North Pole Elves Win Big with Escalating Strike

Illustration of the Troublemakers Union slingshot logo with a Santa hat on top

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NEW: Listen to a wonderful radio version of this story (including additional quotes from Vixen), created by the good folks of Labor Radio on WORT in Madison, Wisconsin.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a S.A.N.T.A. clause!” shouted Elves, Reindeer, and Candy Stripers Local 1224 President Cindy Lou Who to whoops and cheers as North Pole workers celebrated their new contract, ending a two-month strike.

The Seasonal Advancement Noel Training Allowance, a new education fund so members can get on-the-job training for higher-paying positions, is one of several breakthrough wins in the deal, ratified in a 94 percent vote.

“You bet I voted yes,” said Vixen, a 25-year reindeer. “I’ve put in enough years on the road. I’m planning to retrain as a toy train mechanic.”

Who and the rest of the True North slate, longtime reformers in the Elves, won leadership this year in the union’s first one-member-one-vote election.

Setting the tone for a different kind of contract campaign, the new leaders opted not to open bargaining in the traditional way—by sitting on Santa’s lap and presenting him their wishlist. (“Ew,” said Who.)

Instead they led a boisterous march through the North Pole village, ending in the front yard of the Claus mansion. They stood under Santa’s window and sang, “You better watch out, you better not cry, better not pout, I’m telling you why: union elves are coming to town!” until polar police ordered them to disperse.


When negotiations broke down, Christmas workers launched a cascading strike that first idled Lollypop Lane, then Gingerbread House, then the whole Tree Trimming complex. Meanwhile workers in the nonstruck facilities turned up the cold by working to rule—for instance, Quality Control tested each individual nutcracker with every kind of nut, slowing output to a trickle.

When the strike threatened to halt production at the crucial Sleigh Engine Plant, Santa cried uncle.



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The strikers won a heater in every delivery sleigh and eliminated reindeer two-tier. The red-nose premium will increase 75 cents. All production workers will get an additional cocoa break, and mandatory overtime will be limited to the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Elves also brought climate demands to the negotiating table for the first time and won a partial victory: the roasting of chestnuts on an open fire will be phased out by 2026. However, Santa refused to entertain their more costly demands to convert the factory complex to renewable heat and power, insisting these are not mandatory subjects of bargaining.

Bargaining team member Tiny Tim Cratchit said the union is already building momentum to fight harder for the climate demands next year. “These issues aren’t going away—but these ice caps are,” said Cratchit, holding his newborn son Tinier Tim. “I want to make sure there are still Christmas jobs for my kids someday.”


Polar Bears Local 1774 lined up its contract with the Elves and struck alongside them. The bears finally won a longstanding demand: maternity hibernation leave will increase to four months.

“I gotta give a lotta crrrrrrrredit to Labor Notes,” growled chief steward Rufus Bear. “Cindy and I first met at the conferrrrrence about 20 years ago and we’ve been organizing together ever since. Secrets of a Successful Organizerrrrrrr was a big help, and I don’t know if we could have pulled it off without the support of everyone on the holiday sector workers network Zoom call. That’s why I’m becoming a monthly pledgerrrrrr to Labor Notes this year, and you should too.”

Fresh off their winning strike, the Elves have set their sights on unionizing the whole holiday sector. The Easter Bunny handed out an extra chocolate bonus meant to stifle a fledgling union drive. And employees of the Tooth Fairy went public with their campaign this week; their max pay has been stuck at 25 cents a tooth for decades.

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Alexandra Bradbury is the editor of Labor