Happy May Day!
Across the world, the first day in May is observed as May Day, International Workers’ Day or Labour Day. It’s a time to recognize and celebrate laborers and the working class around the world.
We don’t officially celebrate it in the United States, but we have our own Labor Day on the first Monday of every September to commemorate the labor movement in the states.
But it is good time to recount the abundance of labor news in Baltimore and around Maryland, as workers from different companies work to unionize. Here’s the latest:
Apple Store in Towson
The Apple Store in the Towson Town Center made history in 2022 as the first Apple Store to organize a union in the U.S. The workers there chose to unionize with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, one of the largest labor organizations in the country.
Last month, union reps told The Banner that they’ve made progress in bargaining a contract, but that they think the company may not be negotiating in complete good faith.
Apple shared some “cherry-picked” contract proposals to present organizers in a negative light to Apple Store employees across the country, , which upset the committee.
“It kind of felt like a slap in the face,” said Kevin Gallagher, one of the Towson Apple Store employees who organized the union and is now on the negotiating team.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
Walters Art Museum
Employees at the Walters Art Museum organized with AFSCME Council 3 in May 2021 and almost immediately hit an impasse that prevented them from holding a union election or gaining recognition from the museum. The workers and the museum disagreed over how the union should be organized.
At the end of March 2023, though, the union announced it had reached an agreement with the museum and that a union election would be coming soon. According to a AFSCME press release on May 1, the election will take place this spring but a date hasn’t been announced.
In 2021, Director Julia Marciari-Alexander endorsed a vote among employees to unionize — but not a request to voluntarily recognize the union. Marciari-Alexander worried that “voluntary recognition” would “revoke employees’ legal right to vote on unionization and undermine that core democratic principle.”
MOM’s Organic Market
Employees at MOM’s Organic Market organized in 2022 at the store’s Hampden and Timonium locations, both with Teamsters Local 570.
Like employees at the Apple Store, some unionized employees at MOM’s told The Banner that the process is moving slowly. They said an attempt to negotiate a contract jointly between the two stores was rejected by the company. Workers at both locations recently held a rally to garner support from customers.
As The Banner’s Jasmine Vaughn-Hall reported this weekend, Scott Nash, the founder and CEO of MOM’s Organic Market, said the company is doing its homework and complying with the required meetings each month.
“It just takes a long time, and I don’t think employees knew about that beforehand,” he said.
Workers at the Zen Leaf dispensary in Towson voted to organize with United Food and Commercial Workers in late March. The vote was unanimously in favor of the union.
They were the second Zen Leaf location in Maryland to form a union, according to The Baltimore Business Journal.
Hundreds of Starbucks stores around the country have unionized, including a few in the Baltimore area. Employees at the 1209 North Charles St. location in Baltimore’s Mid-Town Belvedere neighborhood have unionized, as have employees at the Starbucks in the Shoppes at Nottingham Square in Baltimore County. The store in Baltimore City was the first Starbucks location in Maryland to unionize.
Locations in Stevensville and Linthicum Heights have also organized. Workers at the Baltimore City location have participated in national organizing and mobilization drives, including a weekend-long strike.
City Union of Baltimore
The City Union of Baltimore in April said its workers need safer working conditions after they started a press conference with a moment of silence for municipal employees who died on the job. The union highlighted hundreds of workplace safety violations over 95 inspections.
They specifically called out the deaths of Trina Cunningham and Kyle Hancock. Cunningham, who was a Department of Public Works supervisor at the Patapsco Wastewater Treatment Plant, drowned in 2019 after a catwalk she was on broke and she fell into a wastewater vat.
Hancock was a contracted worker who was crushed and suffocated in 2018 on a job site at the Clifton Park pool.
The union, which represents employees in many city agencies, is calling for more workplace safety training and the creation of a health and safety committee.
Horseshoe Casino Baltimore
Workers at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore managed to secure wage increases in a new contract they reached with Caesars Entertainment, according to the Baltimore Business Journal.
Under the contract, all non-tipped employees were given an immediate $1.40 per hour raise, according to The Baltimore Sun. Employees also secured paid holidays and a lower rate for health insurance.
Division of Corrections (Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services)
The union representing correctional officers at Maryland’s adult prisons said in April 2023 that they’re facing “dangerous” working conditions and mandatory overtime because of a shortage of workers. A report put out by the union said the state would need to hire 3,417 officers to reach what the union considers safe staffing levels.
The union is recommending that the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services streamline and “decentralize” its hiring process, allowing the hiring department to move more quickly and select candidates based on individual institutions’ needs.
In a statement, MDPSCS said that the vacancies and staff shortages were “alarming,” but added that Gov. Wes Moore “has been very clear that it is a major priority of his to fill these roles and get the state government back to firing on all cylinders.”
In news that you might have missed late last month — two councils of a Maryland labor union are merging.
Councils 67 and 3 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, have worked together in the state for a long time and are officially merging as AFSCME Maryland. The combined union will represent about 45,000 employees statewide.
This roundup is meant to be inclusive, not exhaustive. Is your workplace organizing? Or is the union you’re a member in planning a workplace action or working on an updated contract? Let me know.