Last Week in Southern Labor: 4/26 - 5/3
Updated On: May 13, 2024


By JACOB MORRISON May 10, 2024


Author's Note:

Sorry about the delay in getting this out y'all, I had a couple comments I wanted to make sure I included in the round up. 

While I’m doing something of a preamble for this edition, I also wanted to reiterate our ask that folks keep us informed of anything labor related that y'all have going on in the South. It’s extremely difficult to track labor-related stuff, particularly since it isn’t covered in the news a whole lot. We can pull union election filings for the private sector from the NLRB, we can pull from news as it relates to legislation related to working people (although even that is somewhat difficult), but there is very little public information about very important things like internal union elections, contract negotiations, bargaining updates, etc. So if you’re in the South and something is happening in your union or community that folks ought to know about, please let us know! 

Finally, if you think this newsletter is a valuable resource, please consider giving us a dollar or two per month to help us make this possible. If you can’t, then share the newsletter with folks and encourage them to subscribe!

Without further adieu, here’s what workers in the US South and the colonies were up to from April 26th to May 3rd:

NEW CAMPAIGNS

  • UAB football players have unanimously joined Athletes.org, an organization seeking to be one of a number to represent college football players as a saga to unionize the industry unfolds

  • The employer filed a petition to hold a union election after a majority of the 47 workers at Imperial Bag & Paper Company in Orlando, FL demonstrated support for unionization with the Teamsters Local 385

  • 10 security guards at Allied Universal in Washington, DC filed a petition to hold a union election with the United Government Security Officers of America Local 259

  • Workers likely pushed by their employer filed a petition to decertify the American Federation of Teachers Local 420 as the union representing 43 workers at KIPP St Louis High School in St Louis, MO. In a statement to The Valley Labor Report, the union stated that the petition was filed by the National Right to Work Foundation (boo), and that this petition comes after a one day strike on April 19, and as the charter high school has refused to agree to a fair contract since the workers unionized all the way back in 2022. The union also subsequently filed an Unfair Labor Practice for failure to bargain in good faith. Particular points of contention in negotiations are safety, staffing, and due process. The union struck again on April 29. 

  • 25 workers at Starbucks in Tampa, FL filed a petition to hold a union election with Starbucks Workers United, as did 15 more workers at a Starbucks in Little Rock, AR. In a statement to The Valley Labor Report, the union stated that these stores were 2 of 9 that filed for an election in a first wave of filings in May, with 20 more expected to come by the end of the month. This could be the beginning of a wave of organizing increases following the lowering of temperatures by Starbucks. In the letter to the CEO that the organizing workers wrote, they said “the only way to create meaningful change and to have the company listen to our needs is through unionizing.”

  • Workers likely pushed by their employer filed a petition to decertify the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 2 as the union representing 10 workers at the Association of Community College Trustees in Washington, DC

  • 89 workers at Sibelco in Barkersville, NC filed a petition to hold a union election the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA)

  • 26 workers at Generation Hope in Washington DC filed a petition to hold a union election with Workers United

  • The Protective Security Officer Members Union of America is raiding a unit of 28 security guards at Paragon Systems in Washington DC already represented by the Security, Police, and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA)

  • 190 workers at American University in Washington DC filed a petition to hold a union election with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 500

  • 4 workers at Broadway Ford in Saint Louis, MO filed a petition to hold a union election with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) District Lodge 5

  • 16 workers at the Wydown in Washington DC filed a petition to hold a union election with Workers United, as did 17 more Wydown workers at another DC location

  • 6 workers at Wells Fargo in Fort Worth, TX filed a petition to hold a union election with Wells Fargo Workers United CWA

  • 17 workers at MV Transportation in Port St Lucie, FL filed a petition to hold a union election with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1577

  • 18 workers at Democracy North Carolina in Morrisville, NC filed a petition to hold a union election with the Communication Workers of America (CWA)

  • 5 security guards at Kerberos in Falls Church, VA filed a petition to hold a union election with the SPFPA

CAMPAIGN UPDATES
  • In another first for the nonunion auto sector, after the results of the union election were certified in the landslide victory for the UAW at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, the union and the company released a joint statement saying both parties are “committed to a strong and successful future” and “focused on collective bargaining and entering negotiations in the spirit of working together to reach a fair agreement”

  • In the run up to the union election at Mercedes in Vance, AL, a poll shows that 52% of Alabamians support the union effort, while only 21% are opposed

  • Meanwhile, Governor Ivey is trying a different tact, now refraining from saying “workers don’t deserve more” she is saying that she is having conversations with employers behind the scenes to fix problems, and that’s why workers shouldn’t unionize. Trust the Governor, who was literally just attacking you two seconds ago. 

  • Bren Riley, President of the Alabama AFL-CIO, the state’s largest labor federation, responded to Ivey’s forays into the union conversation by saying she is the real leech, not the UAW.

ELECTION RESULTS
  • 8 workers at ESG in Ft Benning, GA voted 1 to 6 against unionization with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 926

  • 7 workers at Mississippi Power in Gulfport, MS withdrew their petition for a union election with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1211

  • 62 workers at Livingston Place at Southern Avenue in Washington DC voted unanimously in favor of unionization with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East

  • 9 workers at Wayne Sanderson Farms in Enterprise, AL voted 8 to 1 in favor of unionization with the IAMAW

  • 5 workers at Wells Fargo in Bradenton, FL voted 4 to 1 in favor of unionization with Wells Fargo Workers United CWA

SETTLEMENTS, GRIEVANCES, & UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES

  • Union workers at Trader Joe’s, including some in the South, were sued by the company for copyright infringement - that case has now been won by the union, with the courts saying the suit was “meritless” and demanding the company pay over $100k in attorney’s fees to the union.

STRIKES & BARGAINING

  • Union workers saw record annual raises of 6.3% on average for the 12 months ending in March 2024, while nonunion workers saw raises of 4.1% on average over the same time period, not much higher than inflation

  • UAW President Shawn Fain renewed his call for unions to prepare for mass strike action on May 1, 2028. Labor Councils across the country are carrying the load for part of this effort, in an effort they’re calling Bargain Together. You can learn more and find sample resolutions for your council or union at BargainTogether.org. 

  • Members of the Texas State Employees Union (TSEU-CWA Local 6186) hosted a rally last week calling on University of Texas (UT) officials to “Stop the Purge.” At the beginning of the month, UT abruptly fired nearly 60 staff, mostly women and people of color, working in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion office and programs.

  • Orlando, FL hotel workers, unionized with UNITE HERE, held a May Day rally in preparation of upcoming contract negotiations, where the union will seek to raise standards in the 300,000 strong hospitality sector in the city.

  • Florida is inching towards dead last in average teacher pay, falling from number 48 to 50 out of 51 (all states + DC) this year, now behind only West Virginia 

  • 100 union nurses protested the April 27 Frist Family Gala at the Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tenn., a black-tie event named for the family that founded and is a major shareholder in HCA, the largest for-profit healthcare company in the country

POLITICS & LEGISLATION

  • The Warehouse Worker Protection Act has been introduced in the US Senate, with a version to be introduced in the House in the coming weeks. The bill, which would require large warehouse employers like Amazon to disclose quotas, prevent said quotas from interfering with safety, and direct the DOL to create new rules around safety in the industry, has the support of the Teamsters.  Injury rates at Amazon facilities are 76 percent higher than the rest of the warehouse industry.

  • The Louisiana Senate is scheduled to vote on a paycheck dues deduction ban for public sector unions, and the Louisiana House passed a bill repealing a mandate that children be given a 30 minute lunch break after working for 5 hours.The House passed another bill that would prohibit people from discussing unions on the job if they work for the state of Louisiana, but this vote was alleged to be rife with irregularities, with the Louisiana Illuminator cataloging multiple votes that were recorded differently than how the legislator voted, with the total in favor being exactly the amount needed to send the bill to the Senate. 

  • The Department of Labor announced a final rule to strengthen farmworker protections, which adds new protections for worker self advocacy, clarifies “for cause” termination in H2A contracts, makes  foreign labor recruitment more transparent, and more. The AFL-CIO has applauded the rule change.

  • The final language for the 2025 Federal Aviation Administration is out, with the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO endorsing its passage. There was some concern that the bill include increasing the retirement age for pilots, but this was ultimately not included.


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