Category Archives: Future of Unions

Commentary: Reflections On New Alliance Across The Country

Source: Bruce Colburn, Scott Reynolds, David Reynolds, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

New York was the first state to embark on the New Alliance process, originally approved by the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO) Convention in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2005. Since New York acted, New Alliance processes have been initiated in nine other states—Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Ohio was the most recent state to act. In April 2006, some 600 delegates approved a reorganization plan that consolidated the state’s thirty-six central labor councils into twenty-two councils working under five area labor federations, each with full-time staff….

…New Alliance seeks to take state and regional labor structures built for a prior era and reorganize them to stimulate growth in the labor movement. It essentially asks labor leaders to consider what their state and local labor movements would look like ideally if they had the luxury of starting from scratch today. By struggling over this question and connecting the answers to where the labor movement now is, New Alliance hoped to produce a vision for state and local labor movements and a concrete program to build toward this direction.

A New Alliance In New York State: A Progress Report On The Labor Movement’s Restructuring, Capacity Building, And Programmatic Work

Source: Jeff Grabelsky, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10 no. 1, March 2007

(subscription required)

The labor movement in New York State (NYS) has undergone a dramatic restructuring that is part of a national American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations program called the New Alliance. The purpose of the New Alliance is to build the capacity of local labor movements and to empower unions to help shape a region’s political and economic agenda. The restructuring in NYS led to the consolidation of twenty-five central labor councils into five area labor federations, each of which is developing the resources, staff, and leadership to help grow labor’s regional power across the state. This article describes the origins of the New Alliance, the nature of the restructuring process, the ways in which the capacity of local labor movements are expanding, the programmatic work the restructured central bodies have undertaken in the last five years, and the impact of the national split on local and regional central bodies across NYS.

Remembering Norma Rae: Why is the Working Class Invisible in Movies Coming Out of Hollywood Today?

Source: Robert Nathan and Jo-Ann Mort, The Nation, Vol. 284 no. 10, March 12, 2007
(subscription required)

“Unionized” isn’t a word you hear in many American movies. “A decent wage,” now there’s a phrase that doesn’t crop up too often. As for the evocative “your lives and your substance,” poetic descriptions of the human condition aren’t generally found in contemporary entertainment.

Globalization and Declining Unionization in the United States

Source: Matthew J. Slaughter, Industrial Relations, Vol. 46 no. 2, April 2007
(subscription required)

For decades, the private-sector unionization rate in the United States has been falling. At the same time, the integration of the United States into the world economy has been rising. Many anecdotes suggest the latter has played a role in that decline, with unions feeling pressured to reduce employment and/or compensation demands in the face of rising cross-border activity of employers. To investigate this possibility econometrically, in this paper I assembled a panel of U.S. manufacturing industries that matches union-coverage rates with measures of global engagement such as exports, imports, tariffs, transportation costs, and foreign direct investment. The main finding is a statistically and economically significant correlation between falling union coverage and greater numbers of inward FDI transactions. Possible interpretations of this finding are then discussed. Because U.S. affiliates of foreign multinationals have higher unionization rates than U.S.-based firms do, this correlation does not reflect just a compositional shift toward these affiliates. Instead, it may reflect pressure of international capital mobility on U.S.-based companies, consistent with research on how rising capital mobility raises labor-demand elasticities and alters bargaining power.

Labor Organizing Among Mexican-born Workers in the United States: Recent Trends and Future Prospects

Source: Ruth Milkman, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

This article surveys unionization patterns and other workplace-oriented organizing among Mexican-born workers since the mid-1990s. Although the number of Mexican-born union members grew during that decade, the unionized proportion declined, especially among noncitizens. The decline reflects the large proportion of new immigrants in the Mexican-born population and the increased geographic dispersion of immigration in recent years away from highly unionized states such as Illinois and California. Another factor is that recent Mexican immigrants are underrepresented in the most unionized sectors (such as government employment). However, unions, especially in California, have effectively mobilized Mexican immigrants into electoral politics in the 1990s, and new community-based organizations with a focus on economic justice have also recruited low-wage Mexican immigrant workers in occupations such as day labor and domestic service, in which conventional unionism is rare.

Steel Magnolias: Labor Allies With the Environmental Movement

Source: David Foster, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

The Donora disaster was the root cause of the USW’s subsequent embrace of environmental issues that led eventually to the founding on June 7, 2006 of a new Strategic Alliance between North America’s largest private sector manufacturing union, and the Sierra Club, the country’s oldest and largest grass-roots environmental organization. While the decision to align the USW and the Sierra Club originated in their shared history of supporting environmental protections like the Clean Air Act, the new Alliance was sparked by the accelerating pace of globalization and the seismic social shifts accompanying it. Both organizations realized that for the first time in human history any meaningful improvement in the economic well-being of the world’s population was dependent on the sustainable management of our planted and its resources.

The 2006 Immigrant Uprising: Origins and Future

Source: Victor Narro, Kent Wong, and Janna Shadduck-Hernández, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

For three months between March 10 and May 1, 2006, five million mostly Latino Immigrants and their supporters demonstrated in over one hundred cities throughout the United States. The marches and rallies demanded full rights for immigrants, and opposed the anti-immigrant legislation pending in Congress. Immigrant families – women and men, grandparents and grandchildren – came out of the shadows of society to demand justice and equality.

Global Unions: A Solution the Labor’s Worldwide Decline

Source: Stephen Lerner, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

At no time in history has there been a greater urgency or opportunity to form real global unions whose goal is to organize tens of millions of workers to win economic and social justice by counterbalancing global corporations on the world stage even as the power of the state declines.

The Changing Face of Public Employee Unionism

Source: Norma M. Riccucci, Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

This article provides a brief picture of the various unions that currently represent state and local government employees in the United States, including teachers and professors. It reviews the factors that have contributed to union decline in the private sector, and those factors explaining union growth in the public sector. Its purpose is purely descriptive, seeking to illustrate the ability of unions to seize opportunities to organize public employees, thereby increasing their “strength in numbers.”

A New Look at Long-Term Labor Force Projections to 2050

Source: Mitra Toossi, Monthly Labor Review, Vol. 129 no. 11, November 2006

Among the factors affecting the size, composition, and growth of the labor force over the next 50 years are the aging of the baby-boom generation, the stabilization of women’s labor force participation rates, and increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the workforce. The 2005-50 period is projected to witness the massive exit of the baby-boom generation out of the labor force, bringing to an end one of the major drivers of labor force growth over the post-World War II period.