Worker Wins: A Model for the Industry

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

MGM Dealers Now All-In with UNITE HERE: Just under 300 dealers at the MGM Springfield casino voted last week to join the New England Joint Board (NEJB) Local 301 of UNITE HERE. Table games dealers, poker dealers and poker-room attendants will join hundreds of other MGM staff—including bartenders, slot machine attendants, porters and more—who are already represented by NEJB UNITE HERE. This victory comes despite union-busting behavior from MGM like threats to existing benefits and managers pressuring workers to vote no in one-on-one meetings. Workers say that improving wages, bettering working conditions and making terms of employment more equitable were huge motivating goals that secured a successful election. “We faced an all-out anti-union campaign from the employer. When this thing happens, a lot of people are discouraged from voting. Despite the company’s anti-union push, which was surprising to us, we won and we were very proud of that,” said Ethan Snow, secretary-treasurer of the Boston-based Joint Board. “It really comes down to an issue of democracy. An issue of having a voice at the job. That was very clear in this campaign with the dealers as well.”
Patagonia Workers in Reno Vote to Join UFCW: Workers at a Patagonia store in Reno, Nevada, have voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 711, becoming the first Patagonia store in the country to have a union. Staff at the outdoor sporting goods retailer are part of a larger national wave of organizing at similar stores like REI, where workers have joined Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW). “My fellow coworkers and I are now standing together with the protections of union representation and about to negotiate a contract, all thanks to our union siblings over at REI whose progress inspired us to continue the hard work of unionizing this industry,” said Nick Helmreich, a retail team lead at the Reno store. “We are ready to fight for a contract that protects our rights and provides the wages and benefits we’ve earned making Patagonia the success that it is in Reno.”
Activision QA Workers Form the Largest Video Game Union Yet: Some 600 Quality Assurance (QA) workers at Activision Publishing, the video game maker owned by Microsoft, are forming a union with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and say that the historic neutrality agreements forged first by CWA and the AFL-CIO with the technology giant helped their organizing efforts. In QA, workers test games looking for bugs and other issues so developers can fix them and ensure the best experience possible for players. These roles are often some of the lowest-paid work in the production process. The victory was the latest for Campaign to Organize Digital Employees (CODE-CWA), a project of CWA to empower tech, gaming and digital industry workers on the job. This is the first union at Activision since the pact went into effect and is now the largest video game union in the country. Staff say that their goals include higher pay, improving job security and negotiating for more advancement opportunities. “Microsoft’s choice will strengthen its corporate culture and ability to serve its customers and should serve as a model for the industry,” CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. said.
Spotify’s Unionized Staff Reaches Tentative Deal, Including 5.7% Pay Hike: A week after their old contracts expired, Writers Guild of America East (WGAE) members at Spotify Studios (formerly Gimlet Media and Parcast) and The Ringer have now both reached tentative agreements. The new deals come after more than two months of bargaining and include pay increases that average 5.7%, gains on severance packages, new protections for employees who are on visas, and first-of-their-kind safeguards against the use of artificial intelligence. This contract also marks a new chapter: upon ratification, the Gimlet and Parcast Unions will join together to become The Spotify Studios Union. “Our joint unit went into these negotiations battered by brutal rounds of layoffs. So many of our talented colleagues were cast aside in a restructuring that was only necessary because of decisions made by Spotify leadership. Still, during the course of negotiations, Spotify Studios Union members came together and found a unified voice to defend our rights as workers,” the Spotify Studios Union said in a press release.
Vermont’s Porter Medical Center Support Staff Vote to Form a Union: Last week, several hundred support staff and technical employees at Porter Medical Center in Middlebury, Vermont, voted to form a union with the Porter Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (PFNHP)—an affiliate of the Vermont American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Roughly 300 support staff at the hospital—including those in roles that include medical assistants, technicians and nutrition workers—voted 204–30 to join a union. Workers said that because Porter is a small rural community hospital, it’s often extremely short staffed, and workers aren’t paid as well as those at larger hospitals. They added that they were encouraged by recent local organizing victories such as those of the University of Vermont Medical Center support staff, who successfully organized with Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, also a Vermont AFT affiliate, in January 2023. “The thing that I love so much about this movement is that it’s inclusive. And it’s not about any one department. It’s not about any one group of people. It’s...pretty much the whole hospital,” Liz Willey, a radiology technologist, said. “Personally, I love my job. And the majority of the people that I’ve talked to across the hospital in varying roles and varying departments—we all love it here. And we know that they can do better by us and make it more equitable.”
Front Desk Agents Organize with UNITE HERE at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale University: Six front desk agents joined more than 100 of their fellow unionized workers at the Omni New Haven Hotel at Yale earlier this month when they organized with UNITE HERE Local 217. Front desk workers at the Omni submitted their petition in late January and then won their election by a majority in the vote on March 1. The hotel, which is just minutes from the Yale University campus, has been unionized for decades, but it was not until this month that front desk agents were also union members. “We have a great standard of the Omni union contract, and they wanted to be a part of it,” Isadora Milanez, an organizer for Local 217, said. “We also have upcoming contract negotiations to renew our contract between the employer and the union this year that people are feeling optimistic about.” Staff expressed that they were excited about the victory and felt connected to their co-workers after the process. “It was a great feeling,” said Bobby May, one of the front desk workers. “The Omni is a great company to work for. But now, being part of the AFL-CIO only makes it better.”
Fairfax Connector Workers’ Union Ratifies Strong Contract with Transdev, Ending 15-Day Strike: On Wednesday night, Fairfax Connector bus operators and mechanics—who are represented by Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689—ratified a new contract, ending their 15-day strike. Fairfax Connector workers—who make possible the largest local bus system in Northern Virginia—have been on strike since Feb. 22 over unfair labor practices committed by the company after months of negotiations. Local 689 reached a tentative agreement with Transdev Tuesday night, and on Friday workers will resume service under a contract with guaranteed retirement security, competitive wages and other key member priorities. “Our members stood shoulder to shoulder throughout this ordeal. Transdev tried to divide us,” said Local 689 President and Business Agent Ray Jackson. “This strike showed that our members are willing to lay it all on the line for dignity and justice. I want to thank them for their fortitude and for all our allies for coming out and standing in solidarity with us. This is proof that when working people fight, we win. Anyone who thinks otherwise should take notice.”
Twin Cities-Area Met Council and Transit Workers Approve Labor Agreement, Raising Wages: The Metropolitan Council, which manages the transit system in the seven-county Twin Cities metro area in Minnesota, approved a new contract that will increase wages effective immediately for Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1005 members who operate Metro Transit buses and trains. In September, Local 1005 members voted to authorize a strike after their contract expired in July. At the time, Metro Transit was short some 400 operators compared to pre-pandemic staff levels, even as ridership was up 17% from the year before. In early February, 82% of union members voted in favor of the new agreement, which increases wages for members, including second and third-shift workers. Finally, late last week—after months of negotiations—the Management Committee reviewed the agreement and the Metropolitan Council voted to approve it. “We're delighted to have secured significant benefits for our members, aiming to enhance retention and attract new talent,” said David Stiggers, president of the ATU Local 1005, in a Metro Transit blog post. “Frontline transit workers, navigating a dynamic and at times hazardous working environment, are pivotal in shaping a better transit system. Moving forward, we're hopeful that upcoming negotiations will prioritize the health, well-being, and quality of life of our members who move our region.”
AFSCME Members Vote to Ratify Agreement with Eastern Illinois University: After nine months of negotiations, AFSCME Local 981 members have voted with overwhelming support to ratify a new contract with Eastern Illinois University (EIU). All wages covered in the contract will increase between 15% and 24% over the next four years. And the lowest paid staff will now see their wages start at $16 per hour, a 13% increase from current rates. The contract also includes four weeks of paid parental leave and more harassment protections. “Together we won an agreement that takes important steps in the right direction,” Kim Pope, an office manager in the EIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the president of AFSCME Local 981, said. “We’re committed to supporting students and the whole campus community. This contract will allow us to keep doing that, by ensuring the improved wages and benefits we deserve.”
AFM Reaches Tentative Deal with AMPTP: The American Federation of Musicians (AFM) reached a tentative agreement last week with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) that the union bargaining unit is calling “a watershed moment for artists.” The deal includes residuals for made-for-streaming content, wage increases and protections against the use of AI. Unanimously recommended by the AFM negotiating committee, the new proposed contract will be submitted to the general membership for ratification soon. “This agreement represents a major win for musicians who have long been under-compensated for their work in the digital age,” said Tino Gagliardi, AFM international president and chief negotiator.
West Virginia Walgreens Workers Ratify Strong New Contract: Walgreens workers in West Virginia, represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW), just ratified a new three-year contract. More than 350 workers finally won a discipline timeline so the company can no longer pull them into the office and issue retroactive discipline for something that allegedly happened months prior. Additionally, staff also have secured guaranteed yearly raises, additional money on the hour for getting pharmacy training, a new paid time off request timeline where managers must give a response within two weeks or the request is considered approved, as well as their first-ever signing bonus.
Union Members Mobilize to Defeat Right to Work Bill in New Hampshire State Legislature: The New Hampshire House of Representatives on Thursday voted down H.B. 1377—this legislative session’s attempt to pass “right to work”—by a margin of 212–168. In a clear display of how New Hampshire residents feel about these legislative attacks on workers’ rights, more than 1,400 members of the public testified or signed on to register their position on the bill over two days of testimony, and only about 50 were in support of the right to work. The House postponed the entire topic for the rest of 2024. New Hampshire AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett said in a statement, “While out-of-state billionaires and D.C. lobbyists continue to enlist legislators to introduce identical bills, year in and year out, our elected representatives of both political parties have voted to defeat them. That is what happened today. It happened because the people of New Hampshire, and the members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, know what we know, that ‘Right-to-Work’ is STILL wrong for New Hampshire.”
UAW Local Reaches Tentative Agreement at Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant, Averting Strike: After months of negotiations, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) Local 862 reached a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co., averting a strike scheduled to start this week. The Kentucky Truck Plant is Ford’s most profitable worksite and the strike was scheduled to begin Feb. 23. The workers are seeking solutions for issues related to skilled trades, health and safety, and ergonomics. The tentative deal addresses these and other core issues and must still be voted on by the members. While national contracts were ratified after the union’s Stand Up Strike, dozens of local agreements at plants across the Big Three automakers remain open.
Nevada AFSCME Members Win Big at Legislature and Bargaining Table: Members of AFSCME Local 4041 are celebrating major investments in state workers, thanks to wins at the bargaining table and the 83rd legislative session. Nevada’s legislative session came to an end in early June, and Friday night was the final deadline for Gov. Joe Lombardo to act on all legislation that was passed. After months of political mobilization—including participation in bill hearings, lawmaker outreach and a successful lobby day at the state Capitol—members have a lot to show for it. Legislative wins include a wage increase up to 24% and quarterly bonuses for all state workers over the next two years, reinstatement of longevity pay, the implementation of a paid family leave program and more. The bargaining team held the state accountable during contract negotiations to ensure a fair agreement that improved the lives of workers and strengthened working conditions. Because of these efforts, members will soon be enjoying things like pay increases for bilingual workers, a larger tool allowance and improved holiday pay. Additionally, many of the bills that became law were based on improvements made in these critical bargaining sessions.
Workers Form Union at Nonprofit Publication Houston Landing: An overwhelming majority of eligible staff at the nonprofit publication Houston Landing have formed a union in order to advocate for stronger job protections and a seat at the table in organization-wide decisions. Part of the Media Guild of the West and The NewsGuild-CWA (TNG-CWA), the Houston Landing News Guild will represent 21 workers, including reporters, photographers and designers, among others. Staff notified the media company’s management of their intent to form a union on Monday, six weeks to the day of when Landing’s founding editor-in-chief and sole investigative reporter was suddenly fired. This abrupt decision made staff realize just how unprotected they were without any established disciplinary due process and brought up serious concerns around lack of transparency. “Above all, I came to Houston Landing to produce impactful journalism that serves the community,” said Clare Amari, a public safety reporter at the Landing. “The Houston Landing News Guild will help safeguard the cultural and editorial standards that have supported that mission so far. I am optimistic that this talented team will continue to do good work and look forward to working with management to make the Landing the best possible version of itself.”
Bennington College Recognizes New Labor Union of Faculty, Staff, Campus Safety Workers: Bennington College in Vermont has voluntarily recognized Bennington College United (BCU), an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Vermont, which represents the college’s faculty, staff and campus safety workers. This is the first faculty and staff union in the history of the private liberal arts college and will represent approximately 150 members. Workers say issues that spurred their efforts to form a union last spring include low morale and high turnover among staff, the need to formalize a non-retaliation policy, and the absence of a uniform policy on benefits and raises. BCU has three bargaining units—one for faculty, one for staff and one for safety workers—as a part of the college administration’s precondition for voluntary recognition. But the bargaining team believes negotiating as one group will deliver the best results for members. “We’ve been prepared for this for so long,” said Nina Musco, a technical instructor in science and a member of the union’s bargaining team. “As much as we’re separate units, we really are all facing the same issues not only on campus, but in the community as well.”
Howard County Public Library Workers Vote to Join AFSCME: Howard County Library System workers in Maryland have voted overwhelmingly to form a union with AFSCME Maryland Council 3. Howard County Library Workers United (HCLWU) will represent more than 200 public library staff across the system’s seven branches. Workers first announced their intentions to organize in October 2023, citing issues like wanting a voice in decision-making processes and the need for fair wages, better job security and improved scheduling. “Victory for our union is a victory for Howard County residents. In many ways, library workers are first responders, since we are a free educational and supportive resource for all. Many of our customers primarily turn to us for information. The union will allow staff members to have real input into making decisions that benefit the community that has entrusted us to be careful stewards of public dollars,” said Cherise Tasker, an instructor and research specialist in the Howard County Library System, in a press release.
Michigan Repeals Right to Work Law: Michigan officially got rid of “right to work” on Tuesday, making it the first state in nearly 60 years to repeal the law. Originally enacted in 2012 by then-Gov. Rick Snyder, after the bill was passed during a lame-duck session of the Legislature, the repeal of right to work is a huge step to expand and protect workers’ rights in Michigan. Tuesday also saw multiple other pro-worker pieces of legislation signed into law, thanks to the democratic trifecta in Lansing, including restorations of prevailing wage and organizing rights for graduate student research assistants. “If we want to make Michigan a place where people want to come and raise a family and build their careers for the long haul, it is critical that we have got these strong workplace protections,“ Ron Bieber, president of the Michigan State AFL-CIO, said. “By standing up and taking their power back, at the ballot box and in the workplace, workers have made it clear Michigan is and always will be the beating heart of the modern American labor movement.”
FreshFarm Farmers Market Workers Vote to Ratify First Union Contract: Workers at FreshFarm farmers markets, the largest network of farmers markets in the mid-Atlantic and the third largest in the country, voted this week to ratify their first union contract. Farmers market operators organized with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 400 last year and negotiations on the first contract began shortly after. The ratification vote makes them the first farmers market workers in the country to secure a collective bargaining agreement. Contract wins include higher wages, guaranteed annual raises, vacation time for seasonal employees, improved safety standards and more. “We came together as a collective to improve our working conditions and create good jobs at FRESHFARM,” said Yuval Lev, a FreshFarm market operator of three years and a member of the bargaining committee, in a press release from Local 400. “We’re proud to codify these hard-fought gains in this historic contract and continue doing the work we love to serve the community. A big thank you goes out to everyone who has supported us—our fellow workers, farmers and vendors, and community members. We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you at our unionized farmers markets!”