What is the mood at United Auto Workers headquarters today? Day drinking? Shopping for retirement condos? Dunning staff for money to try desperately to win the run-off? Shredding documents? Reformers in the United Auto Workers are jubilant as they seem set to make a historic change in the top leadership of their union, ending 70 years of one-party top-down rule. As mail-ballot votes were counted this week, it appeared very possible that the UAW Members United slate would eventually take all seven of the seats it contested, out of 14 on the union’s executive board. This is nothing short of an earthquake in one of the country’s largest manufacturing unions. The last time anyone was elected to the executive board in opposition to the ruling Administration Caucus was 34 years ago, when Jerry Tucker of the New Directions Movement became a regional director.
Members of the Malden Education Association and the Haverhill Education Association have ratified new contracts won through a simultaneous strike last week. After one day on the picket line in Malden and four days in Haverhill, educators secured significant gains including higher wages, increased parental leave and commitments to housing justice. Students, community members, and workers came together in the hundreds to support striking educators across Massachusetts. Although public sector strikes are illegal in 39 states, including Massachusetts, teacher unions have been pushed to risk breaking the law to address the dire issues in public schools that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated.
Plympton, Massachusetts - Teamsters in Plympton, Massachusetts, won their strike at America's largest wholesale food distributor with an old-fashioned militant tactic: the mass picket line. The Sysco strike broke out on October 1. At first there were 100 workers, each with a picket sign, walking a little circle in the driveway leading to the warehouse. But in the early morning of Monday, October 17, a throng of fellow Teamsters swelled the crowd to 400. A dozen positioned their tractor-trailers athwart exits to block scabs from leaving and entering. Thirteen workers got arrested. And three days later, Teamster Local 653 members ratified a new contract, 215-2, with an $11 boost in pay over five years, improved retirement, and untouched health insurance benefits.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - The Philadelphia Museum of Art and the PMA Union, an affiliate of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, District Council 47, reached a three-year agreement, union leaders and PMA museum director Sasha Suda announced Friday. The PMA’s board of trustees and the union’s executive committee approved the deal’s terms on Friday. The union’s 180-worker membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of the contract on Sunday. The vote was 99 percent in favor. “I feel good about the terms. They met everything that we asked for,” Adam Rizzo, PMA union president, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The museum caved on every single issue that we were fighting for. We won everything we asked for,” Rizzo added.
Boston, Massachusetts - On May 5, under a scorching Boston afternoon sun, a motley group of Central American immigrant leaders and their families were strewn across the steps under the towering, ornate cast iron gates of the Massachusetts State House. Joined by mostly younger, non-immigrant allied organizers, the air was charged with nervous anticipation. An eclectic mix of Latin-American music, from traditional mariachi to Bad Bunny, boomed over a mobile PA system. Spontaneous chants of “Que queremos? Licencias! Cuando? Ahora!” or “What do we want? Licenses! When? Now!” broke out amongst ongoing laughter and chatter. Sometime around 2 p.m. the news was finally announced: in a veto-proof majority, the state senate voted 32-8 to pass the Work and Family Mobility Act, a bill that would allow undocumented people to apply for a driver’s license.
Seattle, Washington - Educators voted to ratify a tentative agreement with Seattle Public Schools (SPS) on September 19, after a powerful five-day strike. The strike mobilized 90% of union members, supported by parents and students, to picket lines and rallies at their schools. The schools were shut down for five days. The Seattle Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators, known as SCORE, was one of the driving forces behind the strike and has grown in membership by 60% since the strike began. Educators went on strike September 7 after the district tried to make cuts to special education and multilingual programs. These programs “desperately need more funding and resources, not less,” said Fidy Kuo, a multilingual educator at Franklin High School.
Indigenous water defenders and their allies on Tuesday celebrated a Minnesota court ruling protecting a Line 3 protest camp from illegal government repression. Hubbard County District Judge Jana Austad issued a ruling shielding the Indigenous-led Giniw Collective's Camp Namewag—where opponents organize resistance to Enbridge's Line 3 tar sands pipeline—from local law enforcement's unlawful blockades and harassment. The ruling follows months of litigation on behalf of Indigenous water protectors, whose legal team last year secured a temporary restraining order issued by Austad against Hubbard County, Sheriff Cory Aukes, and the local land commissioner for illegally blocking access to Camp Namewag. "Today David beat Goliath in a legal victory for people protecting the climate from rapacious corporate destruction," Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, director of the Center for Protest Law & Litigation at the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, said in a statement.
Louisiana - A years-long battle to stop the chemical company Formosa from building a massive petrochemical complex along the Mississippi River in southern Louisiana swung in favor of residents on Wednesday when a state district judge withdrew the air permits that the company needs to operate. The Taiwan-based chemical giant first announced its plans to build the $9.4 billion petrochemical complex on a sprawling 2,400-acre site in St. James Parish in April 2018. If approved, the so-called “Sunshine Project” would have been one of the largest and most expensive industrial projects in the state’s history. Governor John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, celebrated it as a boon for economic development that would bring 1,200 new jobs to the region. But the project encountered swift opposition from the local community.
Hollywood, Florida - Weeks after a big strike vote, 450 hotel workers at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida, have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract that boosts minimum hourly pay to $20, halts subcontracting, and restores daily housekeeping. “This is an incredible victory for workers in South Florida,” said Wendi Walsh, secretary-treasurer of UNITE HERE Local 355, in a statement. “This was possible because workers decided to fight back, willing to risk it all. Hospitality workers are the backbone of South Florida’s economy and finally the value of their contribution is being recognized with wages they can live on.” Like their counterparts across the country, hotel workers in Florida have been on high alert as management has tried to clobber their union in a cost-cutting bonanza while raking in record profits.
It means there will be no nationwide rail work stoppage beginning Friday, Sept. 16, or for the next few weeks, but the threat of a management lockout or labor strike is not over as memberships of only two of the 12 unions have so far ratified tentative agreements. All tentative agreements, however, contain “me too” clauses, meaning the sweeteners reached during the all-night bargaining session will apply across the board. They also will be offered to one union that has rejected a tentative deal accepted by its leadership, with expectation that its members will ratify on a second attempt. For almost 20 hours until just after 5 a.m. Sept. 15, Walsh locked horns with the negotiating teams of the NCCC, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET); the Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART-TD); and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.
Oakland, California - When Maria Montes de Oca and her family moved into their apartment in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland fourteen years ago, there were already problems. The apartment clearly hadn’t been maintained; the carpet was stained and damaged, and neither the stove nor the fridge worked. Later on, there were cockroach infestation and mold issues. When Maria tried to get the landlord, Calvin Wong, to carry out repairs or fumigate, he would ignore her requests or tell her he’d use her security deposit to pay for it — a practice that’s illegal in California. Yet in spite of the mounting maintenance and habitability issues, the rent kept going up.
Columbus, Ohio - Students, teachers, and support staff in Ohio's largest school district returned to the classroom on Monday after the Columbus Education Association won a new contract and ended its weeklong strike. Gathered at the local minor league ballpark on Sunday, CEA members voted 71% to 29% to approve a three-year contract with Columbus City Schools that satisfies most of the union's demands, which revolved around improving students' learning environments and opportunities. "We are so excited to get back to where we belong—our classrooms—doing what we do best: educating our students and shaping the future of our great city," CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes said at a press conference.
Berkeley, California - REI employees in Berkeley, California, have formed the outdoor retailer’s second union, extending a winning streak for organized labor at largely non-union companies. Workers at the Berkeley store voted 56 to 38 in favor of joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union in a mail-in election this month, according to a vote count held Thursday by the National Labor Relations Board. Employees at REI’s store in the SoHo neighborhood of New York City were the first to unionize earlier this year. “As we have said throughout this process, REI believes in the right of every employee to vote for or against union representation,” the company said in a statement following the vote count. “We fully supported the vote process in Berkeley and will continue to support our employees going forward.”
Lansing, Michigan - A Chipotle restaurant in Lansing, Mich., voted Thursday to unionize, making it the first of the chain's nearly 3,000 locations to do so. The employees are seeking improved schedules and higher wages, and first filed for a union election July 5. "Today's victory is an amazing moment for our team that has worked so hard and spent many months organizing," said Samantha Smith, 18, a crew member who has worked at the location for over two years. "We set out to show that our generation can make substantial change in this world and improve our working conditions by taking action collectively. Employees at the location first filed for a union election July 5. They are being backed by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, a union with 1.2 million members across professions such as warehouse workers, pilots, public defenders and more.
Great Falls, Montana - A federal judge in Montana District Court ruled today to reinstate a moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands, halting all coal leasing on federal lands until the Bureau of Land Management completes a more sufficient environmental analysis. The original moratorium set by the Obama administration in 2016 was overturned by Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in 2017. The Biden administration revoked the Zinke order last year, but did not reinstate the moratorium. “The Tribe has fought and sacrificed to protect our homelands for generations, and our lands and waters mean everything to us. We are thrilled that the court is requiring what we have always asked for: serious consideration of the impacts of the federal coal leasing program on the Tribe and our way of life,” said President Serena Wetherelt of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.