Despite the challenges of organizing during a deadly pandemic, working people across the country (and beyond) continue organizing, bargaining and mobilizing for a better life. This edition begins with:
CODE-CWA’s Tech Industry Organizing Efforts Lead to Union Recognition at Mobilize: Workers at Mobilize, a community-organizing app, announced the formation of a new union as part of the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees’ (CODE-CWA’s) efforts to organize in the tech industry. EveryAction, which owns Mobilize, agreed to voluntarily recognize the union. This is the third big win for Communications Workers of America (CWA) in tech sector organizing, after recent wins at Glitch and Google. Jared McDonald, a member of the organizing committee, said: “They said, ‘Yeah, we want to do this the right way, we’re highly invested in the labor movement as well, and workers’ rights, and their ability to organize in the collective bargaining unit. Obviously we have a privileged position where we work for a progressive employer, but if we don’t do it, how are the people who are going to work for less progressive employers going to do it?”
Glitch Workers Secure Historic Collective Bargaining Contract: Workers at app developer Glitch have secured a collective bargaining agreement, the first contract signed by white-collar tech workers in the United States. Members overwhelmingly ratified the contract, which lasts for 11 months. The workers, represented by the CWA, organized a year ago and won voluntary recognition of the new union. The contract includes significant protections, including “just cause” protection and recall rights for 18 employees laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sheridan Kates, a senior software engineer and bargaining committee member, explained the union’s willingness to work with management to come to a mutually beneficial agreement: “There’s a lot of fear that you can’t be nimble with a union in the tech industry, but this shows there are ways to do it. We have an 11-month contract. We didn’t focus on wages and benefits. We didn’t want to hamstring Glitch. We wanted to see ourselves as partners with management and codify the things that are important to us as a union. Having voluntary recognition helped us not have to go into this in an adversarial way. We recognized that we were coming to the table from a place of wanting to do right by each other.”
Journalists at McClatchy Organizations in Washington State Win Voluntary Recognition: Journalists at four McClatchy news organizations in Washington state, The News Tribune, The Olympian, The Bellingham Herald and the Tri-City Herald have organized as the Washington State NewsGuild. Management agreed to recognize the new affiliate of The NewsGuild-CWA. Stephanie Pedersen, Northwest regional editor for McClatchy, said: “The leadership team and our colleagues fundamentally share the same mission: to produce strong local journalism that serves our communities. Recognition allows us to begin negotiations so we may continue to deliver on that mission.”
Comcast Workers in Massachusetts Win Seven-and-a-Half-Year Battle to Secure First Contract: Comcast technicians, members of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2322, in Fairhaven Massachusetts, won their first contract after forming a union seven and a half years ago. The new contract includes significant wage and benefit gains, fair overtime rules, increased job security and workplace safety measures. Local 2322 Business Manager Eric Hetrick said: “The techs showed amazing determination. Once they won their union certification election, they used their Section 7 rights under the National Labor Relations Act to engage in ‘concerted activity’ and management’s obligation to bargain changes in wages and working conditions to stay united and keep the pressure on.”
Washington State Labor Council Helps IBEW 900 Secure a Fair Contract: Pushed to the brink of a strike last week, more than 900 members of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 46 employed in the union’s second largest unit—Limited Energy Sound and Communication—won a major victory with a new contract that members ratified by an overwhelming majority on Saturday night. “I couldn’t be more proud of the brave 900 for fighting and winning the contract they deserve,” said Sean Bagsby, business manager and financial secretary for Local 46. “I want to thank the Washington State Labor Council, the Seattle Building Trades, the Joint Council of Teamsters #28, MLK Labor and all the many other unions that showed their support during this long contract fight. [National Electrical Contractors Association] saw that the union movement has our backs, and they finally budged and gave The 900 a contract worthy of their support. I believe it wouldn’t have happened without that solidarity from the community of labor unions.”
Austin American-Statesman Journalists Join The NewsGuild: Journalists at the Austin American-Statesman voted to form the Austin NewsGuild, an affiliate of The NewsGuild-CWA. Next steps include electing a unit council and assembling a bargaining committee. This in the third new Guild unit in Texas in recent months as part of an industry-wide surge in union organizing.
Guggenheim Museum Workers Ratify Contract After Yearlong Fight: After a tense year of negotiations, workers at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York signed a new collective bargaining agreement. The contract covers engineering and facilities professionals; art services, preparation and fabrication specialists and staff who prepare, install and maintain exhibitions. The contract includes wage increases, increased transparency and parity in scheduling and other matters and improved health care benefits. Bryan Cook, a member of the Guggenheim Union, said: “Throughout negotiations, it was clear that management understood the level of work we produce in support of world-class exhibitions, but that they had no intention of compensating us fairly.”
Staff at Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis (TCI) form TCI United with NPEU: Staff at TCI, a Virginia-based nonprofit that works to advance racial and economic justice, have voted to form TCI United with the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU). In a statement, TCI United said: “One of TCI’s core values is that its organizational culture, staff, partners, strategies, and investments should work to advance racial and economic justice within and beyond the organization. We, TCI staff members, are deeply committed to our mission, and believe one of the best ways to realize it is to organize and form a union.”
RWDSU Members at McNally Jackson Books and Stationery Stores Secure First Contract: Workers at McNally Jackson Books and stationery stores in New York, represented by Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union-UFCW (RWDSU-UFCW), ratified their first contract. The contract provides pay raises of 7%-17%, retirement benefits, additional paid holidays and an increase in vacation days. Rhys Davis, a worker at the Goods for the Study stationery store, said: “We stuck the course throughout the pandemic to get a great contract. I think that’s a testament to the relationship between all of the employees at McNally Jackson and the strength of our union—and our bond.”
Workers at New York Daily News to Form a Union: On Friday, it was announced that workers at the New York Daily News are seeking to form a union. With support from more than 80% of workers, the newly formed bargaining unit is seeking voluntary recognition from its employer. The new union will be a part of The NewsGuild-CWA. “We’re thrilled to welcome our hometown paper back into the Guild,” said Susan DeCarava, president of The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003. “The fight to save local news and to guarantee that the communities our members serve have access to reliable information and compelling stories is an effort we share with our Guild colleagues nationally. We ask that Tribune Publishing voluntarily recognize the Daily News Union without delay so that, together, we can safeguard and ensure that the news thrives for another 100 years.”
CVS Workers Vote Union YES for a Safer Workplace Amidst COVID-19: Workers at a CVS Pharmacy store in Spring Valley, California, voted to join United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 135 for essential workplace health and safety protections during this pandemic. As COVID-19 cases continue to spike in California, it was workplace safety that drove these workers to form a union. With their newfound collective bargaining rights, workers are prioritizing quarantine pay, free coronavirus testing and hazard pay among their demands. Our new union sisters, brothers and friends will join with UFCW members at 57 other CVS stores and the more than 200,000 working families of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council. “In the midst of this pandemic, workers see the value in belonging to a union,” said UFCW Local 135 President Todd Walters. “The workers at CVS Pharmacy in Spring Valley have chosen to be represented by UFCW Local 135. This is a victory for these essential workers that are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic!”
Workers Celebrate Near-Unanimous Vote at Twin City Foods Plant: Twin City Foods employees now have the right to bargain collectively for better benefits at the Pasco plant in Washington. In celebration, they waved signs near an entrance to the plant as they rejoiced in their nearly unanimous 126–2 vote to join UFCW. The efforts to form a union began this past fall as COVID-19 infections spread at the plant, reportedly leading to the death of two workers. Many plant workers were quarantined and forced to use up their limited paid sick leave. Workers also responded to management’s slow implementation of basic COVID-19 prevention safety measures. Twin City Foods employs some 230 year-round packaging employees and brings on another 300 to 400 workers seasonally. The company, based in Stanwood, Washington, processes frozen vegetables and has operations in both Washington and Michigan. The Washington State Labor Council has made support for food and agricultural workers a priority throughout the pandemic.
100 Iowa Valve Plant Workers Vote to Join Machinists Union: About 100 workers at Clow Valve Co. in Oskaloosa, Iowa, have voted to join the Machinists (IAM). These proud new IAM members make iron and brass castings for fire hydrants and water valves. Workers at the plant’s foundries inquired about joining the IAM late last year after the company significantly increased health care costs. Moreover, the company indicated it was potentially making additional future changes to its benefits. “I want to congratulate these brave men and women at Clow Foundry who stood up for a better life for themselves, their families and their communities,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “Credit for this organizing win goes to Special Representative Chris Tucker [IAM], Grand Lodge Representative Geny Ulloa [IAM], and their entire team who worked tirelessly to secure a victory for our new members. Welcome to the IAM family, Brothers and Sisters.” Due to a sizable Spanish-speaking population at the plant, IAM organizers were sure to translate all materials about the union.
This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIOon March 25, 2021. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.