Worker Wins: Every Worker Deserves an Advocate on the Job

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

Workers at Kidspace Children’s Museum Win Historic Victory with AFSCME: Approximately 60 workers at Kidspace Children’s Museum in Los Angeles County voted in August to be represented by AFSCME, with 82% in favor. The new union members work as play facilitators, guest service associates, animal program coordinators, retail associates and other jobs. Workers organized to address issues such as earning a livable wage, securing better training, including staff in the museum’s decision-making process and other issues. “Kidspace is a thriving piece of the Pasadena community, and the beautiful learning experiences that happen here couldn’t happen without workers,” said Carter Ward, a guest associate. “I'm excited for us to have the collective power to demand respect and fair compensation for being the vital contributors we are.”

Ironworkers Secure $75 Million in Pension Relief: The Ironworkers celebrate the announcement that President Biden’s American Rescue Plan provides financial assistance to save the pension plan for Ironworkers Local 16 retirees in Baltimore. The rescue package amounts to some $75 million, and will ensure financial security for hundreds of dedicated members and their families. “This financial assistance ensures that our members who put in a lifetime of work at Local 16 in Baltimore regain the retirement security they deserve,” said Ironworkers General President Eric Dean. “In concert with the Biden administration, we have been given rescue assistance for thousands of our members whose pension funds fell on hard times. Time and again, proving that this administration has the working class at the forefront of their agenda.”

Minnesota State Workers Win Wage Hikes, Other Provisions in New Contract: Thousands of AFSCME Council 5 members in Minnesota voted to ratify the 2023–2025 state employee contract. It includes raises of more than 10% across the board and raises to eliminate wage inequities compared to private sector workers. Members won numerous other provisions as well. “Our members fought for and won a contract with big investments in state workers. Minnesota is now better positioned to recruit and retain excellent workers,” said Bart Andersen, interim executive director of Council 5. “Minnesotans deserve fully staffed, fully funded, excellent services. This contract will make huge progress towards these goals and we will continue to use our momentum to build upon our progress.”

Pennsylvania Cannabis Workers Join UFCW: Cannabis workers at two facilities in Pennsylvania recently joined United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1776KS. Approximately 24 cannabis workers at the Restore Integrative Wellness Center in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, won their election by a 2-to-1 margin. “As the cannabis industry expands throughout Pennsylvania, workers recognize they need guarantees that they can earn a living wage in a safe work environment and have access to things like overtime and holiday pay,” said Local 1776KS President Wendell Young IV. “We are excited for these workers to join our team here at UFCW Local 1776 and look forward to working with them throughout contract negotiations to secure those guarantees.”

IAM Wins Campaign for 100-Plus New Members at North Dakota Farming Equipment Manufacturer: The Machinists (IAM) Organizing Department won a hard-fought two-year campaign to represent 103 workers at Vaderstad Inc., an agricultural equipment manufacturer in Wahpeton, North Dakota. Production workers at the facility make air seeders and tillage equipment. “This group stuck together and was determined to win a voice on the job and a better life for themselves, their families and their communities,” said IAM Organizing Department Grand Lodge Representative Dennis Mendenhall. “They ran their campaign from the inside and remained united through every anti-union tactic they encountered.”

IATSE Charters New National Union for Freelance Production Department Workers: Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) chartered a new national local, the Production Workers Guild Local 111, representing freelance production department workers. The local will start with an estimated 5,000 TV commercial production workers, including production assistants, production supervisors, assistant production supervisors, line producers and bidding producers on commercial projects. “We are 170,000 strong and growing, welcoming crafts that historically have not been represented in this critical moment,” said IATSE International President Matthew Loeb. He described the new local as “a testament to our union’s unwavering commitment to ensuring every worker in entertainment is represented, protected, and heard. And mark my words, this is just the beginning.”

Miners at Cleveland-Cliffs Northshore Join USW: The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomed workers at Cleveland-Cliffs’ Northshore Mining as the newest members of the union. There are approximately 400 workers in the mine in Babbitt, Minnesota, and plant in Silver Bay, Minnesota. They authorized the union using card-check. “Mining in Minnesota provides essential support for our local communities, our domestic steel industry and our nation’s critical infrastructure,” said USW District 11 Director Emil Ramirez. “We’re honored that workers at Northshore chose our union.”

Portland Strip Club Dancers Unanimously Vote to Join Equity: Actors’ Equity Association (Equity) was elected as the exclusive bargaining representative for the dancers employed at Magic Tavern, a strip club in Portland, Oregon. The vote was unanimous. “I’m thrilled for these workers. They not only knew their rights; they knew they had to stick together and never let up,” said Kate Shindle, president of Equity. “Yes, this is proof that strippers joining a union is no fluke, and that workers who want a union can have a union. In this moment, it means that another group of dancers is on the path to a fairer, safer workplace. But it’s also a win for the labor movement, particularly those in stigmatized and marginalized industries where their needs are routinely overlooked or ignored. We are eager to get to the bargaining table and get them back into their club.”

Dallas Nonprofit Workers at International Rescue Committee Announce Union: Workers at the national nonprofit organization International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Dallas announced the formation of a union with Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 277 and have requested voluntary recognition. The 80 workers provide services to refugees and asylum-seekers. This would be the first IRC in the office to organize. “An overwhelming majority of us have signed union cards and come forward because, as the staff that provide IRC services on the frontlines, we understand this work the best,” said Zarifa Barkatullah, Refugee Cash Assistance coordinator. “We see this as an opportunity for leadership to partner with us to improve our work and better achieve our vital mission.” The workers want to address the issues of insufficient staffing, unreasonable caseloads, low wages, safety concerns and inadequate interpretation support.

Virginia Tech Graduate Students and Staff Build on Wave of Young People Organizing a Union: Two unions at Virginia Tech are taking their organizing drives public after three years of preparation. The United Campus Workers of Virginia Tech is an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and the Virginia Tech Graduate Labor Union (VT GLU) is affiliated with the National Education Association; combined, the unions could represent as many as 20,000 workers. “Our two unions have united in this announcement out of a shared commitment that every person working on our campus deserves an advocate on the job, a living wage, a safe working environment, academic freedom, and respect for their individual contributions to the university,” VT GLU said in a statement.

Staten Island Ferry Workers Win New Contract After 13 Years: Approximately 120 Staten Island Ferry workers who have gone without a pay raise since 2009 announced a collective bargaining agreement that guarantees them an immediate salary increase of 28.55%. The bump is retroactive, which means six-figure sums in back pay. The workers, members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA), work as engineers, captains and mates, and they voted 94% to approve the contract, which goes through January 2027.

After Two Years, Oregon Capitol Staffers Reach Tentative Contract Agreement With Lawmakers: Aides in the Oregon Capitol reached a tentative labor agreement with the state legislature. The deal arrives more than two years after staff first voted to unionize. A finalized contract for the approximately 200 legislative aides would make them the first workers of their kind in the nation to sign a union contract. During legislative sessions, the aides greet visitors, schedule meetings, research policies and perform other duties.

More Connecticut Cannabis Workers Join UFCW Local 919: Medical cannabis workers at the Caring Nature Dispensary (owned by Verano) in Waterbury, Connecticut, joined United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 919 on June 13. The workers were concerned about job security and a voice on the job. This victory marks the second cannabis win for UFCW Local 919 in Connecticut this year. “We are excited and proud to represent the workers at Caring Nature Dispensary who will join the many Verano workers across the country who have formed their unions,” said UFCW Local 919 President Mark A. Espinosa. “We look forward to bargaining a great contract that will afford these workers a voice on the job and the protection they deserve.”