KFC, Taco Bell Workers Get Mail-Ballot Vote In Union Election

A National Labor Relations Board official held Friday that workers at a combination Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken should vote on whether to unionize via mail given the rise in COVID-19 cases in their area, directing an election in an industry that has largely evaded organized labor. NLRB regional director Paul J. Murphy wasn't persuaded by arguments from Pak Norwich Management Inc., which operates the restaurant in Norwich, New York, that an in-person election "would allow for maximum employee participation" in the vote on whether about 20 workers at the facility should be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, UFCW. The company didn't offer "any specific reason," according to the decision, for why mail voting wouldn't be appropriate for its particular situation, but instead pointed out that the board generally prefers in-person elections. "While the board has, indeed, expressed a general preference for manual balloting, it has never hesitated to ballot by mail when the circumstances warrant it," Murphy said. If the workers at the restaurant vote to organize with the RWDSU, their union would be a rarity in the fast food industry, particularly among the major fast food companies. Currently, some locations of Burgerville, a chain in the Pacific Northwest, have unions certified by the NLRB. read more at Law360

Pandemic May Spur Retirements Among Not-So-Old New Yorkers

Some unions and political leaders are seeking to make the hard choices a bit easier. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents workers at Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, has many older members who have worked for a long time. These workers, says union president Stuart Appelbaum “are, of course, more likely to suffer severe effects from COVID.” So when stores began making plans to reopen to brick and mortar customers, the union “made it important to take into account older workers for whom it may not be safe to go back to work,” he says. The two department stores agreed to transition packages to make it easier for employees to retire early, Appelbaum said. In general, workers retiring at 55 and over with at least 15 years on the job—who tend to make more money than younger employees—can receive one week of pay for every year of service up to 26 weeks. Those under 65, and so too young for Medicare, will still have to find health insurance. Despite that, Appelbaum says many workers have opted for payments, although the union did not have specific numbers.  read more here 

Amazon effort to thwart Alabama union drive suffers early defeat at labor board

SEATTLE — The National Labor Relations Board on Wednesday rejected Amazon’s bid to delay a hearing on the union drive of Alabama workers into January, as the e-commerce giant signals its willingness to vigorously battle employees trying to organize. Bessemer warehouse workers notified the NLRB last week that they want to hold an election to create a bargaining unit that would cover 1,500 full-time and part-time workers, represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). The agency had scheduled a Dec. 11 hearing to determine, among other items, whether to call a union election. But Amazon failed to persuade the agency to delay the hearing by at least a month. The union opposed rescheduling the hearing at all. The NLRB decided to push the hearing back a week to Dec. 18 without offering an explanation. read the rest at Washington Post  Continue reading

ShopRite Makes Hazard Pay Deal

ShopRite has struck a hazard pay deal with about 50,000 union grocery workers. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), which represents 1.3 million food and retail workers – announced a new agreement on hazard pay for nearly 50,000 union grocery workers in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. The deal with ShopRite, the largest employer in New Jersey, recognizes the ongoing risks ShopRite workers have faced as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, and provides retroactive hazard pay ahead of the holiday season that covers all hours worked between July 26 and August 22, the union said.   read more about it here 

How would Bessemer Amazon workers form a union?

A push by workers at Amazon’s Bessemer fulfillment center to form a union drew national attention last month. But what does the process of forming a union look like? And how might it look during the busiest time of the year, in the middle of a pandemic? Employees at Amazon’s facility in Bessemer notified the National Labor Relations Board Nov. 20 that they want to hold an election to create a bargaining unit that would cover 1,500 full-time and part-time workers. The group would be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). read the full story here at AL.com 

Respect Our Supermarket and Retail Workers This Holiday Season

By RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum Even in the best of times, the holiday season is very stressful for workers at retail stores and supermarkets. Big crowds, irritable customers, hectic days and the need for workers themselves to take care of their own holiday obligations can all weigh heavily on workers’ shoulders this time of year. In 2020, however, with the historic COVID-19 pandemic heading toward a terrifying new peak amidst a second wave, this stress is going to be exponentially worse. This holiday season, we owe it to these workers to provide comfort, protection, and understanding as they continue to put their lives on the line so that we can all have the best 2020 holiday season that’s possible under these difficult circumstances. We’ve already seen what the pandemic has done to the front-facing workers who have kept New York and the rest of the country moving as we’ve been forced to dramatically change our lives to fight COVID-19. A recent study in Boston shows that approximately 20 percent of frontline supermarket workers tested positive for COVID-19, and that these workers are up to 22 times more likely to test positive than the general population. At least 108 American grocery store workers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. Retail workers have had a tough time too, with fewer hours, fewer available jobs, and the added stress of the pandemic. The same study reported that retail workers reported having increased anxiety and increased cases of depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we struggle with this second wave, we are all concerned about schools closing again and taking care of our families and children. It’s a rough time for all New Yorkers, but for these frontline workers, it’s even worse with the added stress of working through the holidays. Employers need to give serious consideration to renewed “hero pay,” bonuses that recognize the danger these workers face. These workers also deserve additional paid time off in the event that they or someone close to them tests positive for the virus. We need to provide not just safer workplaces, but social support from employers and customers for workers who are helping us through this crisis and a second wave that threatens the progress we’ve made in New York. And most of all, when we go to supermarkets and retail stores this season, we need to be as considerate as possible to these workers who will be a big part of making the 2020 holidays the best they can be for our families. Let’s protect them by ensuring we are wearing masks and doing it properly, by doing our best to social distance and keep our hands clean, and by staying home if we aren’t feeling well. Most importantly, let’s recognize what they are going through and do everything we can to make this season as anxiety-free as possible. This season, a little kindness will go a long way toward ensuring these workers are able to enjoy the holidays as much as we hope to with our families. This column appeared in the Amsterdam News 

BLACK FRIDAY STATEMENT FROM RWDSU PRESIDENT STUART APPELBAUM

“Retail workers experience heightened stress and pressure during the holiday season, even in normal times. However, this year that stress is exponentially increased because of the serious health and safety risks resulting from the pandemic. Workers are in public-facing jobs; and they interact with larger numbers of customers during the holiday season, risking their own exposure to COVID-19 as well as possibly bringing it home to their families. Customers can limit the exposure workers face by wearing a mask at all times while shopping, sanitizing their hands before and after entering a store, staying 6-feet apart from workers and other customers and most importantly, treating workers with dignity and respect while they shop. This holiday season, retail workers need customers to do everything they can to help keep everybody safe,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). 

Contract Victory for new Bloomsburg Members

After a long, difficult battle with management for their first union contract, RWDSU Local 262 members at Bloomsburg Care & Rehabilitation Center in Pennsylvania have won numerous improvements. The new contract includes improved starting minimum rates, annual raises, an affordable healthcare union medical plan, secured paid time off and improved job security, addressing many of the issues the workers had when they won their campaign to join the RWDSU in May, 2020. The 90 workers at the facility now have the security and voice on the job provided by a union contract. “I am extremely proud of these members. Through patience and perseverance we achieved a really strong first contract that provides a solid foundation for contracts to come,” said Local 262 RWDSU President, Daniel Righetti.  The BCRC employees fought hard for a settlement that shows respect for the important work they do to care for their residents, and a strong, outspoken negotiating committee made the difference. “The BCRC employees united as a cohesive team, remained stronger together and were victorious. I’m very proud to have worked and be a part of this team.” said Local 262 RWDSU Business Agent Danielle Albano.

Housing Works sets union election date after year-long organizing battle

Following months of delays and stalling by management, employees at the Downtown Brooklyn homeless and HIV/AIDS nonprofit Housing Works will finally be able to vote to unionize in the coming weeks. Labor organizers and Housing Works honchos have signed a new agreement that paves the way to hold an election by mail with ballots going out starting Nov. 20 and due back Dec. 14, according to a Friday social media post by the Housing Works Union. Read it at AMNY here

NYC wants national plan to require all businesses to accept cash

Cash or credit? For many New Yorkers, including those without access to a bank account, cash is the only option. While a new law will soon require local businesses to accept cold hard cash, advocates are calling on federal lawmakers to put their money where their mouth is, too. Erica Ford, CEO of Life Camp Inc., is calling on the city’s congressional delegation to push through a law requiring that cashless businesses accept paper money. “There’s a lot of people who are going to get left out of the conversation,” she told the Daily News. “I see a barrier that has to be addressed.” Ford, who’s known for her efforts to prevent gang violence, said the issues raised by cashless businesses became especially clear after the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. For people with no bank accounts or direct deposit, receiving payment for their work became even more of a logistical hurdle with check-cashing places closed. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said he began to see the issue as important when Amazon started opening brick and mortar stores that didn’t accept cash more than a year ago. “Low-wage workers and people who are not working often are un-banked,” he said, using a term for people without bank accounts. “If there is not an option of paying in cash, they are excluded from commerce." The economic fallout caused by the pandemic makes this even more true now, he said. “More and more people either are not working or have low incomes,” he said. “This makes the situation for low-wage and no-wage workers even worse.” Read the original story at New York Daily News