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:
TV Commercial Production Workers Organize Union with IATSE: TV commercial production workers made waves on Thursday, announcing they are organizing a union with the backing of the Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Stand With Production movement. These workers often face brutal and unsafe working conditions: unsustainable hours, lack of reasonable rest, no employer-funded health care or retirement benefits, ineligibility for overtime pay, and limited access to safety and training. “Experiencing the type of burnout and fatigue that you do working these long hours, your ability to make decisions in regards to people’s safety and well-being is compromised,” Cheyenne Cage, a production supervisor, told More Perfect Union. “We can enact tangible change if we stay together and work together.”
Workers at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures Win Voluntary Recognition: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has voluntarily recognized Academy Museum Workers United (AMWU), which is affiliated with AFSCME District Council 36. AMWU will represent 160 employees at the Los Angeles museum dedicated to promoting and studying motion pictures. They are the latest museum workers to join AFSCME through its Cultural Workers United campaign. “We are thrilled to have come to an agreement with the Academy Museum over recognition of our union and to have 69% union support from our co-workers,” said Viviana Santillan, a visitor experience associate. “Now we can move forward in building a working relationship with museum leadership and focus on having a voice over our working conditions and the creative professions to make this institution the best in our community and the world.”
USW Secures Domestic Violence Language in New Contracts: Domestic and family violence and abuse, if not addressed with support and compassion, can have serious negative impacts on survivors’ health, safety and economic security. United Steelworkers (USW) paper sector activists and leaders recently won new policies to alleviate these risks in their latest contracts with two paper companies. They recruited the help of USW District 1 Assistant to the Director Teresa Cassady. Their goal was to provide proactive support and training within their workplace contracts that strictly maintains confidentiality for those involved. “This language is life-changing for members going through domestic violence in that they will know their job will be there if and when they need to go to a safe place or while they are going to court,” said Cassady, a domestic violence advocate and survivor. Click here to view her story on surviving domestic abuse.
IFPTE Local 20 Ratifies First Union Contract: Workers at the East Bay Community Law Center (EBCLC) ratified a first contract July 8 as members of the Engineers and Scientists of California/IFPTE Local 20 after nearly two years of negotiations. Members achieved all their key bargaining priorities. After the 65–0 ratification vote on the contract, which included an average 15% pay increase among many other gains, Local 20’s EBCLC bargaining team released a statement saying, “[W]e are pleased to have reached this settlement, which respects and rewards the important work you all do and will help retain and attract staff.”
SAG-AFTRA Members Ratify 2022 Network Television Code Agreement: On July 8, members of SAG-AFTRA voted to ratify the SAG-AFTRA National Code of Fair Practice for Network Television Broadcasting, also known as the Network Television Code. The vote was 94.67% in favor of the new contract. “This agreement is a step toward elevating our consciousness and sensitivity regarding safe spaces for performers on set,” said SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher. “That is a big, transformative win. I also am pleased that our negotiators made meaningful gains with new compensation and improved protections for our members.” The Network Television Code generates more than $200 million a year in covered member earnings and includes programming in nearly all non-prime-time and all non-dramatic prime-time television, as well as digital media. Covered programs include shows like morning news, talk, variety, reality, game and sports, and serials (soap operas) and promotional announcements. SAG-AFTRA held a webinar explaining what’s new in the contract, which can be viewed here.
Minnesota United In-House Camera Crew Requests Voluntary Recognition: The in-house broadcast crew at Allianz Field, where the Minnesota United FC plays, is requesting voluntary recognition of their organizing efforts with Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 745. Despite having an overwhelming majority of cards signed, Minnesota United claims that some workers are “just learning about this possibility” and are “committed to being open, honest and transparent about the pros and cons of unionization.” The Wonderwall, the parent organization for the team’s supporters, issued a statement urging Minnesota United to voluntarily recognize the union. The Professional Soccer Referees Association and the Major League Soccer Players Association also tweeted in support.
IAFF Local 3920 Makes History with First Collective Bargaining Agreement: Members of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 3920 in South Fulton, Georgia, made history Friday when they signed their first collective bargaining agreement, only the second of its kind in the state. The new contract includes significant wage increases and improvements in employment conditions for members. “We have accomplished a great deal,” said Capt. Andrea Hall, former president of Local 3920, who negotiated the agreement, alongside IAFF 12th District Vice President Walt Dix and IAFF District Field Service Rep. Randy Wyse. Attending the signing, IAFF General President Ed Kelly emphasized the day’s significance: “You’ll find that when we go to the table and we use our voice, the people that benefit the most are the very people that we took an oath to protect. More often than not, the citizens we serve in municipalities and counties where they have collective bargaining agreements, where they can recruit and maintain their workforce, have a safer city.” Both Hall and Eric Patterson, the current president of Local 3920, credited the collaboration among city officials. “They fought for us,” said Patterson. “If it were not for the City Council of South Fulton, we would not be here today. Hopefully, together, we’ll keep it moving [forward] and make a better 3920 than we’ve ever had. We’ll support the city, the citizens and everything about South Fulton.”
Wired Union Reaches Tentative Agreement Ahead of Prime Day: More than two years ago, workers at Wired voted to form a union with The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003. They bargained for more than a year with Condé Nast management on their first contract. Workers were prepared to walk out on this year’s Prime Day to win the fair contract they deserve. And their collective action worked. On Monday, July 11, at 11:56 p.m., the night before Prime Day, they announced that they reached a tentative agreement. Congratulations to the Wired Union!
University of California Nurses Ratify New Contract Covering All UC Medical Centers, Clinics and Student Health Centers: Registered nurses at University of California (UC) facilities across the state voted overwhelmingly in favor of ratifying a new three-year contract, announced California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) on Saturday. The new agreement addresses key patient care and workplace safety issues while also focusing resources to recognize, recruit and retain nurses across facilities in the UC system. “UC nurses are proud to ratify our new contract with the University,” said Dahlia Tayag, RN, a bargaining team member who works at UC San Diego. “This agreement recognizes and rewards registered nurses for our service and commitment to our patients and communities across the UC system, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.” She went on to say “UC nurses have been preparing for these negotiations, and we were committed to winning the contract our members deserved. The administration’s decision to prioritize investing in UC nurses resulted in this successor agreement, which will improve the patient care we provide.”
Franklin County Highway Department Workers Sign Union Contract: After a long fight, Franklin County Highway Department workers in Missouri have finally signed a new contract. They have been without a contract for three years because the county was trying to break the union. The county denied them their constitutional right to bargain, and Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 148 fought alongside the workers legally to win this battle. The workers stuck together, and they voted Friday to ratify a new agreement.
ATU Members at New Orleans’ Regional Transit Authority Agree to Four-Year Contract: Members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1560 who work at the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in New Orleans ratified a new four-year contract. The agreement includes pay and benefits that keeps RTA operators among the highest paid in the South. More than 500 employees are covered, including operators, dispatchers, reservations, clerks, tellers and instructors. “As the new ATU Local 1560 Local President, my first priority was reaching an agreement with RTA for our members on the front lines,” said Kory Dupree. “We have faced many challenges in maintaining mobility but have persevered for our riders and our community. ATU Local 1560 looks forward to continuing the work of the agency, overcoming obstacles to building stronger connections and moving forward in a new direction with RTA.”
Production Workers at ‘The Simpsons,’ ‘American Dad!’ and ‘Family Guy’ Join Animation Guild: Production workers on “The Simpsons,” “American Dad!” and “Family Guy” secured voluntary recognition from 20th Television Animation after more than 90% of eligible workers voted to join The Animation Guild (Theatrical Stage Employees [IATSE] Local 839). While other workers in animation, such as animators, actors and writers, are all unionized, production workers have long been excluded, meaning they often receive unequal treatment from management at various companies. “It doesn’t feel like everything is equal,” said Laura Smalec, a production coordinator at “Family Guy.” “You cannot have a show without production workers. So I think that’s the moral of the story at the end of the day.” These workers join a growing trend in animation, where production workers at smaller companies have organized in recent months.
WGAE Members at ABC News Ratify New Contract: The 110-member bargaining unit at ABC News overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year contract with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). The unit includes news editors, newswriters, continuity writers, researchers, assignment editors, desk assistants and graphic artists who work for various ABC properties. The contract increases wages by 9% over three years, raises minimum wages for certain jobs, increases paid time off and provides numerous other benefits. “We are proud our members have won solid increases in pay and pension contributions, gains for full-time ‘temps,’ DEI [diversity, equity and inclusion] protections and more,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGAE. “This demonstrates that, even in a mature industry, collective bargaining works.”
AT&T Wireless Workers Secure Wage Increases and Other Benefits in Tentative New Contract: Six months into negotiations, AT&T Wireless workers reached a tentative contract agreement. The new agreement will raise base wages by nearly 15% over the life of the contract, and protects against inflation through additional guaranteed increases based on the Consumer Price Index. It also addresses AT&T’s shifting of work from company-owned stores to third-party authorized retailers by requiring that at least 20% of AT&T retail outlets are company-owned. “These workers provided essential services during the pandemic, putting themselves at risk to enable us to stay connected to one another,” said Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Chris Shelton. “They stayed united during contract negotiations and won an agreement that recognizes the importance of the work they do and shows what working people can achieve when they join together and demand respect.” Other benefits in the new deal include limits on mandatory overtime, improved privacy protections for call center representatives working from home, recognition of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday, additional paid parental leave and new health care options. The proposed contract covers technicians, call center workers and retail store representatives in 36 states and the District of Columbia, and must be reviewed and approved by members.
CSEA Reaches Fair Contract with Santa Clarita’s School District: Members of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chapter 349 have reason to celebrate after winning a new agreement last week with the William S. Hart Union High School District in Santa Clarita, California. The contract provides 4% wage increases and full-cost coverage for dental and vision benefits for classified school district employees. “[Union members] are grateful to the school board for listening to their comments and taking action to address the extreme inequities that exist between classified staff and teachers/administrators,” CSEA Labor Relations Representative Jessica Morrow told The Signal. Chapter 349 members rallied this month to demand more equitable pay and benefits.
Firefighters’ Local Union in Utah Reaffiliates with IAFF: The Fire Fighters (IAFF) is welcoming back one of its Utah affiliates, Local 2742 in Orem, after a 23-year absence. The newly reorganized IAFF Local 2742 adds 59 new members to the international union. The members decided now was the time to reaffiliate with the IAFF and the Professional Fire Fighters of Utah because they saw how hard the union and the state association were working on behalf of all professional firefighters. “It is great to have Local 2742 back in the IAFF. Orem’s members are a very motivated group of firefighters who are ready to put boots on the ground and get to work,” said IAFF General President Edward Kelly. “I am looking forward to seeing what we can do together.”
After Monthlong Strike, Nurses and Techs Ratify Agreement with Newark Hospital: More than 360 nurses and medical technicians at St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey, won a contract last week after going out on strike in May. The Jersey Nurses Economic Security Organization-IUOE (JNESO-IUOE) District Council 1 members were demanding fairness for themselves and better treatment for their patients. The members of JNESO-IUOE won new pay increases and forced management to back off its proposal to eliminate step increases. And the agreement provides improvements to health benefits, as well as new provisions on safe staffing levels and workplace safety.
Postdoc Medical Researchers Win Union with UAW at Mount Sinai: Hundreds of postdoctoral researchers at Mount Sinai’s medical school in New York City have voted 317–37 (89.5%) to choose Sinai Postdoctoral Organizing Committee-UAW (SPOC-UAW) as their union and bargaining representative, according to ballots tallied by the National Labor Relations Board. The new unit, which is only the second postdoc union ever established at a private institution, will represent more than 500 workers. “We are so energized by this vote,” said Yajing Xu, a postdoctoral researcher in neuroscience. “As hard as we worked to win, we know that this is just the beginning. We are confident that our union will be good for us and good for Mount Sinai, and we look forward to meeting them at the table soon to bargain a contract that makes us all stronger.”
Janitors at D.C. Veterans Hospital Form Union with LIUNA: About 60 janitors at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C., are now proud members of Laborers (LIUNA) Local 572 after holding a union election in May. They overcame stiff resistance from their employer, who hired a union-busting consulting firm after these workers filed their organizing petition. “These employees are not being treated like the essential employees that they are,” said Dennis L. Martire, LIUNA vice president and mid-Atlantic regional manager. “Realizing that they have the power to make a difference, they used their right to unionize and showed tremendous strength.”
Seven Stars Bakery Workers Establish Union with UFCW Local 328: On Tuesday, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 328 revealed that the baristas, counter staff, keyholders and restockers employed at every Seven Stars Bakery location in Rhode Island won voluntary union recognition. The announcement follows an organizing campaign that won support from the overwhelming majority of workers at Seven Stars. “I am so excited about our recognition from the company,” said Natasha Brennan, a barista in Providence. “All of us love our jobs and love each other. As Seven Stars continues to grow with more locations, we want ourselves and our future co-workers to have better protections, wages and benefits. Unionization ensures this for everyone.”
USFL Players Vote to Create Union with USW: The United Steelworkers (USW) announced last week that players in the United States Football League (USFL) voted in favor of union representation. The USW, in coordination with the United Football Players Association (UFPA), filed a petition for a representation election on behalf of about 360 USFL players after a majority of them signed cards in early May. UFPA President Kenneth Farrow, who played six seasons of professional football, said that the power of a union will make a huge difference for players, who often face uncertainty due to injuries, poor facilities and bankrupt employers. “Every worker deserves the opportunity to bargain for better pay, benefits and working conditions as part of a union,” Farrow said. “Players can guarantee a stronger voice in determining their own futures by bargaining as part of a collective.”
Workers at Vox Media Ratify Industry-Leading Contracts: The Vox Media Union’s 360-member bargaining unit overwhelmingly ratified its second collective bargaining agreement as members of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). The 11th-hour agreement came after six months of bargaining that saw 95% of the unit sign a strike pledge. The three-year agreement boasts large across-the-board pay increases and binding commitments to equal pay for equal work. “This contract would not have been possible without the incredible solidarity we saw from our more than 360 members, who held management’s feet to the fire and were prepared to strike on June 13 if we didn’t get a deal,” said the union’s bargaining committee. “We often hear from members that the union was what made them want to work at Vox Media, and we’re so proud of this contract that has secured the wage increases and benefits that all of our members deserve.” WGAE members at NowThis, the short-form video news site owned by Vox Media, unanimously ratified their first collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday, which will provide an average raise of 9% in the first year of the agreement.
Workers Organize to Take Their Bite of the Apple: At the crossroads of technology and retail, workers at Apple stores are among the latest to join the growing wave of organizing efforts at massive corporations. Workers at the Apple store in Towson Town Center mall near Baltimore won their union election with the Machinists (IAM) last week, becoming the first workers in America to form a union at the high-tech giant. Apple store workers in Atlanta are organizing with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Their organizing campaign is inspired by more than their desire for better wages and benefits; these workers are demanding a collective voice on the job. “Compensation is important, considering the cost of living in general and inflation, but the bigger thing is having a say,” Apple worker Christie Pridgen, who works at the Towson store, told CNN Business after the vote. “That was the most important thing to me.” Assessed at $3 trillion, Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world—and the workers who create that value deserve a say in their workplaces.
AAUP Affiliates with AFT in Historic Partnership for Higher Education: Delegates to the biennial meeting of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) voted on Saturday to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), joining forces to build a more powerful and inclusive academic labor movement that will be better able to take on the challenges facing higher education, as well as the threats to our democracy. The vote brings together two organizations representing more than 300,000 higher education faculty members overall, the largest such alliance in the country. “The AAUP has been the voice and conscience of higher education for well over 100 years,” said AAUP President Irene Mulvey. “This truly historic decision builds on our 10-plus-year partnership with the AFT and strengthens both organizations, while ensuring that the AAUP will maintain its independence and autonomy.”
UW Researchers Come Together to Form Union with UAW: By an 85% margin, research scientists/engineers at the University of Washington (UW) have chosen to form a union with the UAW. The total bargaining unit includes 1,458 university workers. The Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission is expected to issue an interim certification for the union in the coming weeks. “After incredible participation in our union election, our Researcher Union is official!,” celebrated Cara Margherio, assistant director of UW’s Center for Evaluation & Research for STEM Equity. “In the thousands of conversations we’ve had with fellow Researchers, one thing is clear—we make valuable contributions at UW and love our work, and we are ready to have a voice equal to the administration in determining how to make UW an even better place for research.”
Des Moines Metro Opera’s Stage Managers Win Voluntary Recognition: The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) announced last week that the stage managers of Des Moines Metro Opera (DMMO) have unionized with AGMA, joining other top national opera companies in the country. DMMO management agreed to voluntarily recognize the union upon a successful card-check. “We believe this collaborative partnership will continue to flourish as we bargain our first AGMA contract,” read a statement from the newly organized stage managers. “We are incredibly supportive of the growth of Des Moines Metro Opera in recent years and join with everyone at DMMO in celebrating our 50th anniversary season.”
iAero Airways Pilots Form Union with ALPA: The National Mediation Board has certified Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) as the bargaining representative for the 230 pilots of iAero Airways (formerly Swift Air). With 74% of eligible pilots participating in the election, 71% voted last month in favor of joining the world’s largest pilot union. “A year and a half ago, iAero pilots first approached ALPA about joining our association,” said ALPA President Capt. Joe DePete. “Today, we all celebrate the addition of their voices to ours as we maintain the status of airline travel as the safest form of transportation in the world.”
More Than 4,000 Federal, D.C. Government Employees Joined AFGE in May: AFGE welcomed 4,085 federal and Washington, D.C., government employees to the union family in May, with a net gain of 436 members—the largest monthly net gain in more than three years. Each month, AFGE organizes thousands of new members, but thousands also retire, leave federal service, exit bargaining unit positions or otherwise resign their membership. The union credited its locals as the key to success, with the biggest gains coming from new employee orientations. “People are joining to empower themselves,” explained AFGE Director of Membership and Organization Dave Cann. “This means our numbers aren’t just growing, which they are, but we are building our union with members who want to be active, who want a say, who want to have ownership of their workplace.”
IATSE Local B29 Wins Organizing Drive at Miller Theater in Philadelphia: Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local B29 proudly announced that workers at the Miller Theater (formerly Merriam Theater) won their organizing campaign on March 22. Organizing started in 2005 and resumed in 2009, and after years of campaigning, even a global pandemic could not stop these workers from coming together to form a union. The Miller Theater is part of the Kimmel Cultural Campus in Philadelphia. “We are proud of the growth of our local with the 30 new front-of-house workers that have the same rights and benefits as the other members of Local B29,” said Richard Montgomery, president of Local B29. “We would like to thank IATSE President Matthew Loeb and his staff for their leadership and guidance in this long, hard-fought union drive.”
New Jersey State AFL-CIO Welcomes New Members to Teamsters Local 469: The 39 drivers and helpers at Shred-it in Trenton, New Jersey, were warmly welcomed into the New Jersey State AFL-CIO as new members of Teamsters Local 469. They successfully organized their union last year and went on strike in December 2021 to protest unfair working conditions and demand the company meet with Local 469 to bargain for a contract in good faith. After months of hard work, the workers at Shred-it recently ratified their first contract. “Teamsters Local 469’s success in organizing the drivers and helpers at Shred-it is an example of the strong momentum of labor organizing in New Jersey and nationally,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech (IUOE) and New Jersey State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Laurel Brennan (Workers United). “Workers everywhere are rising up in solidarity to demand better working conditions and an increased standard of living.”