Category Archives: Labor Unions

How So-Called “Right to Work” Laws Aim to Silence Working People

Source: Amy Traub, Dēmos, 2017

From the introduction:
In America, working people have the freedom to band together with their co-workers to negotiate for a fair return on our work. We have the freedom to act together so can we speak with a more powerful voice. We have the freedom to join and form unions. Yet today, powerful interests want to take away that freedom. Corporate lobbyists have pushed federal and state-level policies deceptively named “Right to Work” laws that strip away the freedom to negotiate for a fair return on our work. These laws are designed to drain workers’ collective resources by requiring unions to provide representation to people who make no contribution to sustain the union. In essence, so-called “right to work” laws aim to silence working Americans, which causes their wages and working conditions to deteriorate, making it more difficult to sustain a family. Economists find that in states that have adopted these laws, the typical full-time worker is paid $1,500 a year less than their counterpart in a state that has not undermined workers’ rights.

This Demos Explainer clarifies what misleadingly named “right to work” laws do, how they silence workers’ collective voice, and what their impact has been in states that adopt them. We also explore the roots of this anti-worker policy in efforts to cut wages and solidify racial divisions among workers in the Jim Crow South. Today, as “right to work” laws are promoted in a growing number of states and in the U.S. Congress, Demos aims to ensure that elected leaders, the media, and ordinary Americans understand the true nature of this policy.

Agency Fees and the First Amendment

Source: Benjamin I. Sachs, Harvard Law Review, Forthcoming, Date Written: September 22, 2017

From the abstract:
Agency fees are mandatory payments that certain employees are required to make to labor unions. In recent years, the Supreme Court has moved closer to declaring these fees an unconstitutional form of compelled speech and association and may soon invalidate them entirely. The Court – and the scholarship on agency fees – proceeds from the assumption that such fees are employees’ money that employees’ pay to a union. This article argues, however, that this is the wrong way to understand agency fees and for two sets of reasons. One, the Court treats agency fees as employees’ money because fees pass through employee paychecks on the way from employers to unions. But this is simply an accounting formalism required by labor law. Because employees have no choice but to pay the fees, the fact that the fees pass through paychecks is irrelevant for purposes of First Amendment analysis. Instead, under the First Amendment, agency fees are – and must be treated as – payments made directly by employers to unions. And payments made by employers to unions raise no compelled speech or association problems for employees. Two, irrespective of the accounting regime, the article shows why agency fees ought to be treated as union property rather than as the property of individual employees. Unionization, by allowing employees to negotiate collectively, produces a premium for employees covered by union contracts. Agency fees are a small fraction of this union premium. Because it is the union that produces the premium out of which agency fees are paid, and because individual employees would never earn the premium as individuals, the premium and the fees that come out of it should be treated – under the Court’s own cases – as the property of the union that secured them. The article thus provides two sets of arguments with the same fundamental implication: agency fees are not properly understood as payments made by employees to unions, and there is accordingly no compelled speech or association problem with agency fees.

Related:
Janus, Agency Fees and the First Amendment
Source: Benjamin Sachs, On Labor blog, October 5, 2017

Bring the Union Meeting to the Members

Source: Joe Fahey, Labor Notes, September 28, 2017

How many members attend your union meetings? And how do you feel about that?

Whether it’s just a handful or a hundred, no activist is ever satisfied.

But you can drop a whole load of frustration if you stop expecting a majority of members to travel to the union hall for a two-hour monthly meeting. Thinking about members and meetings in a different way can allow you to bring shorter union meetings to more and more members—at the workplace…..

Can Labor Still Use the Wagner Act?

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Dissent, Fall 2017

…. Eighty years after the Wagner Act’s validation, the triumph of collective bargaining in mass production industries seems as ancient as Exodus, and Cox’s optimism as quaint as greeting card poetry. Whereas the industrial Midwest once throbbed with demands for industrial democracy, today its depleted cities continue to bleed jobs and its hinterlands struggle with rampant opioid addiction. Flint, once home to a mobilized working class capable of taming General Motors, is today a desperately impoverished city lacking in decent jobs, whose residents continue to suffer from the aftermath of lead poisoning. Whereas sit-down strikers were protected by Governor Frank Murphy in 1937, today’s Michigan is a “right-to-work” state presided over by Governor Rick Snyder, a venture capitalist whose efforts to wrest local control away from distressed communities led directly to Flint’s poisoning. Little remains of the industrial union movement born in 1937, as private-sector union membership rates today dip toward 6 percent.

Nor is there reason to suppose the Supreme Court will help matters as it did eighty years ago. Today’s Court instead seems bent on interring the last legal vestiges of the New Deal labor order. In the case of Janus v. AFSCME, which the Court will decide in the coming term, the right of public-sector unions to collect “agency fees” from the workers they represent is being challenged. Opponents argue that government workers’ unions are merely political vehicles, and therefore granting them the right to collect agency fees infringes on the rights of workers who might not share the politics of the union that represents them. The case threatens to overturn a forty-year-old precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which recognized the unions’ rights to collect such fees in the interest of orderly workplace governance wherever state law allowed the practice…..

The 2017 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability – Sustained Growth Among S&P 500 Companies Signals Commitment to Political Disclosure and Accountability

Source: Bruce F. Freed, Center for Political Accountability (CPA), September 26, 2017

The CPA-Zicklin Index benchmarks the political disclosure and accountability policies and practices of leading U.S. public companies. Issued annually, it is produced by the Center for Political Accountability in conjunction with the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The indicators used to score companies are available here, and the detailed Scoring Guidelines can be downloaded here. To see the raw data used to compile this report, see this spreadsheet.

Related:
Your favorite companies may be political black boxes
Source: Lateshia Beachum, Center for Public Integrity, September 26, 2017

Union education is a key to member engagement

Source: CUPE, September 6, 2017

Tips for mobilizing members with union education
• Get union orientation or training language in your collective agreement. Negotiate provisions that allow members, whether full-time, part-time or temporary, to attend union education during working hours.
• Develop local-specific training that answers the most common questions members ask about the local, CUPE policy and collective agreements. Adapt local training to meet members’ needs, which may change over time or be different for different job groups in your local.
• Encourage participation in union education in the wider labour movement. Provincial federations of labour, the Canadian Labour Congress and your CUPE Division, among others, offer training to union members.
• Do specific outreach to under-represented members. To ensure the local meets the needs of the diversity of its membership, encourage members from equality-seeking groups to attend training specific to them.
• Update members regularly about the business of the local and education opportunities. ….

Related:
Building Strong Locals: sharing our stories
Building local strength by empowering the most vulnerable members
Building strength one local at a time in Halifax

Enhancing transnational labour solidarity: the unfulfilled promise of the Internet and social media

Source: Torsten Geelan and Andy Hodder, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 14, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the activities of Union Solidarity International (USI), a new UK-based organisation in the international union arena. USI seeks to encourage and support international solidarity between trade unions and other worker movements around the world by harnessing the dynamism of the Internet and social media. Drawing on a combination of in-depth semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, Google Analytics and social media data, the findings of this case study suggest that USI is successfully developing an international audience in the United States, the UK and Ireland. However, USI’s ability to reach beyond English-speaking countries and mobilise people to engage in collective action appears limited. The article makes an important contribution to the growing literature on social media in industrial relations through analysing the extent to which digital technologies can contribute to effective transnational labour solidarity.

Partners in protest: parents, unions and anti-academy campaigns

Source: Suzanne Muna, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 25, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
An analytical framework has been developed in order to enhance our ability to interrogate and understand the critical factors for successful union–community coalitions. The framework is then tested on a single case study, a campaign run by trade unions, parents and community groups engaged in opposing academisation of their community school. The framework helps structure analysis and aids evaluation of the impact of activists’ choices on campaign outcomes.

The United Auto Workers’ Attempts to Unionize Volkswagen Chattanooga

Source: Stephen J. Silvia, ILR Review, Online First, August 3, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The author examines attempts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These efforts were a pivotal test of labor’s ability to organize in the South. The UAW failed to organize the entire plant, despite an amenable employer, because of heavy intervention by external actors, the union’s failure to develop community support, and a paragraph in the pre-election agreement that promised wage restraint. VW management’s fear of losing state subsidies and their desire to not alienate the local business and political establishment took the card-check procedure for recognition off the table. VW management’s adoption of an accommodating position toward unionization for the entire plant, but resistance to it for the small skilled-mechanics unit, suggests that the company was willing to accept unionization only as a means to the end of creating a works council rather than out of a commitment to collective bargaining as a practice.