Labor Briefing

By BILL ONASCH

  • Striking Nurses Vote On New Offer—At our deadline, more than 4000 RN members of the Minnesota Nurses Association were preparing to vote on a new contract offer from Allina Health Care in the Twin Cities area. After an earlier “warning strike,” the nurses began an open-ended walkout on Labor Day. They have been joined on the picket lines by unionists from AFSCME, SEIU, and other union and community supporters. A Federal mediator brought the parties back to the table during the last week of September, when the company modified its prior “last, best, and final offer.” It was described by the St. PaulUnion Advocate as “a three-year contract proposal from Allina that makes some gains on staffing and safety—two of their top issues—but wasn’t good enough to win a recommendation from the union’s bargaining team.” Picketing continued during the voting.
  • They Left Before the Overture—The New York Times reported, “The musicians of the fabled Philadelphia Orchestra went on strike on Friday [Sept. 30] just before their season-opening gala concert, rattling the classical music world and silencing one of the nation’s great ensembles a little more than four years after it emerged from bankruptcy. … The strike—called on the same day that musicians on the other side of Pennsylvania at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra walked out on strike—came as the Philadelphia’s players sought to recover some of the pay they lost to concessions during the recent bankruptcy.” The strike was settled two days later in Philadelphia. The musicians voted 73-11 to accept a three-year contract, with a raise of 2% in the first year, and 2.5% in the remaining years. This will bring base pay up to $137,800 a year—still less than the earnings in most major U.S. orchestras. The Ft Worth Symphony is also on strike over the same issue.
  • Second Time Works—The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers didn’t give up after losing a union representation election at a Memphis Electrolux oven plant. The Swedish-based appliance giant is totally unionized at home but uses the same union avoidance measures as most American bosses in the USA. On a second try, IBEW had assistance from IG Metall—the union representing Electrolux workers in Sweden. The Memphis workers voted 461-193 for the union
  • Tired Of Being Taken For a Ride—Lucy Nicholson opened a Reuters dispatch, “Nearly 14,000 Uber and Lyft drivers in New York have signed up to join the local branch of the Amalgamated Transit Union, according to a union spokesperson. The group plans to rally at the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) headquarters next week to demand a formal vote on unionizing. The 14,000 sign-ups exceed the 30 percent threshold that federal regulators say must trigger an official vote, the union says.”
  • Farmworkers Victory—Labor Notes reports, “After three years of tireless organizing, 500 farmworkers at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington State have finally won union recognition. The berry pickers, mainly indigenous migrants from Mexico, began their fight with a work stoppage in 2013 and never let up. They formed an independent union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, and launched boycotts against Sakuma and its major client, multinational berry distributor Driscoll’s, calling for the farm to recognize the union and negotiate. This year the boycott went international, as the Washington workers joined in solidarity with berry pickers in San Quintín, Mexico, who have led massive strikes for higher wages and benefits and against sexual harassment on the job. … Sakuma agreed to an election and on September 12, workers voted yes by an overwhelming 77 percent. It’s a rare win for an independent local farmworker union.”
  • Local Initiative—Two weeks before their international union did likewise, Service Employees International Union Local 503 adopted a model statement in solidarity with protests in Standing Rock, North Dakota, against construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. Local 503 represents 55,000 Oregon state government workers.
  • Academics Unite—Workday Minnesota reported, “The effort to form a faculty union at the University of Minnesota moved forward Tuesday with a ruling by the state Bureau of Mediation Services affirming that 1,500 tenure-track and 1,000 contingent faculty should be in one bargaining unit. Supporters of MN Academics United, an affiliate of Service Employees International Union Local 284, had sought to keep the groups together. The move sets the stage for a union election later this fall, organizers said. No date has been set yet.”

Ann Montague and Michael Schreiber contributed to this Labor Briefing. If you have a labor story appropriate for this column please contact billonasch@kclabor.org.