News & Commentary

December 6, 2022

Travis Lavenski

Travis Lavenski is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News & Commentary, janitors who clean Twitter’s headquarters are on strike; production workers at Nickelodeon Studios push to unionize; and NLRB prosecutors charge Apple with violating the NLRA in its response to a union drive in Atlanta.

Janitors contracted to clean Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco went on strike yesterday morning, picketing outside the office into the late afternoon. The janitors, who are organized with SEIU Local 87, were protesting their scheduled termination at the end of the week after Twitter had not reached a new deal with the company that employs them, FlagShip (Twitter officially terminated the contract with FlagShip yesterday after the strike). Both Local 87 and the California Labor Federation maintain that the failure to reach a new deal is the result of a failure to bargain in good faith, made unlawful by the National Labor Relations Act. According to the CLF, Twitter has indicated that the new contractor hired for janitorial services for Twitter HQ will not rehire the striking janitors in contravention of state and county requirements to do so.

This is not the first time a tech giant has clashed with janitors represented by Local 87 this year. In early October, around 250 janitors who cleaned buildings occupied by META (Facebook) went on strike after their direct employer, SBM, laid off more than 120 of them at once. The strike ended after a resolution was made lowering the amount of workers laid off, granting safer working conditions for remaining workers at META and guaranteeing severance pay plus healthcare for impacted workers. After the victory at META, President of Local 87 Olga Miranda warned local news station KQED that tech companies industry-wide are engaging in efforts to downsize janitorial staff.

Animation production workers at Nickelodeon Studios have filed to unionize with the Animation Guild, an IATSE local. According to the union, nearly two-thirds of the 177 workers have signed authorization cards stating they would like to be represented by the Guild as their exclusive bargaining agent. Production workers at Nickelodeon have complained of low pay and overpriced healthcare, a condition the union has called “unsustainable.” The Animation Guild has already negotiated a collective bargaining agreement for a unit of around 400 artists, writers and technicians employed at Nickelodeon. The union is seeking to extend the reach of that contract to these production workers.

Finally, prosecutors at the NLRB have charged Apple, Inc. with committing a series of unfair labor practices in response to unionizing efforts at an Apple store in Atlanta. One of the ULP charges includes the use of mandatory captive audience meetings which, while currently permitted, have recently come under attack as “inherently coercive,” and thus unlawful, by General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo. The Communications Workers of America petitioned for an election at the location earlier this year, but withdrew it after Apple allegedly engaged in an aggressive union-busting campaign.

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