Worker Wins

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

Machinists at Spirit AeroSystems Vote to Accept Improved Contract Offer: Approximately 6,000 members of the Machinists (IAM) Local 839 at Spirit AeroSystems voted to ratify an improved four-year contract. The IAM members went on strike on June 24 and will return to work on July 5. The new contract includes significant improvements over the previous offer—which was rejected—including wage increases, improved prescription drug coverage and better overtime rules. The IAM members work at the Spirit AeroSystems plant in Wichita, Kansas, manufacturing major aerostructures for companies such as Boeing and Airbus, as well as defense and business jets. “We knew these negotiations were not going to be your typical set of talks,” said IAM Local 839 Chief Negotiator Jason Baze. “Our membership clearly said the original offer was unacceptable by rejecting it soundly. The committee returned to the table to address their concerns.” “At the end of the day, IAM members democratically decide what is acceptable to them during contract negotiations—and we always support their decision,” said IAM Southern Territory General Vice President Rickey Wallace. “These critical improvements demonstrate the power of collective bargaining. I am very proud of our Local 839 negotiating committee and membership.”

Alaska Fred Meyer Workers Join UFCW: In a huge win, workers from across 10 departments at the Fred Meyer in West Fairbanks, Alaska, voted to organize with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1496. This is the first step on a long road to securing a fair contract, as they navigate the bargaining process against the backdrop of a possible Albertsons–Kroger merger. “The result of this vote is a big win in our pursuit of a better workplace,” said Kris Kozak, a worker in the home department at the Fred Meyer store in West Fairbanks. “I want to express my gratitude to each and every one of my fellow co-workers who dedicated their valuable time and effort in this process. We are confident that this union win will pave the way for a brighter future for everyone in our store. We look forward to coming together as a team and making Fred Meyer a better place for its workers, customers and the Fairbanks community. Our victory is a testament to our shared vision and the power of solidarity.”

Phoenix Becomes Second ‘Drunk Shakespeare’ Company to Organize with Equity: Actors, stage managers, bartenders and servers for “Drunk Shakespeare” in Phoenix became the second company of the franchise to organize with the Actors’ Equity Association (Equity). Chicago’s company joined several weeks ago. Workers for the Phoenix production unanimously chose to unionize to pursue achievable solutions to recurring problems. “We learn so much from each other—collaboration and communication make the show better and make the workplace better,” said Clara Kundin, a performer in “Drunk Shakespeare” Phoenix. “Going Equity means we can pull from a greater pool of actors next time we’re hiring. Union workplaces are strong workplaces.” 

‘Drunk Shakespeare’ Workers Successfully Organize with Equity: Actors, stage managers, bartenders and servers of Chicago’s “Drunk Shakespeare” have achieved their goal of organizing with the Actors’ Equity Association (Equity). Within days of these workers filing their petition with the National Labor Relations Board, their employer, Meme Juice Productions, voluntarily recognized the new bargaining unit, known as Drunk Shakespeare United. Equity is currently in the process of filing the paperwork to certify this status. “Good now, some excellent fortune! We appreciate that the employer moved so swiftly to recognize the union, and we look forward to productive bargaining once the ink is dry,” said Kate Shindle, president of Equity. “These arts workers in Chicago took a bold step, knowing that bringing their voices to the table with management would make their workplace better. I also want to applaud Equity staff, especially the organizing department, for their collaboration and expertise. This is an awesome and inspiring victory.” The Chicago production of “Drunk Shakespeare” is one of five productions of the show currently running around the country but the only one unionized at present.

Veterans Affairs Registered Nurses Sign 3-Year Contract with NNOC/NNU: Registered nurses with National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU) at the Department of Veterans Affairs signed a three-year contract, which covers more than 14,000 RNs at 23 hospitals. “We are pleased that this protracted process is finally over and this agreement is signed,” said NNOC/NNU-VA Chair Irma Westmoreland, RN. “We are proud to have a new contract in place, but our work as registered nurses is never done. We must now keep our sleeves rolled up to tackle the understaffing conditions our nurses are facing across the country. We look forward to working with Secretary [Denis] McDonough to implement alternative work schedule flexibilities that will retain nurses and improve staffing levels for veterans. “Throughout the pandemic, VA nurses have worked tirelessly in extremely difficult conditions to provide care for the sickest of the sick. While providing this care, we have had to fight for optimal personal protection equipment, appropriate training and staffing, notification and testing following exposures, and proper infection controls. This has put us, our families, and our patients unnecessarily at risk. We hope the signing of this contract marks the beginning of a new era of renewed respect for the rights and lives of the nurses who advocate and care for our nation’s heroes.”

AFGE Wins Union Election at EPA Facility in Michigan: Tricia Paff, president of AFGE Local 37, discovered that remote workers at a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, were about to lose their union protections. Paff was on the AFGE-EPA contract negotiations team when she learned that remote workers at multiple EPA facilities were going to be removed from the bargaining unit after their duty station was changed. As Paff and the AFGE-EPA Council were investigating the issue, the Ann Arbor human resource director confirmed that her facility was indeed one of the locations that would be affected. Paff was able to get the action postponed, and 19 remote workers were able to vote and retain their union protections.

UNITE HERE's Culinary Union Announces Palms Casino Resort Has a Union Contract: UNITE HERE's Culinary Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 reached an agreement with Palms Casino Resort on a first three-year contract to protect workers with health care benefits, fair wages and job security, and to respect the seniority rights for more than 900 employees. The agreement covers guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, cooks, bartenders and stewards. The contract includes standard union language on worker security regarding subcontracting, safety buttons, sexual harassment, workload, technology and immigration. Workers voted by an overwhelming majority of 95% to accept the new contract. “We celebrate this historic agreement with Palms, which protects workers with the best health care in Nevada, strong job security and fair wage increases,” said Ted Pappageorge, secretary-treasurer for the Culinary Union. “The San Manuel Gaming and Hospitality Authority and Palms Casino Resort have done the right thing by respecting their employees and recalling workers back to work with their seniority intact. The Culinary Union is proud to have reached an agreement for a strong union contract at Palms, which protects workers with the union standard we have fought to build and strengthen over 88 years. Congratulations to the workers on your new union contract and welcome to the union family!” Palms workers voted in April 2018 to unionize with the Culinary Union and Bartenders Union by an 84% majority under Palms’ previous operator, Station Casinos, the worst labor law violator in the history of the Nevada gaming industry.

CNET Media Workers Unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East: CNET writers, editors, video producers and other content creators have unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). The workers are calling on CNET’s parent company, Red Ventures, to voluntarily recognize their union. In a letter delivered to management, the approximately 100-member bargaining unit, known as the CNET Media Workers Union, said: “The digital media landscape is transforming rapidly. In this time of instability, our diverse content teams need industry-standard job protections, fair compensation, editorial independence and a voice in the decision-making process, especially as automated technology threatens our jobs and reputations. A union will help us adapt to new business strategies while establishing high journalistic standards and practices. “By unionizing, we’re joining our peers at other digital media sites who have won security and benefits through negotiating unit-wide contracts. We feel that a union is the only way to guarantee job protections, defend editorial integrity and ensure standard cost-of-living raises as well as fair severance packages. A union would give us a voice on new AI and marketing initiatives and allow us to safeguard our workloads, bylines and careers. We look forward to bringing together our largely remote and siloed teams in this effort.” Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGAE, said, “The people who write, edit, and create content for CNET are hard-working professionals who recognize that collective bargaining is an essential part of doing meaningful work and building sustainable careers. We anticipate the Company will honor their workers’ decision to be represented by the WGAE.”

Los Angeles’ Star Garden Dancers Become Nation’s Only Unionized Strippers: After a 15-month effort, dancers at the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar in North Hollywood, California, have gained union recognition and become the nation’s only unionized strippers. "If you have been following our journey, then you know this has been a long, exhausting fight, which is why this victory is so sweet,” said Reagan, one of the Star Garden dancers. “We put everything we have into this campaign, and we were fortunate to have the support and solidarity from the club’s patrons, our allies and friends, the labor movement, and our union, Actors' Equity Association.” Lawyers representing the owners of the Star Garden Topless Dive Bar agreed to recognize the union and will meet with Actors’ Equity Association (Equity) across the bargaining table within 30 days to negotiate a first contract. The club also will reopen for business and bring back dancers who were dismissed last year. As a result of the settlement, the National Labor Relations Board will count the votes this week and is expected to certify Equity as the bargaining agent for Star Garden’s dancers. This also is a first for Equity: “Strippers are live entertainers. While some elements of their job are unique, they are essentially performance artists, and have a lot in common with other Equity members who dance for a living,” said Actors’ Equity Association President Kate Shindle. “Every worker who wants a union deserves a union. The Star Garden dancers have been absolute warriors throughout this long process, and I'm thrilled that we’ve won recognition of their rights to safety and democracy in the workplace and representation at the bargaining table.” Dancers at Star Garden and other strip clubs routinely have issues with health and safety as well as compensation, including wage theft. Like workers in other occupations, they want health insurance and other benefits. And probably more than most, they need protection from sexual harassment.

Blue Bird Workers Vote to Join USW: Working people at Blue Bird Corp.’s Fort Valley, Ga., facility voted to join the United Steelworkers (USW), so they can address urgent concerns, including workplace health and safety, work-life balance, and fair pay. Some 1,400 workers will be represented by the USW. Blue Bird workers make school buses, including low-emission and zero-emission models. “We work hard, and we deserve fair pay, safe working conditions and to be treated with respect on the job,” said Patrick Watkins, a Blue Bird worker who served on the volunteer organizing committee. “It was clear that our only path forward was to take our future into our own hands—and that’s what we did today when we voted to organize.”

Over 300 Workers at Auto Parts Supplier Yanfeng Vote to Join UAW: More than 300 workers at the Yanfeng USA’s Riverside facility outside Kansas City, Missouri, voted to join the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) Local 710. This is the sixth Yangfeng facility to organize with the UAW, joining more than 1,000 union members at the company’s facilities in Highland Park, Romulus and Monroe, Michigan; Ontario, Canada; and McCalla, Alabama. The Yanfeng workers are organizing to put an end to low pay, the lack of seniority rights, understaffed shifts and little to no work-life balance. Workers of color also claim to have been discriminated against by management. “This struggle was about fair treatment for every worker and holding management accountable,” said Sharon Gilliam, a Yanfeng worker who helped lead the organizing drive. “We want every worker to be educated and informed of their rights and to empower them on the shop floor, and this is the first step.”

29,000 Machinists Members at United Airlines Ratify Industry-Leading Labor Agreements: Some 29,000 United Airlines workers, members of the Machinists (IAM), have ratified labor agreements that include the industry’s best wages and stronger job protections. Members ratified five contracts covering fleet service, passenger service, storekeeper, maintenance instructors, fleet technical instructors and related, and maintenance instructors. The 118 members in the security guard and central load planners classifications have not ratified their contracts. The IAM will continue to work on next steps for these members. Highlights of the ratified contracts include industry-best wage rates; the insourcing of five previously outsourced locations; protection of full-time employment and opportunities; the permanent prohibition of outsourcing for 17 additional U.S. locations; increased lead and specialty premiums; an extended system of no lay-off protection for tens of thousands more IAM members; an early opener for the next negotiations; and a signing bonus. “The IAM has once again set the bar for airline workers across the industry,” said IAM Air Transport Territory General Vice President Richie Johnsen. “We continue to have success reaching agreements that secure our work and turn airline jobs into family-sustaining careers.”

Equity Membership Ratifies New Unified Touring Agreement with The Broadway League: Actors’ Equity Association (Equity) and The Broadway League officially have a new contract governing touring productions, following the ratification by vote of Equity membership. The new touring agreement will be in effect through Sept. 7, 2026. “Creating a new, unified touring agreement has been a long-term goal, and it was a massive undertaking,” said Kate Shindle, president of Equity. “Thousands of collective hours—from the negotiating team, from Equity staff, from committees, from our members who mobilized to an historic degree—went into pouring this foundation that we can now build upon. We made some major gains: more competitive salaries, producer-paid housing options across the entire touring landscape, meaningful increases in per diem and some new models for coverage, so that the show can go on without the need for actors and stage managers to work when we’re sick or injured. The new contract contains advances in equity, diversity and inclusion, paid sick leave for everyone in the Equity company and safeguards for those who need reproductive and gender-affirming care. Touring is hard, and living on the road full time presents unique challenges. We will continue to focus on improving quality of life for the actors and stage managers who commit to bringing world-class theatre to communities across the country. I am grateful for the sustained, passionate and creative work of everyone who contributed to this negotiation.”

WGAE Members at BDG Win First Contract: Members of Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), at BDG (Bustle Digital Group) reached a tentative agreement with management on a first union contract after more than two years of negotiations. They will vote shortly to ratify the contract, at which time details will be made public. In a statement, the BDG Union said: “We are elated to announce that we have a deal! Our first union contract could not have been achieved without an incredible amount of solidarity and fortitude by our current bargaining unit. We also owe a deep amount of gratitude to the many workers who have either left or been let go at BDG who fiercely supported this campaign over the more than two years of negotiations. In the contract, we won guaranteed minimum salary increases, strong benefits and fair severance and protection from layoffs. We look forward to sharing more details upon ratification.”

Equity Members and League of Resident Theatres Ratify New Agreement: Actors’ Equity Association (Equity), the national union representing more than 51,000 professional actors and stage managers in live theater, and the League of Resident Theatres (LORT), the largest professional theater association of its kind in the United States, have ratified a new four-and-a-half-year agreement. “This agreement demonstrates that despite the hardships of the pandemic, we can build a stronger theater industry for the workers,” said Equity Assistant Executive Director Andrea Hoeschen, who served as lead negotiator for the union on this agreement. “We are grateful to LORT for working with us to create an agreement that increases wages and job opportunities as well as expanding worker protections. We are optimistic that this agreement will also afford LORT opportunities to recover from the pandemic and expand their audiences moving forward.” The contract includes meaningful salary increases and growth in all three job categories: chorus, principals and stage managers. It also widens equity, diversity and inclusion protections, including regarding hair styling and costuming, and expands protections against bullying, discrimination and harassment. It also expands flexibility in media and community outreach, enabling theaters to rebuild and grow audiences, and it creates additional opportunities for the development of new artistic work at LORT houses.

Tech Workers at findhelp Join OPEIU Local 1010: Tech workers at findhelp (formerly Aunt Bertha) voted 95–52 in an election certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for their labor union, the findhelp Solidarity Network. The union will now form a bargaining committee and negotiate its first union contract. “Today’s an exciting day for all findhelp employees—our union gives us a seat at the table and provides us a voice in our working conditions,” said Leah Norman, community engagement manager and organizing committee member. “Findhelp Solidarity Network looks forward to collaborating with findhelp management to negotiate a contract that fosters our ability to do our best work and support as many people as possible. As the labor movement grows in the tech industry, we are excited to be a part of it!” The union includes more than 165 curators, engineers, salespeople, business analysts, as well as production support, customer success and other classifications headquartered in Austin, Texas, and they will be represented by OPEIU’s Tech Workers Union Local 1010. “The workers of findhelp have spoken, and today we have shown that organized labor has a place at findhelp and in tech,” said Keith Young, a software engineer and organizing committee member. “I am optimistic we can look forward to a constructive and fruitful bargaining process between the Collective Bargaining Committee and management—the workers of findhelp deserve nothing less.”

Disney World Workers Secure 37% Pay Raises, Other Benefits: The 45,000 Disney World workers made it clear to the big mouse that they won’t work for crumbs. After standing strong for eight months and rejecting Disney’s piecemeal proposal in February, the Services Trades Council Union (STCU) won a historic contract with an $18 minimum wage. Workers still must vote on the proposal, but if approved, the workers will immediately see a bump in pay to $17 an hour (the current minimum wage for those employees is $15). The minimum wage will rise to $18 by the end of 2023. Over the next three years, the wage will go up another $2.50 to $5.60 an hour. The workers are members of six unions that make up the STCU. Those unions are Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 631, TCU/IAM Local 1908, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1625, UNITE HERE locals 737 and 362, and International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 385. “Sticking together works,” says Eric Clinton, president of UNITE HERE Local 362, whose members include attraction workers who run rides, custodial workers and ticket sellers at the parks. “In 2018, the starting wage for Disney cast members was $10 an hour. And five years later, at the end of this year, it’s going to be $18 an hour. That is a pretty tremendous statistic when you think about it.”