Neutex Advanced Energy Group, a Houston-based maker of LED lights, light bulbs and fixtures, brought its core manufacturing operation from China back to the United States last year and turned to the Electrical Workers (IBEW) to staff its facility.
Paul Puente, assistant business manager of IBEW Local 716, approached John Higgins, president and CEO of Neutex, to discuss his needs and concerns and how they could work together.Higgins agreed to make the facility an IBEW union shop, and the Electrical Workers agreed to provide training for its workers and help the company market its union-made products. Neutex will employ 250 to 300 IBEW members in its 15,000-square-foot facility.
“The partnership with the IBEW, it’s giving us credibility when we’re growing in leaps and bounds,” says Higgins. “We should be able to bring this [to the United States] and still be able to make a much better quality product, in better time and help our middle class.”
After years of organizing, Los Angeles carwash workers successfully negotiated contracts with three carwashes and gained workplace rights most workers should be able to take for granted: sick leave, access to health care, workplace safety, lunch breaks, living wages and respect. The carwash workers were successful, in large part, through the strength of community-labor partnerships: the United Steelworkers teamed up with the Community Labor Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), faith-based groups such as Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice and low-income immigrant rights organizations such as the Wage Justice Center and Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance.
“There’s a whole network of organizations that believe in unionization, believe in workers’ rights that are coming together with the CLEAN Carwash workers across ethnic lines and really backing each other up,” says Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.
In this video, Miguel, a carwash worker of 18 years, sees the power of community-labor partnerships in his experience organizing for workplace rights.