Categories: U.S. and Canada

On the Picketline

Unionized Yale grad students begin collective bargaining

Yale graduate students have joined the ranks of unionized workers, like their counterparts at the University of California, the New School in New York City and others. Over 2,000 Yale graduate students voted Jan. 9 to join UNITE HERE Local 33, with 97% voting in favor.

Strike signs outside the Mueller Co. plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Contract negotiations will focus on increasing wages and benefits, protections for immigrant students and establishing a strong grievance procedure. Yale President Peter Salovey said the university will bargain with the union in “good faith,” but there is no guarantee his congenial attitude toward the union will hold.

The Yale grad student struggle to unionize began in the 1990s and has met sharp resistance from the university through the years. In 2017, Local 33 and Yale graduate students had a successful union card-signing campaign, which should have paved the way for a National Labor Relations Board election.

However, the university employed stalling tactics, including hiring union-busting law firm Proskauer Rose. Given the anti-union character of the Trump-appointed NLRB, Local 33 made the strategic decision to withdraw their election petition in 2017, rather than deplete precious resources on a complicated uphill battle.

Fast forward to 2023:  The painstaking process of organizing a union campaign resulted in victory for these essential graduate student workers, the backbone of centers for higher learning. With the rising tide of labor since 2020, the graduate student workers at Yale are now in a powerful position to demand President Salovey adhere to his promise.

“This semester, thousands of grad workers signed union cards and said ‘union yes,’ because they want to win pay that keeps up with the rising cost of living; better access to mental health, dental and specialist health care; protections for international student workers; and real recourse in situations of abuse, discrimination or harassment,” said Ridge Liu, co-president of Local 33. (The Nation, Dec. 5, 2022)

Animation edit staff win union recognition at Nickelodeon

The editing staff at Nickelodeon Animation Studios have joined the membership ranks of the Motion Picture Editors Guild, Local 700 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), after an overwhelmingly successful union card-signing campaign. Undoubtedly recognizing the current tide in favor of workers’ rights to organize, the company decided to recognize the union based on the results of the card check, rather than deal with an NLRB election that the union was likely to win.

First Chattanooga Machinists strike of Mueller since 1976

Rejecting the latest contract offer at the Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant of Mueller Co., 102 machinists, members of the Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), went on strike Jan. 16. “They’re trying to shift our work schedules and take away a lot of our overtime,” said David Combs, a skilled maintenance worker who has been employed at the plant for the past 45 years. “I think the pay package was pretty decent, but we just don’t want them changing the hours of work.”

The last strike by the machinists at the plant was in 1976. The growing discontent among workers, mistreatment by the bosses during the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise in labor activism are all factors that led to this latest strike. Of note, a larger number of workers at the Mueller plant are members of the United Steelworkers. Those workers approved a contract last year but are considering a membership vote to honor the machinists’ picket line in solidarity. (Chattanooga Times Free Press Jan. 16)

IAM members voted to return to work Jan. 22 under the previous contract while negotiations continue.

Marie Kelly

Published by
Marie Kelly

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