New Models of Worker Representation

Source: Robert Bruno, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
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….Yet despite repeated predictions of labor’s ultimate demise, unions have proven to be remarkably durable institutions. Fight remains. The cause is no less right. But how does labor respond to falling rates of unionization, the passage of right to work laws, the election of antilabor political officials, and the inactivity of too many rank-and-file members this time? Additionally, maybe unionization, in its conventional and legally crafted form, needs to make room for and support other worker organizations and advocacy approaches. Are the remarkable benefits of collective bargaining only possible within the confines of labor law? And is a labor agreement the only virtuous product of worker organizing? In this special issue of LSJ, we present four case studies of alternative approaches to representing the collective interests of workers. Two of them involve unions, while the others engage other means. The articles are drawn from a series of papers on the theme “New Models of Worker Representation,” presented at the 2014 United Association for Labor Education Conference. ….

Articles include:
Worker Engagement in the Health and Safety Regulatory Arena under Changing Models of Worker Representation
Source: Linda Delp and Kevin Riley, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
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From the abstract:
This paper examines the efforts of a labor-community-university partnership in Southern California to confront violations of workplace health and safety standards by employers of nonunion workers in low-wage jobs. A worker engagement model has opened avenues for workers and worker advocates to participate in the regulatory arena absent union representation. This approach has achieved notable successes to date, including groundbreaking Cal/OSHA citations and nascent collaboration with agency officials to target enforcement of health and safety standards. We argue this model constitutes the foundation needed to support a potentially viable form of tripartism that allows nonunion workers a voice, albeit limited, in the health and safety regulatory process.

A Novel Way to Represent and Reframe the Interests of Workers: The People’s Budget Review in St. Petersburg, Florida
Source: Bruce Nissen and Rick Smith, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, March 2015
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From the abstract:
This article relates the three-year history of the People’s Budget Review, a highly unusual coalition of progressive forces in St. Petersburg, Florida, spearheaded by the Florida Public Services Union (FPSU). The People’s Budget Review has completely reoriented the public terms of discussion around city budgetary and social priorities and has won impressive victories. The issues faced by the FPSU as it transitioned from a more “normal” union to one focused centrally on “public goods” rather than simply collective bargaining gains for its own members are examined. The authors draw out the lessons that might be drawn for other unions out of this effort.