News & Commentary

April 17, 2023

In today’s News and Commentary, Ben & Jerry’s workers in Burlington, Vermont are filing for a union election, unionized workers at the largest Coca-Cola bottler in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic voted to strike on Sunday, guild members of the Writers Guild of America will determine whether to authorize their union to call a strike if a contract cannot be reached by May 1st, and Los Angeles community college instructors win healthcare in new labor agreement.

Scoopers at Ben & Jerry’s flagship Burlington ice cream shop will file for a union election today. If the vote is successful, this will be the first Ben & Jerry’s location to unionize. The workers will join Workers United, an affiliate of Service Employees International United (SEIU). Discussion of unionization was prompted by management removing the tip jar on Ben & Jerry’s annual Free Cone Day – April 3rd. Though the tip jar was later returned, union organizers say that all 37 of the Burlington scoopers continue to pledge their support in the effort to unionize. Union leaders are looking to gain a seat at the table, as well as to address management’s response to multiple incidents of drug use in the store bathroom. Ben & Jerry’s has yet to comment on the union efforts.

Warehouse workers, drivers, and staff at Liberty Coca-Cola in Philadelphia voted to strike on Sunday. Local 830 represents 400 Liberty Coca-Cola workers. Members rejected a recent labor agreement, arguing that the company did not bargain in good faith. Liberty Coca-Cola responded to the strike announcement, saying that the proposed agreement included the highest wage increases in history, as well as generous health and welfare benefits. The company also pointed to recent investments in the plant’s facilities, including new trucks, warehouse technology and a gym. National union leaders along with the head of the local endorsed the agreement, before it was ultimately rejected by union membership. Among other demands, the union is looking to secure wages that better keep pace with inflation. Liberty Coca-Cola committed to working with the union to find a solution, but has begun implementation of a contingency plan to ensure continued service during the strike.

Writers Guild of America (WGA) members will vote to grant their leadership the ability to call a strike if the union cannot reach a contract by May 1st. Negotiations with Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) began in late March. AMPTP represents some of the largest entertainment media corporations, including Amazon, Apple, Disney and Netflix. The union is seeking increased compensation and minimum standards for the size and duration of writers rooms. These demands are in response to a rising proportion of writers working at minimum pay levels and a decline in median writer pay. When adjusted for inflation, median writer pay has decreased by 23% over the last decade. The union is also calling for an end to the practice of “mini-rooms,” small, supplementary support writing rooms for a project. Because mini-room writers can be paid the minimum compensation, corporations have been exploiting this loophole to avoid paying producer or showrunner fees. Several studios have conducted large-scale layoffs within the last year, citing declining profits and subscription revenue. Hollywood writers last went on strike in November 2007, halting production of several shows.

Los Angeles community college instructors won an historic labor agreement last Friday, which will provide adjunct faculty affordable healthcare. California’s most recent budget allocated $200 million to fund this deal. Approximately 1,500 faculty members stand to benefit from the agreement, providing $1,300 a month to any instructor who works at least one-third time. This is the largest healthcare settlement for adjunct faculty in California community college history. The Los Angeles Community College District teaches over 108,000 students.

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