Two big wins for workers in North Carolina

North Carolina ranks as the state in the U.S. with the lowest percentage of union members, but that status may be ripe for change if two recent organizing victories are any indication.

Autoworkers: In Highpoint, N.C., 714 workers at Thomas Built Bus voted yes for the United Auto Workers on June 29. The National Labor Relations Board rejected an objection to the election filed by attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, according to a statement issued by the UAW.

“Democracy is the big winner today,” said Niels Chapman, president of UAW Local 5287. “We’re ready to bargain a contract that will improve our plant and improve our jobs.”

Steelworkers: Meanwhile, workers in a Goodyear Tire wire plant in Asheboro voted June 14-15 to be part of the United Steelworkers (USW) by a vote of 173-147. The workers had already decided a year earlier to go for union representation. But the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation challenged the process — a card-check election. Faced with the prospect of languishing without union rights for years while the appeal worked its way through the courts, the union reached a settlement that called for the NLRB-conducted election.

“The workers at Asheboro didn’t require the unnecessary outside interference by a third party to determine what rights they wanted to exercise,” said USW organizer Brad Smoyer, referring to the role of the so-called right to work organization.

EFCA gains new sponsors

With the addition of six new co-sponsors, including two from North Carolina, the Employee Free Choice Act now has more than 200 co-sponsors in the U.S. House. Corrine Brown (Fla.), James Clyburne (S.C.), Mel Watt (N.C.), Jim Marshall (Ga.), Melissa Bean (Ill.) and Brad Miller (N.C.) have signed on, increasing the total number of co-sponsors in the House to 201 and 38 in the Senate.

For a complete list of co-sponsors as well as a summary and fact sheets on the bill, which would stregthen workers’ ability to form a union, log onto the Voice@Work PrivateNet at https://

Single-payer momentum

Two more unions have endorsed HR 676, the universal single-payer health care legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-Mich.). The newest endorsers are Local 619, Graphic Communications Conference/IBT, Louisville, Ky., and Local 409, Plumbers and Pipefitters, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Organizing in Iowa

Professional and scientific (P&S) staff at the University of Iowa had two reasons to celebrate on July 20 at an outdoor rally and picnic in Iowa City. The Iowa Public Employment Board set July 27 as the beginning of a three-week mail-in ballot process for union recognition for P&S workers at UI, so they are another step closer to their goal of organizing with the Service Employees International Union. Approximately 2,300 University of Iowa P&S staff, ranging from environmental engineers to web masters, are eligible to vote in the election.

The rally also marked the seventh anniversary of SEIU Local 199 representing nurses and health care workers at the huge University of Iowa hospital complex. Key issues in the organizing campaign include minuscule pay increases; the lack of a career path for research assistants; job security for workers on grant-funded projects; and the desire for real influence on working conditions for P&S staff.

Idahoans reject Wal-Mart

TWIN FALLS, Idaho — By a vote of 6 to 2 the Twin Falls City Council rejected Wal-Mart’s bid for a SuperCenter in a subdivision here, reports a PWW reader. But, the reader adds, Wal-Mart is expected to start an expensive and exhaustive appeal.

Labor Update is compiled by Roberta Wood ( Rohn Webb contributed to this week’s update.