News & Commentary

March 6, 2024

Everest Fang

Everest Fang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) union alliance ends its proxy fight with Starbucks, Hollywood crew members and studios enter negotiations over benefits plans, and the Dartmouth men’s basketball team votes to form a union.

A month ago, Swap reported on SOC’s decision to nominate three candidates for election to Starbucks’ board, launching a proxy fight with the company. On Tuesday, SOC announced that it had ended its boardroom fight with Starbucks, after the company agreed to negotiate labor agreements. SOC said it is withdrawing the three candidates it had put forth, acknowledging that progress had been made between workers and the company. The unions had taken advantage of a 2021 SEC rule allowing “universal proxy” voting, which gives shareholders greater flexibility in voting for activist board candidates. Some have speculated that Amazon could be the next company to face a labor group proxy battle.  

On Monday, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the Hollywood Basic Crafts coalition entered negotiations over their benefits plans with studios and streamers. These meetings mark the first time the Hollywood Basic Crafts coalition and IATSE have negotiated their benefits provisions together since 1988. After writers and actors secured historic gains by striking for nearly six months last year, camera operators, makeup artists, costumers, carpenters, animal trainers and others are pursuing demands for improved pay and working conditions. The unions may face challenges as many producers and workers alike are ready to move on from last year’s unrest, which led to a near-total production shutdown and a 17% decrease in employment across the local entertainment industry. At the same time, it’s in the studios’ best interest to prevent another work stoppage. At the close of their first day of bargaining, the unions told members that talks are expected to continue for the rest of the week.

On Monday, Elyse reported that Dartmouth College filed a motion to stay their men’s basketball team’s union election. On Tuesday, the election went forward, and the team voted to form a union. The historic vote is a significant step toward classifying student-athletes as employees. However, the results may not be final. As Elyse reported, Dartmouth filed an appeal of the NLRB’s decision last month to classify the players as employees. Dartmouth could eventually take the board’s decision to a federal appellate court, meaning that the case may not be resolved until the current players have graduated. Still, the vote is an enormous victory for student-athletes, and highlights the swelling popularity of organized labor. The basketball team is just the latest Dartmouth group to organize in the last two years, following student workers, graduate student workers and library workers. The dormitories’ resident advisers are in the process of forming a union.

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