Though we are only three months into 2022, thousands of workers across the country have already taken significant steps towards securing improved working conditions, higher wages, and greater corporate commitments to their general well-being. Below are some organizing achievements by workers this year that we would like to take a moment to highlight:
Amazon: On Friday, April 1, employees at a massive Amazon warehouse in Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union. The vote marked the first successful unionization attempt by Amazon workers in the company’s history. Some commentators view the vote as milestone event that might signal a turning point in workers’ organizing efforts against Amazon, a company many union leaders regard as an existential threat to labor standards.
Starbucks. Since February of this year, seven Starbucks locations – two in Mesa, AZ, three in Buffalo, NY, one in Seattle, WA, and one in Knoxville, TN – have voted to unionize, bringing the total number locations that have voted to unionize to nine. Starbucks employees have cited low wages, lackluster benefits, staffing shortages, and unrealistic performance metrics as the main drivers for unionization. Since the first Starbucks locations voted to unionize in December 2021, approximately 160 Starbucks locations have filed petitions with the National Labor Relations Board to unionize.
Chevron Corporation: In March, employees at a Chevron Corporation oil refinery in Richmond, CA went on strike. The strike came after the company’s contract with the United Steelworkers Local 5 union expired the previous month. Workers in Richmond are demanding higher wages and staffing improvements, both of which have become increasingly urgent as inflation soars and some Chevron employees feel obligated to work 70 hour weeks to make ends meet.
Kellogg: After 1,400 Kellogg workers went on strike in 2021, workers at a Kellogg’s plant that makes Cheez-its won a new contract that included a 15 % wage increase. According to the workers’ union, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, it is the largest wage increase employees at the location have ever seen.
Warrior Met Coal: Nearly 1,000 coal miners in Brookwood, AL, remain on strike in what has become one of the longest coal mine strikes in American history. The miners have been on strike since, April 1, 2021, and are demanding that their wages be restored to the levels they were at prior to Warrior Met Coal’s 2015 bankruptcy. They are also fighting for improved workplace protections, such as excused absences for family emergencies. Warrior Met Coal recently reported its most profitable quarter in three years and said it was hiring new workers during the strike.
We commend the work of Union Organizers and employees who continue to work tirelessly towards a brighter future for workers. Even though the union membership rate declined in 2021, three months into 2022, the prospects for the American labor movement looks very bright.
From today until March 26, members of seven local grocery store unions across Southern California will vote to determine whether they will go on strike. The vote comes after negotiations between union leaders and the owners of Ralphs and Albertsons/Vons/ Pavilions failed to lead to a new contract with better wages and benefits for workers. The vote also comes after United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) locals filed unfair labor practice charges against the companies for interfering with employees for engaging in union activity and refusing to disclose information requested by the locals in order to bargain for their members’ contracts.
Union leaders are fighting on behalf of approximately 60,000 Southern California grocery store workers to secure higher wages. Following a pandemic that led to a financial windfall for large grocery store chains, many workers still find themselves struggling to make ends meet, often making little more than the minimum wage and suffering from food insecurity as the cost of living in California continues to get more expensive.
In addition to fighting for higher wages, union leaders are also working towards increasing the minimum number of hours that part-time workers can be scheduled and securing language that protects workers from being kept after their scheduled hours. Workers also want better safety for both workers and customers in terms of COVID protocols, and staffing increases to offset the shortages they faced during the pandemic.
The results of the vote are expected to be announced on Sunday. The vote will not necessarily result in a strike, though it does give union leaders the right to call a strike if an agreement with grocery store companies cannot be reached.
Teukolsky Law commends the brave and difficult work of UFCW and hopes to see an agreement advancing grocery workers’ well-being and dignity reached soon.
This year, thousands of American workers have gone on strike in hopes of better working conditions, higher pay, and a greater commitment to their safety and well-being in the midst of the pandemic. As the year draws to a close, we would like to take a moment to acknowledge some notable strikes from 2021.
John Deere – More than 10,000 workers at John Deere went on strike for five weeks in October and November. The United Auto Workers negotiated the new agreement, which the workers accepted in mid-November. The deal included a 10% immediate raise, an $8,500 signing bonus, 5% raises in the third and fifth year of the six-year deal, and additional lump sum payments equal to 3% of wages in years two, four and six. It also reinstated a cost-of-living adjustment to protect workers from inflation and the increased cost of housing and goods.
Kellogg – Around 1,400 workers have been on strike at 4 different cereal plants since the beginning of October. On December 7, the workers rejected a tentative plan for a five-year contract that their union negotiated. The strike is mainly about the two-tier compensation structure at the company. Under the current terms, newer employees earn lower wages and receive fewer benefits than more seasoned workers. However, this lower tier included up to 30 percent of workers. The company said that in the wake of the rejected agreement, it would “hire permanent replacement employees in positions vacated by striking workers.”
Frito-Lay – Around 600 employees at the Topeka Frito-Lay plant struck for 19 days in July, ending the strike with the ratification of a two-year contract that guarantees at least one day off per week and a raise in wages. Workers at the plant had been working forced overtime and 84-hour work weeks.
We salute the brave workers across the country who have put their own livelihoods on the line to fight for better pay and working conditions. When we fight, we win.
Lauren Teukolsky is the founder and owner of Teukolsky Law, A Professional Corporation.