January 2022, Volume 28, Number 1
The ALRB issued five decisions in 2020, and none in 2021. Administrative law judges issued two decisions. In Cinagro Farms, the ALJ concluded that a vegetable harvest crew was unlawfully fired in March 2017 for requesting pay stubs with required deduction information. Cinagro (organic spelled backwards) countered that the crew quit when their FLC Mike’s or Art’s Labor Contractor did not show up to supervise them, even though they had become Cinagro employees.
The ex- Cinagro workers went to work picking blueberries at Silent Springs in March 2017. The ALJ concluded that the crew was fired or not rehired for complaining about the lack of pay stub information, and ordered Cinagro to rehire the crew with back pay for any lost wages.
In Reitz Ranches, an ALJ found that Reitz unlawfully fired several workers in February 2018 who complained that the pace of work was too fast and they were not provided with gloves to load stumps. The workers were brought to Reitz by FLC AAT Agriculture. Reitz was ordered to reinstate the workers and provide them with back pay to cover any loss of wages.
Strikes. Some 10,000 Deere & Company workers went on strike for five weeks in October-November 2021 at 14 facilities in Iowa and Illinois before approving a six-year contract that raises wages by 10 percent immediately and provides bonuses for achieving productivity targets from 15 of earnings to 20 percent. New hires will continue to participate in traditional defined benefit pension plans.
Some 1,400 workers at four Kellogg plants struck for several months before approving a contract in December 2021. Veteran workers earn an average $35 an hour and new hires $22 an hour; a major issue was the starting wage for new hires and how long they should remain at the entry-level wage that was raised to $24. Kellogg threatened to permanently replace the striking workers. Earlier strikes at Frito-Lay and Nabisco were triggered in part by forced overtime, as companies find it hard to recruit workers.
An NLRB ALJ in November 2021 found that Amazon unlawfully interfered with the February-March 2021 vote at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse by having the USPS install a mail deposit box at the warehouse to collect mail-in ballots. The decision voided the election in which 71 percent of workers voted for no union. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union wants to request a new election in 2022.
Amazon announced a settlement with the NLRB in December 2021 that requires sending over a million past and current employees a notice highlighting their right to organize. Amazon says it respects worker rights but believes its employees are better off without union representation.
Employees of three Starbucks in Buffalo, New York voted in November-December 2021 to have the Starbucks Workers United represent them. Starbucks has 9,000 company-owned US stores and 6,500 franchised stores, some of which are unionized. The Buffalo stores are the first corporate-owned store to vote for union representation. Starbucks said that all of its US employees or partners will earn at least $15 an hour by mid-2022.