News & Commentary

September 12, 2022

Nicholas Anway

Nicholas Anway is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: tens of thousands of railroad workers face a strike deadline on Friday, and union organizing progresses for minor league baseball players, Condé Nast employees and workers at an Amazon Warehouse in Moreno Valley, CA.

Over the weekend, two railroad worker unions continued to push for an agreement that would improve wages and working conditions for tens of thousands of railroad employees—and avoid a strike later this week. As Bloomberg reported, railroad labor contracts have been frozen since 2019; wages have fallen behind inflation and union leaders report that “members are being terminated for getting sick or for attending routine medical visits.” Ten unions have reached tentative agreements with railroads, but two have yet to reach a deal. As railroads threaten to begin limiting shipments next week, Congress is facing increasing pressure to intervene to protect supply chains by extending the negotiation deadline beyond Friday, or by imposing a contract on the two sides, preventing workers from striking for a better contract. Union leaders have urged lawmakers to allow negotiations to continue.

Three groups of workers took major steps towards unionization last Friday. First, Major League Baseball (“MLB”) commissioner Rob Manfred announced that his organization will recognize minor league players’ push towards unionization with the MLB Players Association (“MLBPA”), according to ESPN. The MLBPA will become minor league players’ bargaining representative, an important step towards collective bargaining for minor leaguers. The MLB and MLBPA hope to finalize an agreement this week.

Second, Condé Nast employees won unionization, the Washington Post reported. The Condé Nast union will represent over 500 employees in the U.S., “a majority of the editorial, production and video workers at 11 publications, including Vanity Fair, Bon Appétit, Allure, Architectural Digest and Condé Nast Entertainment, the company’s in-house production studio.” The union will begin negotiating to improve wages and benefits for workers, the latest in a wave of successful media industry unionization efforts.

Finally, the LA Times reported that workers at an Amazon warehouse in Moreno Valley announced a push to join the Amazon Labor Union (“ALU”). Nannette Plascencia, one of the workers leading unionization efforts at Amazon fulfillment center ONT8, announced the effort at a news conference on Friday. “We’re just trying to do right by our workers,” Plascencia explained. She was joined by Chris Smalls, who led the first successful ALU unionization effort in Staten Island last spring. “Today, we’re bicoastal,” said Smalls. “This is something that’s really going to continue to grow, just like Starbucks.”

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