Category Archives: Future of Unions

In the Age of Trump, Can Labor Unite?

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, In These Times, May 2017

Donald Trump performed far better among union voters than previous Republican candidates, but since taking office has enacted disastrous anti-worker policies. Now, some unions are organizing their members around an explicitly progressive analysis, hoping to unlock the power of workers to help lead the resistance.

We Need To Restore the Frayed Alliance Between Unions and Progressives

Source: Cynthia Phinney, Peter Kellman and Julius Getman, In These Times, March 30, 2017

Progressives are finally energized. Millions of young people became politically active through the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders and several million more joined the women-led solidarity marches of the inaugural weekend. Many of the recently activated are seeking to channel their enthusiasm into effective political resistance. These are heartening developments. But it is far too early to declare victory over those who seek to make America great by returning it to a less tolerant, less progressive past.

A dismayingly large share of the white working class, including union members that once supported liberal candidates and causes, remains supportive of President Donald Trump and his agenda. Only when liberals recognize the importance of labor, and when a progressive labor movement returns to its historic roots, will the battle against right-wing demagogues and zealots be won.

What we are calling for is an active alliance between progressives and organized labor. For progressives and intellectuals, organized labor has much to offer: a rich history, seasoned leaders and, most significantly, an immediate connection to workers. For organized labor, the potential of such an alliance is equally significant. It can renew the commitment to social and political change, reminding workers and their leaders that unions are far more than just vehicles for economic gain. ….

A reborn American labor movement is coming—if unions are bold enough to change

Source: Dan Schlademan, Quartz, April 6, 2017

Donald Trump’s presidency has elevated debate about the grim future of unions. While more policies and laws undermining workers seem inevitable, the movement’s death is not. United against the politics that have led to a rigged economy, workers and organizers from red and blue states are looking for a future in which their families are not constantly struggling, while those in power at corporations, banks, and in Washington help only themselves.

Working people in this country can not and should not underestimate their power. History, as well as emerging movements and organizations, show that working people are not facing a question of life or death. Rather, they are facing the opportunity for renewal. The US labor movement has reinvented itself repeatedly in the past. These rebirths have been crucial to the evolution of the movement’s power. We are now at another historical moment of rebirth. But it’s important to understand how we arrived here, so to best take advantage of the opportunity ahead…..

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.