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Photo By: 
Jim MacFawn-NYSUT

Workers Organize at Private Schools, Shred-it and Newspapers

From New York to California, and Austin to Rhode Island these 5 workplaces are now union

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 09, 2021

When workers have a voice at work, they are able to better fight for their rights. That is what workers at the Bessemer, Alabama Amazon warehouse believe and why Amazon is fighting so hard to stop their organizing effort. Every day, more and more workplaces file for union elections. Below are five workplaces that have been successfully organized over the past few months.

The Robert C. Parker school is a private preschool-8 school in Wynantskill NY. It has about 120 students and tuition at the school ranges from $5,940 for pre-school to $18,575 for middle school. In February, teachers at the school voted on joining the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT). According to the union, the organizing drive began over the summer so that staff could strengthen their voice in dealing with COVID safety protocols. 17 people were eligible to vote with 15 voting yes and 2 voting no. The bargaining unit will include teachers, teaching assistants, and clerical staff and will be called the Robert C. Parker School Professional Staff Association (RCPSPSA).

“Providing an equal voice in the workplace for educators and school staff is at the core of what NYSUT does, and that voice has been especially important during a pandemic that demands a collaborative effort from administrators, educators and parents alike to promote the safest, most equitable environment for every student,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “We’re thrilled that the Robert C. Parker staff will now have a seat at the table and welcome them to our union family.”

In Santa Cruz California, workers at the Bookshop Santa Cruz decided in December that they wanted to organize with the Communications Workers of America. Bookshop Santa Cruz is an independent bookstore and organizers told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that talks about forming a union began in May. The store had been closed since March and when it was set to reopen, employees felt like they weren’t receiving guidance on what safety measures would be put in place. 31 people were eligible to vote with 18 people voting yes, 10 voting no and 3 people not voting. While the union drive was at times contentious, the owner of the store Casey Coonerty Protti said “I care about my employees, I care about them feeling like they’re a part of Bookshop and have a voice at Bookshop. I will be entering negotiations in good faith to try to ensure that I listen to their voices while also navigating the store through an unparalleled crisis.”

Stericycle, which is more commonly known as Shred-It, faced a union drive at their Pawtucket, Rhode Island facility. In December, the employees announced that they wanted to organize with Teamsters Local 251. In February they voted 13-2 to join the local, with 7 people not voting. According to the Teamsters, the workers faced an aggressive anti-union campaign. The new bargaining unit will include all full-time and part-time truck drivers and driver helpers. “We are proud of what we accomplished in this election. Despite the company’s efforts to divide and scare us, we stood strong to win a voice on the job,” said Josh Linton, a Shred-it driver who played a key role in the unionization effort. “We knew better than to fall for the company’s lies. I applaud my co-workers for sticking together.” During the campaign, Linton was illegally fired from the company and the Teamsters are still pursuing an unfair labor practice charge against Shred-It to get Linton his job back.

In Brooklyn, NY, workers at J. Pizzirusso Landscaping Corporation decided that they wanted to join Laborers Local 731. According to the NY Post, the union that previously represented the company may have had connections to the mob. By a vote of 6-0, with two votes voided and two people not voting, the workers joined a more reputable union in LIUNA. Over the past year, the workers have been just a few of the people tasked with digging mass graves for people who died in New York City of COVID-19.

In Texas, workers at the Austin American-Statesman voted to join The News Guild- CWA.  By a vote of 36-12, with 1 voided ballot, the staff successfully joined The News Guild. Their bargaining unit includes all full-time and regular part-time editorial employees. It also includes employees at smaller local papers that make up the Austin Newspaper Group. Katie Hall, a court reporter at the paper told the Austin American Statesman that they hope to begin bargaining a contract within the next two months.

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