Category Archives: Future of Unions

Labor’s New Regional Strategy: The Rebirth of Central Labor Councils

Source: Amy Dean and David B. Reynolds, New Labor Forum, Vol. 17 no. 1, Spring 2008

The 2005 AFL-CIO/Change to Win debate was notable not simply for what was discussed, but also what was not. It focused on how to build one crucial element of worker power: workplace organizing and the collective bargaining strength that comes with it. Absent, however, was discussion of a second necessary dimention: regional power built in the community. Yet, historically in the United States, and around the world, geographic power has been necessary to increase workplace power.

Neutrality Agreements: Innovative, Controversial, and Labor’s Hope for the Future

Source: Richard W. Hurd, New Labor Forum, Vol. 17 no. 1, Spring 2008

Over the past ten years there has been a notable shift in union organizing strategies. Once the exception, organizing conducted under the umbrella of negotiated neutrality agreements has become the preferred method in the drive to reverse decline and build union density.

The Union Authorization Card Majority Debate

Source: Henry H. Drummonds, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 58 no. 4, Winter, 2007

This article sketches developments in the card majority debate and several related issues reflected in developing case law concerning the use of “salts,” “neutrality” agreements, and accretion clauses in union attempts to expand representation rights. It also briefly mentions other significant recent decisions that make it more difficult for unions to win, and keep, representation rights. … A major public policy issue faces the Congress, state legislatures, and federal and state labor boards. How is the ideal of employee free choice best actualized? The law is changing. From the union side one sees legislative attempts to win card majority recognition/certification rights and to avoid elections in which employers are free to campaign against unionization at all costs. And from the perspective of the NLRB’s General Counsel and the NLRB’s current majority, concerns for employee free choice create persistent questioning of long-assumed principles of card check recognition. For the private sector unions, especially, this issue may decide their ultimate fate as the percentage of represented employees shrinks toward the vanishing point.

Union Membership Rises, but Quality of Jobs Has Changed

Source: Jeremy Smerd, Workforce Management, February 7, 2008

The proportion of union workers is up for the first time in decades, but jobs are more likely to be low-wage.

Union membership as a part of the overall workforce in the United States grew last year for the first time in a quarter-century, according to analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The news, published January 25, came a day after the Ford Motor Co. announced it would further reduce the number of hourly workers by 11,000 on top of the 44,000 jobs the auto-maker has shed since 2006.

It represents part of the seismic shift in the makeup of America’s unionized workforce. Today, a union worker is more likely to be a low-skilled, low-paid service worker than a skilled, well-paid manufacturing employee.

“The future of the unions is the $8-an-hour home health care worker,” says David Gregory, professor of law at St. John’s University. The unions may have regained membership with lower-wage service workers, but they cannot regain the dues lost along with higher-paid jobs, Gregory says.

British Union Plans Merger With American Steelworkers

Source: Mark Milner, The Guardian, February 11 2008

· Super-union will square up to multinational firms
· Unite and USW merger will cover 3m members

Two of the largest British and American unions are hoping to announce an agreement this summer to create a transatlantic super-union capable of defending workers’ rights in the globalised marketplace.

Unite, which has about two million members, and the United Steelworkers union (USW), which represents about a million members in the US, Canada and the Caribbean, see the creation of an international union presence as the key to meeting the challenges posed by the onward march of globalisation.

Exclusive Representation and the Wagner Act: The Structure of Federal Collective Bargaining Law

Source: Raymond Hogler Labor Law Journal, Vol. 58 no. 3, Fall 2007

Conditions for collective bargaining in the United States are poor and deteriorating. A large body of labor law scholarship documents the weakness of legal protections and processes designed to promote unionism in this country. Professor Morris’s theory about minority union bargaining is offered as a means of strengthening unions in a hostile environment. This article argues that the strategy is a risky one because it invites a resurgence of company unions, which threatened to overwhelm the modern American labor movement at its inception in the 1930s. A better option would be for labor to attack the root source of its contemporary decline. The three pillars of collective bargaining as envisioned by Wagner are independent unions, exclusive representation, and organizational security. The malignancy of right to work laws has destroyed one of those pillars. Morris’s vision of going back to the future would eliminate the other two.

Union Busting Confidential: To keep out organized labor, you need the union-busting law firm Jackson Lewis

Source: Art Levine, In These Times, Vol. 31 no. 10, October 2007

“If you thought the union movement was in decline–Think Again!” So read an online ad for a recent seminar in Las Vegas that promised to help me remain union-free. Actually, I had thought the union movement was in decline, but I’m an open-minded sort, so I was willing to be persuaded otherwise. I paid my $1,595 and signed up. Organized by seminar-specialty firm Executive Enterprises, it would be led by attorneys from Jackson Lewis, one of the leading law firms in the field of union-busting, which has become a multibillion-dollar industry encompassing more than 2,500 lawyers and consultants offering their services. The classes would take place in the Las Vegas Westin Casuarina, which promises its guests “a sanctuary in the midst of bustling excitement” as well as craps, blackjack and three-card poker. I booked a room.

Organizing and Involving Young Workers: What Does It Take?

Source: Tiffany Ten Eyck, Labor Notes, no. 340, July 2007

Young people aren’t entering the labor movement in large numbers these days. In 2005, less than five percent of workers aged 16-24 were in unions, while workers 65 and older enjoyed the highest increase in unionization. At Labor Notes’ recent San Jose Troublemakers School, young workers and longtime union members got together to talk about how to overcome the obstacles preventing the labor movement from reaching young workers.