Solidarity cappuccinos with oat milk, cinnamon powder, and honey.
Solidarity cappuccinos with oat milk, cinnamon powder, and honey. Sydney Durkin

A huge week around here for workers. Is there something in the air? Let’s take a whiff.

Tensions rise at Starbucks store: No longer only famous for being across from Al Bacha (I love you, Al Bacha), the Starbucks store on Denny and Broadway has made national news since filing on December 20th to hold a union election. Ahead of a vote early next month, Starbucks executives are pulling out all the stops. On Christmas Eve they dropped off anti-union paperwork, and now are closing the store early every Thursday for “non-mandatory” meetings to talk about how a union would really mess up their whole exploitation family vibe.

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Sydney Durkin (no relation), who is part of the organizing group, tells us by phone: “This is more than about this single store, or Starbucks, or even the food industry. This is about what workers can accomplish when we come together and take back the power for ourselves. If you want to support us, come by and tell us, leave us a tip, and talk to your co-workers about unionizing your workplace. Don’t let this momentum fade.”

It doesn't look like it will: This week, organizers at a Eugene, OR, Starbucks store announced they’re joining the fight as well, KLCC reports.

Supreme Court to take up Hanford case: On Monday that conservative-leaning clown show agreed to consider a lawsuit from the Department of Justice challenging a 2018 state law designed to protect workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, according to the Tri-City Herald. The law in question passed in 2018 with overwhelming bipartisan support (74-21 in the House, 35-14 in the Senate), and it allows anyone who works at the plant for even one shift the right to apply for workers compensation if they develop certain illnesses associated with their work. This is the same protection that firefighters receive. It created a presumption in workers’ favor (gasp!), though claims can still be rejected with “clear and convincing evidence.” But the presumption!

After campaigning as a pro-labor candidate, appointing a pro-worker advocate as general counsel to the National Labor Relations Board, and even after saying the no-no word—“unions”—in office, people expected Biden's DOJ to drop the lawsuit, which was originally filed by the DOJ under Trump. But this past September, right after Labor Day, Biden’s DOJ filed to appeal an earlier judgement against the suit, and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to consider it. Now they have. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is pissed, and so am I. Maybe Joe needs to get dunked on some more to change his mind.

Struggling Kroger workers strike: Over 8,000 Kroger workers in Colorado went on strike this week, vowing to not cross the picket lines for three weeks, according to the Denver Post. This should get their attention. When workers in the Northwest went on strike last month, their demands were met in just one day. Let’s hope Kroger comes to their senses again, and quickly.

Related: This week, a shocking survey came out about the folks who closed the QFC on 15th despite record profits and who jacked up the cost of COVID tests. Essential workers (remember that phrase?) from California, Colorado, and our fair state report they are struggling just to eat and keep a roof over their heads.

This survey reports of the 10,000 workers who responded: “14 percent have been homeless in the past year, 36 percent worry about eviction, and more than three-quarters meet the US Department of Agriculture’s definition of ‘food insecure,’ with 34 percent of the respondents skipping or reducing meal size to stay afloat.”

This means the people working at your local QFC or Fred Meyer might not only be exhausted after wave after wave of our collective COVID nightmare, there’s a good chance they can’t even afford the food they stock and prepare. All this while their CEO made over $20 million last year.

Remember that union election down in Bessemer, AL? The one where Amazon employed crappy tactics and allegedly broke election rules in plain sight? Well, a year later, the National Labor Relations Board has granted a re-do election, with ballots going out February 4th. The sad truth? The chances have likely only gotten worse a year later:

Legislative workers seek to unionize: Legislative staffers in Washington want to organize, but lawmakers first need to pass a bill to legalize it. Here's Elizabeth Rockett, IUPAT District Council 5 Director of Government Affairs, to explain:

“This law fixes a long-standing exclusion which has banned workers in the legislative branch of government from collectively bargaining,” says Giovanna Oreccio, an organizer with IUPAT, District Council 5. “The residents of Washington state deserve a government made up of highly-skilled, stable, and representative workforce that has a voice on the job.”

Our frontline workers force a vote: And that’s not the only good news coming out of our neighborhood. Health care workers at Carolyn Downs Family Medical Center and their sister clinic Country Doctor Community Clinic have been granted a union vote by the National Labor Relations Board, scheduled for next week on January 20th. Carolyn Downs is a clinic with strong progressive bonafides, as one of 13 health clinics founded by the Black Panther Party in the 1960’s and '70’s to combat horrific health disparities in our country. They are the last of those 13 clinics still in operation. Last year, they organized a walkout to protest the reinstatement of an executive director who was accused of workplace abuse. Now they’re hoping to unionize to have a stronger voice with executive leadership.

“It’s been a really hard couple of years working in healthcare,” says Sheena Wong, one of the nurses at Carolyn Downs. “This union represents a possible fresh start and a possibility for great positive changes in our organization. We’re hoping everyone at Carolyn Downs and Country Doctor will see the benefits, and that this will bring people together so we can continue to serve this community as a unified team.” They hope to join the SEIU 1199NW. Fists in the air for Carolyn Downs and Country Doctor!

Sanitation and construction workers strike: There are two strikes currently in progress in our area to give these workers a better life. Last month in San Diego, over 250 workers at Republic Services went on strike to protest alleged “excessive overtime, pandemic safety, and harassment by managers” at the $10 billion waste management company, according to their post. Management has not relented, causing dangerous backups in waste collection around the city.

Meanwhile: Republic workers in Seattle, Bellevue, Kent, and Lynnwood have joined the picket line in a show of solidarity with their San Diego kin. This has caused some disruptions around here, and we’re hoping people will see a little trash out by the curb is a decent price to pay for better working conditions for these sanitation workers. A rising tide raises all ships.

They’re not the only ones striking around here. 330 Teamsters are holding the line and demanding a new contract with Gary Merlino Construction, Stoneway Concrete, Cadman, CalPortland/Glacier, Salmon Bay Sand and Gravel, and Lehigh Cement, who they call the “concrete cartel” and have not ratified a new contract since July 31, 2021. In a statement, Teamsters Local 174 Secretary-Treasurer Rick Hicks says not only do they refuse to negotiate in good faith, but Don Merlino won’t even pick up the phone.

Good luck to these folks who help us build and maintain our communities. We quite literally couldn’t do it without you.

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