Jonah Furman

Could We See a Rail Strike?

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Despite fanfare from the White House and Secretary of Labor about averting a rail strike, some freight rail unions could walk out as soon as December 9.

Members of the SMART-Transportation Division, representing 28,000 workers, mainly conductors, this week became the latest union to vote down a tentative agreement. Meanwhile the next-biggest union, the Teamster-affiliated Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, was the latest to vote up its deal.

'I Get to Have a Life': Pilots Speak Out on Contract Fights

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Airline labor is at a breaking point. The country’s four largest airlines are facing pilot labor conflicts, all centering on a mismanaged pandemic recovery.

The pilots, split among three unions, share grievances over grueling schedules. They say overwork has depleted their home lives while inflation eats into their paychecks.

Next April, 1,200 delegates from the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) will gather in Las Vegas for the union’s international convention. A new reform group, Essential Workers for a Democratic UFCW, is gearing up for a fight.

The group describes itself as a coalition of rank and filers, local leaders, and not-yet-union workers. Drawing inspiration from the caucuses that have recently won landmark reforms in the Teamsters and Auto Workers, it is pushing for change in three areas: union democracy, new organizing, and coordinated bargaining.

Kansas Chipotle Workers Latest to Launch Union Drive

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Employees at a second Chipotle location are unionizing, this time in Lawrence, Kansas. The young workers are forming an independent union, and facing harsh—and likely illegal—pushback from management.

A majority of workers’ signatures were collected on a petition to submit to the National Labor Relations Board, only to have that petition thrown away by management. So now they’re filing an unfair labor practice charge as they push to form a union.

Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees, who build and maintain tracks and bridges, have voted down a national tentative agreement with the freight rail carriers.

Just under 12,000 of the union’s 23,900 freight rail workers voted, the union announced October 10, with 56 percent voting against the deal.

Leaders said they’re hoping to return to the bargaining table. The union is delaying any potential strike until November 19 at the earliest.

GEICO insurance sales rep Lila Balali first started thinking about a union early in the pandemic. “I didn’t really know what a union was,” she says, “just that it was something for the employee.”

She and her co-workers had been abruptly sent to work from home, where she set up a cramped workspace. “We were taking calls on our cell phones, 40 hours a week, our phone to our ear,” she recalls. “You couldn’t get reimbursed or provided a headset.

On September 19, workers filed a petition to organize a union among 276 workers at a Home Depot in northeast Philadelphia. If successful, the independent union would be the first at the home repair chain, the fifth-largest private employer in the U.S with 500,000 employees.

Vince Quiles, who’s worked at the store for five years, says the union effort gathered over 100 signatures for an election in just five weeks.

Just after 5 a.m. on Thursday, Marty Walsh tweeted that the railroad companies and the railroad unions had come to a tentative agreement, less than 19 hours from a potential shutdown:

Chipotle workers in Lansing, Michigan, formed the fast food chain’s first recognized union in the U.S., voting 11-3 on August 25 to join Teamsters Local 243. It’s the latest in a string of new organizing breakthroughs at prominent national brands, from Starbucks to Apple to Trader Joe’s to REI.

Trader Joe’s workers in Minneapolis won their union in a landslide vote August 12, making theirs the second store to go with the new, independent Trader Joe’s United. The win raises the question of whether the grocer, with its 530 locations and progressive image, could be the next Starbucks.

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