Austin Pets Alive! Workers File to Become Nation’s Largest Animal Shelter Union

AUSTIN, Texas, April 4, 2024 – Today, Austin Pets Alive! (APA) animal shelter employees have filed a Representation Petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) requesting recognition of their Union, Austin Pets Allied Workers (APAW).  After collecting signatures from a majority of approximately 200 APA workers on union cards with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 776, with support from the National Veterinary Professionals Union, APAW is proud to take this first step towards creating the largest animal shelter union in the country–a historic event for both animals and their advocates.

In a statement issued by the Organizing Committee, APA employees wrote, “APAW’s priorities are to ensure a just and sustainable workplace at APA, because we believe that APA can and should be a model for equity, stability, and safety in the animal care field. By giving workers on the frontlines of animal care a real seat at the table, we believe we can create a better and more just APA for pets and people alike.”

APAW has asked that APA management and the Board of Directors voluntarily recognize the staff Union so that they can more quickly begin the process of collective bargaining. Contract negotiations will cover issues such as workplace policies concerning the well-being and safety of both animals and employees, wage increases, benefits, and fair employment practices. 

The IAM, with support from the National Veterinary Professionals Union, recently organized animal shelter workers in Chicago.

Ryan Martinez, APA worker: “I want to join with my co-workers to form a union because workers like me who are on the frontlines of animal care deserve to feel safe and supported in our mission-fulfilling work at APA. I know that a strong union contract negotiated by affected employees is the best way to make that happen, which will ultimately improve conditions for the animals in our care.” 

Ellis Avallone, APA worker: “I look forward to this new chapter where my co-workers and I, through unionizing, can have a real seat at the table and a more democratic workplace. I hope that APA management and the Board of Directors respond positively to our request for voluntary recognition so that we can move swiftly and directly to the bargaining table.”

Keith “Chub” McCrory, District Organizer with IAM District 776: “The IAM is very excited about the filing of this petition. This marks an important and necessary milestone in building worker power in an underrepresented industry. Animal care workers deserve safe, dignified jobs with living wages.” 

Zohaib “Zo” Qadri, Austin City Council District 9 Representative: “I applaud the organizers and members of APAW for coming together to not just advocate for animals, but for their fellow workers, as well. Austin is a Labor city, and I’ll be proud to see another Union workplace call District 9 home.”

Austin Pets Allied Workers (APAW) is the worker-created and worker-led union of Austin Pets Alive! Started in 2023, its members seek to ensure their workplace and the animal welfare industry as a whole adopts more sustainable, safe, and equitable practices. The organization boasts a diverse membership, with representation from across varied departments and species. All members share in common the love and care they have for our animals past, present, and future which fuels their hope for a better future. While growing stronger every day, the Organizing Committee works to invite more workers into the fold.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) is among the largest unions in North America and represents nearly 600,000 active and retired members in the manufacturing, aerospace, defense, airlines, transportation, shipbuilding, woodworking, health care, and other industries.

The National Veterinary Professionals Union was established in 2017 with the primary goal of making veterinary support a sustainable, life-long career.  In order to fulfill this goal, we are working to build collective power among workers in the veterinary health and animal care profession.  We believe in the power of collective action and healthy collaboration with veterinary and animal care employers to create improvements in workplace safety, training, benefits, and pay. We believe that taking good care of veterinary and animal care workers allows them to provide the best care for animals and the people who love them.

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