Category Archives: Future of Unions

As elder care grows, so do labor battles

Source: Michael Lawson, American university School of Communication, What Went Wrong blog, January 23, 2012

The pay is low, and injuries are common, but nursing care is a rare bright spot in the gloomy economic landscape, adding jobs at a steady clip. As the field has grown, so, too, have efforts to unionize.

Those unionization campaigns are being fought on a shifting battleground, from massive chains to private homes. With baby boomers moving into retirement and beyond, the tensions aren’t likely to abate any time soon.

Reflections on Wisconsin and Ohio

Source: Rosemary Feurer, LAWCHA: Labor and Working Class History Association Newsletter, Fall 2011
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We present here perspectives on the events in Wisconsin and Ohio. The first is by Wisconsin resident and retired history professor Paul Buhle, who together with Mari Jo Buhle, has just published an edited collection of accounts and reflections on the mobilization, It Started in Wisconsin. (Verso, 2012). It is followed by labor educator Michael Yates, with an excerpt from the introduction to his new edited anthology, Uprising: Labor Fights Back (Monthly Review, March 2012). In July, I interviewed two veterans of labor protest from the Midwest, Jerry Tucker and Ed Sadlowski, and excerpts of that interview are presented next. We end the section with an reflection by labor historian Caroline Merithew on the recent landmark win in Ohio against SB5.

AFGE’s Minority-Union Campaign And The Largest U.S. Organizing Victory In Decades: TSA Workers’ Journey For Rights And Union Representation

Source: Sharon Pinnock, WorkingUSA, Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2011
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From the abstract:
It has been over a decade since Juravich and Bronfenbrenner published their findings on public sector certification elections and employer opposition–in which they warned public sector unions to “prepare for the worst.” Since then, public sector unions have faced unprecedented attacks at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels. In 2001, responding to the tragic events of September 11, the Bush Administration created a new federal agency–the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)–with the intent of denying collective bargaining rights to the 44,000 workers it would soon employ. In March 2011, the Wisconsin State Senate successfully gutted the collective bargaining rights of the state’s workforce. Illinois, Idaho, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee have all mounted similar assaults on the rights of public sector workers. Unions seeking to combat this disturbing trend may find hope in the recent organizing victory waged by the American Federation of Government Employees on behalf of worker rights at TSA.

This article has three goals. First, it means to summarize the 9-year organizing campaign that culminated in June 2011 with the largest union victory in the history of the federal sector–and the largest for any U.S. union in 70 years. Second, it seeks to examine current thinking about the reasons workers in the U.S. join unions. Finally, it hopes to share a few of the lessons learned from a nontraditional organizing campaign about new ways to organize and win.

The NLRB: Past Its Prime

Source: David Harrison, CQ Weekly, Vol. 69 no. 41, October 31, 2011
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America’s labor law was born in the factory era, and Congress has left it there….The panel hasn’t changed with the workforce; it holds less and less sway, and could hold less still if it temporarily loses its quorum and thus its decision-making power.

Policy Forum: The Future of Public Sector Unions

Source: Perspectives on Work, Vol. 15 nos. 1-2, Summer 2011/Winter 2012
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Articles include:
– The Future of Public-Sector Unions: A System Struggling to Adjust to the Financial Crisis by Robert McKersie
– Fiscal Crisis and the Future of Public Unions by Barry Bluestone
– Not Just about Pensions by Dave Low
– Collective Bargaining: A Critical Value of a Democracy by Ernest DuBester

Politics Matter: Changes in Unionization Rates in Rich Countries, 1960-2010

Sources: John Schmitt and Alexandra Mitukiewicz, Center for Economic and Policy Research, November 2011

From the abstract:
Researchers have offered several explanations for the decline in unionization. Many emphasize that “globalization” and the technological advances embodied in the “new economy” have made unions obsolete. However, if the decline in unionization is the inevitable response to the twin forces of globalization and technology, then we would expect unionization rates to follow a similar path in countries subjected to roughly similar levels of globalization and technology.

This paper looks union membership and coverage for 21 rich economies, including the United States, and finds over the last five decades a wide range of trends in union membership and collective bargaining. The national political environment, not globalization or technology, is the most important factor driving long-run changes in unionization rates in the United States.

Will Today’s Excluded Workers Midwife Labor’s Rebirth?

Source: New Labor Forum, Vol. 20 no. 3, Fall 2011
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Worker Centers: Entering a New Stage of Growth and Development
By Janice Fine
Do worker centers represent the next stage of labor insurgency?

The Excluded Workers Congress: Reimagining the Right to Organize
By Harmony Goldberg and Randy Jackson
A report from the founding convention.

The State of the Unions 2011: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State and the United States

Source: Ruth Milkman, Laura Braslow, Joseph S. Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies and the Center for Urban Research, CUNY, September 2011

These are difficult times for organized labor in the United States. In addition to the challenges of an anemic economic recovery and persistently high unemployment, unions are confronting continuing attacks on public-sector collective bargaining rights and aggressive demands for concessions from both public- and private-sector employers. Against this background, the long-term decline of unionism has continued unabated. Although relative to the nation as a whole, organized labor remains strong in New York City and State, substantial erosion has occurred there in recent years, as Figure 1a shows. Nearly one-fourth (22.9 percent) of all wage and salary workers residing in New York City were union members in 2010-11, compared to 24.6 percent a year earlier. This proportion was slightly higher in New York State (24.1 percent), which ranks first in union density among the nation’s fifty states, and whose unionization rate is more than double the U.S. average of 11.9 percent. In absolute terms, New York State had more union members – over 1.9 million – than any state except California, which has a far larger population. In 2010-11, there were over 750,000 union members in the five boroughs of New York City, comprising about 40 percent of all union members in the State. At the national, state, and city levels alike, losses in union membership have been disproportionately concentrated in the private sector over the past decade, as Figure 1b shows. In the public sector, union density has been relatively stable (see Figure 1c), although government budget cuts and recent attacks on collective bargaining rights for public- sector workers may change that in the future.

Unions and Collective Bargaining: A Prickly Situation for Many Organizations

Source: Amanda Cuda, HR News, Vol. 77 no. 7, July 2011
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All over the country, many states are fighting battles over exactly how much negotiating power unions should have, and some wonder what the future of collective bargaining will look like.