Tremendous Victory: 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:

IAFF Wins Massive Organizing Campaign Among Fairfax County’s First Responders: More than 1,000 firefighters and paramedics in Fairfax County, Virginia, voted 95% in favor of forming a union with the Fire Fighters (IAFF) on Friday. They are the newest group of public service workers to organize a union in the county in northern Virginia after a new state law allowed municipalities across the commonwealth to permit collective bargaining with their employees. Organizers cited the need to fix excessive mandatory overtime as one of the key reasons for their victory. IAFF Local 2068 President Robert Young said, “This win puts us in a position to ensure we are providing the best services to the members of our community.”

Largest Private-Sector Nurses Strike Averted as Thousands of California Nurses Reach Tentative Agreements: More than 21,000 registered nurses (RNs) and nurse practitioners at 21 Kaiser Permanente facilities in Northern California have reached a tentative agreement with management, averting a two-day strike. A separate two-day strike of 1,000 union nurses in Los Angeles was also prevented after the union secured a tentative agreement with the health care giant. The potential strike in Northern California would have been the largest private-sector nurses’ strike in U.S. history, said the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU). The members of CNA/NNU will vote to ratify the new four-year contracts over the next few weeks. “We are very pleased with this new contract, which will help us recruit new nurses and retain experienced RNs and nurse practitioners,” said CNA/NNU President Cathy Kennedy, RN in the neonatal intensive care unit at Kaiser Permanente Roseville Medical Center, of the tentative agreement in Northern California. “We not only won the biggest annual raises in 20 years, but we have also added more than 2,000 positions across our Northern California facilities. This will ensure safe staffing and better patient care.”

Workers at La Colombe Organizing with UFCW: Workers in Washington, D.C., are joining the nationwide wave of union organizing—including the workers at La Colombe, a coffee retailer in our nation’s capital. On Wednesday, workers at La Colombe’s Chinatown location announced their plans to form a union with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 and that they intend to organize other stores as well. They join workers at a bookstore, grocery stores and a cannabis dispensary who have all recently organized with Local 400 in the Washington metro area.

Medieval Times Workers Score Second Organizing Victory: After months of delays and union-busting tactics from their employer, the workers at the Medieval Times castle in Buena Park, California, voted decisively to form a union with the Variety Artists (AGVA). This is the second group of workers to form a union at the dinner theater company after their counterparts in New Jersey successfully organized with AGVA in July. Medieval Times workers said they were motivated to organize in order to work under the protection of a collective bargaining agreement, which will achieve better working conditions, a safer work environment and wages commensurate with their skills. “There was a dismissiveness and feeling that the company views us as replaceable and having a union really sets us apart and shows that...we take our jobs seriously and we want to be treated with the same respect,” Erin Zapcic, a union organizer who performs as a queen in Buena Park, told NPR.

Tufts University’s RAs Organize with OPEIU: More than 80% of resident assistants (RAs) at Tufts University are ready to form their union, United Labor of Tufts Resident Assistants (ULTRA), with Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 153. RAs hand-delivered their letter and petition for voluntary recognition to the office of the Tufts president. They cited the lack of wages and not having any meaningful say over their working conditions. The Tufts RAs join many other academic workers across the country who are organizing. “It’s been taxing on a lot of my fellow RAs, but we suck it up because we need the housing,” Clarence Yeh, an RA, told the Tufts Daily. “Being an RA is an important position and responsibility, so it’s important that we have a way to make sure our voice is heard.”

Nurses at Wichita’s St. Francis Hospital Form Union with NNU: RNs at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis Hospital in Wichita, Kansas, voted by a margin of 378–194 in favor of forming a union with the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC), an affiliate of NNU. The secret ballot was held last week. St. Francis is the largest hospital in Wichita and the first private-sector hospital in the area where RNs have formed a union. “It’s a historic day for the Wichita nurses and our community,” said Angela Cammarn, RN in the cardiac critical care unit at St. Francis. “We are joining a strong community of union nurses in Kansas and across the United States. As nurses, we are committed to providing excellent care to our patients. NNOC/NNU nurses have a track record of fighting for safer conditions so they can provide safe care to their communities. We plan on doing the same here!”

‘Tremendous Victory’: 1,500 Student Workers Win Union at WSU: Academic student employees (ASEs) at Washington State University (WSU) chose by a strong majority to form a union with UAW last week. Their new union, the WSU Coalition of Academic Student Employees (WSU-CASE/UAW), will be a new bargaining unit inclusive of ASEs across all campuses and extension centers of WSU. Carla De Lira, an ASE who has a doctorate in computer science, explained, “We were only able to achieve this tremendous victory by never losing sight of our goal, and that is to create a more equitable WSU and make higher education a more inclusive space for everyone.”

WGAE Members at The Dodo Ratify First Contract with Vox Media: Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), members at The Dodo, the premier animal media brand globally, unanimously ratified a new two-year collective bargaining agreement with parent company Vox Media, the union announced. This is The Dodo Union’s second collective bargaining agreement and the first with Vox Media. The new contract includes a major increase in salary minimums for all job titles, bringing The Dodo Union in line with the industry standards set by the WGAE. “When we began bargaining, our goals were to lift the members of our unit up to a livable, industry-standard wage and to ensure that our acquisition by a bigger parent company would mean better pay, more resources, and higher standards of working and living,” The Dodo Union’s bargaining committee explained. “We’re proud to say that we’ve won a contract that not only guarantees all of this for our unit, but truly reflects the compassion and humanity that the Dodo has built its legacy on.”

AFSCME Florida’s Newest Members Ratify First Contract in Town Still Reeling from Tragedy: AFSCME Florida’s newest members work for the South Florida town of Surfside, and they voted overwhelmingly to ratify their first contract last month. For AFSCME members like Willie Perez, a parking enforcer and member of the bargaining team, the contract is a bright spot in a town that is trying hard to move on from the tragedy of the condominium building collapse that killed 98 people last year. “That whole period was very tough on everyone and is still tough on everyone,” said Perez. “As AFSCME members, we know that through strength and solidarity, we can take on any challenge.”

Liberty Utilities Workers in Georgia Vote to Form Union with UWUA: The Utility Workers (UWUA) announced that 70 workers at Liberty Utilities in Columbus and Gainesville, Georgia, voted to form a union with UWUA. Liberty workers’ organizing drive was motivated by concerns about workplace practices and safety, on-call policies and low wages in comparison to the company’s wage rates across the country. “This is our second organizing victory in the South over the past few months, which is an especially challenging part of the country to win union campaigns,” said UWUA National President James Slevin. “We welcome this group to the UWUA and look forward to representing them as they work to bargain their first contract.”

IAM Reaches Tentative Agreement with Southwest Airlines That Puts Members at Top of Industry’s Pay Scale: The Machinists (IAM) have reached a new tentative agreement with Southwest Airlines that would provide its members between a 16% and 25% wage increase over four years and place its members at the top of the airline industry’s pay scale. The five-year tentative agreement includes several improvements over the previous failed tentative agreement: higher wage increases and bonuses, stronger overtime provisions, “me too” clauses for top-of-scale wage rates, signing bonuses, retroactive pay and paid parking. “IAM members at Southwest Airlines have made their strength and their voices heard,” said IAM Air Transport Territory General Vice President Richard Johnsen. “The IAM continues to negotiate agreements that make history for our members and raise the bar for all airline workers.” The IAM represents some 8,300 customer service employees at Southwest Airlines.

Yale’s Researchers and Teachers Organize with UNITE HERE: UNITE HERE Local 33 submitted thousands of union cards from Yale University’s graduate researchers and graduate and professional teachers to the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Workers also visited university president Peter Salovey’s office to deliver an election petition to Yale. Local 33 said, “This is a historic moment in the 30-year campaign for a graduate worker union at Yale. This is the biggest group of teachers and researchers that has ever had the chance to form a union at Yale. All semester, we have been organizing together, and now we are ready to win together!”

NYSNA’s 42,000-Strong Union Affiliates with NNU: The New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) delegates to the union’s 2022 convention voted to affiliate with the more than 180,000 nurses of NNU. NYSNA’s nearly 42,000 members will increase NNU’s membership to nearly 225,000 nurses and bring NYSNA into the AFL-CIO, of which NNU is already a member union. NYSNA, the oldest nurses association in the country and one of the most influential nurses unions, will gain greater resources and capacity, particularly in the federal arena, by joining NNU. “COVID-19 has shown that nurses nationwide face the same issues and challenges at work,” said NYSNA President Nancy Hagans, RN, BSN, CCRN. “There is strength in numbers, and a NYSNA affiliation with NNU will strengthen our fight to protect nurses, our patients and our communities. We are thrilled that this affiliation connects us more closely to the national and international labor movement, which is essential to improving the lives of working people.”

IAM Members End Strike, Secure Strong Contract at Amphenol Aerospace: A strike that began on Saturday, Oct. 15, at noon has ended for approximately 700 members of IAM Local 1529 (District 15) who work for Amphenol Aerospace in Sidney, New York. The new contract includes improved wages, the elimination of the two-tier wage system and improved paid leave. “Our members stood strong to secure a contract that created fairness in the workplace and improved their quality of life. They are back at work and are thankful for the outpouring of support from the community,” said District 15 Directing Business Representative Norman Shreve. “The elimination of the two-tier wage system through progression was a huge accomplishment.”

Ironworkers Score Organizing Victory in Delaware: Workers at ShureLine Construction voted overwhelmingly to form a union with the Ironworkers. The victory for the workers at ShureLine marks a big win in their fight for fair wages and better working conditions. The union reported this organizing effort received strong support from Delaware’s labor community, elected officials and community allies. “The comradery of the workers has been incredible. Despite anything the company has thrown at them, their support never wavered, and they always had each other’s backs,” said Vince DiDonato, district representative for the Ironworkers. “Throughout all of this, the workers at ShureLine just wanted a union, and today they finally got it.”

Corn Nuts Strike Ends: BCTGM Members Ratify New Contract: Members of Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 85 who work at the Corn Nuts plant in Fresno, California, have voted to accept a new collective bargaining agreement. Approval of the contract ends the BCTGM’s strike at the Hormel-owned Corn Nuts snack production facility, which began on Aug. 15. “Our striking members at the Corn Nuts plant courageously stood their ground and sacrificed so much in order to achieve a fair contract,” said BCTGM International President Anthony Shelton. “The BCTGM has shown, once again, that this union will do whatever it takes, make any sacrifice, take on any employer or adversary in order to preserve the rights of our members and maintain a high standard of living for BCTGM families.”

Alaska Airlines Pilots Approve New Contract: After three years of negotiations, pilots at Alaska Airlines voted to approve a new contract. The pilots, members of the Air Line Pilots Association, voted 82% in favor of the new deal. The contract includes pay raises, increased schedule flexibility and improved job security. “For years, we’ve been polling our pilots to ensure this agreement would meet their needs, and today’s vote makes it clear that the major deficiencies in our contract have been addressed,” said Capt. Will McQuillen, chairman of the Alaska Airlines Master Executive Council.

Steelworkers Ratify Groundbreaking Agreement with Cleveland-Cliffs: The United Steelworkers (USW) announced that its members have overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new four-year contract covering roughly 12,000 workers at thirteen Cleveland-Cliffs locations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Minnesota. The new contract raises base wages by 20%, improves insurance benefits for active and retired workers, increases pensions and enhances paid time off, including new provisions of parental paid leave and for employees who are survivors of domestic violence. “Throughout the pandemic and every other challenge that faces the industry, Steelworkers perform the work essential to keep our plants running safely and productively,” said USW International Vice President David McCall. “Thanks to the solidarity of USW members, activists and local union leaders, our work will be safer and pay more without sacrificing security of our jobs.”

Philadelphia Museum of Art Workers Secure Tentative Agreement Following 19-Day Strike: AFSCME members at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) won a tentative agreement from museum management, the union announced. Hundreds of members of the PMA Union, an affiliate of AFSCME Local 397 (District Council 47), have been on strike for 19 days to demand their first contract. Museum workers at PMA won their union with AFSCME in 2020. “There were five issues going into the strike. We got all five,” the PMA Union said of its tentative agreement with the museum. “Management claimed they wouldn’t move. They did.” “This victory today is an example of what happens when workers come together in a union to demand better wages, fair treatment and respect on the job,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “This is why cultural workers at museums, libraries and zoos across the country have started a wave of worker organizing that’s taking hold of the industry, and we’re proud that they’re part of the AFSCME family.”

Dancers of Saint Louis Ballet Organizing with AGMA: With an overwhelming majority of support, the dancers with Saint Louis Ballet have signed cards to form a union and join the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). Saint Louis Ballet, located in Chesterfield, Missouri, employs 21 professional dancers and stages five artistic productions each season. AGMA has officially notified management and said it is hopeful that the company will respect its artists’ wishes and voluntarily recognize their union. “Dancers are extraordinarily dedicated artists and deserve to have a voice in their working lives. AGMA is here to support the dancers of Saint Louis Ballet as they take the exciting first steps in their unionizing journey,” said Griff Braun, AGMA’s national organizing director.

More Than 600 Nurses in Wichita File for Election to Join NNU: Nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis hospital in Wichita, Kansas, have filed for a union election with the goal of being represented by NNU. Approximately 625 RNs would be part of the bargaining unit at St. Francis, one of the biggest hospitals in the state and part of the Ascension Via Christi network. NNU has been working to organize at several hospitals owned by Ascension, including a recent victory at Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas, where more than 70% of eligible nurses voted in favor of representation with NNU.

WGAE Organizes Pineapple Street Studios Podcast Staff: Workers at podcast network Pineapple Street Studios signed up to join the WGAE, with 98% of workers agreeing to join the union. Approximately 40 workers will make up the new bargaining unit at Pineapple Street Studios, which is owned by Audacy, Inc., a radio station owner. “The last two years have brought into sharp focus the urgent need for a more fair and equitable workplace,” Pineapple Street Studios employees wrote in a letter to management. Some Audacy radio stations are already represented by WGAE, and the union is having frequent success in organizing podcast networks such as Ringer, Gimlet Media and iHeartMedia, Inc. The workers are organizing around increased transparency around pay, rights to their intellectual property, protection against favoritism in the workplace and improved health care.

Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) Approves New Three-Year Contract: Approximately 40 employees at TARTA and its paratransit agency, Toledo Area Regional Paratransit Service (TARPS), agreed to a new three-year deal that provides pay raises between 10% and 25%. “We’ll continue to work with members and TARTA to advocate and support market value wage increases,” said Toledo Association of Administrative Personnel (TAAP)/UAW Local 5242 President Emilio Ramirez. “It’s important to all of us that these team members know that they are a valued part of what’s happening at TARTA and that they have a contract which reflects that.”

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) Fast Food Workers Approve New Contract: Thousands of cashiers, baristas, cooks, dishwashers, bartenders, servers and lounge attendants at 84 food and beverage outlets at SFO secured a new contract after a three-day strike. The new contract goes through August 2025 and includes a $5-per-hour raise and free family health care. The workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 2, voted 99.5% in favor of the contract. “This victory shows the world that fast-food jobs can in fact be good, family-sustaining jobs, and it’s all because workers had the courage to strike,” said Anand Singh, president of UNITE HERE Local 2. "After three years without a raise, SFO’s fast-food workers were tired of working two or even three jobs just to survive—so they took their lives into their own hands and won a better future.”

University of Michigan Nurses Ratify New Contract: Members of the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) at the University of Michigan voted to ratify a new contract after months of negotiations. The contract includes enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios, an end to mandatory overtime except during select emergencies, wage increases worth a total of 22.5% over the life of the contract and ratification and retention bonuses. “This contract provides important investments in nurses and protections for patients that MNA-UMPNC [University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council] nurses and our community fought hard for over the past six months,” said Renee Curtis, RN, president of MNA-UMPNC. “We’re excited about being able to hold the employer accountable for safe nurse-to-patient ratios and end dangerous mandatory overtime. Strong wage increases and bonuses will help attract and retain the nurses we need to take care of our patients.”