Leveling the Playing Field: 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.

Biden Signs Bipartisan FAA Bill into Law: “President Joe Biden on Thursday signed a bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, enacting a law that aims to improve aviation safety and strengthen protections for passengers and airline workers. The legislation, which passed the House on Wednesday and the Senate last week, renews authority for the agency for the next five years and invests in air travel infrastructure nationwide.”

Biden’s Labor Report Card: Historian Gives ‘Union Joe’ a Higher Grade Than Any President Since FDR: “Joe Biden has pledged repeatedly to go further than any of his predecessors with his support for U.S. labor rights. ‘I intend to be the most pro-union president leading the most pro-union administration in American history,’ Biden said at a White House meeting in September 2021 that brought together ordinary workers, labor leaders, and government officials. He has expressed this intention many times, sometimes clarifying his goals. For example, in 2023 he said in Chicago that his administration was ‘making it easier to empower workers by making it easier to join a union.’ Based on my research regarding the history of organized labor in America, I would give Biden an A-minus for his record on workers rights.”

Another Electric Vehicle Factory Has Unionized, Boosting Labor’s Push in U.S. South: “Workers at an Alabama electric bus plant have unionized and inked a contract with significant pay raises, another win for the U.S. labor movement in the emerging green economy and the union-scarce South. The roughly 600 workers at the New Flyer factory formed a union with the Communications Workers of America earlier this year, joining a string of U.S. organizing victories at its parent NFI Group Inc., North America’s biggest manufacturer of transit buses. The contract, ratified this week, will raise most employees’ pay by 25% to 38% by 2026, according to CWA. The contract also restricts forced overtime and expands paid time off to include more parental leave and a Juneteenth holiday.”

Chicago’s Service and Cultural Workers Are Unionizing Like Never Before: “As the pandemic first sank its talons into the service industry—closing hotels, restaurants, grocers, and retail stores—service were lauded as ‘essential workers.’ Since then, they’ve been unionizing their workplaces at a speed the U.S. hasn’t seen in more than half a century. Between March 2022 and April 2024, about 290 workers at nine Chicago hotels, bars, and restaurants won union representation with Unite Here Local 1. These new contracts include a minimum wage of $25 per hour, health care coverage, and new or strengthened pensions. The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), representing 35,000 museum workers nationally, has seen similar gains.”

Are Advertising and Marketing on the Brink of a Union Wave?: “When one thinks of unions within the media industry, film and television actors and reporters likely come to mind. These sectors have been highly unionized for decades, mainly through SAG-AFTRA, NewsGuild-CWA (Communication Workers of America), the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, and the Writers Guild of America. Even newer iterations of these fields—like digital journalism—have had recent organizing gains.”

Biden Tariffs Will 'Level Playing Field' for Workers: AFL-CIO President: “‘It's created an unlevel playing field for workers where you have an auto worker struggling to keep a good job in the auto industry because they're competing against a country that's taking advantage of manipulating their currency or instituting unfair practices,’ American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Liz Shuler tells Yahoo Finance Executive Editor Brian Sozzi. The AFL-CIO is America's largest union federation comprised of 60 unions—both domestic and international—and over 12 million employed and retired workers. Shuler provides several examples of the methods China has used to undermine American workers, including steel and aluminum producers, while outlining the trust union leaders have in President Biden.”

New Alabama Law Punishes Union-Friendly Employers: “After Georgia approved its bill, Liz Shuler, the president of the AFL-CIO labor federation, called the legislation ‘appalling,’ and said it undermines the ‘fundamental freedoms’ of both workers and employers. Labor groups could mount legal challenges to the laws on the grounds that they conflict with the National Labor Relations Act, the federal law covering collective bargaining in the private sector. Benjamin Sachs, a labor law professor at Harvard Law School, recently told HuffPost that he believed state laws like Alabama’s will probably be overridden by the federal law.”

Unions, Lawmakers Protest Boeing Firefighter Lockout: “At a rally outside Boeing headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, IAFF President Edward Kelly, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and Representative Val Hoyle urged Boeing to make a deal. Shuler said Boeing ‘is looking to establish a pattern and if we can start here with the firefighters it might trickle over to a bigger impact with another union.’ She added having skilled firefighters was crucial for Boeing. ‘What makes the company safer ultimately makes the company more trusted and more profitable,’ Shuler said.”

Trade Unions Tackle Workforce Challenges and Diversity: “Construction is a powerful engine that drives New Jersey’s economy. However, according to the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters (EASRCC), the appetite for creating middle-class construction jobs is not keeping pace with the supply of qualified trades people seeking a sustainable living. As a result, the industry is faced with a paradox and some challenges. Between 2022-2024, EASRCC was unable to accept nearly 14,000 individuals due to the lack of employers willing to hire them, according to William C. Sproule, the organization’s executive secretary-treasurer.”

Claude Cummings Jr.: Don't Let Congress Widen the Digital Divide: “Nearly a third of Americans who don’t have broadband say the reason is because it costs too much—and unfortunately, Congress is prepared to let that figure rise dramatically. Lawmakers have yet to renew funding for the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP, which is being rolled back as of today and will fully come to an end in coming weeks unless Congress takes action. Through the ACP, more than 23 million households have received either reduced bills or effectively free internet service. The shutdown of the ACP will hurt communities of color the most, with over 30% of Black families lacking home internet, and rural communities as well.”

Unions Struggled in the South for Years. The Economy Gave Auto Workers an Opening: “For two decades, Jeremy Kimbrell and his co-workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Alabama could expect to hear the same thing when they raised concerns about pay, time off or working conditions: With no college degree, you should just be happy to have a job. Those days might be over. Roughly 5,000 hourly employees of the Tuscaloosa-area facility are set to vote starting Monday on whether to join the United Auto Workers. Just last month, 73% of employees who cast ballots at Volkswagen’s slightly smaller plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., opted to unionize, a first for a foreign-owned auto factory in the South. The vote in the week ahead will be a pivotal moment in the UAW’s organizing blitz in the South’s booming auto industry.”

Grocery Store Employees in Central Oklahoma City Join Union Amid Allegations of Mistreatment: “Employees at an Oklahoma outlet for a Colorado-based grocery store chain voted to unionize Thursday following a series of protests and claims of unfair treatment, especially for pregnant women and working mothers. Natural Grocers workers voted 11-9 to join United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1000, a nonprofit that negotiates contracts on behalf of small businesses. Joe Lee, UFCW Local 1000 organizer, said the union will pull a handful of employees to negotiate terms.”

No Contract, No Pirouettes—Ballet Dancers Are Organizing for Labor Rights: “As they perform Swan Lake, dancers at Miami City Ballet in Florida have been facing a union-busting campaign from the company’s management. Their case went to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which ruled on May 8 in favor of the dancers seeking to unionize, clearing the way for a union election on May 14. These dancers are just one group in a wave of ballet companies unionizing with the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA). But in Miami, organizing dancers endured significant challenges.”

Sesame Workshop Writers Ratify New 5-Year Contract: “It’s official: Writers Guild members at the Sesame Workshop have got a new contract. The writers ‘overwhelmingly’ approved the five-year collective bargaining agreement, the guild announced on Friday. Sesame Workshop writers reached a tentative deal in April, but not before unanimously voting to authorize a strike against the nonprofit organization. The deal was struck just in time to avoid a work stoppage.”