News & Commentary

October 12, 2021

Zachary Boullt

Zachary Boullt is a student at Harvard Law School.

Over 24,000 Kaiser Permanente health care workers in California and Oregon have overwhelmingly authorized a strike. The vote, led by the United Nurses Association of California/Union of Health Care Professionals and the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, was approved by 96% of the membership. The vote followed Kaiser’s plan to institute a two-tiered wage and benefits system, which would give newer employees less pay and protections than longer-term workers. Kaiser workers also want 4% raises over the next three years and for Kaiser to hire more nurses to alleviate staffing deficiencies. Similar votes could follow in other Kaiser units, as contracts covering more than 50,000 Kaiser workers in other states are soon set to expire. The union must now give ten days notice before calling a strike.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order Monday outlawing vaccine mandates. The order specifies that “no entity in Texas can compel receipt of a Covid-19 vaccination by any individual, including an employee…” This places the order in direct conflict with President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate applying to large employers and federal contractors. Abbott’s next plan is to add the vaccine mandate ban to the Texas legislative special session agenda.

This month, the West Virginia Supreme Court will address a challenge to the West Virginia Paycheck Protection Act, which requires unions to collect dues from state and public employees rather than having public employers deduct them. A circuit judge granted a preliminary injunction against the law in June, finding likelihood that the labor unions would show their constitutional rights had been violated. Supporters of the law, including the state Attorney General, have framed the case as whether the West Virginia constitution entitles unions to receive dues through automatic payroll deductions, pointing to cases where the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to collect union dues. The unions’ attorneys maintain that the Act impermissibly burdens unions compared to other entities allowed to do paycheck deductions, violates equal protection and contractual rights of unions that negotiated payroll deductions, and impairs unions’ free speech rights.

Following a strike, Michigan auto parts supplier ZF Marysville has agreed to recognize its employees’ union formation with UAW. ZF Marysville’s plant was previously jointly operated with Stellantis, and Stellantis workers had a labor contract. However, unionized Stellantis workers were transferred to other Stellantis locations, leaving ZF to operate the plant. When ZF workers attempted to unionize, ZF went back on a previous neutrality agreement. The ZF workers then went on strike for over a week until ZF yielded and agreed to recognize UAW as the exclusive bargaining representative.

A group of electrical workers organized with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers protested their working conditions at a weekend trade show on Sunday in Nashville. The workers were protesting seven-day work weeks, 12-hour days, lack of breaks, and meager pay and conditions. The group had members at the Spring Hill General Motors plant and was otherwise composed of people from across the country who met to protest.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.