Labor Notes

March 5, 2024

The biggest news for AFM members is that the AFM has reached agreement with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the same employers that SAG-AFTRA and the Writer’s Guild were striking last year. The agreement finally gives musicians the streaming royalties we had been denied in the past, as well as some Artificial Intelligence provisions that we were seeking. Clearly, they did not want another strike on their hands, so this really goes to show how the labor movement as a whole influences us. International President Tino Gagliardi said “This agreement represents a major win for musicians who have long been under-compensated for their work in the digital age,” said Tino Gagliardi, AFM international president and chief negotiator. “We have secured historic breakthroughs in streaming residuals, established critical guardrails against the misuse of AI, gained meaningful wage increases and other important gains. This agreement represents a watershed moment for the artists who create the soundtracks for countless film and TV productions.” More details can be found here.

On February 13, three unions and more than six airlines at more than thirty airports around the country staged a Day of Action to support flight attendants, communications workers, and transport workers in their fight to secure better livelihoods. More here.

On February 22, the Letter Carrier’s Association held a rally in Dallas to call attention to the rising number of attacks on postal workers. More here.

From the Texas AFL-CIO daily newsletter for February 27: In what Starbucks Workers United is calling a “huge” breakthrough, the company has agreed to begin talks on a framework for achieving contracts in stores where workers have chosen to unionize and for developing “a fair process for organizing.”

 Since workers organized the first Starbucks store in Buffalo in 2021, nearly 10,000 baristas have organized unions at nearly 400 stores, including several in Texas. But not one has been able to negotiate with a management that trotted out the anti-union playbook from Day 1. 

 The amazing solidarity that kept the union strong despite all the incoming attacks a corporation can offer under outdated labor laws is responsible for today’s dramatic change in tone.

 The union quotes this company statement: “We have agreed with Workers United that we will begin discussions on a foundational framework designed to achieve collective bargaining agreements, including a fair process for organizing, and the resolution of some outstanding litigation.”

 The union also reports the company, “as a sign of good faith,” has agreed to provide credit card tipping and other benefits announced in May 2022 but not implemented as organizing accelerated. 

 There are some imponderables here, including what spurred the company’s change of heart. But clear as day, workers rose up, workers formed a union, workers persisted through the storm, and, with an appropriate recognition that much work lies ahead, workers triumphed. 

 The entire labor movement should hold Starbucks to its promise of good-faith bargaining toward a fair contract. 

 As for SWU, let’s inaugurate the Bartholomew Cubbins hat tip (or hats tip: he had 500 of them) to the union for its historic organizing and its major role in a renaissance for U.S. labor unions. The horizon for much more organizing by baristas just got a whole lot sunnier.

On February 29, Google informed You Tube Music workers who had formed a union and were seeking a first contract by text that they were being laid off, at the moment they happened to be testifying before the Austin City Council about a resolution calling on Google to bargain in good faith. The NLRB has previously ruled that Google’s refusal to bargain with them is unlawful. More here.

In some good news, in January the US Labor Department published a new rule that simplifies and clarifies factors that determine whether a worker is an employee. Employment has big advantages for workers, requiring employers to pay for half of Social Security and Medicare taxes, Unemployment Insurance, and other important basis benefits. Unions have been fighting a running battle on this issue, which affects a wide variety of occupations, for decades. Sadly, the publication of a rule does not end the fight, but it does underscore the labor-friendly nature of the current administration.

And finally, a little noticed poll done by the Texas Politics Project showed that 64% of Texans say that unions are good for workers, as opposed to just 19% that say they are bad. Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said “This poll is powerful evidence that the people in Texas are way ahead of the politicians…We are fed the line that Texas is an anti-union state, but the data show that is false, and that working Texans are solidly pro-union…So while political leaders in our state downplay and often attack unions, more and more working people are taking matters into their own hands and demanding a fair shot of the economic pie. People understand this powerful yet simple truth: Life for Texans is better in a union. No wonder so many Texans are taking unprecedented steps to organize so they, too, can enjoy the benefits, the dignity and the power that come with a union contract.”