Worker Wins: Ensuring the Future

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

Phoenix Passes Prevailing Wage Ordinance: Beginning July 2024, construction companies working on city of Phoenix projects that are valued at $4 million or more will have to give their employees union-level wages and benefits “consistent with local standards for a given type of work.” On Tuesday, Phoenix became the only city in Arizona to pass a prevailing wage ordinance for construction contractors. This local law will ensure that all construction workers receive fair compensation for skilled labor and is yet another example of how union wages raise industry standards for all workers.
New Jersey Labor Movement Has Record Number of Union Members Sworn into the Legislature: The labor movement in New Jersey is making history with a total of nine union members serving in the 2024–2025 state Legislature. In addition to these newly elected lawmakers, 39 union members were sworn into office at all levels of government, from county commissioner to the school board. A brand new legislative session has just started in New Jersey and working people are ready for our officials to get to work fighting for us. Having union members in the General Assembly, Senate and other state agencies means working families have advocates on our side who are committed to protecting the right to join a union, the right to collective bargaining and the right to have a safe workplace.
Journalists Organize at The Evansville Courier & Press: On Monday, journalists at The Evansville Courier & Press in southwestern Indiana launched their union, demanding Gannett, the largest owner of newspapers in the country, recognize them. One hundred percent of the workers signed a union card. Citing slashed resources, dwindling staff numbers and oversized workloads, the award-winning journalists at the Courier & Press joined together in a union to ensure they’ll be able to continue providing compelling and critical local reporting. These workers join the ranks of more than 600 industry colleagues from 17 other Gannett-owned newsrooms that have unionized with The NewsGuild-CWA since 2019. “We want to ensure a future for ourselves and news in Evansville,” said Sarah Loesch, a government reporter at the Evansville newspaper.
Millions of Gig Workers Could Qualify as Employees Under New Biden-Era Rule: In a win in the fight against employee misclassification, the Department of Labor released a final rule Tuesday that could change the status of millions of gig economy workers from independent contractors to employees. It would take effect March 11. By changing their designation to employees, gig workers who previously didn’t have access to things like minimum wage standards, overtime pay, unemployment insurance and Social Security would now get these important, hard-fought protections and benefits. This walks back a Trump-era rule from 2021 that made it easier for corporations to categorize workers as independent contractors and therefore deny full protections to workers under federal labor law. Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su said this rule would “help create a level playing field for businesses, protect workers from being denied the right to fair pay and affirm the vital role true independent contractors play in our economy by allowing them to thrive.”
BodyVox Dance Company Stagehands Win IATSE Contract: Union stagehands at BodyVox—a dance company in Portland, Oregon—unanimously ratified their first contract in December since joining Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 28. BodyVox is an internationally touring dance troupe, performance space and dance school that routinely hires temporary carpenters, camera operators and other stagehands for shows. While it’s common for dance companies to invite the same technicians back regularly, getting rehired can depend on unreliable factors like whether the production manager personally likes you. Now, rehiring is guaranteed through the contract. “It’s a relief to know that whoever the manager is, we will still have a job,” said Iain Chester, a stagehand electrician. Major wins also include a base wage that’s double what stagehands were making before announcing plans to organize with IATSE, annual cost-of-living adjustments, premium pay for certain holidays and more.
Collapse of Planned Essentia, Marshfield Merger a Win for Patients, Workers and Minnesota: The Minnesota Nurses Association (MNA)—an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU)—is rightfully celebrating a huge win in the fight against corporate consolidation, as the proposed merger between Essentia Health in Duluth, Minnesota, and Wisconsin’s Marshfield Clinic Health System crumbles. For months, the two health care giants have pursued plans to combine, raising serious concerns between patients and workers that the merger would threaten jobs, worsen working conditions, increase medical costs and concentrate even more corporate control over our health care system into the hands of the few. This victory is thanks in part to the efforts of MNA members and local community members who organized last year at the Minnesota Legislature for the passage of a new law to provide critical public oversight of proposed hospital mergers like the one considered by Essentia and Marshfield. This bill gave state officials power to check corporate interests driving mergers and regulate these consolidations based on their impact on patients and workers.
Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin Resident and Fellow Nurses Overwhelmingly Vote to Join NNOC/NNU: Last week, registered nurses in the resident and fellow programs at Ascension Seton Medical Center in Austin, Texas (ASMCA) voted overwhelmingly—with 96% in favor—to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee (NNOC), an affiliate of National Nurses United (NNU). The union family at ASMCA is growing! Despite Ascension’s stance that RNs in the resident and fellow programs shouldn’t join their unionized colleagues, there are now more than 1,000 nurses represented by NNOC/NNU at ASMCA, bringing the total number of members represented throughout the Ascension system to more than 2,500. “Ascension has attempted to silence RNs here and across the country from speaking up about patient care issues. But, fortunately for our patients, our RN movement—including now five union election victories across four facilities in three states—continues onward,” said Zetta Hackleman, RN in the perioperative department and member of the contract bargaining team.
Detroit Bus Drivers to Get Immediate Raise, Bigger Bonus Under New Agreement: The city of Detroit announced last Thursday that Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) bus drivers represented by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 26 will see an immediate $3-per-hour raise. The raise comes after a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and ATU. While the collective bargaining agreement doesn't expire until July 1, 2025, Detroit has been struggling with a bus driver shortage since the COVID-19 pandemic, so the city and ATU worked together to reopen the contract early to give drivers a raise. Under the MOU, the quarterly attendance bonus also will increase to $1,500 for every driver who has no more than three unexcused absences per quarter. “This increase will help us hire and retain more drivers, so the public can know when they are at a stop and need to get to work or the doctor, DDOT is going to show up when we are supposed to. That’s everyone’s goal,” said ATU Local 26 President Schetrone Collier.
Health Care Workers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center Vote to Join IAM: Nearly 1,000 patient care associates (PCAs) and psychiatric care technicians (PCTs) at the Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center voted to join the Machinists (IAM) this week. Like so many health care professionals, at both Wexner Medical Center and other hospitals around the country, workers have sought out dignity at work, fair wages and the standards of care necessary to protect patients. “Alongside my colleagues, we came together knowing that we deserve to be heard to have a better quality of life for ourselves and others surrounding us. Having a union at OSU will strengthen us as a team and as a whole alongside the nurses. I am looking forward to our future with the IAM,” said Lyndsee Cody, PCA at Wexner Medical Center.
Board Game Cafe Workers in NYC Win Election: Workers at Hex & Co.—the largest board game cafe company in Manhattan with three locations across New York City—have unionized with Workers United. Citing needs for fair wages, clear paths to promotions and better staffing levels, Hex Workers United is the first union at a board game bar in the city. Members emphasize that they share a passion for working with customers of all ages and want to be treated fairly while inspiring a love for games in others. “If an owner comes in and says, ‘We’re a family,’ you aren’t really going to buy that,” said Zev Anderman, a Hex & Co. worker. “That’s them trying to play nice so they don’t have to pay you more. But [in the union], I think we are a family.”
Workers at Princeton’s Labyrinth Books Move to Stand Together in a Union: A few days before the end of 2023, Labyrinth Books staff members announced their intent to unionize with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) so they can improve standards at both the official bookstore for Princeton University and across the industry. Labyrinth Books opened in 2007 and has since become the official partner of Princeton University and a hugely popular bookstore in the small college town. But despite the store’s well-loved community presence, worker wages don’t keep up with the staggering cost of living, and staff say insufficient leave and lack of transparency from management have been pain points. Rebecca Ziemann, who has been an employee since 2022, said of the union campaign: “If we didn’t care [about Labyrinth], we wouldn’t be working so hard to improve it.” This exciting momentum comes on the heels of workers at Barnes & Noble at Rutgers University voting unanimously last spring to unionize with RWDSU-UFCW, making it the first union bookstore in New Jersey.
Colorado Alamo Drafthouse Workers Vote to Unionize: Workers at the Westminster, Colorado location of Alamo Drafthouse are organizing with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 7777. The Alamo Drafthouse’s flagship Austin, Texas theater’s workers voted to unionize in February 2022 and since then, staff at locations across California, New York and Texas have followed suit. Despite the movie theater chain seeing record profits, workers report issues like delayed paychecks, withholding of owed workers’ compensation and unaddressed workplace harassment complaints. Additionally, CWA says that three people involved in unionization efforts have been unlawfully fired—part of a larger string of union-busting activities workers in Colorado have faced.
Connecticut’s First Cannabis Union Contract Ratified: Workers at Advanced Grow Labs (AGL) have made Connecticut history by voting to ratify the first union cannabis contract in the state. Represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 919, the contract ratification comes months after workers at AGL formed the union in March 2023. Contract highlights include up to 25% wage increases over the next three years, increased holiday pay, job protection, secured retirement and more. “I am proud to be a part of the first cannabis union in Connecticut,” said AGL Production Technician Alanna Daniels. "This has been a huge milestone for the industry in the state and our company. I hope other workers can come together like we have.”