For those of us labor attorneys who represent management in labor relations, there was a bit of schadenfreude (i.e. pleasure in another’s misfortune) with the news that employees engaged in a strike due to unfair labor practices allegedly committed by their employer – who happens to be both a union and unionized!  Oh, the irony….

The employees of the United Food and Commercial Workers (“UFCW”) headquarters are represented by a separate union, the Washington-Baltimore News Guild Local 32035 (“Guild”). The parties’ union contract expired on January 7, 2024, even though bargaining began back in October 2023. According to the Guild, the Guild members continued to work under the expired contract until April 8, 2024. At that time, they announced the termination of the contract, following a “lunch-out” where they picketed outside of UFCW International headquarters (over lunch) demanding a better contract, including a reasonable telework policy and “inflation-beating wages.” The termination announcement triggered a 30-day cool off period, at the end of which the contract was actually terminated and union members were permitted to go on strike.  

And the Guild members exercised that right. In a May 30 news release, the Guild pointed to its one-day unfair labor practice strike held on May 23, 2024 to “protest the anti-union hypocrisy and unlawful practices from UFCW executives at the bargaining table,” apparently to signal that Guild members are prepared to dig in their heels. 

In another post six days later, the Guild stated that the UFCW’s “last, best, and final proposal” lacked “substantive changes” from UFCW’s previous proposal, which had been voted down. The UFCW refused to schedule bargaining sessions until the Guild voted again.  In response, the Guild “thr[e]w a voting party complete with party hats, candy cigarettes, and a copy of the proposal to annotate suggestions for improvement [to the proposal].” And unsurprisingly, Guild members rejected the proposal once again.     

Often, unions attack employers (many of whom are truly trying to do their best to be fair and reasonable) as unfair, unreasonable, uncaring, bullying, greedy, amoral…. Well, you get the picture. So, it’s fascinating, in a car-crash kind of way, when an organization with the specific mission of promoting worker rights is accused by its own employees of violating those same rights!