Always Essential is a campaign of working people, activists, and organizations joining together to transform what’s possible for essential workers — especially those in low-wage sectors who are disproportionately Black and other workers of color. We are working in cities, counties, states, and at the federal level to put essential workers first and build the lasting change we want to see.



Monday, February 7th, 2022 

Starbucks Union Push Spreads To 59 Stores In 19 States and Counting

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December’s historic and high-profile union victories for Starbucks workers at two Buffalo locations became a watershed moment that has galvanized workers around the nation. Already (as of Feb 3rd) it has inspired employees at 59 Starbucks stores in 19 states to pursue their own union elections.

More Perfect Union is tracking every Starbucks store in the country where workers are organizing with @SBWorkersUnited, plus election dates and results. Click here to access its interactive map and database.

“This is a generational uprising, said Richard Bensinger, a union organizer with Starbucks Workers United. "I think young people are rediscovering unions as the way to have a voice into the job and lift up their wages and benefits."

Starbucks Workers United believes most of the pro-union workers are in their early 20s, which prompted Bensinger to say they are part of a “Gen U” for unions. These workers are optimistic that organizing will bring them the power to express their voice in a way that will be received by management to better the company during the third year of the pandemic, he said.

The speed with which Starbucks stores are organizing is indeed truly remarkable! Another potentially groundbreaking union push will proceed at Amazon in the coming weeks, where thousands of Alabama warehouse workers will re-vote on unionization.

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See below for a rundown of the latest efforts in the fight for improved health and safety standards, better pay, and working conditions for essential workers. It includes a series of tweets about greedy corporations using the cover of "inflation and supply chain issues" to exploit workers and gouge consumers while making record profits.


King Soopers Workers Ratify New ‘Industry-Leading’ Contract

Following a 10-day strike, thousands of workers at King Soopers in Colorado, represented by United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7, ratified a three-year collective bargaining agreement with their employer on Jan 24th. The groundbreaking contract met many union members’ demands, including significant wage increases, better health care, and pension benefits, new paths to full-time employment, and enhanced safety measures at work. 

“From the beginning of this process, we promised our members that we would procure the very best contract we could. We are excited that our members voted overwhelmingly to ratify this industry-leading contract that will ensure King Soopers will respect and protect Essential Workers as well as pay them fairly,” said Local 7 President Kim Cordova. “This would not have been possible without the support of our allies throughout Colorado and across the country. To those who stood alongside our members, honored the picket line, and showed up in solidarity, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”


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Congressional Hearing Addresses Greedy Corporate Price Gouging

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Subcommittee Chair Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) held a legislative hearing on February 2nd entitled, “Pandemic Profiteers: Legislation to Stop Corporate Price Gouging.”

Pallone noted that corporate executives have unfairly raised prices not only on pandemic essentials like COVID tests, masks, and hand sanitizer but also on staple items like food and fuel.

“It’s outrageous that some corporations are exploiting the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain disruptions to price gouge vulnerable American consumers,” Pallone and Schakowsky said. “While corporate profits reach record highs, many Americans are struggling to afford necessities. Enough is enough; it is time for Congress to intervene on behalf of consumers against the corporate greed that is driving up prices. Next week, we will consider legislation to empower the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general with the enforcement tools they need to effectively go after price gougers.” 

Added Pallone: “I do think that corporate greed is motivating large companies to use the pandemic and supply chain issues as an excuse to raise prices simply because they can. And a lot of executives brazenly boast to investors about raising prices on consumers without consequences, and these executives are saying they’re going to continue to do so.”


Amazon Union Saga In Alabama Spotlights’ David Versus Goliath Nature’ Of Us Labor Laws

On February 4th, ballots are being mailed to employees of Amazon’s Bessemer, Ala., kicking off the second union election in as many years at the warehouse. Amazon workers are redoing the Bessemer union election due to labor regulators’ conclusions that Amazon interfered in the first union drive.

Critics argue that Amazon not being financially punished for perceived violations during the first election will encourage them to do the same in this one.

“There shouldn’t be a situation in which the company just says, ‘It’s fine, we’ll violate the labor law because there’s really no consequences and we maybe will keep doing that until the unions run out of money,’” said Adam Shah, director of national policy at Jobs With Justice, a member of the anti-Amazon Athena coalition. 

Failure to pass the PRO Act a year after the first Bessemer election has frustrated bill advocates.

“Of course, there is [frustration],” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) told The Hill. “We’re seeing efforts around the country for people to become unionized and we’re seeing corporations responding in sometimes absolutely illegal ways.” 

“Workers need protection and of course we’ve got to give them that protection through the PRO Act,” he added.

Leaked Messages Reveal New York Times’ Aggressive Anti-Union Strategy

Internal documents and Slack messages obtained by the Guardian reveal senior executives at the New York Times heavily leaning on workers to vote no in a union election for more than 600 tech employees.

Meredith Kopit Levien, the New York Times Company chief executive, wrote a memo to staff titled “Why a Tech Union Isn’t Right for Us” on the tech workers’ union election at XFun. In Slack messages, Times chief product officer Alexandra Hardiman and chief growth officer Hannah Yang posted messages urging workers to vote no in the union election.

The National Labor Relations Board rejected the New York Times’ attempt to stop the election, alleging improper bargaining unit. The company had previously declined to voluntarily recognize the union and immediately began holding anti-union captive audience meetings with workers. The NewsGuild of New York likewise filed a complaint in recent weeks with the NLRB, accusing the Times of violating federal labor law by adding new paid days off to the company holiday calendar for non-union employees only – which was viewed as a tactic to dissuade workers from voting for the union.

The organizing effort is one of the largest among tech workers at any public company and is in line with a broader movement among technology sector employees to fight for increased workplace protections.

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In This Latest Covid Surge, Americans Are Struggling to Make Ends Meet Without Sick Leave

With the country in the throes of the deadliest Covid wave yet, American workers are back to having no federally mandated paid sick leave.

Congress let FFCRA paid leave expire at the end of 2020, leaving only a tax break for employers who decide to offer it voluntarily. About a quarter of private-sector workers no longer get paid sick leave from work. Only 13 states, 19 cities, and Washington, D.C., guarantee paid sick leave.

It wasn’t just the federal government that recognized the need for paid leave at the start of the pandemic; many large companies offered their own policies too. But in December the Centers for Disease Controlshortenedthe recommended isolation period after someone gets Covid from 10 days to five, which has prompted a number of employers to pare these policies back, including Amazon, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.

“Having paid leave shouldn’t be a privilege, especially when we are the most evolved country in the world, in a pandemic,” said Cinthia Alaniz, a mother who works at an elementary school in Mesa, Ariz., as a family support specialist. “It really shouldn’t be that difficult. We should be able to care for our families.”

Raven Workers Launch Video Game Union

Workers at Raven Software’s quality assurance (QA) department on Jan. 21 launched their new union, the Game Workers Alliance Union, with the Communications Workers of America (CWA). They are seeking voluntary recognition from their employer as a supermajority of workers expressed their desire to form a union at the studio owned by video game giant Activision Blizzard. 

“Today, I am proud to join with a supermajority of my fellow workers to build our union, Game Workers Alliance (CWA). In the video game industry, specifically Raven QA, people are passionate about their jobs and the content they are creating,” said Becka Aigner, QA functional tester II at Raven. “We want to make sure that the passion from these workers is accurately reflected in our workplace and the content we make. Our union is how our collective voices can be heard by leadership.” 

Earlier this week, CWA responded to Microsoft’s plan to acquire Activision Blizzard and called for workers’ voices to be heard in the future direction of the company.

PA Gov. Wolf: Stop Disrespecting Workers and Finally Raise the Minimum Wage

In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolf, House Democratic Leader Joanna McClinton, and State Sen. Art Haywood gathered at &Pizza to call on the state legislature to raise the minimum wage.

“The fact that Pennsylvania’s minimum wage hasn’t increased in 15 years is an embarrassment,” Wolf said. “It’s an insult to hardworking Pennsylvanians, and it means businesses and communities in Pennsylvania are getting left behind. Hardworking people can’t wait any longer. I call on Republican lawmakers in the General Assembly to step up and take action on behalf of workers, businesses, and our economy.”

“We’ve watched the buying power of Pennsylvania’s minimum wage plummet over the past decade,” McClinton said. “Raising the minimum wage is about valuing Pennsylvania’s workforce, ensuring fair pay and dignity for hard work, and helping more women - including countless essential workers — emerge from poverty.”

Austin Council Moves to Put Stop to Wage Theft

On Jan 27th, Austin Texas City Council passed a resolution directing the City Manager to work with city staff, stakeholders & community organizations to draft an ordinance that holds bad employers accountable and helps workers recover wages.

Workers Defense Action Fund, Equal Justice Center, Central South Carpenters Regional Council, and the Central Texas Building and Construction Trades Council declared: "Wage theft is a civil rights issue. Workers should be paid for all of their work, and anything less is wage theft, worker exploitation, and a violation of someone's right to honest pay for honest work."

Care Is Essential Art Installation On National Mall Brings Care Stories To Life, Emphasizes Demand To Invest In Care

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SEIU launched an art installation in Washington, D.C., featuring walls of art by local D.C. artists that illustrate the essential role care plays in the lives of all people. The installation, located near the Washington Monument, was displayed from Jan. 31st through Feb. 4th. Upon entering the installation, visitors will find panels representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia, featuring personal care stories from caregivers and care consumers, or statistics highlighting the stark realities of care throughout the country.


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