For some longtime gaming industry observers, it was a jaw-dropping moment that signaled the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter on the Las Vegas Strip. For the throngs still caught up in the frenzy of the Vegas Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup victory, especially the many thousands who converged to celebrate at the T-Mobile Arena, the news was easy to miss. With little fanfare, and less context in some parts of the local press, Culinary Local 226 and three other labor organizations this week announced an agreement with operators of The Venetian and Palazzo to organize workers at The Venetian and Palazzo.
In many unions, ratification of a collective bargaining agreement can leave members alienated and angry. Sometimes members will be learning about the major features of a tentative deal for the first time. Little time is given to discussion—members are expected to approve what leadership recommends, and officers may get defensive at questions or complaints. In some unions, members know their opinion doesn’t matter and may not even bother to vote. But there’s another way to go, to build a powerful, participatory, energized union through the bargaining process: open bargaining.
Why is it that unions, the only things that exist to do new union organizing, do not organize enough new union members? Unions will tell you that there are many reasons — hostile labor laws, corporate union-busting, difficult political climates. There is some truth to all of these explanations, but they are also a bit like stopping and sitting down while a wild dog is chasing you, because running is tiring. Sure it is, but that’s not much consolation when you’re dead. There always have been, and always will be, political and corporate forces hostile to unions. That does not change the fact that unions must find a way to organize, or else die.
June is Pride Month, which celebrates and commemorates the struggles of LGBTQ+ people for freedom. It is held in June to commemorate the Stonewall Riots, several days of protests that began on June 28, 1969, and launched the modern movement for LGBTQ+ rights. This June also marks the 80th anniversary of a remarkable strike at the giant R.J. Reynolds tobacco plant in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, which established Local 22 of the Food, Tobacco, Agricultural, and Allied Workers (FTA). One of those strikers, a sharecropper’s daughter named Moranda Smith, would be elected to the national union’s executive committee three and a half years later, making her the first Black woman in the national leadership of a U.S. union.
On May 2, New York became the first US state to pass a major Green New Deal policy following four years of organizing by the Public Power NY coalition and allies. The Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA), now New York State law, empowers and directs the state’s public power provider – the New York Power Authority (NYPA) – to plan, build, and operate renewable energy projects across New York State. Organizers are now focusing on growing the movement for Public Power from coast to coast. Public Power NY was launched in 2019 by the Ecosocialist Working Group of the NY City’s Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
Seattle, WA - On June 7, postdoctorates and research scientists and engineers (RSEs) at the University of Washington Seattle, members of the UAW 4121 went on strike. Over 700 workers, students and community members turned out to picket lines in support. While postdoctorates and RSEs have separate bargaining committees, they are united in their fight for a strong contract. In December 2021, RSEs submitted a union certification petition, and they are still fighting to achieve a strong agreement. The certification process faced a significant delay of over six months when the University of Washington administration contested the inclusion of more than 300 individuals in the bargaining unit.
Vincent Quiles, a 28-year-old father and union organizer in Philadelphia, is part of a fledgling labor effort to support the months-long protests against construction of the notorious Atlanta Public Safety Training Center, popularly known as “Cop City.” For Quiles, this also means speaking out against his former employer: Home Depot. When he was fired from a Home Depot store in northeastern Philadelphia in February, Quiles was already struggling to support his toddler son on his salary, which he says never felt like enough, given the meager benefits. He says he was forced to lean on his “very strong support system.”
Shocking video of Medieval Times strikers in Buena Park, California, run down by a car and then physically assaulted while picketing in a crosswalk had hundreds of thousands of views on social media in April. “We began to get run over by cars,” said Jake Bowman, a Medieval Times knight-turned-union organizer. “People would get out of their cars and throw picketers to the ground. Some people cared more about getting into their two-hour, completely optional entertainment venue than workers’ lives. Sometimes you may have to yell louder to convince people to care.” The assaults brought into public view the challenges that members of Medieval Times Performers United (MTU)—representing actors, stunt performers, and stable hands organizing with the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA)—have faced since their strike began February 11.
At midnight on Tuesday, May 2, over 11,000 writers organized with the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike for the first time in 15 years. This strike has the potential to be incredibly disruptive to the entire entertainment industry, effectively grinding much of TV and film production to a halt. The key issues of this strike surround pay — specifically attached to the growth of streaming content — and concerns over how the bosses of the entertainment industry may use AI to “automate” parts or all of the writing process. This strike dawns at a key moment for both the entertainment industry and the labor movement as a whole.
On Jan. 31 of this year, the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association (TUGSA) launched the first strike in their 25-year history. The decision to strike came as a result of years of organizing that largely began in 2020, after Temple’s decision to force in-person classes in the fall of 2020 led to a completely preventable COVID-19 outbreak. Striking for 42 days, graduate student-workers faced cuts to their health insurance, threats to lose tuition remissions, and more. Nevertheless, TUGSA persevered, winning a new contract that raised wages and eliminated Temple’s wage-tier system for graduate student-workers in different departments.
Los Angeles – Following the unanimous recommendation of the WGA Negotiating Committee, the Board of Directors of the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) and the Council of the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), acting upon the authority granted to them by their memberships, have voted unanimously to call a strike, effective 12:01 AM, Tuesday, May 2. The decision was made following six weeks of negotiations with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The WGA Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, but the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing.
Canada is in the midst of the largest strike against a single employer in the country’s history. On April 19, 155,000 public sector workers — who have been without a contract for more than two years — walked off the job, setting up 250 picket lines across Canada. Thus far, the government’s approach to negotiations with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) has been, at best, ham-fisted. The bulk of the workers — 120,000 employees of various government departments who answer to the Treasury Board — are asking for an annual 4.5 percent wage increase retroactive to June 2021, when negotiations with the government began.
For the first time in their history, 3,000 grocery workers in the local chain Cub Foods across the Twin Cities metro area were set to strike. They were going to shut down 33 stores during the busy Easter weekend. Hours before the strike was to begin, the company offered a settlement that gave the workers much of what they wanted, and none of the concessions it had been demanding. Workers will get raises between $2.50 and $3.50 an hour, and hundreds will receive even more raises as they get reclassified into higher-paying job titles. A company-wide safety committee will be established.
On March 1, Stellantis (formerly Chrysler) “idled” the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois—putting 1,350 people out of work indefinitely, with the threat hanging over them that the plant might stay closed forever. Is Stellantis hurting for money? Absolutely not. In fact, the corporation has recently had some of its best years on record. This is a clear attempt to use the plant as a cudgel, as the Big 3 automakers head into negotiations with the United Auto Workers this fall. It’s a signal that, despite record profits, the companies will remain true to their same old playbook—holding people’s livelihoods over their heads and holding communities at ransom.
Starbucks workers at over 100 US stores walk out ahead of shareholder meeting Workers hold protest in Seattle outside of Starbucks’ headquarters in response to the company’s aggressive anti-union efforts Michael Sainato @msainat1 Wed 22 Mar 2023 10.27 EDT Starbucks workers at over 100 stores around the US walked out on Wednesday ahead of the company’s annual shareholder meeting and held a protest in Seattle outside Starbucks’ headquarters. The actions were launched in response to Starbucks’ aggressive anti-union efforts against worker organizing, which have included allegations of firing dozens of workers in retaliation for union organizing, intimidation, store closures, withholding benefits, schedule cuts and delays in bargaining a first union contract. Starbucks has denied or rejected all allegations and charges of labor law violations.