Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

How Bad Could it Get (Legally)?

Source: Benjamin Sachs, OnLabor blog, May 26, 2017

It’s a good moment to think creatively and expansively about how to revitalize the U.S. labor movement. This important work is underway, with contributions from academics, labor lawyers, union organizers, and others. Substantive debates about the future of labor law and labor organizing now populate the pages of publications ranging from the Yale Law Journal to Boston Review. Much of this writing evidences an appropriate degree of optimism – the pieces assume a future in which, for example, progressive law reform might be possible, or in which workers can regain power through increased use of strikes even in the absence of law reform, or in which fundamental aspects of U.S. political economy (and political ideology) might be transformed. This kind of optimism is necessary to visionary thinking, and it’s badly needed today.

But, I thought it might also be worth writing from the opposite perspective and asking how bad it might really/plausibly get over the next handful of years. Most of us know much of this already, so you might wonder what the point of such a morose exercise would be. The idea is not to wallow. To the contrary, the idea is that putting in one place the major pieces of what could go wrong (legally) over the next few years could help as we continue to imagine and build a better future for the labor movement. As Van Jones put it recently, “hope for the best but expect and prepare for the worst.”

Some caveats. One, and most important, what follows are not predictions, and I do not mean to suggest that these things are likely. Instead, these are thoughts about the kinds of negative developments that seem within the realm of the possible (even though, with respect to every one, I think the better arguments are on the other side). Two, given the limits of my expertise, I focus exclusively on how bad labor law could get, leaving to others the question of how bad things could get on other fronts. Three, I may be wrong in two directions: omitting other possible problems and including things that aren’t plausible. For that reason, we invite follow-on posts that offer either kind of corrective. Four, and finally, it might be worth saying that this exercise goes against my own nature, which, for better or worse, skews optimistic (as I’ve been critiqued for being).

All that said, here’s what seems within the realm of the plausible: ….

The Entire Public Sector Is About to Be Put on Trial

Source: Naomi Walker, In These Times, Views, May 25, 2017

The Right’s assault on public-sector workers is an assault on the public sector itself.

Within the next year, the Supreme Court is likely to rule on the latest existential threat to workers and their unions: Janus v. AFSCME. Like last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA—a bullet dodged with Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death—the Janus case is a blatant attack on working people by right-wing, moneyed special interests who want to take away workers’ freedom to come together and negotiate for a better life.
For years, the Right has been hammering through state-level “right-to-work” laws in an effort to kill public sector unionism; it would see victory in the Janus case as the coup de grace. ….

Workers Need a Bill of Rights

Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor blog, May 24, 2017

Except for about a month in the summer of 2009 when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, for the entire twenty-first century any proposal to substantially increase workers’ rights at the national level has had to be prefaced by the comment that, “of course, this is not politically feasible now.” But rather than just spending the next four years fending off misguided Republican legislation, I think it’s time to step back and focus on principles that should guide workplace legislation. Toward that end, here are some thoughts on a potential workplace bill of rights.

There might be some other rights that should be included in this list, and maybe folks have ideas about better ways to phrase the various rights. But, I think it would be helpful for the labor movement, worker advocates, and the Democratic party to start talking about this bill of rights in order to refocus our discussion about jobs. The measure of a good job, whether it is in manufacturing or the service sector, should be whether it provides these rights to workers. In addition, we should be thinking about what changes we need to see in our laws to ensure that all workers enjoy these basic rights on the job. Some of these issues can be addressed at the state level, although of course, that would mean that these rights would exist in only a handful of states. Here’s my proposed worker bill of rights – let the debate begin…..

Republicans Will Turn the NLRB into a Force for Union Busting. We Can Turn It Back.

Source: Shaun Richman, In These Times blog, May 17, 2017

….On the potential chopping block are the board’s expedited election rules, the organizing rights of graduate employees and workers at charter schools, the rights of subcontracted employees to join their coworkers in a union, the ability of unions to organize smaller units within a larger enterprise and the culpability of a parent company for a subsidiary’s illegal behavior.

As inevitable as this right turn is for our nation’s workers’ rights board, so, too, should be our planned counterattack…..

Why Unions in the United States will Die: American Labor Organizations in the Age of Trump

Source: Raymond L. Hogler, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Volume 29 Issue 2, June 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This essay analyzes the effects of Donald Trump’s election as President on organized labor in the United States and, more specifically, on the demographic of workers responsible for his electoral college victory. The argument is that culture rather than economics explains Trump’s success in capturing key industrial states. His support depended on white middle-aged male voters without college degrees, the same cohort that makes up the backbone of unions in the United States. The likelihood is that Trump’s policies will further immiserate the American working class rather than reinvigorate it. In three key areas, Trump’s presidency will result in lower union membership density and higher inequality of wealth. The cultural orientation of Trump’s supporters outweighed politics, policy, and competence in selecting a national leader.

Attacks on collective bargaining: Hidden costs, untold consequences for Iowans

Source: Iowa Policy Project, February 2017

From the summary:
…Drastic changes to collective bargaining could be devastating for Iowans. Lawmakers and the public should be aware of serious pitfalls associated with sweeping changes to this long-standing law (Chapter 20 of the Iowa Code) which carry implications for every school district, city, county, and state agency in Iowa. Of primary concern to all Iowans, economic impacts and ripple effects are likely to exacerbate existing trends — low and stagnating wages, growing uncertainty about access to health care, and increasing income inequality — putting many Iowa households on a downward path. These effects are likely to disproportionately harm rural communities and low-income workers, and to threaten the quality of the health care, public safety and public education systems upon which all Iowans depend.

Public employees are a significant share of the Iowa workforce. Of the nearly 1.6 million nonfarm payroll jobs in Iowa, about 1 in 7 jobs — 238,500 — are in state and local government. These workers are important to the state economy, as taxpayers supporting local schools and state and local services, and as consumers supporting local businesses and other private sector jobs. About half of Iowa’s public-sector workers — over 119,000 employees — are in jobs covered by 1,203 different contracts negotiated under Iowa’s current collective bargaining law:
• 34,400 state employees
• 11,595 county employees
• 11,562 city employees
• 56,402 local school employees
• 2,948 area education agency employees
• 2,114 community college employees

Impacts of any sweeping changes to collective bargaining will thus be significant and widespread, holding consequences for local economies, public services, and Iowa’s labor market as a whole….