The Twenty-First Century Jungle: California Nurses Organize to Save Themselves

Source: Mariya Strauss, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 3, Fall 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
When one had to work a shift in a factory, a mine, or a steel mill in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, there was an ever-present sense of physical danger. Nowadays, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and MSHA standards exist to allow those agencies to enforce safety rules and protect such industrial workers from the most grievous physical harms.

But the service-oriented health care workplace, which now employs one out of every eight U.S. workers, has in some ways come to resemble the industrial shop floors of old. Health care workers say that they go to work every day not knowing if they will make it home to their families. The danger—still unregulated by OSHA in any state—is workplace violence. The threat can come from random people walking through the door; but increasingly, these workers also face violence from the patients they treat….

Indentured Studenthood: The Higher Education Act and the Burden of Student Debt

Source: Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 3, Fall 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Promising to do something about student debt has become the means for politicians to pretend they are doing something for the 99 percent. That was true even before the 2016 election campaign really got underway. Obama, after all, promised two free years of community college in his 2015 State of the Union address. That idea, like so many others from Republicans and Democrats, did not go anywhere, even though the most recent re-authorization of the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA) expired in 2013. However, inaction is not just a symptom of Washington gridlock. The reality is that paying for college is a confounding, sprawling sector of the economy involving loans, grants, scholarships, and tax credits. …

Fining McWalmart: Charging Employers for the Social Costs of Poverty Wages

Source: Erica Smiley, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 3, Fall 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
… The “low-wage employer fee” is actually any strategy that attempts to win back the resources workers lose when large, low-wage corporations transfer their costs to the public while continuing to increase their own profits…. Once such a fee is implemented, low-wage employers can either negotiate directly with workers over wages and conditions of the industry or they can pay the low-wage employer fee that workers will appropriately allocate to subsidize the community’s assumed costs of low-wage work. How they pay the fee, and how often, would be set based on the local context—either in a lump sum or in intervals throughout the year. The hope is that it ultimately expands workers’ ability to collectively define industry standards—either directly with employers or around them via smartly crafted state interventions. ….

Careful What You Wish For: A Critical Appraisal of Proposals to Rebuild the Labor Movement

Source: Lance Compa, New Labor Forum, Vol. 24 no. 3, Fall 2015
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From the abstract:
Alarmed at declining union density and frustrated with the National Labor Relations Act, many worker advocates want to ditch the NLRA, forsake traditional unions, and start the labor movement afresh. Ideas include making “Alt-labor” a new launching pad; replacing face-to-face union building with high-volume digital organizing; applying the Civil Rights Act to union activity; adopting “members-only” bargaining alongside majority rule and exclusive representation; letting unions make non-members pay for handling their grievances; and even conceding a national “right-to-work” law so unions will try harder to win workers’ support.

Social movements should always examine new strategies. But they should not let novelty overwhelm judgment. Many of these new ideas are clever in theory, but in practice would undermine unions and shift more power to employers and anti-union political forces.

Organizing Low-Wage Workers and Low-Income Communities–Digital Tools & Tactics

Source: Social Movement Technologies, 2014

From the summary:
The top 9 digital tools & tactics that unions and other organizing groups are using to combine online and offline organizing in low-income/low-wage communities. Online isn’t just a communications tool, it can also be a way to further your organizing campaigns.

Developing online worker centered strategies utilizing online tools is an opportunity to connect with low-wage workers and communities. However it’s important to ensure your strategy works in coordination with your offline organizing. A number of unions and community organizations have worked to develop thoughtful approaches using online tools.
This webinar recording provides:
– specifics on how to identify the online tools those you are organizing use so you can reach them
– text messaging strategies to reach workers and residents in low-income communities
– Facebook strategies that go beyond posting to your page or promoting your posts
– examples of online strategies that can reach similar goals as offline but with far fewer resources
– suggestions for how to ID workers and residents online

We will share specific experiences from ongoing campaigns such as Walmart and fast food. A document with all the notes and links from slides is also provided.
Top 14 digital tools
Source: Social Movement Technologies, 2013

Notes & links
Is your labor or community organizing campaign using today’s most powerful tools to win? Whether you are a complete digital novice, or advanced, make sure you aren’t missing out on key digital tools and tactics, hear what other organizers are doing to win, and learn how to do it with limited time and money. …. This is part of a series of digital organizing webinars—developed by organizers for organizers, especially focused on meeting the needs of unions and small social change groups, many without the resources to hire full-time digital organizing staff. The webinar covers a range of key tools and tactics, including for example, how to quickly identify your most social media-influential members and what to do with them, how to identify your targets’ soft social media spots and build your strategy around them, and exciting ways to use twitter and free and low-cost texting to expand visibility and pressure targets. Movement examples are used throughout.

Labor Needs New Ideas

Source: Rich Yeselson, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
(subscription required)

Labor needs ideas, so it should incubate them in theory and practice. It needs (notwithstanding arguments to the contrary) the support of sympathetic state actors, so it must leverage both local and the federal government to its advantage. It needs to pay much closer attention to its existing membership, and galvanize those members to defend themselves and to increase their ranks. And it needs a continuing presence within the one domestic sector of the globalized economy that can enable it to exert immense pressure on economic and political elites—transportation. Let us consider these suggestions in turn. ….

Collective Bargaining 3.0

Source: Erica Smiley, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
(subscription required)

The first lesson network leaders learn in the Jobs With Justice training is never give your power away. While easier said in a workshop than in the North Carolina General Assembly, it does compel us to remember how change happens. While we need labor law reform, we should not wait for it to build a movement to expand the scale and scope of collective bargaining. Early industrial unions were bargaining long before the Wagner Act codified the practice, leveraging their ability to halt production when necessary. Only through exercising their power, and even breaking some rules, were they able to win the legal protections to back up workers’ ability to bargain equally with employers. ….

… In a recent article for the American Prospect, Lane Windham of Penn State University adds, “in depending on unions to do the negotiating for a social wage, the U.S. had inadvertently given employers in the U.S. a higher incentive than employers in other nations to fight union organizing.”

And fight they have! The corporate class attacked the very power that makes workers equal at the bargaining table—regardless of whether they are attacking a union or a worker center. The Taft-Hartley Act was the first well-known blow, prohibiting jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, and more. States could pass right-to-work laws, gutting union membership first in the South, and later throughout the country. Riding this legacy, Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers would have us believe collective bargaining is in its final death throes.

In its current form, it may be…..

What Should Unions Do Now?

Source: Craig Becker, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
(subscription required)

….The labor movement should seize the opportunity of the present moment to persuade people of good faith that raising the minimum wage is not enough, vibrant organizations of working people, that is, unions, are critical to the economy and to a democratic polity. Making the case that unions are a vital part of fixing what is troubling working people requires both unity and focus. The solution is not strengthening any single union but revitalizing the movement as a whole. Yet, the organized labor movement has been fractured at the national level since 2005 when six unions representing over a third of the AFL-CIO left the federation…. When effective local labor movements build out from key cities and meet a unified national movement, it may be possible not only to convince people that vibrant unions are part of the solution to what troubles working America, but to actually make good on that promise. …

Overlapping Local Government Debt and the Fiscal Common

Source: Robert A. Greer, Public Finance Review, Vol. 43 no. 6, November 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In a complex federalist system, the interactions across levels of government have important fiscal implications. Municipal debt has become increasingly important as local governments turn to tax-backed bonds as a significant source of funds. In a system of local governments that have overlapping borders, fiscal interactions become a factor in issuing debt. In this system, debt acts as a fiscal common resource similar to traditional common-pool resources. Specifically, vertical externalities are created with multiple levels of governments issuing bonds backed by the same tax base. Empirical results show that on average an increase in the total amount of debt issued by subcounty governments increases the true interest cost paid by county governments on tax-backed debt. Furthermore, increasing the number of overlapping governments also increases the interest costs for county debt. These findings show support for analyzing debt capacity as a fiscal common resource and have implications for debt management strategies.

Blueprint to Empower Workers for Shared Prosperity

Source: Richard Kirsch, Dorian Warren, and Andy Shen, Roosevelt Institute, October 7, 2015

The Future of Work (FoW) Initiative, a project of the Roosevelt Institute, has been working since 2013 to strengthen the right to organize and collectively bargain, uplift and uphold labor standards, and end racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination in the workplace.

The Blueprint to Empower Workers for Shared Prosperity is the culmination of a two-year process that brought together labor unions, academics, leading thinkers from worker organizing centers, community and policy groups, and attorneys to identify major areas in which to explore new policies. Based on these discussions, the Future of Work leadership team commissioned a set of papers to develop significant policy proposals. This Blueprint synthesizes those papers and a small number of related papers. The result is a set of bold proposals that, taken together, would transform the American workplace, making it more inclusive, dignified, and just.

We believe that in order to challenge inequality and achieve economic justice, we must rebuild the fundamental norms of the workplace. We need to fight inequality at its source, from low wages to lack of bargaining power to systemic labor market exclusion. Doing so will improve economic performance, as workers’ increased incomes drive spending and raise the standard of living. We will build a fair and high-performing economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

Building on this core principle, the Blueprint explores five policy strategies to empower workers and advance shared prosperity: (1) maximizing worker power and voice in the new economy; (2) ensuring local residents receive a fair share of the wealth generated by publicly funded projects; (3) holding all employers accountable for violations of labor and civil rights; (4) promoting worker-centered business models and socially responsible business practices; and (5) valuing care by valuing care workers.