Worker Wins: Making a Huge Difference in So Many Lives

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

Dotdash Meredith Union Wins Contracts: Editorial workers—represented by The NewsGuild of New York, a local of The NewsGuild-CWA—at People, People video, Entertainment Weekly and Martha Stewart Living have reached contract agreements with digital and print publisher Dotdash Meredith. Union members voted to ratify the contracts on Monday. Highlights of the new three-year agreements include average immediate wage increases of 28%, a 35-hour workweek with protections against overwork, protected holiday-pay premium, reinstitution of recall rights after layoffs and more. This victory has been a long time coming as workers have been bargaining since 2021, often in the face of anti-union activity. For most of the bargaining units, this is their first union-negotiated contract. “We’ve been in fight mode since 2020, when we began organizing some of our brands besides People print,” said Gabrielle Danchick, a copy editor at People and a member of the bargaining committee. “It’s a relief to finally flip the fight-mode switch off and take a breather as the company does the right thing. Because of our collective resolve and refusal to back down, we have a strong legally binding agreement that gives us the protections we need and the kind of pay that will make a huge difference in so many lives.”

Breeze Airways Flight Attendants Vote Overwhelmingly to Join AFA-CWA: On Tuesday, Breeze Airways flight attendants voted with 76.3% in favor of joining the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA). Breeze Airways, a low-cost airline headquartered in Utah, launched in 2021 and has expanded quickly to employ more than 650 flight attendants. The crew at Breeze began organizing because of experiences with inconsistent work rules, low pay, lack of adequate hotel accommodations, insufficient hours and disrespect from management. Within two weeks of announcing their intent to form a union, flight attendants filed for an election. Although Breeze Airways management launched an aggressive union-busting campaign—including hiring anti-labor consultants to break up the organizing efforts—workers held fast and secured a massive victory with this election. “Management broke out all the tired old union-busting, but together we weren’t intimidated or fooled,” said Robynne Martino, a flight attendant and member of the Breeze Airways AFA-CWA Organizing Committee. “Our work group spoke clearly. It’s time for Breeze to treat us with the dignity we earn every day on the line. We call on management to come to the table and negotiate a fair contract without delay.”

Apple Illegally Interrogated NYC Retail Staff, National Labor Relations Board Rules: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled earlier this week that Apple illegally interrogated staff at the World Trade Center store location in New York City. The NLRB ruled that the retail store in Manhattan violated labor law by badgering a worker about whether he supported a campaign to form a union with Apple Retail Union–Communications Workers of America (CWA). The agency also affirmed a judge’s ruling last year that Apple violated federal law in 2022 by confiscating flyers about organizing and barring workers from placing them on a table in the staff break room. Last month, the NLRB also sided with workers at Apple’s Penn Square store in Oklahoma City, approving a settlement agreement for an unfair labor practice charge after the tech retail giant terminated its COVID-19 policy without bargaining with the unit. “Time after time, when workers want to join a union, Apple has had an opportunity to live up to its stated values and failed,” CWA Communications Director Beth Allen said in a statement. “This is why workers need an independent voice—to help Apple live up to its credo and make sure that every member of the team is respected and valued.”

IAM Members at Case New Holland Approve New Contract: The Machinists (IAM) Local 2525 has ratified a new contract with agricultural and construction equipment producer CNH Industrial. The previous six-year contract expired on April 28, but the union and company agreed to extend the contract and continue negotiations up until this past Saturday. Workers at the Fargo, North Dakota, facility held fast on their demands for better compensation and improved benefits and safeguards for the well-being and livelihoods of all staff. Thanks to their endurance and the hard work of IAM’s negotiating team, the newly ratified agreement includes higher wages, retention of health care and pension benefits, and more time off. “Through their solidarity, IAM Local 2525 members have secured better wages and benefits, protected their economic stability, job security, as well as ensured the balance between work and life,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Sam Cicinelli. “Their victory underscores the fundamental truth that when workers stand together, they can achieve remarkable outcomes, shaping a workplace that values their work and honors their dignity.”

Biden Vetoes Bill Against NLRB Joint Employer Rule, Protecting Workers: President Biden vetoed a Congressional Review Act measure late last week that sought to overturn the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rule preventing corporations from hiding behind a subcontractor or staffing agency when workers want to collectively bargain. The NLRB’s joint employer rule expands bargaining obligations and liability for labor violations for employers that have power over working conditions, even if workers are hired through a third party or by franchisees of a larger franchise. This regulation ensures that union members can bargain with each company that has the power to make changes in the workplace. A two-thirds majority in the House and Senate would be required to overturn the veto, an unlikely scenario as an overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats endorse the rule. “Without the NLRB’s rule, companies could more easily avoid liability simply by manipulating their corporate structure, like hiding behind subcontractors or staffing agencies. By hampering the NLRB’s efforts to promote the practice and procedure of collective bargaining, Republicans are siding with union-busting corporations over the needs of workers and their unions,” Biden said in a statement.

Retail Workers Vote to Form Florida’s First Union at H&M: Workers at an H&M location in Melbourne, Florida, overwhelmingly voted to form a union with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1625 on Friday, marking a historic first in the state for the clothing retailer. The election was secured by a supermajority of workers at the Melbourne Square Mall store, creating a bargaining unit of about 20 full-time and part-time staff. The multinational clothing company based in Sweden has 15 locations with workers represented by Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW) in New York, with some locations already having secured contracts guaranteeing paid time off, sick days, medical coverage and more. Workers at the Melbourne store first reached out to the international union earlier this year and were directed to Local 1625, which represents some 8,100 workers across Florida, to start the organizing efforts. Now that the retail and merchandising associates have won their election by a landslide, they’re ready to start bargaining a contract with better pay, more opportunities to secure full-time hours and quality health care.

Fungi Perfecti Workers Joining Together with LIUNA: On-site staff at Fungi Perfecti, which produces gourmet and medicinal mushrooms, have announced their intention to form a union with Laborers (LIUNA) Local 252. Unfortunately, the medicinal mushroom company, located in Olympia, Washington, has responded with an aggressive union-busting campaign rather than respecting the collective action of its workers. Local 252 already has had to file several unfair labor practice (ULP) complaints against Fungi Perfecti and has confirmed that more are in the works to protect the organizing efforts from illegal employer interference. Fungi Perfecti has enlisted the services of infamous anti-labor firms Littler and the American Labor Group (ALG), which represent clients like Amazon, Apple, Google and Starbucks, all of which also have faced multiple ULP charges. But, despite this, workers are steadfast in their goal of forming a union to better their working conditions. “ALG has been distributing anti-union propaganda that, in some cases, are outright lies,” said Derek Sewell, a warehouse worker for Fungi Perfecti. “But we will not be discouraged. It’s just unfortunate that they are spending thousands of dollars on union-busting to try to discourage us rather than investing in making Fungi Perfecti and better and more sustainable place to work.”

Portillo’s Workers in Aurora, Illinois, Vote to Join Ironworkers: Workers at a Portillo’s in Aurora, Illinois, voted to join a union last week, becoming the second wave of the Chicago-based food chain staff to do so. After six months of coming together to speak out against disrespect on the job and weathering union-busting tactics from management, production staff are joining Ironworkers Local 853. This victory comes a year after workers at the Portillo’s Food Service warehouse in Addison voted 28–20 to organize. Members are now shifting their focus to starting negotiations on a contract that includes livable wages, respect and dignity on the job, and better working conditions. “I’m so happy, we have a union! This has been a tough fight, but it was definitely worth it. I’m ready to fight for better pay, respect, and a better future for me and my kids!” said Chandra Wilson, a production associate.

House Cafeteria Workers in D.C. Win Big Under New Contract: Cafeteria and catering workers at the U.S. House dining facilities, represented by UNITE HERE Local 23, are celebrating a new contract ratified in March that raises wages and improves working conditions. Members are employed by food services contractor Sodexo, which oversees 10 House dining locations, including the Capitol Market in the basement of the Capitol, office building facilities like the Longworth and Rayburn cafeterias, and the Au Bon Pain in Cannon. The workers who keep representatives, staff and visitors fed in Washington, D.C., had a swell of local support early on in negotiations from Howard University students and union members from other locals, which they said made their success with bargaining possible. The new deal includes a $3 hourly pay bump in the first year and a raise of $7.50 over five years, no-cost health insurance coverage, increased pension contributions and more. “We were all pretty satisfied with the new contract and excited about the raises coming in the next couple of months as well as future benefits,” said Joseph Smith, a Local 23 member who works in the Longworth cafeteria. “We’re all just looking forward to what’s next.”

Biden Administration Expands Protections for Farmworkers: The Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule on Friday that aims to strengthen and expand protections against wage theft and other labor abuses for temporary agricultural workers with H-2A visas. Introduced in 1986, the H-2A program allows U.S. employers to hire workers from other countries for temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs that go unfilled because of domestic labor shortages. Because these farmworkers don’t have U.S. citizenship and rely on bosses for necessities like housing and transportation, their working conditions can be extremely exploitative. The new DOL rule regulates termination policies to prevent retaliation against laborers for speaking up about working conditions, prohibit employers from holding or confiscating a worker’s passport or other documentation, improve safety standards, and more. “This final rule makes important progress in enhancing recruitment protections, empowering workers with information, lifting wages, limiting retaliation, improving safety protections, enabling concerted activity and ensuring employer accountability,” said AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler in a press release. “When workers are able to join together safely and take collective action, we all win. The AFL-CIO commends the DOL for raising the bar on protections that will prevent further exploitation of migrant and America’s workers alike.”

Remaining West Coast IATSE Locals Reach Craft-Specific Tentative Agreements with Studios: All West Coast Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) locals have now reached tentative agreements with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers on its craft-specific issues as of late last week. IATSE locals 44—the Affiliated Property Craftspersons union—and 884—the Studio Teachers union—join 11 other West Coast crew unions that have won tentative deals since bargaining over their local-specific contracts that began in March. IATSE’s Basic Agreement General Negotiations, which cover broader contractual issues like wages, pension and health care contributions, artificial intelligence usage, job security, and residuals, resumed on Monday, April 29, and are slated to run through May 16. Negotiations for the Area Standards Agreement (ASA) will start on May 20 and are set to run through the end of the month. “Our locals’ craft-specific issues required the employers’ attention, and at the table we’re seeing improved engagement and dialogue,” IATSE Vice President Mike Miller said in a statement. “That indicates the studios’ negotiators have different marching orders this contract cycle. This approach will be helpful as we continue our negotiations over the next few weeks.”

Pitt Faculty Union Reaches Tentative Agreement on First Historic Contract: Full- and part-time faculty at the University of Pittsburgh—who are represented by the United Steelworkers (USW)—announced Thursday that the union had reached a tentative agreement on its first contract. The more than 3,000 Pitt faculty voted to organize with the USW during the fall of 2021 and have been negotiating with university administration for two years. Members will soon be voting on a contract that contains historic language on wages and job security, the top two bargaining priorities for the unit, including a standardized wage floor, more manageable workloads and better advancement opportunities. “We unionized nearly three years ago so that we could have a voice in the decision-making process and increased transparency,” said Tyler Bickford, a professor in the English department, who served on the bargaining committee. “We remained united through negotiations, and our perseverance paid off with a strong contract that will help us now and provide firm foundation on which we can grow in the future.”

UAW Members in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee Reach Deal with Daimler Truck: The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) announced a tentative deal Friday night with auto manufacturer Daimler Truck North America (DTNA) in the eleventh hour before contract expiration, covering thousands of workers at plants in North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. The four-year contract establishes huge wins for the 7,300 covered members, like a 25% pay increase over four years—including a 10% raise immediately when the deal is ratified—profit-sharing language, an end to wage tiers and the first ever cost-of-living adjustment guarantees since workers first organized. Members faced union-busting tactics from the Mercedes-Benz-owned company throughout negotiations, including retaliation against union members and bad-faith bargaining, forcing the UAW to file four unfair labor practice charges against Daimler. “Tonight, it’s clear the company, and the world, heard your message: WE build the product. WE make the profits. WE deserve a deal that reflects our hard work. But you did more than just that,” UAW President Shawn Fain said in prepared remarks. “With this agreement, you said: a rising tide needs to lift every single boat. No one gets left behind. UAW Family, that is solidarity at its best. We win more when we stick together.”

University of Kansas Faculty Vote ‘Union Yes’: On Thursday, seven months after filing for their election, faculty at the University of Kansas (KU) voted overwhelmingly to form a union. The United Academics of the University of Kansas (UAKU) is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), representing more than 1,550 academic workers at KU. Staff in the bargaining unit include full-time and part-time tenured and nontenure-track faculty, as well as teaching, research, clinical and online professors; lecturers; curators; librarians; grant-funded research scientists; and more. Members are seeking a contract that will provide job security, improved compensation structures like salary minimums and regular cost-of-living adjustments, and protections for academic freedom. “This is a really exciting day for us. By voting overwhelmingly to unionize, we now have a seat at the table to advocate for the needs of our university and the students we serve,” said Lisa-Marie Wright, an associate teaching professor in the Department of Sociology. “Our students deserve excellent, well-supported faculty, and that’s what we’ll fight for.”

Paramedics and EMTs Form Union with AFSCME in Montana: EMTs and paramedics at AMR Bozeman have unanimously voted to form a union with AFSCME Council 9, making them the first AMR employees to organize in Montana. AMR (American Medical Response) is a private ambulance company in the United States offering emergency and nonemergency medical transportation. When faced with low pay, high turnover and faulty equipment, staff tried going to management for help, but despite their urgency, AMR failed to provide them the resources needed to serve the community. So a core group of EMS professionals began collecting union cards with help from organizers at Council 9 so they could have a collective voice for enacting change. Despite AMR’s attempt to undermine their organizing efforts, all 34 workers who voted said yes to joining together for better conditions. “We really love what we do, we want to be helping people. But we need to make enough money to get by,” said EMT Chris Dooley. “That certainly sends a pretty strong message that this isn’t just a handful of people. We all landed on the same answer.”

Biden Rule Grants Overtime Pay to Millions of Workers: Some 4.3 million workers who previously didn’t qualify for overtime pay could now be eligible, thanks to a new Department of Labor rule from the Biden administration. The mandate will extend overtime protections to salaried workers who earn less than $1,128 per week—about $58,600 per year—when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The threshold increase begins July 1 and is estimated to result in an additional $1.5 billion in pay for millions of salaried workers. And, in order to keep up with changes in average earnings, the threshold will automatically increase every three years starting in 2027. “This rule will restore the promise to workers that if you work more than 40 hours in a week, you should be paid more for that time,” said acting Labor Secretary Julie Su. “Too often, lower-paid salaried workers are doing the same job as their hourly counterparts but are spending more time away from their families for no additional pay. That is unacceptable. The Biden–Harris administration is following through on our promise to raise the bar for workers who help lay the foundation for our economic prosperity.”

Vice President Harris Announces Final Rules on Minimum Nursing Home Staffing Standards: Vice President Kamala Harris announced on Monday final rules setting minimum staffing requirements at federally funded nursing homes and mandating that a certain amount of the taxpayer dollars they receive go toward wages for care workers. This is the first time the federal government is requiring staffing minimums for nursing homes that accept payments from Medicare and Medicaid—which nearly every single one does. The rule comes after the COVID-19 pandemic claimed the lives of more than 167,000 nursing home residents in the United States, exposing how deadly and dangerous understaffing can be in facilities caring for older and disabled Americans. Harris said this overdue change will mean more staff on site to care for residents, fewer emergency room visits, and more peace of mind for caregivers and families. In addition to requiring more staff, the Biden administration is regulating how federal health care dollars are spent, requiring more of that money go to care worker wages in an effort to reduce high turnover rates and grow the industry workforce. Currently, Medicaid pays $125 billion annually to home health care companies, but those facilities haven’t previously been required to report on how they were spending the money. “It is about time that we start to recognize your value and pay you accordingly and give you the structure and support that you deserve,” Harris told a group of care workers during a roundtable in Wisconsin after the announcement. “This is about dignity, and it’s about dignity that we as a society owe to those in particular who care for the least of these.”

Volkswagen Workers in Tennessee Pass Historic Vote to Join Union: In a historic victory, Volkswagen (VW) workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted to join the UAW on Friday, making it the first auto factory in the South to vote to organize since the 1940s. An overwhelming majority of the 3,613 workers voted yes in a three-day election that drew high turnout. Against the backdrop of last summer’s intense Hollywood strikes, a recent sharp spike in National Labor Relations Board petition filings, coordinated health care worker walkouts and multiple other groundbreaking organizing victories, this win for VW workers is not only the biggest organizing success in years for the UAW—it’s also yet another piece of evidence that workers across industries and regions are fed up with not getting our fair share of corporate profits. Now that the election is over, the fight for a fair contract is next. Members are aiming for an agreement that secures more paid time off, more predictable scheduling, improved health care, retirement benefits and more. “This election is big,” said Kelcey Smith, a worker in the paint department at Volkswagen, in a UAW press release. “People in high places told us good things can’t happen here in Chattanooga. They told us this isn’t the time to stand up, this isn’t the place. But we did stand up and we won. This is the time; this is the place. Southern workers are ready to stand up and win a better life.”

Shedd Aquarium Workers in Chicago Vote to Form Union : Workers at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium announced on Thursday that they are forming their union, Shedd Workers United (SWU), with AFSCME Council 31. When certified, SWU will represent around 300 staff working in animal care, community education, guest relations, facilities and other departments. Workers at the aquarium are in good company as they join the ranks of their peers at other local public institutions like the Field Museum, Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago Public Library who all have recently organized with AFSCME Cultural Workers United. In a public letter signed by 60 workers, Shedd Workers United members said that through forming a union they can advocate not just for their own working conditions and rights, but also the welfare of the animals that are so beloved by their community. Core concerns for workers include the need for better work-life balance, improved compensation and solutions to high turnover rates. “We believe that through our union, we can use our voice to advocate for a sustainable, transparent, and equitable workplace for everyone at Shedd Aquarium, at every level,” workers said in their public statement. “We can further strengthen our role in the [diversity, equity, accessibility and inclusion] initiatives. We can democratize the decision-making process that affects us, our families, and the animals we care for, leading to better collective decisions made inclusively with everyone and every animal’s best interest at heart.”

Wichita Nurses Ratify First-Ever Union Contracts at Ascension Hospitals: Registered nurses, represented by National Nurses United (NNU), at two Ascension-owned hospitals in Wichita, Kansas, ratified new two-year contracts on Monday, successfully winning critical protections for patient care. Members have overwhelmingly approved these new deals—at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, 96% of nurses voted yes, and 100% of nurses at Ascension Via Christi St. Joseph voted yes. This massive victory comes after nurses successfully leveraged their power by threatening a third strike at the hospitals if management refused to agree to fair deals. Highlights from the new contracts include staffing grids with enforceable nurse-to-patient ratios for every unit, salary increases, a transparent wage scale based on years of experience, new standards on infectious disease protections, better workplace violence prevention language and more. “This is a historic day for our union, our patients, our hospitals, and the entire city of Wichita,” said Shelly Rader, an RN in the emergency department at St. Francis. “We’ve shown Ascension that nurses won’t back down when it comes to fighting for better patient care and better working conditions. We organized to fight for and win a strong contract, and we’re very excited to announce we’ve done just that now that nurses have approved this contract.”