Voluntary Recognition: Worker Wins

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 several groups of organizers who won voluntary recognition of their new unions.

Kentucky Democratic Party Staff Join IBEW: Staff at the Kentucky Democratic Party have joined Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 369, gained voluntary recognition from management and secured their first collective bargaining agreement. In a statement, the Kentucky Democratic Party staffers said, “We asked for support and recognition of our right to organize. Our leadership stepped up to bargain in good faith and ensure that, as Kentucky Democrats, we live up to our values. We believe deeply in the importance of building and maintaining long-term organizing infrastructure as a means for achieving an equitable and inclusive Kentucky Democratic Party. We came together and organized with a single, common purpose: to make the Kentucky Democratic Party the best possible workplace for everyone, now and in the future.”

WGAE Wins Voluntary Recognition for 200 New Members at Bustle Digital Group: Bustle Digital Group (BDG) today voluntarily recognized the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) for the purpose of collective bargaining after an overwhelming majority of employees in that unit signed authorization cards. BDG’s bargaining unit will include some 200 editorial, video, design and social staffers from its various sites. Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGAE, said, “We welcome Bustle Digital Group employees to the Writers Guild of America, East. Like thousands of their colleagues in the industry, they recognize the value and power of collective bargaining. Together, we can ensure that their voices are heard about the vital issues affecting their work and their workplace.”

Fort Worth Star-Telegram Journalists Win Voluntary Recognition of Union: Management at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram voluntarily recognized a new union at the request of journalists who will be represented by the NewsGuild-CWA. The organizing committee said, “We look forward to the start of negotiations, and we hope to form a strong working relationship that will allow us to protect local journalism here in Fort Worth for years to come.”

Milwaukee Art Museum Workers Overwhelmingly Vote to Join Machinists: A group of more than 140 employees of the Milwaukee Art Museum voted by 72% to join the Machinists (IAM). The new IAM members work in every capacity at the Milwaukee Art Museum, including visitor services, food and beverage, education and programs, information systems, facilities, and more. “I want to welcome these members to the Machinists union family,” said IAM Midwest Territory General Vice President Steve Galloway. “I’m so proud of them for educating themselves about the benefits of the IAM and working so hard for union representation and a voice in their workplace. Unions aren’t just for manufacturing workers; they have a place in every working environment.”

L.A. Union Members Win the Right to Form Public Health Councils: Workers in the Los Angeles area have reason to be proud after the L.A. County Board of Supervisors passed its ordinance to establish labor-led public health councils at worksites. The new policy was pushed by the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and allows workers to set up their own health and safety enforcement committees on the job. Labor Council President Ron Herrera (IBT) explained that the policy’s passage is an important step forward to stemming the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. “Public health councils address the problem at the source by utilizing our most powerful and extensive resource—our workers—as our eyes and ears in the workplace, ensuring that public health orders are followed to prevent new outbreaks,” he said. The county’s Department of Public Health also will be charged under the ordinance with educating front-line workers on their rights to report unsafe working conditions.

UFCW Members at Kroger Agree to Tentative Contract: After months of negotiations, workers represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) at Kroger’s have reached a tentative deal on a new contract that will address pay raises, fully fund health care for associates and reduce drug costs for associates with diabetes. Carolyn Devitt, who has worked at Kroger’s for 42 years, said, “We stood up to corporate and won. After months on the front lines of a pandemic, after already taking away our hero pay, they wanted to gut our health care, too. We weren’t having any of it. We stuck together, and they knew they had to back down. I’m proud of my union.”

Massachusetts Cannabis Cultivation Employees in Massachusetts Join UFCW: Workers at Cresco Labs in Massachusetts have voted to be represented by UFCW Local 328. Timothy Melia, president of UFCW Local 328, said, “We applaud cannabis workers for forming unions to make sure that, as this industry grows, workers are able to share in the success. The cannabis industry should be a place where workers earn a living wage [and] have access to affordable health care and protection from unfair discipline and discrimination.” 

UFCW Local 152 Members Ratify New Contract at ShopRite: More than 2,100 members of UFCW Local 152 who are employed as retail clerks at ShopRite stores in New Jersey ratified a new contract on Oct. 20 that protects health care benefits and raises wages. The four-year contract maintains no cost sharing of medical benefits for the lifetime of the contract. The contract also establishes paid sick days for members, a new benefit made possible with the introduction of the New Jersey Earned Sick Leave Law.

SAG-AFTRA Agrees to Two-Year Extension to Video Game Contract: SAG-AFTRA reached an agreement with nine of the video game industry’s largest companies to extend their Interactive Media Agreement for two years. The deal covers voice-over and performance-capture performers and will provide increased wages and employer contributions to health care and retirement. About the new agreement, SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said, “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with the employers. The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the entertainment industry, but work on video games, much of which can be done remotely, has continued. This extension allows members to keep working and have some certainty during an uncertain time.”

Michigan Nurses Association Affiliates With NNU: Earlier this week, National Nurses United (NNU) announced that the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) board of directors voted to join as an affiliate of NNU. “Solidarity is more important now than ever before,” explained Jamie Brown, RN, MNA president. “Health care executives and D.C. politicians continue to ignore the voice of those of us on the front lines while the pandemic only gets worse. It is time for nurses to unite and fight back.” The 13,000-member union of Michigan nurses will combine forces with more than 150,000 members of NNU nationwide. NNU leaders also highlighted the need for a strong federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been lacking up to now.

This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on November 20, 2020. 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.

About the Author: Aaron Gallant  is the Communications Director and Political Action Coordinator at AFSCME Council 66.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.