Category Archives: Labor Unions

A Modern Union for the Modern Economy

Source: Jeffrey M. Hirsch, Joseph Seiner, University of North Carolina School of Law, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2924833, Last revised: 19 Mar 2017

From the abstract:
Membership in traditional unions has steeply declined over the past two decades. As the White House and Congress are now completely Republican controlled, there promises to be no reversal of this trend in the near future. In the face of this rejection of traditional bargaining efforts, several attempts have been made to create alternative “quasi-union” or “alt-labor” relationships between workers and employers. These arrangements represent a creative approach by workers to have their voices heard in a collective manner, though still falling far short of the traditional protections afforded by employment and labor law statutes.

This Article critiques one such high-profile, quasi-union effort in the technology sector—the Uber Guild. While the Guild does not provide any of the traditional bargaining protections found in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it offers Uber drivers some input over the terms and conditions under which they work. Falling somewhere between employment-at-will and unionization protected under the NLRA, the Uber Guild is a creative attempt to help both workers and the company to better understand how they can improve the working relationship.

This Article navigates the Uber Guild and other nontraditional efforts that promise a collective voice for workers in the face of a precipitous decline in union membership. Closely examining the implications of these existing quasi-union relationships, this Article explores how workers in the technology sector face unique challenges under workplace laws. We argue that these workers are particularly well situated to benefit from a nontraditional union model and explain what that model should look like. While there can be no doubt that a traditional union protected by the NLRA is the optimal bargaining arrangement, we must consider the enormous challenges workers in the technology sector face in obtaining these protections. A modern union is needed for the modern economy.

How A Rat Balloon From Suburban Chicago Became A Union Mascot

Source: Max Green, WBEZ, March 8, 2017

Large inflatable-rats, with their claws out and lips curled into a snarl, have become a common sight on picket lines throughout the Chicago area. The balloons, which range in size from six- to 25-feet tall, are usually gray or yellow. And almost all look like they are ready to attack. The rat balloons prompted Curious Citizen Phillip Williams to ask: How did balloons become a part of union strikes? When do they decide to bring out the rat? The rat balloons, nicknamed “Scabby,” started in the Chicago area in 1990 and have grown into a worldwide symbol for union strikes. But the balloons aren’t without controversy. From the picket line to the courtroom, employers have tried to snuff out Scabby many times.

“You are in a better position to protect people when you feel like you’re protected yourself” : to what extent does union membership and ethical clinical social work practice align? : an exploratory study

Source: Robyn K. Douglass, Smith College School for Social Work, Masters Thesis, 1705, Publication Date 2016

From the abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine the question: “to what extent does union membership and ethical clinical social work practice align?” by interviewing Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) working within unionized environments. The study focused on the experience of these clinicians within their current working environment and how being a union member allowed them to be able to provide ethical clinical social work practice to their clients/patients. The most compelling findings from this research were that the clinicians felt that union membership did align with providing ethical clinical social work practice to their populations within their agencies or organizations. There were limitations and concerns when it came to union participation in the form of a strike. Participants had mixed responses regarding the ethical considerations that come about as a result of a strike and how it could potentially impact their clients/patients negatively. Implications for social practice and policy highlight the need for further research in how the values of both labor unions and the field of clinical social work are closely aligned and in turn how can that help clinicians provide the most ethical care possible.

Divisions Of Labor

Source: Barbara Erenreich, New York Times Magazine, February 23, 2017

New kinds of work require new ideas — and new ways of organizing. …. The old jobs aren’t coming back, but there is another way to address the crisis brought about by deindustrialization: Pay all workers better. The big labor innovation of the 21st century has been campaigns seeking to raise local or state minimum wages. Activists have succeeded in passing living-wage laws in more than a hundred counties and municipalities since 1994 by appealing to a simple sense of justice: Why should someone work full time, year-round, and not make enough to pay for rent and other basics? Surveys found large majorities favoring an increase in the minimum wage; college students, church members and unions rallied to local campaigns. Unions started taking on formerly neglected constituencies like janitors, home health aides and day laborers. And where the unions have faltered, entirely new kinds of organizations sprang up: associations sometimes backed by unions and sometimes by philanthropic foundations — Our Walmart, the National Domestic Workers Alliance and the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. ….

Dimick on Other Avenues Unions Can Serve their Members (and Encourage Membership)

Source: Matthew Dimick, Workplace Prof blog, Guest Post, February 23, 2017

…A few weeks ago, OnLabor.org featured a post I wrote about the Ghent system and progressive federalism. At the end of that post, I referred to “other avenues for Ghent-type experiments” beyond the main one discussed in the article, which would require changes in the current federal-state cooperative system of unemployment insurance. Mentioning these “other avenues” prompted several queries from readers, and I will use this opportunity here at the Workplace Prof Blog to talk about those.

First, some background. To remind readers, the Ghent system is a form of union-administered (but government paid-for) unemployment insurance that has a substantial, positive impact on the rate of union membership in the countries that have it. What makes the Ghent system a prospect for union revitalization in the US is the system of unemployment insurance we have here, which basically incentivizes states to adopt, finance, and administer their own unemployment-insurance systems subject to federal guidelines and oversight by the Secretary of Labor. It also helps that states are given more latitude under federal labor law preemption when it comes to the design and administration of unemployment insurance….

Major Work Stoppages in 2016

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, USDL-17-0180, February 9, 2017

In 2016, there were 15 major work stoppages involving 99,000 workers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics reported today. (See table 1.) Private industry organizations accounted for over 94
percent of the 1.54 million total days idle for major work stoppages in effect during 2016.

This year marks 70 years of work stoppages data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Over the past four decades (1977-1986 to 2007-2016) major work stoppages declined approximately 90
percent. (See table A and table 1.) The period from 2007 to 2016 was the lowest decade on record, averaging
approximately 14 major work stoppages per year. The lowest annual number of major work stoppages
was 5 in 2009.

In 2016, the information industry had the largest number of workers involved in major work stoppages
with 38,200. Educational services were the next largest industry with 33,600 followed by health care
and social assistance with 12,100 workers. These three industries accounted for over
84 percent of workers idled for major work stoppages.

Republicans Are Set to Destroy Iowa’s Labor Unions

Source: Emmett Rensin and Lucy Schiller, New Republic, February 7, 2017

With the GOP now in full control of the state, 40 years of carefully negotiated agreements are about to be erased. ….

….In 1974, a few years after a public teachers’ strike in which schoolteachers spent 19 hours in jail cells, then–Republican Governor Robert Ray signed the Iowa Public Employment Relations Act into the Iowa Code. The legislation was hyped as a thoughtful balance between employers’ and public unions’ interests. Chapter 20, as the deal came to be called, presented Iowa’s public workers with a trade-off: They lost the right to strike, but won the legal recognition of their unions and their right to collective bargaining. The law outlined mandatory bargaining issues, topics on which employers were required to negotiate, including wages, insurance, overtime, vacation, health and safety. While not entirely satisfying to either party, Chapter 20 has essentially worked: No public sector workers have struck since 1974, and each year, 98 percent of public contracts move forward without binding arbitration.

But now, with the GOP fully in control of the state, a cadre of Republicans have moved to gut Chapter 20, beginning with a bill introduced Tuesday morning that moves both health insurance and supplemental pay from the mandatory to prohibited column. If passed, the bill would bar Iowa public unions from raising these topics in negotiation, thereby allowing public employers to unilaterally impose whatever terms they like. ….
Related:
Iowa Republicans propose sweeping changes to collective bargaining laws, public unions
Source: Brianne Pfannenstiel and William Petroski, Des Moines Register, February 7, 2017

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday proposed sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws that govern the way 184,000 of the state’s teachers, corrections officers and other public sector union workers negotiate for wages, health care and other employment benefits.

Representatives from labor unions across the state filled the Capitol to protest the changes, chanting and holding signs while urging their elected officials to back down from a piece of legislation that faces all but inevitable passage. ….

….. Since gaining control of the House, Senate and governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years, Iowa Republicans have called collective bargaining reform one of their top priorities. Both the House and Senate plan to hold subcommittees on the legislation Wednesday, setting it on a course to receive final approval from the governor as early as next week. Gov. Terry Branstad even called an unscheduled afternoon press conference with Lt. Gov Kim Reynolds and Republican legislative leaders to express his support for the bill. ….

…. The bills — House Study Bill 84 and Senate File 213 — also would require unions to go through a certification process ahead of each new contract negotiation. That would require a majority of their members to agree to be represented by union negotiators …..