Worker Wins: Best Contracts Ever

Our latest roundup of worker wins includes numerous examples of working people organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life. 

Ice Cream Producers Organize at Ben & Jerry’s Waterbury Plant: Workers at Ben & Jerry’s flagship plant in Waterbury, Vermont, won union recognition Wednesday by way of card-check and joined United Commercial and Food Workers (UFCW) Local 371. Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever, agreed to neutrality in unionization efforts earlier this year, paving the way for ice cream processors to organize for representation at the iconic frozen treat brand. Workers at the plant have been organizing for months to ensure that they could codify the benefits and rights they currently have. Ronald Petronella, president of Local 371, applauded the neutrality commitment and said, “We’re just very pleased that Ben & Jerry’s chose to go down this path rather than to be in an adversarial situation.”
Culinary Union Announces Tentative Agreements for New 5-Year Contracts with Mirage/Hard Rock and Tropicana: UNITE HERE Culinary Union in Las Vegas announced on Wednesday exciting new tentative agreements reached between The Mirage (now owned and operated by Hard Rock International) and Tropicana Las Vegas casino resorts. Calling the new five-year deals the “best contract[s] ever,” these negotiations impact some 2,000 hospitality workers in a city where the economy is famously driven by tourism. Earlier this month, another tentative agreement was made with the Four Seasons Las Vegas hotel that would cover an additional 300 hospitality workers. These wins come after the Culinary Union has already settled new contracts this year with the three casino giants, MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment and Wynn Resorts—ahead of massive events like the Formula One 2023 Las Vegas Grand Prix and Super Bowl LVIII—ensuring the workers who make the entertainment capital of the world run are protected and paid fairly.
Tech Workers at Princeton Public Schools File to Unionize: Technology workers at Princeton Public Schools in New Jersey unanimously submitted a petition to the New Jersey Public Employment Relations Commission to unionize with Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 32. The group, Princeton Public Schools Technology Association (PPSTA), requested voluntary recognition, but was refused. “We believe we can better address our job responsibilities once our concerns with staffing levels, budgetary constraints, and workplace conditions are reviewed and resolved,” the group said in the petition.
Cannabis Workers in Colorado Ratify First Contract: Members of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 who work at the Green Dragon cannabis grow house in Denver overwhelmingly voted to ratify their first union contract. They are the first grow house unit to unionize under the new Colorado law that allows agriculture workers to form a union. The workers are concerned about workplace safety and job security at the facility. The new 18-month contract includes multiple raises during the lifetime of the agreement, two retention bonuses, the creation of a safety committee, protections against “at will” employment and accrued vacation time for the workers, which they previously did not have.
In Historic Election, University Medical Center Nurses in New Orleans Vote to Join NNOC/NNU: Registered nurses at University Medical Center (UMC) New Orleans voted in favor of joining National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU), the union announced on Dec. 9. Despite a union-busting effort from management, nurses voted 82% in favor of the union with over 90% turnout. “This is a historic day for UMC, for New Orleans and the surrounding area, and for all of Louisiana and the South,” said Dionne Jones, an RN in the in-house nurse pool at UMC. “Nurses at our hospital wanted a voice so we can speak up for our patients and ourselves, and we wanted a seat at the table to be involved in shaping the future of our hospital. Now that we’ve won our union, we have both.”
University of Hawaii Professional Assembly Votes to Join Forces with AFT: The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA) board of directors voted unanimously to affiliate with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The AFT executive council is expected to vote to accept the 3,000-member UHPA as an affiliate this week. “The UHPA board strongly believes it is a critical time to affiliate with the AFT to benefit our members. Academic freedom and the rights of faculty are increasingly under siege across the nation. Politics interfere with university decisions, and faculty are in the crosshairs,” said David Duffy, president of the UHPA board of directors and principal investigator of numerous botany- and zoology-related research projects that have secured millions of dollars in extramural (nonstate) grants for the University of Hawaii. “We also continually face challenges in our state with ongoing, meddlesome legislation that undermines the University of Hawaii’s autonomy and threatens individual faculty and programs—clear violations of our state constitution.”
OPEIU Members and TruStage Reach Tentative Contract Agreement: Workers at TruStage, an insurance company based in Madison, Wisconsin, reached a tentative contract agreement after nearly two years of negotiations that led to a strike last spring. Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 39 represents 450 TruStage workers. “We will be taking the next week to meet with our members and to vote on the contract,” said Kathryn Bartlett-Mulvihill, OPEIU Local 39 president and business manager.
After Nearly 5 Years, Engineering Association Member Timothy Hubbard Wins Back His Job: Timothy Hubbard, who was unjustly fired by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), won back his job, with back pay, after an arbitrator ruled in his favor. Hubbard is a member of the Engineering Association, International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 1937. He worked as a radiation protection technician at TVA and was a Local 1937 steward at the time he was fired. The arbitrator found that “the grievant’s termination is to be set aside and the grievant is to be returned to work with back pay and no loss of seniority or benefits.” “I have been waiting now for five years for this day to come,” Hubbard said. “I, and my union, knew that TVA fired me without cause, and did so without providing me any due process.…If I told you that this has not taken a toll on my family and me, both personally and professionally, I’d be lying. All of us as workers need the protections that come with a union card, and that is exactly what I got from my Union.”
Netflix Production Accountants Unionize with IATSE: Production accountants who work at Netflix in New York and New Jersey unionized with Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 161. Production accountants are broadly responsible for “recording all financial transactions on a project; managing compliance; and paying third parties, cast and crew on TV shows and films.” “I don’t think it gets mentioned enough within our industry the importance that the accounting department plays within a production,” said second assistant production accountant Ignacio Brea. “The goal for all of us involved in this campaign is really to empower accountants across the board to just take ourselves more seriously, as well. Because accounting is an integral part of productions.”
Conagra Maintenance Workers in Indiana Join UFCW Local 700: The 28 maintenance workers at Conagra Bakery joined United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 700 because they want the same benefits and treatment as their unionized colleagues who work in the processing division of the same plant and in the maintenance division at the other Conagra plant in Indianapolis. “We’re excited to work together and negotiate a contract that provides a good work-life balance and creates equitable treatment for everyone in the department,” said UFCW Local 700 President Tracy Bartak. “Conagra Bakery maintenance workers deserve the same type of job protections as everyone else in the plant.”
SAG-AFTRA Members Approve 2023 TV/Theatrical Contracts Agreement: Members of SAG-AFTRA ratified the 2023 TV/Theatrical Agreement on Tuesday with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Members approved the new, multiyear contracts covering television, theatrical and streaming production by a vote of 78%. The contract includes more than $1 billion in new compensation and benefit plan funding, outsized gains to the traditional residuals formulas, a new compensation model for performers working in streaming, a substantial bonus on top of existing streaming residuals structures, compensation escalation for principal and background actors, detailed informed consent and compensation guardrails for the use of artificial intelligence (AI), hair and makeup equity, meaningful protections for the casting process, sexual harassment prevention protections, and more. “I’m proud of our SAG-AFTRA membership,” SAG-AFTRA President Fran Drescher said. “They struck for 118 days to grant the TV/Theatrical Negotiating Committee the necessary leverage to secure over $1 billion in gains, along with the union’s first-ever protections around AI technology. Now they’ve locked in the gains by ratifying the contract. SAG-AFTRA members have remained incredibly engaged throughout this process, and I know they’ll continue their advocacy throughout our next negotiation cycle. This is a golden age for SAG-AFTRA, and our union has never been more powerful.”
Hospital Doctors in Oregon and Washington Vote to Organize: Doctors at six Legacy Health hospitals in Oregon and Washington voted overwhelmingly to organize. The vote was certified by the National Labor Relations Board on Nov. 17. Hospital doctors are unionizing to improve local health care and give front-line providers a voice in the decisions that impact their patients’ care, communities’ health and hospital working conditions. The doctors will be members of the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). “We’re caring for more people who are sicker than ever before. We need more staff to give our patients the time and attention they need,” said Eric Seymour, a pediatric hospitalist at Randall Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. “Hospital administrators aren’t at the bedside to see the problems and aren’t listening to providers’ solutions. We voted to unionize so the people caring for you can advocate for you and your family. We need a seat at the table to ensure we have the staff, tools and support we need to properly care for our patients.”
WGAE Members at MSNBC Ratify First Union Contract: After more than two years of negotiations, Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), members at MSNBC overwhelmingly ratified their first collective bargaining agreement on Tuesday. The nearly 300-member bargaining unit at MSNBC won a three-year contract that includes a minimum 3% pay increase every year for the next three years, a ratification bonus, guaranteed minimum severance for layoffs and other gains. “We are excited to say that we have ratified our first contract after 2 years of negotiations,” the union said in a statement. “We are proud to share that this contract addresses priority issues from our members like continued remote work flexibility, additional payment for performing extra work, night shift payment, and the right to turn down standby requests. The contract provides meaningful economic gains for our members.”
Detroit Casino Council Members Ratify Historic New Contract with MGM Grand Detroit: Union members with the Detroit Casino Council voted overwhelmingly on Dec. 2 to ratify a new contract with MGM Grand Detroit after 47 days on strike. The five-year agreement covers 1,700 workers and includes the largest wage increases ever for MGM Grand Detroit workers, a bonus, no health care cost increases for employees, workload reductions, other job protections, first-ever technology contract language and more. The Detroit Casino Council includes UNITE HERE Local 24, UAW Local 7777, Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 324, the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Teamsters Local 1038. “Both my son and I have been on strike together, so for me the fight to protect our healthcare and win better wages was always about something bigger for my family and the next generation,” said Alicia Weaver, a guest room attendant for 24 years at MGM Grand Detroit and member of Local 24. “Together—with the rest of our MGM family who stood with us on that picket line in the rain and frigid temperatures—we made history, and I’m proud of what we accomplished by taking a stand together.”
After Monthslong Strike, USW’s Nurses Win Safe Staffing at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital: United Steelworkers (USW) Local 4-200 and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey, reached a tentative contract agreement on Friday. Nurses have been on strike since Aug. 4. The union's 1,700 members must still vote to ratify the contract. “Safe staffing is essential to both patient care and reducing burnout among health care workers,” said Judy Danella, RN, president of Local 4-200. “This contract sets the necessary staffing ratios so that we can spend more time with each of our patients and keep ourselves safe on the job. This agreement was hard-fought, but our sacrifice ultimately paid off with a fair contract that addresses nurses’ most urgent concerns. The local bargaining committee unequivocally recommends ratification.” “This is a testament to the courageous leadership of these local unions and the solidarity of their members,” said New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “Also, the support for our sisters and brothers from every sector of our labor movement contributed to the victories of reaching collective bargaining agreements that will be voted on in the coming weeks. It’s been a long hard fight for all of these members, but thankfully, they were all eligible for unemployment insurance, which sustained many of them during the strike.”
Solidarity Delivers! IBEW Local and Atlantic City Electric Reach Tentative Agreement: Members of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 210 reached a tentative agreement with Atlantic City Electric in New Jersey after a strike that began on Nov. 5. The contract still needs to be ratified by the workers. It includes pay increases, more vacation and holiday time, and a work-from-home option for some workers. In a statement, the IBEW said: “Late Friday evening IBEW local union 210 and Atlantic City Electric reached a tentative agreement. A ratification vote shall take place on Tuesday. The union is eager to get back to work, to once again provide the quality electric service the ratepayers of South Jersey deserve. I am proud of the solidarity that the members of 210 displayed during this entire process! It was truly inspirational to witness the support from the community and local businesses as we fought for a better future!”
Experis Game Solutions Workers Win Vote to Organize with IAM: On Thursday, workers at Experis Game Solutions, a subsidiary of ManpowerGroup, voted to organize with the Machinists (IAM). The 42 test associates, software test engineers and data software analysts that form the new bargaining unit in Milwaukee will immediately begin preparing for contract negotiations. The workers are seeking to address low pay, burnout, a lack of job security and unaffordable health insurance, among other issues. “We could not be prouder of the forceful message Experis workers delivered to their employer yesterday: that they are ready to be compensated fairly for the skills and hard work they bring to their jobs every day,” said IAM District 10 Directing Business Representative Alex Hoekstra. “We welcome them into the IAM family and will have their backs at every step of the way as they negotiate their first contract. When 83% of workers agree that it’s time to bargain, it’s time to bargain.”