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:
CommutAir Pilots Secure Industry-Leading Pay Increases: Nearly 500 pilots at CommutAir who are members of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) secured significant improvements in pay and work rules as part of an effort by the regional carrier to attract and retain pilots. Over the course of the next four years, the pilots will earn an additional $52.7 million in hourly rates, plus an additional $57.1 million in retention bonus payments and other improvements. “For years, regional airlines have tried to skimp and save on the most important safety feature on any flight—two highly trained, fully qualified pilots,” Capt. Jeffrey Suttler, ALPA’s master executive council chair at CommutAir, said on Tuesday. “Today’s agreement at CommutAir is an acknowledgement that airlines must offer competitive packages and work rules to attract and retain pilots.”
Maine Med Nurses Overwhelmingly Defeat Union-Busting Attempt: Once again, Maine Medical Center nurses in Portland have voted for a strong union voice on the job. In the decertification election, nurses voted by an even larger majority for their union than they did the first time, in April 2021. Nurses won by a nearly 3-to-1 margin (74% to 26%) to keep their union. Maine Med nurses say they are excited to affirm their union support and get back to the bargaining table. “The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a right-wing, out-of-state organization that goes around trying to get workers to decertify their unions,” said Mary Kate O’Sullivan, RN and a bargaining team member, explaining some of the forces at play in the election. “They thought because we were a new union, they could manipulate Maine Med nurses and overturn our 2021 election. But we just showed them the door.”
AFM Local 21 Secures New Contract with Delaware Symphony Orchestra: The members of American Federation of Musicians (AFM) Local 21 who perform with the Delaware Symphony Orchestra unanimously ratified a three-year collective bargaining agreement renewal, covering 2022–2025. Local 21 Secretary/Treasurer Glenn Finnan celebrated his union’s wins at the bargaining table. “This ratification is a great reflection of the collaborative relationship that has developed between the musicians and management,” Finnan explained. “The negotiations were positive and productive, and the musicians secured significant improvements in working conditions and compensation that are the best I’ve seen in my time in this position. We are looking forward to three years of great music-making and the understanding that professional musicians are deserving of professional treatment and respect.”
Successful Internal Organizing for TWU Local 263 in Difficult Terrain: In just more than six months, membership of Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 263 in Ysleta, Texas, has quadrupled in size. The union, which represents bus operators and mechanics in the Ysleta Independent School District, is experiencing growth and optimism under new leadership after the previous local president unexpectedly passed away last year. Under President Ruth Villalobos and a newly sworn-in executive board, the local is aiming to reach 100% union membership—no easy feat in a “right to work” state like Texas, where labor laws are stacked against working people. But the members of Local 263 are revitalizing their union one workplace conversation and one new union member at a time. “Right now, it’s very exciting to see people motivated and wanting to work at this,” Villalobos said. “It’s a blessing to see that people want more.”
Shipyard Painters Seal Victory in Portland, Oregon, Union Election: Painters at the Vigor Swan Island Shipyard in Portland, Oregon, won their union election this month by an overwhelming vote. The crew of 16 workers, who paint commercial vessels for Specialty Finishes, are the newest bargaining unit formed with Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) Local 10. Painter David Warnieke said this union victory would be a leap forward for the painters. When asked about the benefits of forming a union with Local 10, Warnieke said he and his colleagues were pushing for “a little bit of a wage increase, family medical coverage, which is huge, and having the protection of the union—having an advocate.”
Two Years Later, WAMU Staffers Sign First Contract: Almost two years after unanimously voting to join SAG-AFTRA, content creators at WAMU radio in Washington, D.C., signed their first contract. The three-year agreement with American University includes guaranteed pay raises, merit raises, union representation in management decisions, protection and pay equity for part-timers, and other benefits. The covered members include hosts, reporters, producers, editors and engineers who create content for the station's shows. “We couldn't have done it without our 55 union members, past members, the help and support of SAG-AFTRA, and listeners/allies,” the union said on Twitter. “We are stronger together! The concerted effort to make WAMU a great workplace doesn't end here. But for now, thank you and solidarity.”
Ironworkers at Regal Industrial Midwest Vote Union Yes: “Victory for the workers at Regal Industrial Midwest who won their union election today!,” the Ironworkers declared. The workers at the industrial sandblasting, metalizing and coatings facility in Pekin, Illinois, filed for union representation with the Ironworkers this summer. They overcame interference in the organizing campaign, and the union submitted a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board in July charging management with making coercive statements. “When Ironworkers stand together, they win,” the union said on Twitter.
Members of IAM Beat Back Two-Tiered Wages in New Agreement With Harley-Davidson: Members of Machinists (IAM) Local 175 who make the iconic Harley-Davidson motorcycles overwhelmingly ratified a strong collective bargaining agreement with their employer. The workers at the assembly and operations facility in York, Pennsylvania, were able to remove the two-tier wage system during negotiations. “Our members had concerns over the two-tier wage scale,” said IAM District 98 Assistant Directing Business Representative Kermit Forbes. “Their solidarity paid off, and together the membership won the day, eliminating the two-tier wage system at the end of the agreement.”
Strippers in North Hollywood Organize with Equity: Strippers at a club in North Hollywood, California, are dancing their way into the labor movement by staging an organizing campaign with Actors’ Equity Association (Equity). A majority of dancers employed at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board, citing workplace safety, significant wage theft and a lack of benefits on the job. If they’re successful, they would be the only strippers in the United States to be represented by a union. “We like what we do,” said Velveeta, a Star Garden dancer. “We would like our jobs even more if we had basic worker protections. We’re like so many other workers who have learned that it’s not a choice between suffering abuse or quitting. With a union, together, we can make needed improvements to our workplace.”
Workers Win Union Election at Equitas Health: Some 175 social workers, counselors, therapists, advocates, case managers and other employees who work in Equitas Health offices across Ohio voted to form a union with the Ohio Federation of Teachers-AFT (OFT-AFT). Equitas Health Workers United (EHWU) is the fourth group of workers to successfully form a union with OFT-AFT in the past year, following union wins for workers at Worthington Libraries, Summit Academy in Lorain and Menlo Park Academy in Cleveland. “We’ve seen positive changes at Equitas since we began organizing more than a year ago, including the hiring of a new interim CEO who is moving Equitas Health in the right direction,” said Erin Koosed, a medical health advocate at Equitas Health’s Toledo office. “We plan to use our union voice and our upcoming contract negotiations to ensure that we keep moving in that direction and continue to address the needs of clients and staff.”
Digital Content Producers and Assignment Editors at WCCO Win Union with SAG-AFTRA: Digital and streaming team producers and assignment desk editors at Minnesota’s WCCO-TV have been officially recognized as a bargaining unit of SAG-AFTRA via a unanimous vote in a union election that was certified this month. The employees, who produce content for the CBS affiliate’s expanding digital footprint and source information for the newsroom, began discussions about organizing with the union more than three years ago. “On behalf of the Twin Cities Local Board, I congratulate the WCCO digital and streaming team, and assignment desk editors, on their victory,” said Twin Cities SAG-AFTRA Local President Peter Moore, who is the son of WCCO-TV legend Dave Moore. “Their victory is proof of the value and necessity of union membership and the power of solidarity. We are thrilled to welcome our newest brothers and sisters.”
Vineyard Workers on Long Island Form Union with RWDSU-UFCW Local 338: The farmworkers at Paumanok and Palmer Vineyards on Long Island, New York, have officially joined Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) Local 338, the union announced. An organizing win that was many years in the making, it would not have been possible without the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act, which New York state’s labor movement fought long and hard to win. Before passage of the act in 2019, agricultural and farm workers were deprived of many basic workplace protections, including the right to organize and join a union. “We’re incredibly proud to have them join our union & look forward to negotiating a strong contract on their behalf,” Local 338 declared on Twitter. “Welcome to the union movement!”
ATU Local 689 Secures Tentative Agreement After Nine-Day Walkout: After a unified and strong nine-day strike, members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 who work for MetroAccess announced that they have reached a tentative agreement with private contractor Transdev. Earlier this month, the more than 200 paratransit drivers, utility workers, dispatchers, maintenance workers and road supervisors in the Washington, D.C., area walked off the job to demand a fair contract. The new deal would include notable gains in wages, retirement, holidays and paid time off. “Our members stood strong and united throughout this process. They braved the heat and the company’s tactics to try and divide us,” said Local 689 President Raymond Jackson. “This strike shows that our members are willing to lay it all on the line for justice.”
Casino Workers at Resorts and Golden Nugget Ratify Contract with Historic Wage Increases: Some 1,000 members of UNITE HERE Local 54 at Resorts and Golden Nugget casinos in Atlantic City, New Jersey, voted 99% “yes” to ratify new agreements with their employers. The workers at these two casinos have been standing strong for significant wage increases, better housekeeping workload standards and job protections. Their ratifications mean that now workers at all nine casinos have secured new contracts. “It’s gratifying after long and difficult negotiations for each side to feel that it has been successful,” Local 54 President Bob McDevitt told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The future of the city is secure, the leadership of the industry is sound, and Local 54 will always fight for the rights of workers.”
Post-Production Workers Join Together in Union at Animation Studio ShadowMachine: Some two dozen post-production staffers who work at animation company ShadowMachine—the makers of popular adult animated shows such as “Robot Chicken” and “BoJack Horseman”—have officially formed a union with the Motion Picture Editors Guild (MPEG)-Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 700. The union was recognized after a formal card-check process took place. “Animation plays a huge and growing role in the entertainment industry, and too often the talented craftspeople who create it don’t enjoy the same union protections bestowed on their live-action counterparts,” said Alan Heim, president of the MPEG-IATSE Local 700. “Our guild is working hard to change that, and we’re excited that ShadowMachine is part of the story.” ShadowMachine’s production workers also voted to form a union with The Animation Guild-IATSE Local 839 in May.
University of Michigan’s Library and Museum Workers Organize Union With AFT: Hundreds of library and museum workers at the University of Michigan (UM) announced that they are forming University Staff United/American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Michigan Local 284. The workers who are organizing said that they are motivated to collectively bargain for adequate pay, better advancement opportunities, more inclusive and flexible working conditions, and access to affordable child care. The majority of workers are supporting the union drive. “On so many issues right now, university staff are at the mercy of the departments’ and the schools’ leadership,” said Samuel Simpson, a resource-sharing specialist at UM’s Ann Arbor campus. “If we’re unionized, management has to come to the table and brainstorm solutions alongside us. We’re not organizing to go against ‘them.’ We’re organizing to work better together.”
IAM Members at Boeing St. Louis Ratify New Contract After Standing Strong for Secure Retirement Plan, Other Improvements: Nearly 2,500 members of Machinists (IAM) District 837 at three Boeing defense locations around St. Louis voted to accept a modified three-year contract offer from their employer. After overwhelmingly voting to reject the company’s contract offer on July 24, the IAM District 837 negotiating committee and the membership stood strong to obtain a modified offer from Boeing. The newly ratified agreement features critical improvements to the company’s previous proposal for retirement plans and other areas. “Throughout negotiations, the committee worked diligently to educate the membership and bring back an improved offer from the company,” said District 837 President and Directing Business Representative Tom Boelling. “We have delivered an equitable contract that will secure the future for the members, their families and future generations.”
Stagehands in Dubuque, Iowa, Unanimously Vote ‘Union Yes’: Backstage technicians at the Five Flags Center in Dubuque, Iowa, have voted unanimously for union representation with Theatrical Stage Employees Local 191, which represents workers in northeast Iowa. The new bargaining unit consists of all full-time, regular part-time and on-call stagehands employed by ASM Global at its Dubuque facility. The Five Flags Center is a multipurpose facility in downtown Dubuque that includes a 4,000-seat arena for ticketed events and a more than 700-seat historic theater that is also the home of the Dubuque Symphony Orchestra.
Beto for Texas Campaign Staff Members Ratify First Contract, a Milestone in Texas Politics: Staffers for Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke’s campaign ratified their union contract last month, becoming the first statewide campaign in the Lone Star State to do so. The agreement covers 129 staffers in organizing, canvassing, press, scheduling, data, coordination, events, finance and other roles. Campaigners will join Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 277 for the duration of the campaign. “We are proud to join the labor movement and to be the first Texas statewide campaign to unionize,” said Rocio Dumey, an organizer on the Beto for Texas campaign. “Like Beto, we practice what we preach. We want to send a message that every worker in this state should have the right to demand better wages, benefits, and working conditions. We want to join them in that fight.”
Arlington County Workers Vote to Form Union with AFSCME: Service, labor and trades workers in Arlington County, Virginia, have voted overwhelmingly to join AFSCME Council 20. They are among the first public service workers in the state to form a union since 2020, when a worker-led campaign successfully overturned a decades-old state law that banned collective bargaining in the public sector. The repeal originated in a bill sponsored by Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman, an AFSCME member. “Together, we’ll bargain a strong contract that can address the disparity in wages between Arlington County and similar communities and expand our healthcare benefits and retirement plans,” said James Rodriguez, president of AFSCME Local 3001.
Registered Nurses at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital Gain Wage Increases, Safety Improvements in New Contract: Registered nurses at Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital in Hollister, California, have secured several benefits with the ratification of a new four-year contract. The nurses are represented by National Nurses United (NNU). “Winning a strong contract means improvements for nursing staff that helps ensure nurses who work here and live here can stay in Hollister,” said Sonia Duran, RN, a member of the bargaining team. “As the only acute care facility in San Benito County, investing in retention and recruitment of nursing staff is crucial to continue to provide quality healthcare for our community.” The contract includes the creation of an Infectious Disease Task Force, workplace violence prevention, recognition of Juneteenth and Martin Luther King Day as holidays, expansion of nondiscrimination language and wage increases, among other benefits.
Alaska Airlines Workers Negotiate Industry-Leading Agreement: Workers at Alaska Airlines, represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM), successfully negotiated an agreement with Alaska Airlines that covers customer service agents, cargo workers and other employees. Once approved, the agreement will make the workers among the highest paid in their classifications across the industry. The agreement will raise wages as much as 17.4%, with more raises scheduled down the line.
‘PBS NewsHour’ Staff Secure Union with SAG-AFTRA: After more than one year of organizing, dozens of reporters, producers, editors, production assistants and other workers who produce the venerated nightly news program “PBS NewsHour” have been officially recognized as a bargaining unit of SAG-AFTRA via a card-check agreement. The union announced that over 70% of the program’s workers signed on to a petition to form their union. “As the workers behind one of the most trusted news institutions in the country, our goal is to strengthen this pillar of American television news by creating a better, healthier and more transparent workplace,” the “NewsHour” content staff said in a statement. “We love our jobs and are truly driven by the NewsHour’s mission. We are glad that management chose to recognize our union and focus on the collective bargaining process that will ensure our voices are heard.”
Goodyear Workers Secure Tentative Agreement after Strike Threat: Workers at Goodyear, members of the Steelworkers (USW), will not go on strike after reaching a tentative agreement with management. “The tentative agreement is a four-year contract with general wage increases (GWI) plus the renewal of our COLA provisions in which all employees will receive the COLA increases,” the United Steel Workers/Goodyear Negotiating Committee said in a news release. The agreement also improves health care and pension benefits.
Steelworkers at Bridgestone Agree to New Contract As Old Contract Expires: After months and the possibility of a strike, members of USW Post 310 who work at Bridgestone secured a new contract. The new contract was tentatively agreed to 36 minutes after the old contract ran out. “When they reach a tentative agreement, they get all the details, they bring it back to the membership, then we have informational meetings. Several of them so everybody has the opportunity to, to look at everything there. Ask any questions to the bargaining team on the details of that. And then after that, we do a vote of the membership,” said Bill Campbell, vice president of Local 310.
IUOE Local 150 Members Unanimously Approve Contract After Seven-Week Strike: The members of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 150 went back to work after unanimously ratifying a new contract. The construction workers in the Chicago area secured a three-year agreement that provides wage increases of more than 16%. Local 150 members have been on strike since June 7 to demand a fair contract. The union announced the ratification on Facebook: “We thank the members as well as the other building trades and the public for the incredible support you’ve shown us over the past seven weeks. It is our hope that this strike will help all workers achieve more at the bargaining table.”
Workers at Trader Joe’s Store in Boulder Organize with UFCW: The labor movement continues to grow across the country, and grocery workers at Trader Joe’s are among the latest to flex their organizing muscles. United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 announced that it had filed a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board on behalf of workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Boulder, Colorado. This is the third group of Trader Joe’s workers who are seeking to form a union. “Employees want a seat at the table,” Local 7 President Kim Cordova said. “They want a share of their employers’ incredible success. It’s about respect at work.” UFCW represents 835,000 grocery workers throughout the United States and Canada.
IT Workers at USDA Vote to Form Union: More than 800 workers at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) have joined AFGE after their election to form a union. The campaign was exciting and posed unique challenges as these IT workers all worked remotely and had limited engagement with each other before the organizing drive began. But through phone banking, sending texts, holding virtual meetings and, most importantly, tasking activists to contact their co-workers, they overwhelmingly voted “Union Yes.” “They became organized under the basic principle of wanting a say in their working conditions because they saw firsthand what a difference having a seat at the table could mean,” said John Dean, AFGE’s lead organizer for the campaign. “This election was the workers’ chance to stand up to the agency, and they did.”
Drivers at 10 Roads Express Win Union with APWU: Truck drivers for 10 Roads Express in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, have voted to form a union with the American Postal Workers Union (APWU). The 100 professional drivers join nearly 1,000 others at the U.S. Postal Service’s largest trucking contractor who are already part of the APWU. The union said the workers stood strong in solidarity against a concerted anti-union campaign from their employer. “Together, we will fight to secure things such as fair work rules, seniority rights, bidding rights, job security and more,” said Bill Hamilton, an 18-year veteran mail-haul driver. “Most importantly, we will not accept being treated with anything less than the dignity and respect that we, as professional drivers, deserve.”
West Virginia Chemical Workers Join ICWUC/UFCW for a Better Life: Workers at Elementis Specialties Inc., in New Martinsville, West Virginia, joined International Chemical Workers Union Council/United Food and Commercial Workers (ICWUC/UFCW) Local 566C for the better wages and benefits that come with a union contract. Elementis is a global chemical company, and the 25 workers are employed as chemical operators, lab technicians, material handlers and maintenance technicians. “The ICWUC is proud of the solidarity the workers of Elementis displayed with their unanimous election win,” said ICWUC/UFCW President Lance Heasley. “We are looking forward to getting to the bargaining table and working to secure a contract for these workers.”