HOUSING WORKS REFUSES TO RECOGNIZE UNION, WORKERS FILE FOR NLRB ELECTION

(NEW YORK, NY) – Today, a delegation of Housing Works workers formally filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Brooklyn, New York. Despite Housing Works’ every attempt to delay a fair unionization process, workers said enough is enough and filed for a federal election. This filing came less than 24-hours after Housing Works refused to voluntarily recognize the union. On Thursday afternoon, a delegation of workers shared with Housing Works’ leadership that a majority of workers have signed authorization cards allowing the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) to represent them. With a majority of workers in favor of the union, workers asked Housing Works to voluntarily recognize the union so that contract negotiations could commence swiftly around a host of issues workers are facing at the HIV/AIDS non-profit. Housing Works Founder, Charles King, refused to recognize the union. This filing ends a six-month fight by workers to have the progressive non-profit sign on to a neutrality agreement that would have ensured a fair unionization process, rather than what the Trump-led NLRB currently has in place. After several delays by Housing Works, workers had no choice but to file for an election. Late last year, 100+ workers walked out demanding their workplace concerns be heard. It was followed by an elected official delegation visit, and the delivery of a letter signed by nearly 70 elected officials urging the non-profit to sign a neutrality agreement with a fair election process. Workers had hoped that their progressive employer Housing Works would agree to ensure a fair unionization process through a neutral third-party election. After repeated meetings, Housing Works refused to agree to a fair process, leaving workers with no choice but to file with the NLRB. Today, a delegation of workers filed for an election under the NLRB despite potential delays by Housing Works. The union and workers urge Housing Works to agree to an election as swiftly as possible and to let workers vote free of intimidation despite not having a contractual neutrality agreement. “I am incredibly proud of the workers at Housing Works for standing up for their right to have a collective voice. Workers stood before their employer yesterday, with a majority of workers supporting the union; but their so-called progressive employer leaned back and said no to recognizing their union. Today, workers will file for an election, and their employer should stop trying to stand in their way. Charles King is gaslighting his workers when he says he is ‘neutral’, and the workers won’t stand for it any longer. Being neutral means letting workers decide on their own without intimidation from their employer whether they want a union. The workers have demonstrated that they do want a union – and Charles King refuses to accept their decision. That is not being ‘neutral’, said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Brian Grady, Housing Works – Downtown Brooklyn, Housing Coordinator: “I’ve been the Housing Coordinator at Housing Works for over a year and a half. I had high hopes for Housing Works but after working here for a while I’ve found that there is a high turnover because of many structural issues. Low pay, problems with paid time off, and the lack of a living wage at this job are demoralizing for us. With a union, we can fix Housing Works and make it a good place to work.” Maren Hurley, Housing Works – Midtown Manhattan, Reentry Group Facilitators with the SMART Department: “Our clients are concerned at the high turnover rates and the lack of response from management to both staff and clients on this and other concerns. Working for Housing Works is a constant ethical crisis, not only for our wellbeing but also that of our clients, that can and needs to change. We as reentry service providers recognize that we work in a para-military environment, however we do not consent to endangerment of our safety through mishandling of sexual harassment incidents, exposure to extreme temperatures and retaliation by leadership.” Adrian Downing-Espinal, Housing Works – Midtown Manhattan, Harm Reduction/Substance Use Councilor: “It’s demoralizing that an organization with Act Up roots, which is a model for radical organizing would be so against a grass roots union movement. It’s also shocking that it would do business with a ‘union avoidance’ law firm that is the antithesis of progressive values. I came to Housing Works because of the mission and the values of the organization. There is a solid core of workers who are committed to the Housing Works mission, but a lack of will from management to support us in our fight for a union voice.” ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND:  For months, workers at Housing Works have raised serious concerns about their workplace environment to management. With conditions only worsening, workers believe that union representation is the best way for them to address their concerns. Workers have described unmanageable caseloads, lack of training, discrimination and harassment, and health and safety issues. Workers have raised concerns about pay and benefits, including that their health insurance doesn’t provide adequate coverage for workers transitioning genders. These workplace issues are central not just to employee welfare, but to client care as well.   Housing Works provides housing assistance, and health and wellness care to thousands of New Yorkers living with HIV+/AIDS, as well as raising funds for its work through a number of book, clothing, and furniture retail thrift stores. Workers believe in the mission of the organization and want the same standard of care for employees as it provides for clients. Housing Works’ actions have thus far shown an anti-union animus and a refusal to be neutral despite claiming otherwise. A signed agreement would have shown a real commitment to neutrality and to an orderly and respectful process. Despite their previous actions workers are urging the non-profit to live up to its progressive principles and allow an NLRB election to move forward without delay so that workers can fully exercise their right to join a union. 

New Contract for Mass. Sodexo Workers

RWDSU members in Attleboro, Massachusetts, help keep the school system clean so kids can have the best learning environment possible. Local 875 members there perform maintenance in the school system, and now they’ll do it with a new four-year contact with increased wages, 100 percent union insurance, plus longevity bonuses. In addition, members will see an increase in their 401K benefits.

RWDSU President Appelbaum Statement on Macy's and Store Closings

NEW YORK, NY), – Today, Macy’s Inc. held an investor meeting to announce their three-year Polaris Strategy, which includes plans to close 125 retail stores. Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), which represents workers at several Macy’s stores (including the flagship store at Herald Square in New York City) issued the following statement in response: “The only way to secure jobs and to ensure you can survive a layoff when it happens is to have a union. Too many retail workers don’t have a union. For the thousands of at-will retail workers who lost their jobs this year due to store closures and bankruptcies, a union could have made a difference. “There’s no doubt that technology is changing the retail industry, with store employees being displaced by distribution center workers. But the retail industry had begun a transformation long before the rise of e-commerce. For decades we have seen part-time jobs replace full-time careers in the retail industry. This shift has been accompanied by inadequate hours, unpredictable scheduling, lack of healthcare, and no real path to retirement. Workers have had to work at multiple jobs to just make ends meet. Many retail workers can’t afford to shop in the stores where they work. In addition, inhumane working conditions in massive warehouse facilities are hidden from the public eye. “Unions can ensure workers have protections in place to be able to survive frequent store closures and mass layoffs, as well as improve working conditions for warehouse workers in our shifting retail landscape. Union contracts can ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect when stores close and layoffs happen. Without a union contract, workers have no recourse, and when companies close stores or fold entirely, they’re too often left with nowhere to turn. Our union has continually negotiated contract provisions to ensure workers can earn a living wage, have access to affordable healthcare, part-time employment benefits, job security and a path to retirement. “We agree workers are the real magic of Macy’s stores, and they must be part of the brand’s realignment to the change in the retail industry. Our union has pushed for years for improvements to the customer experience, which includes investments in workers and stores. We will discuss that at the bargaining table in the coming months when we negotiate our new contract,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum on the NYC Council's Passage of a Ban on Cashless Food and Retail Stores

Today, the New York City Council passed a ban on cashless food and retail stores in the city spearheaded by Councilmember Ritchie Torres. Stuart Appelbaum issued the following statement in response: “Forcing customers to use only credit or debit is a discriminatory business model that disadvantages low-income people, people of color, undocumented immigrants and seniors. Communities of color in New York City are more than twice as likely to be unbanked and are far less likely to host a branch of a bank than the national average. This critical bill will ensure everyone can shop or eat at any store in our city. Thanks to the work of Councilmember Torres and the entire New York City Council, this growing exclusionary practice will no longer be permitted in our city,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

LOCAL 338 CANNABIS WORKERS AT VIREO HEALTH NEW YORK RATIFY NEW 3-YEAR CONTRACT

Workers Win Significant Wage Increases and Additional Time Off Today, Local 338 Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union (RWDSU)/United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), announced that the workers at Vireo Health New York have ratified a new 3-year contract. The new contract significantly builds on benefits that were included in the first contract, which was negotiated in 2016. The workers in the bargaining unit work across New York State at the cultivation and processing center, as well as four retail dispensaries. “I am proud to have served on the negotiating committee and have the opportunity to voice the issues that were most important to my co-workers and I. Working with our union, we won many important improvements to our wages and benefits that show that we’ve not only been heard, but that we’re also valued. Knowing that we go to work every day with the protections of a strong union contract is empowering and that helps us provide the best care for our patients,” said Kassan Seisay, Local 338 member working at Vireo Health New York.  “With strong starting salaries for new hires, wage increases for current workers and increased paid time off, the new contract at Vireo Health New York sets a standard for what workers in New York’s medical cannabis industry need and deserve. Our members are dedicated to the patients they serve and provide significant service to the company they work for. Many of them were also active participants in the negotiating process and when workers come together, they can secure strong contracts that ensure fair treatment and respect on the job – which they have successfully done at Vireo,” said Joseph Fontano, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW. The Vireo Health New York contract was ratified by the members after months of negotiations and is retroactive to August of 2019.   The Vireo Health New York contract will be in effect for three years and includes critical provisions such as: Annual wage increases over the term of the contract (workers will receive retroactive increases from the expiration of the contract in August 2019.) The hourly rate of pay for members will increase an average of 16% to 25% (based on the members job classification and years of service) over the term of the 3-year agreement.   The union also secured language in the contract that increases the minimum starting rate for new hires. Workers will receive additional paid time off, as well as increased holiday pay. The company will continue to provide workers and their dependents with full medical coverage through the Union’s medical fund at no cost to the workers. through the term of the contract. Vireo Health New York workers are members of Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW. Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW proudly represents more than 13,000 working men and women employed at supermarkets, grocery stores, specialty food stores, assisted living facilities, retail drug stores and pharmacies, and medical cannabis companies across New York City, Long Island, the Hudson Valley and Upstate New York. 

RWDSU Celebrates the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., (right) reviews an RWDSU contract with RWDSU Local 3 members employed at Bloomingdale's in New York City in the 1960s. This week, Americans everywhere salute the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. For members of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), Dr. King's legacy has special meaning. We take special pride that, in 1968, the RWDSU was the first union anywhere to negotiate a contract guaranteeing Dr. King's birthday as a paid holiday. The RWDSU was among the earliest supporters of Dr. King's grassroots drive to challenge racial injustice in the South.   In Chicago during the 1960s, RWDSU provided an important forum for Dr. King to speak out against poverty in America's cities.  Later, thousands of RWDSU members stood shoulder to shoulder with other Civil Rights Activists during the historic 1963 March on Washington. Dr. King saw the Civil Rights struggle and the labor movement as closely linked.  He was a constant ally of Union Activists and most have forgotten that Dr. King was in Tennessee to support a Living Wage for Sanitation Strikers on that terrible April day in 1968 when he was slain at the age of 39. Dr. King spoke about the importance of the Labor Movement on many occasions. "Our needs are identical with Labor's needs: decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old age security, and health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community. That is why negroes support Labor's demands and fight laws which curb Labor. That is why the Labor-hater and the Labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth," Dr. King said in a speech in 1961. In reflecting on the life and work of Dr. King, the RWDSU recognizes the fight he began is not over until equality for all is a reality, and it is up to our generation of RWDSU members to complete his mission.  

As business and labor leaders, we agree on this: The U.S. needs to stay in the Paris Agreement

By Stuart Appelbaum and Andrew Liveris As the chairman emeritus and former CEO of Dow Chemical, and the vice president and co-chair of the international committee of one of the most powerful union confederations in the U.S., we don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to a vision for how we achieve U.S. economic growth. But we do when it comes to addressing a critical challenge for American workers and businesses: climate change.  We also critically agree that the Paris Agreement provides the U.S. the best, albeit not perfect, framework for addressing the growing climate crisis. This framework allows freedom to pursue a competitive path toward emissions reductions—one that creates American jobs, stabilizes trade, and has a commitment to a just transition at its core. The Paris accord will help ensure American competitiveness and long-term opportunities for our working families into the future. Research from the New Climate Economy has shown that transitioning to a low-carbon future by 2030 holds a $26 trillion economic prize globally. Reaching that requires policies, aligned with the agreement’s framework, that allow companies to set and deliver on ambitious climate targets. read the entire piece at Fortune

RWDSU STATEMENT: NY TIP CREDIT ANNOUNCEMENT

“Car wash workers for years have struggled in New York to survive on sub-minimum wages. We applaud the Governor for taking today’s action. It will go a long way to remove one of the sources of wage theft that have been endemic in that industry,” said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). 

RWDSU MEMBERS OVERWHELMINGLY RATIFY STRONG NEW CONTRACT FOR WORKERS AT COCA-COLA NORTHEAST JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS

Union Contract Securing 5-Weeks of Vacation for Senior Members Ratified Overwhelmingly by Workers (NEEDHAM, MA) – Today, Local 513 of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), announced that nearly 400 workers at the Coca-Cola Northeast facility in Needham, MA have ratified a strong new union contract. The worker led negotiation committee worked tirelessly to secure a strong contract that guarantees annual wage increase, secures the union health plan, and adds additional vacation time for senior workers, among many other provisions. The workers in the bargaining unit handle production of Coca-Cola vending machines as well as product delivery services.  Continue reading