We Need Shared Governance Back: 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.

New Rule Would Stop Civil Service from Turning into Spoils System: “‘One reason for the stability of our federal government is federal employees continue doing their jobs and serving the American public even as political administrations come and go,’ said AFGE President Everett Kelley after OPM formally published its new rule on April 8. ‘Turning positions that demand technical expertise into political appointments filled based on partisan loyalty would undermine this fundamental tenet of our government and lead to chaos and corruption. Such actions would undermine our democratic, nonpartisan government and take us back to the 19th century when civil servants were hired based on political loyalty rather than professional ability.’”

Berea College Student Body, Administration Prepare for Vote on Potential Student Workers’ Labor Union: “Last month, student workers at Berea College announced their plans to organize a labor union—the first at any Work College in the country. Members of the United Student Workers of Berea are organizing for a number of reasons, including higher wages, negotiable job contracts and a formal grievance system. The group filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in mid-March to hold a unionization vote. More than 1,300 undergraduate students would be represented. If the vote passes, they will be able to start negotiations with the school’s administration. Maggie Neal is a junior at Berea College and union organizer.”

UAOU Unites for Unionization Amid University’s Delays: “The United Academics of Ohio University, or UAOU, organized a solidarity event and discussion of the current state of unionizing at the Scripps Hall Amphitheater on Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. to show OU leadership that faculty are ready to vote for unionization. Around 50 faculty members attended the event, sporting red UAOU buttons and holding signs expressing their reasons for advocating for unionization. ‘I want a union at OU to stop admin bullying and to ensure a better learning environment,’ read one sign. Other signs featured on UAOU’s Instagram state reasons for unionization such as, ‘Our working conditions are student learning conditions’ and ‘We need shared governance back!’ The gathering highlighted unity among various union groups present, including the Association of People Supporting Employment First, or APSE, and the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers.”

U.S. Senate Backs Repeal of NLRB 'Joint Employer' Rule, Teeing Up Biden Veto: “The U.S. Senate on Wednesday narrowly approved a proposal, which President Joe Biden has vowed to veto, to repeal a National Labor Relations Board rule that would treat companies as the employers of many of their contract and franchise workers and require them to bargain with those workers' unions. The Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, passed the resolution in a 50-48 vote.”

Smith College Library Staff Unionizes: “On Tuesday, more than 40 Smith College library staffers did something that only 6% of private-sector workers in the United States can claim: joined a union. Locally, however, the workers who voted unanimously to join the Office and Professional Employees International Union are far from alone. So far, 2024 is already shaping up to be the biggest year in recent memory for union organizing in western Massachusetts. Federal data from the National Labor Relations Board show that at least 477 workers have unionized this year in the region—more than in any previous year since at least 2019. And it’s higher-ed workers who have driven that trend.”

Partners Coffee Workers Holding Vote to Join UFCW: “Workers at Partners Coffee in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will vote this week on whether to join the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1500, nearly two years after workers first started organizing at the shop. If the 22 baristas, roasters, production workers and kitchen employees vote to unionize on Thursday, they’ll join a wave of young workers at other coffee shops like Starbucks and Blank Street Coffee that have unionized since the pandemic.”

8 Ways the Biden Administration Is Improving the Lives of Service Workers: “The Biden administration is raising pay, building power, and improving living standards for service workers across the economy—including fast-food cooks, call center workers, teachers, home care workers, and federal employees. The Biden administration has received ongoing attention for its actions to improve the lives of blue collar workers—from walking the picket line with striking autoworkers to ensuring that its signature investments in American industry create good jobs. Pundits and the press often point to actions to expand and raise standards in the construction and manufacturing sectors as central to the Biden administration’s economic agenda. Yet the administration has also taken numerous steps to boost the earnings and wealth of service sector workers, empower them to come together in unions, and hold accountable corporations that violate their rights.”

Biden Promotes 'Care Economy' Spending in Speech to Care Workers: “President Joe Biden called for increased pay for care workers, and guaranteed paid leave for those who care for family members, in a speech Tuesday at Washington, D.C.'s Union Station. Biden highlighted his administration's investments in what he called the care economy, before a group of caregivers that included representatives from the AFL-CIO, AARP and National Domestic Workers Alliance.”

Biden Announces Student Debt Relief for Millions in Swing-State Pitch: “President Biden on Monday announced a large-scale effort to help pay off federal student loans for tens of millions of American borrowers, seeking an election-year boost by returning to a 2020 campaign promise that was blocked by the Supreme Court last year. Biden’s new plan would reduce the amount that 25 million borrowers still owe on their undergraduate and graduate loans. It would wipe away the entire amount for more than 4 million Americans. Altogether, White House officials said, 10 million borrowers would see debt relief of $5,000 or more.”

Rebuild the Key Bridge with Local Union Labor: “As the city of Baltimore and the wider region grapple with the aftermath of an unthinkable tragedy, we must mourn the six men who lost their lives in the Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse last month, and never forget how fragile life can be, especially on a job site—any job site. We also must recognize that we are at a crossroads. How we choose to rebuild will shape the physical landscape of our city and define our commitment to our workers, our communities and our children. We must seize this moment as an opportunity to rebuild responsibly, safely. We must rebuild with a highly trained local workforce that is paid prevailing wages. And we must rebuild around responsible union contractors who partner with minority-owned businesses.”

The Rize Event Center Joins UNITE HERE Local 74: “The Rize Event Center, a new full-service catering and restaurant facility, has joined UNITE HERE Local 74....The restaurant is open two nights a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. ‘Our goal is to connect families, people and community at a price they can afford,’ said owner Betsey Mitchell. ‘We decided to open the restaurant two days a week to make ends meet, and it’s been a big hit.’ Mitchell, who’s owned restaurants with her mother in the past, said she was delighted to learn there was a union for hospitality workers in the St. Louis area. She’s a former teacher at St. Louis Public Schools and was a member of AFT Local 420, and her husband was a 25-year member of Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562.”

Absent Radical Labor Law Reform the Nation Could Be In Trouble: “Unions and labor activists have been warning that unless labor law is updated corporations will take advantage of the current law and its loopholes to set back progress on countless issues important to Americans. Current labor law, for example, allows bosses to drag their feet for years, at times, in negotiations with workers. Bill Samuel says, that when it comes to a top issue such as comprehensive pro-worker labor law reform, you have to take the long view about accomplishing it. Make that the very long view, as in decades. Which is what Samuel has done as the AFL-CIO Government Affairs Director for almost 24 years. He’ll retire soon.”

Autoworkers at Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz Plant File for a Union Election: “Mercedes-Benz workers in Vance, Alabama, will vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers (UAW). On Friday, the UAW filed for an election to represent all 5,200 of the plant’s hourly employees, after the union said a supermajority of workers at the company’s mammoth plant signed union cards in three months. Jeremy Kimbrell, a measurement machine operator at the plant, said as part of the UAW’s announcement: ‘At Mercedes, at Hyundai and at hundreds of other companies, Alabama workers have made billions of dollars for executives and shareholders, but we haven’t gotten our fair share. We’re going to turn things around with this vote. We’re going to end the Alabama discount.’”

UVM Graduate Students Form a Union to Bargain for Better Pay and Benefits: “Last week, University of Vermont graduate students voted 373-9 to form a union in an election involving nearly two-thirds of the students in the bargaining unit. Among the top priorities for the students will be better pay and health care benefits, which currently don't cover vision or dental. ‘I'm personally excited not just about increased pay but the health benefits,’ said Neil Traft, a second-year doctoral student in the complex systems and data science program. ‘A huge thing for me is dental and vision. I need work done on my wisdom teeth. I wear glasses and contacts. It will affect me directly.’”