Who Might Strike in 2022? Hundreds of Big Contracts Will Be Up

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2021 saw high-profile strikes and contract battles that put unions in the public spotlight. And 2022 could potentially be more explosive.

Workers are already sensing their increased leverage in a tight labor market. They’ll be feeling the squeeze of record inflation while their employers rake in profits. There’s every reason to hold the line against concessions, or to win back what they gave away before.

Bloomberg analysis in November found that nearly 200 large union contracts (covering at least 1,000 workers) would expire between then and the end of 2022. Together these contracts cover 1.3 million workers—and there are hundreds of thousands more covered under the hundreds of smaller contracts that are also expiring. Here are some of the big ones:

Grocery:

Bloomberg says contracts covering 195,000 food and beverage workers will expire before December 31, 2022. A coalition of several Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) locals—plus one Teamsters local—in California, Washington, and Colorado is coordinating actions and demands on contracts for 100,000 grocery workers at Kroger and Albertsons (and affiliated chains) which expire over the next several months.

The contract for 30,000 workers at Stop & Shop in New England also expires in February. They struck in 2019 when the company tried to hike their health care costs, gut their pension, and get rid of time-and-a-half on Sundays

Longshore:

The Longshore (ILWU) contract with the Pacific Maritime Association covering 22,000 dockworkers in Washington, Oregon, and California expires July 1 (more on this in an article coming tomorrow).

Carhaul:

A one-year extension expires May 31 on the contract covering 4,000 Teamsters who transport new cars from factories and railyards to auto dealerships. Carhaulers voted down two tentative agreements in their last go-round before defeating pay cuts and an outsourcing threat. This could be an early test for the incoming Teamsters United administration, which has vowed to run more aggressive contract campaigns.

Oil and Tires:

The Steelworkers pattern agreement covering 30,000 oil refinery and petrochemical plant workers expires on February 1. Marathon Petroleum, now the top U.S. refiner, will be the lead negotiator; its agreement will set the pattern for 20 plants owned by 12 companies. Local delegates voted last summer that their bargaining policy should include wages, health care, severance package language, and investment in de-carbonization.

The contract for 5,700 Steelworkers at Goodyear Tire plants in Danville, Virginia; Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Topeka, Kansas, expires July 29.

Bakers:

Speaking of Topeka, the agreement covering the Frito-Lay plant there—where workers struck last summer over 84-hour weeks—expires in September. Also expiring in 2022 is the other Bakery (BCTGM) contract at Frito-Lay, in Vancouver, Washington.

Hospitals:

Big expiring contracts cover 118,000 hospital workers. Among them are 5,000 nurses at the University of Michigan Medical Center (expiring June 30), who recently delivered 2,000 petition signatures and 900 protests of unsafe staffing incidents to their Chief Nursing Executive.

In Buffalo, the contract covering 7,000 members of three unions at Kaleida Health expires on May 31. A five-week strike this fall at another Buffalo hospital chain netted a major win on staffing ratios. The contracts covering 1,500 nurses and 800 other staffers at Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia expire on September 30.

Teachers:

Bloomberg says large expiring contracts in the education sector cover 268,000 workers. Of note are two California locals that struck in 2019: 34,000 teachers in Los Angeles and 3,000 in Oakland. The nation’s largest K-12 educators contract, covering 120,000 teachers and school staff in New York City, expires in September.

Higher Ed:

Contracts up in June include 19,000 graduate employees at the University of California and 16,000 faculty and campus workers at Rutgers in New Jersey.

The contract has already expired for 29,000 members of the California Faculty Association—faculty, librarians, and counselors at the California State University system—and they’re mid-battle.

Telecom:

Thousands of employees of Frontier in California and Connecticut have been working without contracts since the fall. In California, 2,000 Frontier workers have held two one-day unfair labor practice strikes already—and a bigger strike could be ahead. The Communications Workers (CWA) Midwest contract with AT&T, covering 8,000 workers, expires in April.

First Contracts:

Recent waves of organizing by journalists and museum workers mean these workers are fighting for their first contract.

When does your contract expire? What are the big issues you expect to be fighting over? How is your union preparing? Email [email protected].

Dan DiMaggio is assistant editor of Labor Notes.

This article is also published in Labor Notes.

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