The rest of the story

By MALLORY GRUBEN

Since the start of 2023, we’ve reported almost 400 stories. For this final issue of 2023, we want to tie up loose ends and update readers about what’s happened since we last reported on some of those stories.

IN JANUARY …

We reported on organizing by the independent New Seasons Labor Union. Over a period of five months, workers at six New Seasons grocery stores had voted to join the union, more than 950 workers in all. Over the course of 2023, workers held practice pickets at each unionized store, rallied outside company headquarters in Southeast Portland, and took part in unfair labor practice strikes at several stores. And the union drive expanded to three more stores. On Nov. 1, workers at the University Park store (6300 N. Lombard St.) voted 44-10 to join. On Dec. 7, workers at the Williams store (3445 N. Williams Ave.) voted 62-9 to join. Another 86 workers at the Sellwood store (1214 SE Tacoma St.) are voting Dec. 15. Meeting with the company to bargain their first contract, workers have reached tentative agreements on some non-economic issues, and expect to begin negotiating over wages in the new year.

We reported that downtown Portland restaurant workers at Afuri Ramen + Dumplings and Potbelly Sandwich unionized with newly formed Restaurant Workers of Portland. It hasn’t gone well since. At Afuri, many union supporters, including bargaining team members, left their jobs because managers cut their hours. Concluding that the company wasn’t serious in negotiations, the unit paused bargaining to refocus on reorganizing workers. At Potbelly, workers won their union June 15 in a 9-6 vote, but shortly after, the company fired three workers who helped lead the campaign. An unfair labor practice charge is still pending review by the NLRB. Bargaining hasn’t begun because workers worry that naming a bargaining team would identify those workers as union supporters who could also face illegal discipline.

We covered the two-day strike at Living Room Theaters that preceded workers’ announcement that they were unionizing as United Cinema Workers, a new independent union. The union seemed to go dark after that, and the organizer who spoke with the Labor Press during the strike did not respond to multiple attempts by the Labor Press to reach out.

IN FEBRUARY …

We reported on Oregon’s first craft brewery to go union. Workers at Widmer Brothers Brewing voted 38-8 to affiliate with Teamsters Local 162.In August, Anheuser-Busch, the company that owned Widmer, announced it was selling Widmer and seven other craft beverage brands to Tilray, a cannabis-focused company based out of New York. Local 162 agreed to pause bargaining while the business transferred ownership, and the union negotiated a $2,750 bonus payment as workers wait for Tilray to take over. In December, Local 162 asked that bargaining resume.

We reported that a trailer and about $3,000 worth of tools were stolen from outside the Cement Masons Local 555 training center. The trailer was never recovered, so the union apprenticeship program replaced it and the tools.

IN APRIL …

We reported that workers at Maletis Beverage held a 17-hour strike protesting bad faith bargaining with the Portland-based beer distributor. In May, the company sent a letter to Teamsters Local 162 saying it was withdrawing recognition of the union because a majority of employees signed a petition asking for that. Local 162 filed five unfair labor practice charges related to the withdrawal. Those complaints are still pending review by the National Labor Relations Board.

IN MAY …

We reported on Portland’s first union bicycle shop; managers at Community Cycling Center (CCC) voluntarily recognized the unit of 20 workers as an affiliate of ILWU Local 5. In July, the nonprofit announced it was closing its bike repair shop in Alberta and opening three community education centers instead. Contract negotiations moved quickly, and a tentative agreement was reached, with a ratification vote scheduled after this issue went to press. If approved, the contract will increase paid time off and ensure annual cost of living raises.

IN JUNE …

We reported that workers at Portland homeless nonprofit New Avenues for Youth voted 69-12 to join Oregon AFSCME. First contract negotiations started in the fall, and a bargaining team member told the Labor Press that the antagonistic, anti-union attitude nonprofit leaders had during the campaign has carried over to the bargaining table. Workers also have reported multiple “status quo” violations, or changes to workplace conditions made after the union was approved. For example, some departments changed schedules in a way that cut hours for workers. No unfair labor practice charges have been filed over the change.

IN AUGUST …

We reported that about 80 ride operators at Oaks Amusement Park announced their union campaign early after their employer refused to close the park despite triple-digit temperatures. On Sept. 6 workers asked the NLRB for a union election, but no election date has been set more than three months later. An organizer with the Coalition of Independent Unions, which helped workers in their organizing campaign, said the amusement park and the NLRB have suggested including seasonal ride operators in the unit but are still working out details for how to do that.

IN OCTOBER …

We reported that workers at Ridwell in Portland asked the NLRB for a union election to affiliate with Teamsters Local 305. The NLRB tallied ballots Nov. 13, and workers won their union in a 31-1 vote. Local 305 President David Schmidt said the company did not contest the election, and he expects bargaining for a first contract to begin early in the new year.

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