Even the coronavirus can’t stop union organizing

By Don McIntosh

If there’s a script workers are following in the surge of recent union organizing, Act 1 ends with a bit of theatrics known as the “march on the boss.” That’s when—after quietly gathering support and signatures from a majority of co-workers—the worker-led union organizing committee parades into the boss’s office, announces they’ve formed a union, and asks the boss to show respect for their rights by voluntarily recognizing the union. In the smart phone era, the march on the boss has become a genre of viral video.

So what happens when the coronavirus epidemic makes marching as a group—and crowding into the corner office—a bad idea?

Communications Workers of America Local 7901 came up with an answer: Make a video of the union announcement, and email it to the boss along with a letter asking for recognition.

“We didn’t stop organizing when a pandemic happened. We just adjusted, like organizers do,” said Local 7901 president A.J. Mendoza.

On March 17, workers at the Oregon immigrant rights group Causa did that, sending it to the group’s executive director and board of directors. It wasn’t a hard sell: Causa rents office space from the Oregon AFL-CIO, and the state labor federation’s political director Jess Giannettino Villatoro is a member of the group’s board. Less than 20 minutes after the workers sent their email, Causa agreed to voluntarily recognize their choice to join Local 7901. It will become official after professional mediator Bob Nightingale confirms that the union has support of a majority of Causa’s 10 workers.

Then March 18, workers at CASA of Oregon did the same. CASA of Oregon is a non-profit that develops affordable housing for rural residents and farmworkers. In their email to the group’s executive director and board of directors, they say the majority of the group’s 18 workers want the union, and ask for voluntary recognition by noon on March 24. Thus far, there’s been no response.

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