Category Archives: AFSCME

Reform, new labor issues likely to keep unions busy in 2014

Source: Joe Carlson, Modern Healthcare, January 15, 2014
(subscription required)

Labor unions didn’t break any records for organizing activity in healthcare in 2013, but opponents and supporters of organized labor think conditions are ripe for a major surge in the coming year. Factors driving that surge include the National Labor Relations Board likely approving new rules expediting union elections, and healthcare workers are feeling greater anxiety over wages and job security due to partly market and policy pressures to reduce healthcare costs. …

The latest data on union activity in healthcare show that for the first 11 months of 2013, there were 185 votes on whether to certify a union of hospital workers, and unions won 68% of those votes, according to NLRB data. That compares with 238 votes in 2012, 72% of which went for the union.

The number of elections and the win rate for unions were slightly below their respective averages for the past decade. But Jim Trivisonno, president of labor-management advisory firm IRI Consultants, said the dip suggests union activity will increase. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said Trivisonno, whose firm analyzes labor trends for the American Hospital Association. “The Affordable Care Act means people will have to look at costs, and that sometimes leads to change and less job security. And that leads to more organizing activity.”

IRI’s most recent report on healthcare labor activity found that the SEIU filed 42% of all the healthcare organizing petitions during the first six months of 2013, followed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which filed 17% of the petitions. The rest were divided among a few unions, including the National Nurses United, which filed 2%. …

Labor Unions, Decomposition, and Social Transformation

Source: WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Volume 16, Issue 1, March 2013
(subscription required)

From the summary notes:
The essays for March 2013 are devoted to an analytic assessment of labor unions, the decomposition of the working class’ social compact with capital and the state. Perspectives from the vantage point of historians and social scientists identify the nature of the current historic moment, the potential for engaging in working class praxis for the twenty-first century that moves beyond the defeats of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, often viewed as compromises with capital.

Essays include:
The Marxist View of the Labor Unions: Complex and Critical by Dan La Botz
Freedom Budget: The Promise of the Civil Rights Movement for Economic Justice by Paul Le Blanc
Bread and Roses: Women Workers and the Struggle for Dignity and Respect by Robert J. S. Ross
Universally Designing the Public Sector Workplace: Technology as Disability Access by Carrie Griffin Basas [Editor’s note – includes a study of AFSCME collective bargaining agreements]
Temporary Work Revolution: The Shift from Jobs that Solve Poverty to Jobs that Make Poverty by David Van Arsdale
Have We Built the Committee? Advancing Leadership Development in the U.S. Labor Market by Seth Newton Patel
The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism, by Colin Crouch : Good Jobs, Bad Jobs. The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States, 1970s to 2000s, by Arne L. Kalleberg by Ralf Jeremias

Harvard Library Workers Resist Top-Down Restructuring and Austerity

Source: James Cersonsky, Labor Notes, February 12, 2013

With an endowment of $32 billion, Harvard is the wealthiest university in the world. Upon rebounding from the recession, the university is remodeling all its dorms, expanding its online course program, and constructing a new science center. Its library workers, meanwhile, have gotten the short end of the stick.

Workers beat back threatened mass layoffs last spring, but are now enduring the consolidation of their work in a new “shared services” model that translates into bigger workloads and fragmented work relationships. Now, along with the rest of Harvard’s clerical and technical employees, library workers are mobilizing for a fair—and long-overdue—contract….

Book Review: AFSCME’s Philadelphia story: municipal workers and urban power in the twentieth century

Book by: Francis Ryan, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, ISBN 143990278X, 2011
Review by: Joseph Hower, Labor History, Vol. 53 no. 4, November 2012
(subscription required)

From the revelation in January 2010 that government employees constituted a majority of all union members in the United States to the political campaigns to curtail union rights in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states, few issues have commanded as much attention in the past two years as public sector union power. Francis Ryan’s AFSCME’s Philadelphia Story thus comes at a key time. A revised doctoral dissertation, the book is part of a welcome recent surge in interest in public sector labor history. But it is much more than a local study of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). As the subtitle implies, the book is also self-consciously a work of urban history. The evolving relationship between the union and the city is Ryan’s central analytical thread….

A Hopeful Outlook on Privacy Rights for Public Sector Employees

Source: Alan M. Klinger, Stroock Reports – Public Employee Law, Summer 2012
(registration required)(scroll down)

The mantra is often repeated that public employees have a greatly diminished privacy interest while on the job. Recent events brought renewed focus on the scope of such rights, possibly evidencing (even in the face of an adverse decision) a shift in how these rights will be viewed going forward. First, this article discusses the controversy sparked by the publication of Teacher Data Reports (“TDRs”) by the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York (“BOE”), and the recent willingness of state representatives and courts to consider the privacy interest of public employees in policy decisions. It will also address American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (” AFSCME”) Council 79 v. Scott, a recent Florida case where a federal judge struck down – as a Fourth Amendment violation – a program that would have required many state employees to undergo random drug testing.

Collective Bargaining is a Human Right: Union Review for 2011

Source: Kathleen De La Peña Mccook, Progressive Librarian, Issue 38/39, Spring/Summer 2012
(subscription required)

This article provides an overview of major events, and related articles and books that have been written about libraries and unions over the past year. The information is provided in a month by month format.

…Librarians in public sector unions were among those targeted in Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio, and Florida in 2011 by Republican governors and legislatures. Workers in education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate in the United States at 36.8 percent (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2012). The most recent mean annual wage reported in the U.S. Occupational Employment Statistics data is $55,300 (U.S. Dept. of Labor, 2011). In 2011 a variety of laws were introduced in several states to limit the strength of unions.

The necessity of collective bargaining is underscored by this anti-union legislation. Collective bargaining is recognized internationally in numerous conventions, constitutions, and courts as a human right (Boccardy, 2011). In Wisconsin Uprising: Labor Fights Back (Yates, 2012) labor journalists examine the causes and impact of events as workers in Wisconsin shook the nation with their colossal display of solidarity and outrage in 2011 (Monthly Review Press). Kimberly Freeman Brown, Executive Director, American Rights at Work, noted best moments for workers in 2011 were: the 99 percent fights back; Ohio voters repeal SB 5; and NLRB rules help protect workers’ rights (Brown)

Writing about librarians and labor that appeared during 2011 included multiple articles on the Wisconsin protests….

Other library and union related publications in 2011 include:…

Giving Voice to New Jersey's Caregivers: The Union Experiences of Home-Based Child Care Providers

Source: Linda Houser, Elizabeth Nisbet, Karen White, Center for Women and Work Rutgers, May 2012

From the press release:
Home-based child care providers spend their days caring for some of New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens: its children. But these caregivers – who are disproportionately women, work long hours, may have hourly pay below minimum wage, and lack health insurance and other benefits – are also a vulnerable group of New Jerseyans.

A new study released by the Center for Women and Work (CWW) at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University describes how home-based workers have fared three years after unionization and only four years after they gained the right to organize….

The study’s key findings include:
– High levels of economic vulnerability intersect with high levels of work effort. More than half of all respondents reported household incomes of less than $25,000 annually, yet, on average, they provide nearly 39 hours a week of care.
– A third of home-based child care providers have no health insurance, and most of the insured depend on public insurance. Past research suggests that, in addition to limited access to health care, they have limited options to miss work for illness.
– In contrast to their levels of formal education, respondents are a highly experienced and well-trained group, with an average of 12.5 years providing child care, and with 91% reporting at least one training in the past 12 months and 42% reporting at least one certificate, permit, or credential.
– The majority of workers believed access to information about regulations, benefits and services, and the ability to address problems, had improved since unionization. Prior to unionization many providers were unaware of the amount of reimbursement for care to which they were legally entitled.
– The survey also uncovered a high level of interest in training, particularly training on children’s special needs or toward an associate degree in child development, and the view that the union was helping improve access to training.

Feminist Collective Bargaining Meets the Civil Service

Source: Fred Glass, CPER Journal, No. 205, March 2012
(subscription required)

AFSCME may have fallen behind at the outset of public worker organizing in California, but by the mid-1960s it was toiling hard to make up for lost time, organizing in schools, city and county employment, and in the University of California system.

In San Jose, the city’s civil service workers association, the Municipal Employees Federation, affiliated with AFSCME in 1972, forming AFSCME Local 101. It was here, in the city that Mayor Janet Gray Hayes never tired of describing as “the feminist capital of the world,” that the old civil service personnel administration methods of adjusting salaries and job descriptions ran into a three-way pileup with collective bargaining and the impact of feminism on workplace organizing.

Steering the women workers through the collision and out to the other side was a determined and visionary organizer, Maxine Jenkins. Her vehicle, or weapon: comparable worth, which was based on the revolutionary idea that male and female workers should be paid equally for work requiring comparable skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions.

New Rules for Wisconsin Unions: No Rules

Source: Theresa Moran, Labor Notes, February 10, 2012

Wisconsin public workers face harsher work rules and shrinking paychecks as contracts expire and additional provisions of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill set in. State unions are being forced to shift from a decades-old servicing model to an organizing model in a fight for their survival.
In Wisconsin, assessing a new labor law’s impact
Source: Daniel C. Vock,, February 13, 2012

Wisconsin and Beyond

Source: Kim Moody, In Critical Solidarity, Vol. 10 no. 3, May 2011

Like the beginnings of upsurge in earlier times, the rebellion that began with Wisconsin’s public workers — against one of the most far-reaching attacks on worker rights in some time — came as a result of anger building after years of pressure on public employees all across the nation.

Among the many lessons of the Wisconsin events is that politicians develop backbone to the degree their base is in the streets and “out of control.” Should the Democrats take back various statehouses, perhaps even Congress, and the mass movement subsides, they will fall back into their pattern of compromise and retreat. Post- Wisconsin politics need to be a politics of mobilization and direct action if the debate on worker rights is to replace that of austerity and increasing impoverishment.

For the past two years, the right and their Tea Party shock troops dominated political discourse in the style of a semi-mass movement, sometimes attracting the angry and frustrated with their sharp rhetoric. This year in Wisconsin and across the Midwest, the Tea Party efforts to support these Republican governors were pathetic and that movement was reduced to its true proportion as a middle class minority. This year, the working class majority spoke in the loudest voice and clearest terms it has for decades, and attracted broad support in the process.