Lopsided win for union workers in Las Vegas

In a lopsided vote, 78 percent of the workers at Stations Casino’s Green Valley Ranch in the suburbs of Las Vegas voted to join the Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Bartenders Union Local 165, both are affiliates of UNITE HERE.

The large margin of victory is notable, said D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE, because it flies in the face of conventional wisdom about the status of the labor movement.

The union victory, said Taylor, “proves that the media narrative that labor is dying is untrue, but that working people can win against all odds when they organize together.”

The union win is the third recent victory for pro-union workers at Stations Casino properties in the Las Vegas area.

Taylor also said that the union victory at Green Valley Ranch was notable because it took place in a so-called right-to-work state where the state “rigs the laws against workers to take away their power.”

The roots of the Green Valley Ranch victory can be traced back to 2010 when hundreds Stations Casino workers from all over Las Vegas came together to form a union organizing committee.

Stations Casino is owned by Red Rock Resorts, a publicly traded company controlled by Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta.

The Fertitta brothers took exception with their workers’ desire for a voice on the job and fought the organizing drive every step of the way.

Among other things, they ran television ads in 2012 warning workers not to join the union.

They also hired a union avoidance company, which conducted an ongoing anti-union campaign at work.

But union supporters fought back with their own spirited campaign, and in September 2016 workers at Boulder Station, a hotel and casino located about 11 miles east of the famous Las Vegas Strip, voted to join UNITE HERE by a vote of 355 to 177.

Desperate to stave off further union victories at their properties, the Fertitta brothers announced that they would lower health insurance premiums for all of Stations non-union workers; however union workers, they said, would continue to pay the same higher premiums.

Two months later when another union vote took place at Palace Station, another Station hotel and casino located a few miles away from the Strip, the union narrowly lost by four votes.

UNITE HERE blamed the loss on Stations’ decision to punish its newly unionized Boulder workers with higher health care premiumS and filed charges with National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The NLRB ruled that Stations acted illegally by punishing workers for their pro-union vote, and in March reached an agreement with the company requiring it to recognize the union at both its Boulder and Palace properties.

The next union vote at a Stations’ property took place on November 8 and 9 at Green Valley Ranch, a luxury boutique casino resort located in Henderson, Nevada about 16  miles southeast of Las Vegas.

The union won by a vote of 564 to 166.

Workers at Green Valley Ranch said that they voted for the union because they wanted the same wages and union benefits as workers at union hotels and casinos on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas.

“We voted ‘YES’ to join the Culinary Union because we deserve fair wages and good benefits,” said Gladis Sosa de Funes, a guest room attendant at Green Valley Ranch. “Everyone knows the Culinary Health Plan is the best health insurance in Las Vegas, and we want our families to have it.”

Michael Wagner, a bartender at Green Valley Ranch since 2001, said that the organizing campaign to win a union was long and hard but it was worth it.

“I’m happy to have been able to help organize my coworkers and I felt so proud to vote ‘YES’ for the union!” said Wagner. “I look forward to joining together with other Station Casinos workers in negotiations with the company so we can have a fair union contract soon.”

The win at Green Valley Ranch leaves seven other Stations’ properties in the Las Vegas area that are still non-union: Red Rock Resort, Palms Casino Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Stations, Texas Stations, Fiesta Henderson, and Fiesta Station.

Local 226 has informed the public that there is still a labor dispute at these properties and urges people coming to Las Vegas for a vacation to patronize hotels and casinos listed at fairhotel.org.


“We won;” Graduate workers at Columbia vote to unionize

“We Won,”  proclaimed the Graduate Workers of Columbia-UAW Local 2110 (GWC) on its webpage after the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced that Columbia’s teaching and research assistants had voted 1602 to 623 to join the union.

The vote came after a nearly three-year organizing campaign in which members of GWC built an effective organization that fought to give Columbia graduate students who work as  research and teaching assistants a voice on the job.

Members of the union said that the union election victory will make Columbia a better place to learn and work.

Addison Godel, a teaching assistant and GCW member, called the election “a victory for the entire Columbia community.”

“We care deeply about the world-renowned teaching and research that happens at our university and are ready to tackle the issues that matter most to us, our students and our neighbors,” said Godel.

Olga Brudastrova, a research assistant and a GWC member, said that having a union will give teaching and research assistants a voice in making “improvements that will make sure Columbia stays a competitive institution in the 21st century.”

“We bring in nearly $1 billion each year in grants and contracts and teach courses from chemical engineering and applied physics to biology and religion, but for too long, Ivory Tower administrators have been calling all the shots,” added Brudastrova.

The union organizing campaign began in January 2014 when Columbia graduate workers learned that the administration at nearby New York University had recognized a union formed by fellow graduate workers.

As union supporters at Columbia talked and listened to other research and teaching assistants, a common set of grievances began to emerge.

Graduate workers were concerned about inadequate pay, an unreliable health insurance plan, sexual harassment, job insecurity, and the lack of fairness on the job.

In May 2014, the fledgling union held a town hall meeting to give graduate workers a chance to express themselves. The auditorium where the meeting took place was packed with graduate workers from 30 different departments.

By the end of June, GWC had active members in nearly every department on campus.

While GWC was building its organization, it was also acting like a union, even though it hadn’t been recognized by the administration.

It worked with the Graduate Student Advisory Council and other student groups to win a pay raise for graduate workers.

It fought for a fair grievance system that would protect graduate workers from capricious and unfair disciplinary actions.

It provided information and resources to international students who had immigration and visa questions and tax problems.

It gathered 2000 signatures on a national petition to restore billions of dollars in research funding cuts from the federal budget.

And it pressed its case for union recognition to Columbia’s administration.

While it was organizing, there was a question about whether graduate workers were employees who had a right to join a union and bargain collectively.

That issued was settled in the union’s favor by a National Labor Relations Board decision issued last summer.

After gathering enough signatures on union representation cards, GWC filed a petition for a union election.

The university’s administration conducted a anti-union campaign, which the union met head on with facts that rebutted the administration’s claims that graduate workers didn’t need a union.

With its election victory, GWC became the first union to win such an election at a private university. There could be more to follow.

Harvard graduate workers are waiting for the NLRB to announce the results of its union representation election held in November. The board is in the processing of resolving challenges to some of the ballots.

Graduate workers at Duke University have filed for a union representation election and are waiting for an election date to be announced.

Yale graduate workers are also in the process of organizing as are graduate workers at Northwestern, Loyola University of Chicago, St Louis University, and American University.

The UAW has 38,500 graduate workers at 48 public universities throughout the US, and the American Federation of Teachers has 33,000 graduate worker members at 33 public institutions of higher education.

GWC members are urging Columbia to recognize the results of the democratic vote and to begin negotiations with the union as soon as possible.

So far, Columbia’s administration has not indicated whether it will begin or seek to delay negotiations.

XPO workers resist anti-union campaign; vote to join Teamsters

XPO Logistics workers in Illinois and Connecticut resisted an intense anti-union campaign and voted in two separate elections to join the Teamsters.

“This is all about us workers standing up to this corporate bully and demanding fair wages, affordable health insurance and an end to the mistreatment,” said Ted Furman an XPO employee at the company’s North Haven, Connecticut warehouse. “XPO’s CEO, Bradley Jacobs, had the audacity to come to our warehouse and tell us we don’t need a union, and then he returned just a couple of days before the election. Well, Mr. Jacobs, we are now proud Teamster members!”

The North Haven warehouse workers on October 13 voted 72-49 to join the Teamsters and became XPO’s first warehouse workers in the US to unionize.

On the same day, XPO drivers in Aurora, Illinois also voted to join Teamsters Local 179.

“Our victory is important to all of us because we have seen how XPO operates since taking over Con-way Freight,” said Cliff Phillips, a driver in Aurora. “XPO is treating us unfairly, denying us any voice on the job and just seems interested in the bottom line. But now we will fight back as Teamsters!”

XPO Logistics is one of the world’s largest transportation and logistics companies. It operates businesses in every link of the supply chain all over the world.

It has been on a buying binge as it tries to capture more of the transportation and logistics market. In 2015, it purchased Con-way Freight, where the Teamsters were conducting an organizing drive.

After the purchase, XPO continued and expanded the anti-union efforts initiated by Con-way.

In Aurora, XPO spent money on a union avoidance company to keep its Aurora site union free.

On the days before the Aurora union vote was taken, consultants from the union avoidance company hopped into the cabs of freight trucks and gave drivers lecutures on the right to work for less by remaining union free.

XPO has used other tactics to prevent workers from joining a union.

In Laredo, Texas, workers at what then was Con-way voted in 2014 to join the Teamsters.

Instead of bargaining with the union, the company went to court to overturn the election.

When XPO bought Con-way, XPO could have withdrawn the challenge and recognized the workers’ union, but the company chose not to.

Unfortunately for XPO, a federal judge in September denied XPO’s request to set aside the Laredo election results.

“The company has tried to do everything to delay and frustrate the workers, but for over two years they have remained strong and united in their fight for a more secure future and a voice on the job,” said Frank Perkins, president of Local 657.

Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters Freight Division, urged XPO to halt further efforts to nullify the union vote.

“We demand that the company gets serious about negotiating a contract in Laredo. These workers have waited far too long,” said Johnson.

Shortly after the union victories in Connecticut and Illinois, the Teamsters took advantage of the momentum generated by the pro-union vote and conducted a mass leafletting of XPO work sites.

“The national campaign continues to gain momentum (as). . .workers have realized that the new XPO, which is highly unionized in Europe, needs to be a union employer here in the US, too,” said a posting on the Teamsters XPO Facebook page.

The next union election will take place at an XPO site in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania where 52 drivers will vote on whether to join the Teamsters.

Ryan Janato, an XPO driver in Aurora had a message for the King of Prussia drivers and other XPO workers who want a union voice on the job.

“They said it couldn’t be done. We did it; you can’t be scared of these guys. The union busters come in; they did what they tried to do. It didn’t work. We made a better future for our families and co-workers, and you can do it too. Just believe in your local,” said Janato.

More Silicon Valley bus drivers unionize

Bus drivers for Apple and other Silicon Valley companies voted on February 27 to join Teamsters Local 853.

The drivers work for Compass Transportation, which provides shuttle bus services for Apple, Yahoo, eBay, Zynga, Genetech, and Amtrak in California’s San Francisco Bay Area.

The drivers voted 104 to 30 to join the Teamsters.

Tracy Keller, a Compass driver who voted to unionize, said that the vote means that Compass drivers now have a future that includes better pay and better working conditions.

Before they voted for the union, Keller and other Compass drivers had a chance to see the difference that a union can make.

A few days before the union vote, some Compass drivers attended a union meeting of Facebook bus drivers, who work for Loop Transportation and shuttle Facebook employees between their jobs and home.

At the meeting, the Loop drivers, who joined the Teamsters in November, ratified their first union contract, a contract that addresses many of the same issues that led Compass drivers like Keller to seek out the Teamsters.

Under terms to the new Loop contract, workers’ wages will increase from an average of $18 an hour to $25 an hour. They’ll have company paid health care for themselves and their families, up to five weeks of paid vacation, nine days of sick pay, paid personal leave, grievance and arbitration procedures, and other benefits that most union members have.

The contract also offers extra compensation for workers who work split shifts.

Since the drivers’ job is to take people to work and to home after work is over, there are lengthy periods in the middle of the day when no buses are running.

As a result, most drivers’ shifts are broken into two parts: the morning run and the afternoon run.

In many cases, workers must wait four to six hours between runs, which means that their workday can be between 12 and 14 hours.

But drivers don’t get paid for the time between runs.

The long work day, much of which was uncompensated, was one the drivers’ main grievances that led them to organize a union.

The new contract doesn’t eliminate split shifts, but it does provide a 10 percent pay premium for those who work them. It also guarantees six hours pay for those who only work one run a day.

The new union contract for Facebook drivers and the union election victory at Compass come at a time of widening class divisions in Silicon Valley

“While tech companies make massive profits, the workers who keep them running smoothly have been left behind,” reads the opening sentence on a website of a new worker justice organization, Silicon Valley Rising.

The outrage implicit in the message has not gone unnoticed by area business leaders.

“The income gap (in Silicon Valley) is becoming more sharply pronounced at a faster rate” said Russell Hancock CEO of Joint Ventures Silicon Valley, a policy and research organization of local business leaders, to the Wall Street Journal. “The middle class is disappearing, and the service sector is stuck there with no growth. Silicon Valley is becoming a different place, a place of haves and have-nots, and there are signs of unrest.”

This growing unrest may be the reason that Facebook signaled to Loop that it would be willing to bear the cost for the increased wage and benefit increases for Loop drivers.

Since the union contract was ratified, Loop and Facebook have been negotiating the terms of a new service agreement between the two companies.

As yet, there has been no public announcement about a new contract, but Aloise seemed confident that the two companies will reach an agreement.

“I’m pretty confident that (Facebook is) going to see the value in being the first company to do this. It’s a bit historical,” Aloise said to USA Today.

Aloise said that he hoped that Apple, eBay, Yahoo, Genetech, and Amtrak would encourage Compass to agree to a collective bargaining agreement with wage and benefit improvements similar to those in the Teamsters’ new contract with Loop.

For too long Silicon Valley companies have pressured service contractors like Loop and Compass to lower their labor costs, said Aloise. But the money that it would take to make these jobs good paying jobs with good benefits is “chump change” to these companies.