Last Week in Southern Labor: 8/25 - 9/1
Updated On: Oct 10, 2023

Last Week in Southern Labor: 8/25 - 9/1

By JACOB MORRISON September 4, 2023

Here’s what Southern US workers were up to from August 25 - September 1:

  • 36 workers at the North Carolina Association of Educators in Raleigh, North Carolina filed for a union election with the North Carolina Staff Organization, and then withdrew their petition in the same week. 

  • 22 workers at Statesville Painting and Maintenance in Danville, Virginia filed for a union election with the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 53

  • 82 workers at Quest Diagnostics Incorporated in Tucker, Georgia filed for a union election with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 728

  • 32 workers at Rea Magnet Wire Company in Ashland, Virginia filed for a union election with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 666.

  • 200 workers at Lockheed Martin Bluegrass Station in Lexington, Kentucky filed for a union election with the international Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

  • 60 workers at Smart Simple Solutions in Leesburg, Virginia filed for a union election with the Ironworkers International Union

  • Withdrawals:

    • Restaurant Associates in McLean, VA

    • Jones Lang La Salle in Jacksonville, FL

    • Ardent Mills in Sherman, TX

  • 65 workers at Santoprene Production Pensacola in Cantonment, Florida voted against unionization with the IBEW Local 773, 26 to 34

  • 11 workers at Neuro Tour Physical Therapy in Marietta, GA voted in favor of unionization with the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees, 7 to 4. IATSE said in a statement this will be the first time ever that the union will negotiate a contract with touring physical therapists. 

  • 2500 PHD students at Duke university voted in favor of unionization with Duke Graduate Student Union, 1000 to 131. I believe this is the first certified graduate student union in the South (Duke is a private university, so is under the NLRA).

  • The WGA and SAG-AFTRA continue their strike against the media companies, and 5 late night hosts started a podcast. Presumably to cure their boredom, but also to raise money for their striking workers. Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, and John Oliver. You can listen to their new podcast - strike force 5 - on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts. 

  • Workers at Starbucks in Scottsboro went on the first ever strike at the company in the state of Alabama, citing inconsistent scheduling, a refusal to make repairs that is leading to trip and fall hazards, and a refusal to bargain. 

  • United Campus Workers - CWA Local 3865 announced last week that after a six-month campaign by the union, the college announced major increases to minimum stipends for graduate assistants across the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus. Graduate stipends for 9-month and 12-month contracts will immediately rise to $19,401 and $25,868/year, respectively, representing a 35% and 44% raise from the previous minimum stipends of $14,400 and $18,000. 

  • Workers at a Dunkin Donuts in Atlanta organizing with the Union of Southern Service Workers went on strike for raises, better hours, vacation, and benefits. 

  •  UAW President Shawn Fain highlighted how far apart the union and Ford is in their bargaining, with Ford coming to the table asking for concessions. GM and Stellantis have yet to offer a counter proposal. 500 auto workers with UAW Local 863 in Louisville, Kentucky held practice pickets. 

  • CWA members at Maximus - the call center workers that help americans navigate the ACA marketplace and medicare - took part in the 60th anniversary of the march on washington to demand more paths for advancement, higher pay, and more breaks. The company has laid off hundreds this year, the CWA alleges in retaliation for union organizing.

  • Friend of the show Warren Tidwell was appointed to the Governor’s Resilience Council for the state of Alabama. We’re really excited about his voice being on the council - it will work with local, state, federal, and private partners to help communities build stronger, live safer, and recover quicker. The work of the Council will be aimed at better preparing Alabama’s communities to withstand events that result in harmful societal impacts. 

  • The Department on Labor announced last week that it is moving to expand overtime protections to an estimated 3.6 million more workers. The rule would:

    • Restore and extend overtime protections to low-paid salaried workers by raising the salary cap from $35,568 to $55,000

    • Better identify which employees are executive, administrative or professional employees who should be overtime exempt.

    • Automatically update the salary threshold every three years to reflect current earnings data.

    • Restore overtime protections for U.S. territories. From 2004 until 2019, the department’s regulations ensured that for U.S. territories where the federal minimum wage was applicable, so too was the overtime salary threshold. The department’s proposed rule would return to that practice and ensure that workers in the U.S. territories subject to the federal minimum wage have the same overtime protections as other U.S. workers.

  • The Texas law forbidding municipalities from enacting worker protections above what the state sets was declared unconstitutional by a Texas judge, but the ruling has been appealed. 

  • The Treasury Department released a new study about unions, and the findings are: they’re good folks. Specifically, it found Unions raise the wages of their members by 10 to 15 percent. Unions also improve fringe benefits and workplace procedures such as retirement plans, workplace grievance policies, and predictable scheduling. Unionization also has spillover effects that extend well beyond union workers. Competition means workers at nonunionized firms see increased wages too. Heightened workplace safety norms can pull up whole industries. Union members improve their communities through heightened civic engagement; they are more likely to vote, donate to charity, and participate in a neighborhood project. And, the higher pay and job security of both union and nonunion middle-class workers can further spill over to their families and communities through more stable housing, more investment in education, and other channels. Unions can boost businesses’ productivity by improving working environments and by giving experienced workers more of an input into decisions that design better and more cost-effective workplace procedures. 

  • The U.S. Department of Labor today announced the award of more than $3 million to the state of Georgia to help identify and address barriers workers face when accessing state unemployment insurance benefits. The grant will be administered by the department’s Employment and Training Administration and support Georgia’s efforts to remove barriers related to race, age, ethnicity, language proficiency, disability status, geographic location or other issues that make it hard for people to access unemployment insurance benefits. Funding is provided by the American Rescue Plan.

  • AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler and AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond delivered an inaugural State of the Unions address on Tuesday where they released new polling, which underscores the American people’s support of unions—especially that of young workers—and their view of unions as critical to growing the middle class and providing opportunities for working people to thrive. Additionally, both officers stressed that with this unprecedented level of support, working people in unions are prepared to organize like never before, hold big corporations accountable and restore America’s promise for all.

  • A rural carrier for the US Postal Service is seeking to decertify the National Rural Letter Carrier Association as the union representing rural carriers over what he says is the union failing to represent them well, in particular with respect to the postal service’s new policy that will cut the pay of two thirds of rural carriers. The campaign is being led by a fellow who says he is a 15 year member and was a steward for a year before resigning. He is also saying he is working with the Teamsters, and the Teamsters say they are not. 

  • The UAW turned 88 years old last week

  • Unions and labor groups sent a letter to the Hyundai CEO pushing for Hyundai and its subsidiaries to hire locally, train workers from the communities around the plants, bolster safety standards, and protect the environment around the plants, which are expected to employ more than 30,000 Georgians and Alabamians. The coalition is seeking a binding agreement modeled on one reached last year with the electric bus maker New Flyer, which promised, among other things, that at least 45 percent of new hires and 20 percent of promotions would be women, minorities and U.S. military veterans.

  • Steve Stutts, former international representative for the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Local’s Business Manager, and a current board member of the Muscle Shoals Democrats said last week that it had been 29 years since he was first appointed to international staff. He shared a newspaper clipping on facebook where it was reported on in 1994. It’s kind of amazing to think that even in the 90s we had a media that cared enough and as connected enough to working people that they reported on a local union member getting on International staff. Not sure we would see the same today.

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