October 2023, Volume 29, Number 4
The United Farm Workers administers the RFK medical insurance plan for covered workers. SB 145 allows the state to reimburse the RFK plan up to $3 million per year for claim payments that exceed $70,000 on behalf of an eligible employee or dependent for a single episode of care on or after September 1, 2016. The state has been providing $3 million a year to the RFK plan, and AB 494 would increase the RFK subsidy to $4 million a year and extend it until 2031.
ALRB. Sonoma vineyard manager Mauritson Farms in July 2023 agreed to pay $328,077 to ex-H-2A employees to settle an ALRB retaliation case. The workers alleged that after they complained of unsafe working conditions in fall 2021, Mauritson did not rehire them in 2022, instead turning to CIERTO to recruit H-2A workers.
The ALRB found, in response to a Teamsters complaint, that Pro-Tech 33 was not a bona fide “labor organization” under the state’s cannabis laws that require growers to sign Labor Peace Agreements with unions seeking to represent their employees. The Teamsters have an LPA with Three Habitat Consulting of Palm Springs. Pro-Tech 33 says it is trying to organize cannabis workers in other states.
The first Majority Support Petition under the card check procedure was filed by the UFW on behalf of the tomato workers of DiMare Fresh in Newman, but the ALRB in September 2023 reviewed payroll records and found that the UFW’s petition did not indicate majority support. The UFW has 30 days to obtain additional signatures.
Unions. The share of US workers who were members of a union fell to 10 percent in 2022, down from 20 percent in 1983. A third of public sector workers are union members, compared with six percent of private sector workers. Almost a third of the 14 million US union members in 2022 lived in two states, California with 2.6 million union members and New York with 1.7 million.
Christian Smalls has led the Amazon Labor Union since the ALU won an election at a Staten Island warehouse with more than 8,000 employees in April 2022. Amazon is challenging the results, and had not begun bargaining a year later, prompting a challenge to Smalls from within the ALU from workers who say there should have been a leadership election within 60 days of the election win. Smalls, who has become a celebrity, counters that the ALU will not hold a leadership election until after a first contract is signed.
Some 13,000 of the 146,000 United Auto Workers members went strike in mid-September 2023 at three Ford, General Motors and Stellantis plants. The Big 3 US auto firms are responsible for half of US car sales and want to use profits from gas-fueled cars to finance the transition to EVs.
The UAW wants a 32-hour week, a 40 percent wage increase over four years, and more predictable work schedules for auto workers. The Big 3, which say that auto workers currently cost about $65 an hour in wages and benefits, want the right to shift workers between plants and to use more temporary workers. The UAW, which has an $825 million strike fund, is paying striking workers $500 a week.
A key issue is how to use the profits from gas-fueled cars and trucks to finance the transition to EVs. The Big 3 have been very profitable, and the UAW wants a share of the profits, while the Big 3 want to use some of these profits to finance the transition to EVs, which are not yet profitable and require fewer workers to build and maintain. Federal legislation requires two-thirds of new cars sold to be EVs by 2032, up from three percent of Big 3 cars and trucks sold in 2022.
Tesla has a lower cost structure because its factories are highly automated and it does not have the legacy costs of retirement benefits. Tesla is not unionized, and its $45 an hour labor costs are $20 an hour less than the Big 3. Tesla workers receive stock options.