Category Archives: Future of Unions

A Modern Union for the Modern Economy

Source: Jeffrey M. Hirsch, Joseph Seiner, University of North Carolina School of Law, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2924833, Last revised: 19 Mar 2017

From the abstract:
Membership in traditional unions has steeply declined over the past two decades. As the White House and Congress are now completely Republican controlled, there promises to be no reversal of this trend in the near future. In the face of this rejection of traditional bargaining efforts, several attempts have been made to create alternative “quasi-union” or “alt-labor” relationships between workers and employers. These arrangements represent a creative approach by workers to have their voices heard in a collective manner, though still falling far short of the traditional protections afforded by employment and labor law statutes.

This Article critiques one such high-profile, quasi-union effort in the technology sector—the Uber Guild. While the Guild does not provide any of the traditional bargaining protections found in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it offers Uber drivers some input over the terms and conditions under which they work. Falling somewhere between employment-at-will and unionization protected under the NLRA, the Uber Guild is a creative attempt to help both workers and the company to better understand how they can improve the working relationship.

This Article navigates the Uber Guild and other nontraditional efforts that promise a collective voice for workers in the face of a precipitous decline in union membership. Closely examining the implications of these existing quasi-union relationships, this Article explores how workers in the technology sector face unique challenges under workplace laws. We argue that these workers are particularly well situated to benefit from a nontraditional union model and explain what that model should look like. While there can be no doubt that a traditional union protected by the NLRA is the optimal bargaining arrangement, we must consider the enormous challenges workers in the technology sector face in obtaining these protections. A modern union is needed for the modern economy.

Divisions Of Labor

Source: Barbara Erenreich, New York Times Magazine, February 23, 2017

New kinds of work require new ideas — and new ways of organizing. …. The old jobs aren’t coming back, but there is another way to address the crisis brought about by deindustrialization: Pay all workers better. The big labor innovation of the 21st century has been campaigns seeking to raise local or state minimum wages. Activists have succeeded in passing living-wage laws in more than a hundred counties and municipalities since 1994 by appealing to a simple sense of justice: Why should someone work full time, year-round, and not make enough to pay for rent and other basics? Surveys found large majorities favoring an increase in the minimum wage; college students, church members and unions rallied to local campaigns. Unions started taking on formerly neglected constituencies like janitors, home health aides and day laborers. And where the unions have faltered, entirely new kinds of organizations sprang up: associations sometimes backed by unions and sometimes by philanthropic foundations — Our Walmart, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. ….

Republicans Are Set to Destroy Iowa’s Labor Unions

Source: Emmett Rensin and Lucy Schiller, New Republic, February 7, 2017

With the GOP now in full control of the state, 40 years of carefully negotiated agreements are about to be erased. ….

….In 1974, a few years after a public teachers’ strike in which schoolteachers spent 19 hours in jail cells, then–Republican Governor Robert Ray signed the Iowa Public Employment Relations Act into the Iowa Code. The legislation was hyped as a thoughtful balance between employers’ and public unions’ interests. Chapter 20, as the deal came to be called, presented Iowa’s public workers with a trade-off: They lost the right to strike, but won the legal recognition of their unions and their right to collective bargaining. The law outlined mandatory bargaining issues, topics on which employers were required to negotiate, including wages, insurance, overtime, vacation, health and safety. While not entirely satisfying to either party, Chapter 20 has essentially worked: No public sector workers have struck since 1974, and each year, 98 percent of public contracts move forward without binding arbitration.

But now, with the GOP fully in control of the state, a cadre of Republicans have moved to gut Chapter 20, beginning with a bill introduced Tuesday morning that moves both health insurance and supplemental pay from the mandatory to prohibited column. If passed, the bill would bar Iowa public unions from raising these topics in negotiation, thereby allowing public employers to unilaterally impose whatever terms they like. ….
Related:
Iowa Republicans propose sweeping changes to collective bargaining laws, public unions
Source: Brianne Pfannenstiel and William Petroski, Des Moines Register, February 7, 2017

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday proposed sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws that govern the way 184,000 of the state’s teachers, corrections officers and other public sector union workers negotiate for wages, health care and other employment benefits.

Representatives from labor unions across the state filled the Capitol to protest the changes, chanting and holding signs while urging their elected officials to back down from a piece of legislation that faces all but inevitable passage. ….

….. Since gaining control of the House, Senate and governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years, Iowa Republicans have called collective bargaining reform one of their top priorities. Both the House and Senate plan to hold subcommittees on the legislation Wednesday, setting it on a course to receive final approval from the governor as early as next week. Gov. Terry Branstad even called an unscheduled afternoon press conference with Lt. Gov Kim Reynolds and Republican legislative leaders to express his support for the bill. ….

…. The bills — House Study Bill 84 and Senate File 213 — also would require unions to go through a certification process ahead of each new contract negotiation. That would require a majority of their members to agree to be represented by union negotiators …..

Solidarity Outlasts ‘Right to Work’ in Indiana Shipyard

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, February 2, 2017

Plenty of union officers are justifiably worried about how many members will quit their unions if Congress or the Supreme Court imposes “right to work” conditions on the whole country.

But when right to work hit Indiana in 2012, it didn’t have much impact at the Jeffboat shipyard in Jeffersonville. “I believe we only have one person that’s dropped out,” said Teamsters Local 89 Business Agent Jeff Cooper. That’s one out of 700.

The Jeffboat story might reassure you—because their secrets to maintaining membership aren’t expensive or complicated. The union has a deep bench of stewards who seek out and address workplace problems. Because members strike when necessary, they’ve won good wages and health insurance that make the value of the union contract self-evident. And they’re systematic about asking new hires to join.

Five Steps to Maintain Unity and Membership under Right to Work

Source: Leah Fried, Labor Notes, February 1, 2017

Number one on the new administration’s anti-union to-do list is “right to work”—or as many prefer to call it, “no rights at work” or “right to work for less.” But whatever you call it, more of us will be faced with new laws that codify freeloading, making it optional to pay for union representation.

Today Republicans in Congress are expected to introduce a bill to enact nationwide right to work in the private sector. And it’s nearly certain that a conservative-majority Supreme Court will make the entire public sector right to work within 18 months to two years.

How can unions operate under these hostile conditions? There are already 27 right-to-work states where we can look for lessons. Unions there take a big hit—but some manage to survive and even thrive, despite the extra challenges.

At the Electrical Workers (UE), where I organized for 19 years, we developed trainings to help members in right-to-work states maintain their unity and membership. Here’s what it takes:

1. FIGHT THE BOSS. ….
2. ASK PEOPLE TO JOIN. ….
3. MAKE MEMBERSHIP THE UNION’S BUSINESS, NOT THE BOSS’S. ….
4. TRACK UNION MEMBERSHIP. ….
5. INVOLVE MEMBERS IN BIGGER MOVEMENTS. ….

The Supreme Court Vacancy and Labor: Neil Gorsuch

Source: Hannah Belitz, OnLabor blog, January 31, 2017

This post is part of an ongoing series on the labor decisions and positions of some of the likely potential picks to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch currently serves as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He was appointed by President George W. Bush on May 10, 2006 and confirmed just over two months later. As SCOTUSblog and numerous other outlets have pointed out, Judge Gorsuch may be “the most natural successor” to Justice Scalia, “both in terms of his judicial style and his substantive approach.”

Last August, Judge Gorsuch “made real waves in the normally sleepy world of administrative law” by advocating the end of the doctrine of Chevron deference. See Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142, 1158 (10th Cir. 2016) (Gorsuch, J., concurring). Writing a separate concurrence to his own opinion, Judge Gorsuch opined, “We managed to live with the administrative state before Chevron. We could do it again. Put simply, it seems to me that in a world without Chevron very little would change – except perhaps the most important things.” Id.

The following provides an overview of Judge Gorsuch’s opinions in cases involving the NLRB and employment discrimination. ….

Viewpoint: What’s Coming for Unions under President Trump

Source: Penny Lewis, Labor Notes, January 19, 2017

With the election of Donald Trump as president and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, we are entering a period of existential crisis for unions and our organized power. The coming months and years are going to call for a spirit of maximum solidarity.

In this short piece I describe the likely form and substance of the attacks. Here I’m limiting my discussion to issues that most directly implicate unions, though there’s plenty more for workers to fear from the incoming administration—including increasing privatization and broad-brush deregulation, as well as efforts to pit workers against one another by fanning the flames of racism, sexism, and hostility toward immigrants. …