NYT: What Happened When the Skating Coaches Wanted a Union

Theoreticalgirl

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New York Times has a story on what's going on with the coaches who wanted to form a union at Chelsea Piers.

Gift link: https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/03/...e_code=1.pE0.pyda.OVLKrc3FGleF&smid=url-share

A couple of quick highlights:

A simmering labor dispute involving figure skating coaches at Sky Rink in Manhattan ramped up in recent days after two leaders of a fledgling union were fired as part-time employees.

Chelsea Piers, which owns Sky Rink, said the terminations were not an act of union busting and described them as part of the “normal course of business.” But the coaches say the reason for the firings was to squash the union and scare others away from organizing.

[...]

There are roughly 50 coaches who work in some capacity at Sky Rink; according to organizers, 38 of them voted to join the collective last August. Their only demand is for Chelsea Piers to allow them to negotiate their yearly contracts collectively. The coaches, who meet regularly in nearby apartments and communicate by text and email, sent a letter to Chelsea Piers after the vote asking to be recognized as a bargaining unit. They said they received no response.

[...]

Ria Julien, a lawyer for the coaches, said that the two terminations violated the National Labor Relations Act.

“Chelsea Piers’ decision to retaliate and make examples of prominent members of this group, who are outspoken and well known, is really just an effort to chill other members of the collective,” Ms. Julien said. “This is a violation of their rights, and they will work together to hold Chelsea Piers accountable under the law.”

[...]

Matthew Bodie, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who previously worked at the National Labor Relations Board, said the coaches could take their case to the board claiming they were fired for organizing.

“The board gets very upset when that happens, because when you fire union leaders just because they are union leaders, in order to chill an organizing campaign, it’s kind of the worst thing you can do in labor law,” he said.
 

overedge

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Wow. Skating coaches have such vulnerable careers, so it's really brave of these coaches to step up and try to get some job security and better working conditions through collective bargaining.

The current Natl Labor Relations Board has been much more active in penalizing employers who try this kind of thing (unlike the NLRB under the previous president). IMO there's a very good chance that Chelsea Piers management will face some sort of ruling against them.

(thank you for the gift link @Theoreticalgirl )
 

Theoreticalgirl

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Agreed @overedge. I know plenty of coaches with second/third jobs just to keep afloat. What the rink did—firing the leaders of an organizing effort—is something the NLRB takes pretty seriously.

As someone who has benefitted from having a union job in the past, I fully support their effort to organize. (I also hope, having been involved with labor work, they are considering joining up with a larger, established union—think SEIU, etc—that could help.)

I hope that others aren't dissuaded from organizing in their own rinks. For those that are interested, Ethan Marcotte's You Deserve A Tech Union is a digestable read that's applicable to all kinds of workplaces (not just tech).

Anyway, they have an IG account for those interested and want to follow along: https://www.instagram.com/nyc_coachescollective/
 

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