union jobs.
Portland and Seattle Shipworkers Approve New Contract with Vigor Marine: Union workers at shipyards in Portland and Seattle approved a new three-year contract with Vigor Marine. Nearly 1,000 workers are covered by the agreement, including members of the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department, Boilermakers (IBB), Electrical Workers (IBEW), Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), Laborers (LIUNA), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART), United Association of Union Plumbers and Pipefitters (UA), Machinists (IAM), Operating Engineers (IUOE) and Teamsters. The contract includes significant pay raises and bonuses.
Public Service Employees in Columbus Win Hero Pay: After months of bargaining, members of Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 4502, who work for the city of Columbus, Ohio, won hero pay and a vaccine reward. The new memorandum of understanding between the city and the union provides $1,000 in hero pay to full-time front-line workers, $500 to other full-time employees who worked during the applicable time period and a separate $500 vaccine reward. Local 4502 worked with other city unions to win the pay, which is funded with money that Congress allocated as part of the American Rescue Plan. “During the height of the pandemic, our members picked up extra shifts, worked extended shifts, different hours, and different days all to maintain the services our Columbus community depend on,” said Local 4502 President Susan Wilson. “They are the best of the best, and now they are finally getting compensation for their sacrifices and the recognition they deserve.”
New America United Secures Voluntary Recognition: Working people at New America have secured voluntary recognition of their new unit, New America United (NAU), which represents more than 65 members. “When we began our organizing effort two years ago, we anchored our union in the goals of providing an excellent workplace for all New Americans and embodying our organization’s principles of equity, participatory governance, and economic opportunity,” the NAU organizing committee wrote. “We look forward to working with leadership on a contract that supports our collective aspirations and lays the groundwork for a more inclusive and vibrant New America.”
‘Solar Opposites’ Production Workers Vote to Form Union with TAG-IATSE: Production workers who create the popular “Solar Opposites” adult animated comedy show are the latest workers to find their union home in The Animation Guild-IATSE Local 839 (TAG). Last week, a committee of workers unanimously voted to form a union. These new union members are just the latest to join TAG’s campaign for a #NewDeal4Animation, demanding equitable compensation for their work on animated productions. The victory at “Solar Opposites” follows a trifecta of recent organizing wins for the union at the studios of animation company Titmouse in New York, Vancouver and Los Angeles.
IUEC Ratifies New Contract Establishing First-Ever Safety Committee with Contractors: Members of the Elevator Constructors (IUEC) have reason to celebrate after union delegates voted to ratify a new nationwide contract that contains increased wages, strong benefits and a new labor-management safety committee. “Two things matter most to me—ensuring my brothers and sisters are taken care of from a pay and benefits standpoint and keeping them safe on the job,” IUEC General President Frank Christensen said, adding that his members’ jobs are innately dangerous. “The reality is this: For the elevator industry to be a safer one, a strong partnership must exist between labor and management.”
5,000 IAM Members at Lockheed Martin Ratify Contract with Historic Pay Increases: Some 5,000 members of Machinists (IAM) District 776 in Fort Worth, Texas, voted on Sunday to ratify a new contract with Lockheed Martin. The new collective bargaining agreement makes significant gains, including 16% wage increases over the life of the contract, retirement plan upgrades, a $4,000 ratification bonus and improvements in field pay. IAM members at the Fort Worth facility build the F-35, the world’s most advanced multirole fighter jet. “We have once again proven why the IAM is the largest and strongest aerospace and defense labor union in the world,” said IAM International President Robert Martinez Jr., who began his IAM membership as an aircraft assembler at the Fort Worth facility. “Our members stood strong and demanded a strong contract every step of the way.”
TWU Members at Alaska Airlines Ratify New Contract: Dispatchers at Alaska Airlines, members of TWU, voted overwhelmingly to approve a new 5-year contract. The contract increases pay, makes sure wages stay competitive, enhances benefits and streamlines training. “TWU was impressed with the logic-based approach taken in these negotiations by the Alaska negotiators,” said Gary Peterson, TWU international vice president and air division director. “Early on both groups agreed on the industry analysis each of us had independently performed, which helped us reach an agreement in-line with our amendable date.”
Members of IUPAT Local 2012 Win Strike for Fair Wages in Kansas City: Some 600 members of the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 2012, District Council 3, have voted to accept a new contract after going on strike for more than a week in their fight for fair wages to keep up with the skyrocketing cost of living. The construction workers in the Kansas City area recently rejected a proposal for a 1% pay increase from The Builders’ Association, a regional group of construction employers. They have been on the job since the start of the pandemic. “These were tough negotiations and it’s been a tough couple of weeks,” IUPAT District Council 3 Business Manager Frank Carpenter said. “We appreciate the willingness of the contractors to come back to the table and their recognition of the value our members bring to their businesses.”
West Michigan Cannabis Workers Vote to Join UFCW Local 951: Workers at Heritage Provisioning, a retail cannabis outlet in Battle Creek, Michigan, voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 951. John Cakmakci, president of Local 951, said: “UFCW 951 is committed to raising the standards for all workers in this unique and rapidly developing industry. I'm excited and hopeful this will serve as a pathway to expanding union coverage to include more workers in the cannabis industry.” Riley Boles, one of the workers at Heritage, said: “I'm really excited to be a part of something bigger than just myself. My dad is a union member and I'm proud to not only become one also, but to make history as the first UFCW 951 organized cannabis facility.”
St. Paul Teachers Secure Contract and Avert Potential Strike: The St. Paul, Minnesota, school board approved a new contract with teachers, narrowly avoiding a strike after three weeks of picketing. René Myers, a member of the union's bargaining team, said: “When we entered those last days together, there was a noticeable shift in attitude toward the work, and things began to happen. When you were present, things began to happen.” The new contract includes pay raises, bonuses, more on-staff psychologists, increased district contributions to employee health plans, a cap on class sizes and other benefits.
Verizon Workers In Washington Become First in U.S. to Organize Outside New York: Verizon workers at stores in Everett and Lynwood, Washington, became the first unionized Verizon employees outside of New York. Verizon employee Austin Hitch said: “We really want to codify what we already have—we have pretty good benefits and 401(k)s, but Verizon has been systematically taking things away from us, and we want to put a stop to that.” The workers will be represented by the Communications Workers of America.
Fordham Graduate Student Workers Vote to Join CWA: Graduate student workers at Fordham University overwhelmingly voted to join the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The workers are seeking higher pay, expanded health care benefits, child care and other support for working parents and a formal grievance procedure. Senior teaching fellow Carolyn Cargile said: “Graduate student workers are paid $15,000 to $20,000 thousand less than the living wage in New York City. They’re also really overworked, and the conditions of our work can be very exploitative. Also, there are no real accommodations for graduate student working parents. They don’t have access to the kinds of resources that faculty or other employees of the university do when it comes to child care or family leave.”
City of Flint Workers Secure Contract with Wage Increases and Other Benefits: Workers for the city of Flint, Michigan, secured their first "real" contract since 1999. Kathryn Neumann, a member of the bargaining committee for AFSCME Local 1600, said: “It's been since 1999 since local 1600 had a contract that is truly a contract,” explaining that a "true" contract is one that doesn't increase pay but increases employee contributions to benefits like health care. The new agreement will increase salaries 7-8% across the board for workers who are employed in a variety of city departments, including building safety, water and sewer and traffic engineering.
California Grocery Workers Avoid Strike After Winning New Contract: Tens of thousands of workers at 540 grocery stores across California approved a new contract with higher wages, stronger health benefits, increased guaranteed hours for part-time workers, improved store safety and a secured pension. The workers, represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), work at Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions. Erika Bentzen, a food clerk at Ralphs in Thousand Oaks, said: “We made history! This was the first time members were part of the negotiations and I believe it made a difference having us there. This is the best contract in the country."