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Major Organizing Wins in the Midst of a Pandemic

Electrical workers, medical workers, riggers, and writers are some of the newest union members

Kris LaGrange's picture
Aug 10, 2020

Even in the middle of a pandemic, workers are organizing. Elections were delayed for a few months while the NLRB figured out how to work from home, but they have now restarted and many employees are demanding a voice at work, especially now when their safety and job security is so up in the air due to COVID-19.

In Palmer Alaska, workers at the Matanuska Electrical Association held a vote on May 13th on joining the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1547. Since it’s Alaska and the entire vote was done remotely, votes weren’t counted until July 10th. When they finally counted them 17 people voted yes and six people voted no and three didn't vote. Included in the new bargaining unit will be all full and part-time employees in the operations, engineering, and accounting departments at the company’s Palmer, Big Lake, and Eagle River facilities.

Down the coast in Seattle, Washington, employees at Seattle Children’s Hospital voted on May 18th about joining the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 21. Included in this unit were all full time, regular part-time, and per diem medical assistants who work at urgent care clinics within the Seattle Children’s hospital network. While 17 people were eligible to vote, only eight voted, with all eight voting to join UFCW Local 21. While they won the election, having over 50% of the people not vote is a sign that the organizers with Local 21 will have some work to do to bring everyone on board with the union.

Continuing the trip down the West coast, we now head to San Diego where votes were finally counted from an election that began way back in March! It looks like the election was scheduled right before the NLRB was forced to close due to COVID-19, which pushed the election results back until July. The votes were counted on July 17th for the 196 employees at Audio Visual Services. With 132 votes in, 97 voted yes and 35 voted no. The employees will now be a part of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 122. The unit will include technicians, drivers, inventory control specialists, and riggers who are employed at the San Diego County facility.

Across the country, in one of the biggest organizing victories in the past few months, the staff at the Hearst company voted to join the Writers Guild of America East (WGA East). According to the NLRB, 433 people voted with the vote being 241 in favor, 83 against, and 20 ballots voided.  There is no word from the NLRB on where the other 89 votes went. Hearst Magazines produces some of the most famous brands including Autoweek, Best Products, Bicycling, Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Delish, ELLE, ELLE Decor, Esquire, Food Network Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, HGTV Magazine, House Beautiful, Marie Claire, Men’s Health, The Oprah Magazine, The Pioneer Woman, Popular Mechanics, Prevention, Redbook, Road & Track, Runner’s World, Seventeen, Town & Country, Veranda, Woman’s Day, and Women’s Health. Employees at these magazines who are classified as full and regular part-time editorial, video, design, photo, and social staff are included in the bargaining unit.

Congratulations to all of these workers. Some had to wait months, undoubtedly facing strong anti-union pushes from their bosses, but they decided that having a strong voice at work was important and stuck with their union.

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