Labor Unions Build the Middle Class: The Working People Weekly List

Working People Weekly List

Every week, we bring you a roundup of the top news and commentary about issues and events important to working families. Here’s the latest edition of the Working People Weekly List.

Labor Leaders Condemn GOP Fiscal Commission as Anti-Worker 'Power Grab': “A coalition of U.S. labor leaders spoke out forcefully on Thursday against the Republican-led push for a ‘fiscal commission,’ denouncing the proposal as an attack on Social Security, Medicare, and other programs that tens of millions of current and retired workers depend on to meet basic needs. Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, said in a statement that a fiscal commission is a ‘terrible idea that would push older Americans into poverty, take away people's healthcare, and end up costing the government more.’”

Kamala Harris Touts Strength of Labor Unions to Build the Middle Class: “Unions boost pay 10% to 15% for members and improve fringe benefits, bolstering the middle class and economy, a U.S. Department of the Treasury report released Monday said. ‘Union workers make our middle class and our entire economy more strong,’ Vice President Kamala Harris said Monday on a call outlining the administration's efforts to support unions. ‘During this summer of worker strikes and organizing, we're seeing unprecedented public support for unions as a critical pathway to grow the middle class and provide opportunities for working people to thrive,’ Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, told CNBC.”

USW International President David McCall Issues Statement After Cleveland Cliff Facility Goes Idle: “The United Steelworkers (USW) has issued a statement from International President David McCall after Cleveland Cliffs announced an indefinite idling of operations at its Weirton tin plate facility: ‘Weirton Steelworkers can compete with anyone on a level playing field, but the ITC’s recent negative determination continues to leave our markets vulnerable to foreign dumping. The current market for tin mill products has already been decimated by over 50% penetration of illegally dumped foreign tinplate. Now, with the idling of tinplate production in Weirton, unfair trade is one step closer to choking out our domestic industry entirely. The USW will work with Cleveland-Cliffs to provide as many options to our members as possible, as well as continue our fight against the unfair trade practices that continue to cost good, community-sustaining jobs and threaten our economy.’”

Number of Striking U.S. Workers More Than Doubled Last Year, Study Shows: “The number of striking workers in the U.S. more than doubled last year due to massive work stoppages carried out by autoworkers, nurses and Hollywood writers and actors, according to a study released by Cornell University on Thursday. The total number of striking workers climbed 141% in 2023, amounting to nearly 540,000 workers who walked off the job, the report found.”

UFCW Local Leads Fight to Win Washington's Strongest Tenant Protections: “Grocery and retail workers helped win the strongest tenant protections in Washington state last November for the 100,000 renters in the city of Tacoma. First we had to beat the mayor’s and city council’s attempt to bring a competing watered-down ballot measure. And then we had to overcome a vicious and deceptive landlord opposition that smashed all previous political spending records in Tacoma. ‘We’ve created incredible goodwill in the community just as we gear up for a tough contract fight,’ said Michael Whalen, who helped initiate the campaign as a dairy clerk and shop steward at Fred Meyer.”

Here’s Why Thousands of Flight Attendants Are Threatening to Strike: “With a participation rate of roughly 93%, Alaska flight attendants represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) voted 99.48% in favor of authorizing a strike, amid the flight attendants’ negotiations with Alaska Airlines for a new contract.”

No Matter What Happens Next, Unionizing at ZeniMax Worked: “Not very long ago, I was one of the thousands of video game workers feeling gnawed on by this competitive, volatile industry. It felt like things were quickly becoming unsustainable. But something happened. During this round of layoffs, I felt something in addition to the familiar sadness and dread: I felt empowered. When I first joined ZeniMax in 2022 as a part-time QA contractor, it was immediately apparent that there were cultural and systemic issues in the department and in the industry. The pay was scandalously low, and there were no clear pathways to professional development or promotion.”

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists President: Choice Is Democracy or Dictatorship: “The choice in the 2024 general election is between democracy and dictatorship, not just between Democratic President Joe Biden and presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump, the White House denizen whom Biden beat four years ago. So says Terry Melvin, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the most outspoken speaker to address the Government Employees (AFGE) Legislative Conference in D.C. on Feb. 12. The key issue for attendees at the legislative conference was a 7.4% pay raise for federal workers in fiscal 2025, which begins October 1. All the speakers, led by union President Everett Kelley, pushed that cause. Delegates planned a Feb. 13 rally plus lobbying on Capitol Hill about that. The outlook for it is murky. ‘It’s getting really impossible to determine what this Congress would do,’ Kelley admitted. ‘Now we’re listening to these little echoes’ of Trump and Trumpite goals. Biden seeks a 5.2% hike.”

New Orleans Nurses Fight for a New Union as Hospitals Merge and Revenues Soar: “Last fall, Tujague and her colleagues had finally had enough of what they described as persistent undersupplying and short-staffing. In October, nurses at University Medical Center filed for a union election. Two months later, on Dec. 9, over 80% voted to join the National Nurses Organizing Committee/National Nurses United (NNOC/NNU), the country’s largest nurses’ union. The election was Louisiana’s largest National Labor Relations Board election in nearly 30 years. With the vote, University Medical Center became Louisiana’s first unionized private-sector hospital. About 4% of Louisiana’s workers are unionized, compared to about 10% nationwide.”

Disneyland's Character Performers Look to Form Union Under Actors' Equity Association: “Workers who bring Disneyland’s beloved characters to life—including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Cinderella—are looking to unionize. Labor organizers announced the campaign Tuesday, saying performers want better safety conditions and scheduling policies to help keep the magic alive for visitors.  While most of the more than 35,000 workers at the Disneyland Resort already have labor unions, about 1,700 performers and character actors do not.”

DreamWorks Animation, Flying Bark Productions Workers Take Steps Toward Unionizing: “The Animation Guild is organizing production workers at DreamWorks Animation and at Flying Bark Productions. The guild (IATSE Local 839) sent a letter to DreamWorks Animation on Feb. 7 and filed for recognition with the National Labor Relations Board on Feb. 9 to represent 162 production workers at the studio.”

Why Workers and Employers Both Need Paid Family Leave: “Workers across the country need the same peace of mind while recovering from surgery or sickness. They need time to care for ill loved ones, bond with infants, or welcome other new family members without risking their jobs or forfeiting the income needed to keep their households afloat. And they need to be empowered to escape domestic violence, ensure family stability during a service member’s deployment, or confront other emergencies without throwing themselves at the mercy of employers.”

Striking Hotel Workers Reach Contract Agreements with 5 More Hotels in Months-Long Fight: “Five more Southern California hotels have reached tentative labor agreements covering about 650 workers, the latest settlements in a months-long strike that at times has been marked by violence. In all, Unite Here Local 11 has signed tentative agreements with 34 out of some 60 properties in Los Angeles and Orange counties initially targeted by intermittent walkouts beginning in July. The union has said it is the largest hotel strike in modern U.S. history, involving some 15,000 cooks, housekeepers, dishwashers, servers, porters and front desk agents.”