2016: Year in Review

Here’s looking back at some of 2016’s biggest #UnionStrong moments. We stand with you Sisters and Brothers!


scalias-death-ends-friedrichs-threatScalia’s death ends Friedrichs threat
In a case known as Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court was getting ready to impose so-called “right-to-work” status on all public employees in the United States — making dues strictly voluntary and thus weakening unions considerably. But the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February resulted in a 4-4 deadlock on the case. The threat to labor could return, however, if a similar case is filed after another anti-union justice is appointed.

unions-count-verizon-strike-as-a-winUnions count Verizon strike as a win
America’s biggest strike in four years took place in April and May as 39,000 members of CWA and IBEW struck Verizon’s East Coast landline operations rather than accept contract concessions at the highly-profitable company. The strike ended after 45 days with a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on terms the union called a win, including 10.5 percent raises over four years, and protections against outsourcing of call center jobs.

Clinton loses in the electoral college
In the general election, Hillary Clinton had the support of nearly every labor union in the country, and she won nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. But she lost where it mattered: The electoral college, thanks to narrow Trump wins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

trans-pacific-partnership-dead-at-lastTrans-Pacific Partnership, dead at last
For the first time since NAFTA, a corporate-written trade deal died on the vine. The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnerhip (TPP) was one of Obama’s top priorities, but broad public hostility to the deal — and the defection of some Republicans over industry concerns — prevented ratification in Congress. Trump’s election sealed its fate.


Top legislative win: Minimum wage
With unions prepared to put minimum wage increases on the ballot, the Oregon Legislature stepped up to do the job and put the minimum wage on track to 12.50 to 14.75 by 2022, depending on the region. That amounts to an hourly raise of $3.25 to $5.50 an hour for hundreds of thousands of Oregon workers.

Biggest ballot defeat: Measure 97
Despite $16 million in local and national union money, a proposal to raise taxes on the biggest corporations doing business in Oregon was rejected by voters. As a result, instead of new investment in schools, health care and senior services, the state of Oregon faces a budget shortfall next year, once again.

Biggest union organizing wins:

  • 886 support workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
  • 793 PSU grad students joined AFT/AAUP.
  • 310 hospital technicians at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
  • 165 workers at Boeing paint contractor Commercial Aircraft Painting Services joined IAM.
  • 80 DirecTV workers joined CWA Local 7906.
  • 61 alcohol and drug treatment workers at Volunteers of America joined AFSCME.

Biggest union organizing losses:

  • 205 workers at a Jeld-Wen door plant in Chiloquin rejected the Machinists union in a 52-137 vote.
  • 179 workers at Portland Specialty Baking rejected the Bakers union in a 38-123 vote.

oregon-bernie-voteOregon Bernie vote: a mandate for bolder action by Democrats?
Hillary Clinton won among Democrats nationwide, but in Oregon, Democrats showed an appetite for a bolder kind of politics — backing a candidate who rejected Wall Street money and called for universal health care, free public college tuition, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage. In Oregon, Bernie Sanders packed arenas and outpolled Clinton by over 70,000 votes, 56 to 44 percent.

Minimum wage and sick leave
Raise the minimum wage to $13.50, and give workers the right paid sick leave? Voters did it, approving union-backed I-1433 by 59-41 percent.

sound-gets-serious-transit-investmentSound gets serious transit investment
Another ballot victory was voter approval for an ambitious 25-year plan to make $54 billion worth of transit improvements in the Puget Sound region, including 62 miles of light rail and new bus and heavy rail service to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The project will mean union jobs, less congestion, and a cleaner environment.

Madore is no more, in Clark County
Flamboyantly anti-union Clark County Commissioner David Madore — who once pushed unsuccessfully for a local “right-to-work” ordinance — lost reelection in the August primary. In the general election, union-backed candidate Tanisha Harris lost to John Blom, but local unions were still pleased to see their nemesis go.

berry-boycott-ends-with-union-dealBerry boycott ends with union deal
A three-year union boycott against Sakuma and Driscoll berries ended in September, when Skagit Valley agri-giant Sakuma Berries agreed to allow a union election and recognize and bargain a contract with the farmworkers union.


What were some of your biggest #UnionStrong moments of 2016? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.


Marcus Courtney founder of CWA-Tech worker union runs for State House in Seattle CWA District 7, WA State Council, and IAM 751 Endorsed

marcus courtneyUnion Built PC Inc. highly endorses Brother Marcus Courtney and we ask all our Sisters and Brothers to donate to the Courtney Campaign

A message from Marcus Courtney:

“With CWA and IBEW workers on strike against Verizon, it is more important than ever for working people to have a voice in the halls of power to fight back against corporate greed.  I am running for the 43rd legislative district in Seattle to be that voice.

“I believe the legislator in this seat needs to be a champion for bold, progressive leadership with real experience. I am running to bring the values of the 43rd district to solve real problems. I want to make housing more affordable, protect the rights of all of our citizens, improve the quality of our public schools, raise wages so families can lead a decent life, and bring meaningful action to combat climate change.

“Over the past few years here, we have witnessed tremendous growth in people and in wealth generated by our industries in aerospace, natural resources and technology. The 43rd district is at the heart of a booming Seattle, and is ushering in a new era as a global city. But yet, we can feel our prosperity is out of balance and is leaving too many people behind.

“I believe every worker should be treated fairly in the workplace. I founded the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech/CWA), the first labor organization of its kind in the U.S., while working as a contract test engineer at Microsoft Corporation. This gave tech workers a voice in the trade union movement for the first time, which continues to this day.

“For five years, I managed a global and regional boards of directors representing 300 national unions on international labor issues totaling more than 2.5 million workers in 120 different countries.

“Returning to Seattle as the National Representative for the AFL-CIO in the northwest, I was shocked to see how dysfunctional Olympia has become. Rather than a collaborative legislature where the two parties work effectively, Olympia is the mini-me of the U.S. Congress.  Populated with climate change deniers, people who oppose equal rights for all and politicians whose answer to every problem is to cut taxes for the rich and big corporations. This doesn’t work in DC and will not work in Olympia. There is real work to be done.

“These challenges strike at our sense of fairness for the future, and say it is time for a new path so no one is left behind.

“We need a new path of inclusion. A new tradition of true economic opportunity. I’m ready to bring a lifetime of experience fighting for middle class families, and giving strength to the poor and disenfranchised. As my career shows when I see a problem I get to work finding real solutions, and I will bring that experience to Olympia as your legislator.

“We have seen Seattle and Washington State pass landmark policies on the minimum wage, paid sick leave, pressure Shell Oil to stop Arctic Drilling, pass marriage equality and be first in the nation to require background checks before owning a gun. This campaign wants to extend and build on that progressive legacy.

“In the past two months that I have been running I am proud to have received seven union endorsements and I expect more on the way!  

“I ask you to join my campaign for bold, progressive leadership and I ask for your support to help send me to Olympia by contributing to my campaign today.”  

Join the Campaign for bold, progressive leadership by making a donation here: