Category Archives: Labor Unions

State Collective Bargaining Laws and Public-Sector Pay

Source: Eric J. Brunner, Andrew Ju, ILR Review, Vol. 72 no. 2, March 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using the Public Use Microdata Sample from the 2005 to 2015 American Community Survey, the authors provide new evidence on how state collective bargaining laws affect public-sector wages. To isolate the causal effect of bargaining laws on public-sector pay, they examine wage differentials between otherwise similar public- and private-sector employees located in the same local labor market. They estimate difference-in-differences (DD) models that exploit two sources of plausibly exogenous variation: 1) policy discontinuities along state borders and 2) variation within states in collective bargaining laws in states where the majority of public workers are without collective bargaining rights. Findings show that mandatory collective bargaining laws increase public-sector wages by approximately 5 to 8 percentage points. Results therefore suggest that mandatory collective bargaining laws provide a formal mechanism through which public-sector workers are able to bargain for increased compensation.

What do government unions do? Public sector unions and nonunion wages, 1977–2015

Source: Jake Rosenfeld, Patrick Denice, Social Science Research, Volume 78, February 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this article we investigate the connection between public sector union memberships and nonunion worker pay. We leverage nearly four decades of Current Population Survey (CPS) data on millions of U.S. workers to test whether public sector union density, measured at the state-level, is associated with higher average wages among unorganized workers. We find stable and substantively large positive effects of state-level public sector union strength on nonunion public sector workers’ wages. These results are robust to the inclusion of a range of state-level controls, including GDP, average educational attainment, public sector size, and the strength of private sector unions. Analyses of public sector unions and nonunion private sector pay reveal a robust positive relationship – but one limited to women, revealing how occupational segregation interacts with pay-setting institutions to influence wage outcomes.

The Future of Unions Is White-Collar

Source: Bret Schulte, Atlantic, April 12, 2019

Blue-collar jobs are disappearing. But a powerful new wave of organized labor is taking its place. ….

…. At the University of Arkansas, where I work and serve as president of AFSCME Local 965, union membership has about doubled in recent years. Although the local was started by the university’s maintenance crew in the 1960s, nearly every new member has been a professor or professional employee. Their concerns: campus safety, a living wage for all employees, collective bargaining rights, and gaining more influence over campus policies. ….

…. One reason for the shift is the evolution of the American economy. Manufacturing jobs have disappeared as service jobs have increased. That means fewer opportunities for blue-collar workers to join unions if they wanted to. (And employers don’t want them to.)

The professional class is by no means offsetting the country’s net loss of union members, but how the newbies are behaving shows they understand exactly how collective action is supposed to work: They’re leaving their manners at home and making demands. It was kindly teachers in rural West Virginia who flexed their muscle in a strike that put the country on notice—kind of like the textile workers in 1912, but without smashing any windows. ….

Forget Your Middle-Class Dreams

Source: Alex N. Press, Jacobin, March 29, 2019

When it comes to workplace organizing, there’s no such thing as a “privileged” worker. You’re either with your coworkers or you’re against them. …..

….. Although the argument — unions are good, but they’re not for us, and, somehow, us unionizing undermines unions — is unusually explicit, it’s not an unheard-of objection in white-collar organizing drives. During such campaigns, this concern is sometimes voiced by well-meaning people — those earnestly raising it do so because they believe the conditions of life at the bottom of society are unacceptable. But unions, so the thinking goes in this country where caricatures of the working class run rampant, are for those at the lowest rungs of the socioeconomic ladder — they’re for factory workers; for manual laborers; maybe they’re for low-wage service workers. But teachers, engineers, graduate students, journalists? Those are middle-class jobs. Surely, such workers should be grateful not to be down there, in the muck of poverty. In fact, it’d be greedy to want more than they have. Who are they to claim the mantle of working class? Unfortunately, this perspective has one, and only one, practical effect: keeping people from throwing their cards in with the working class, from demanding better lives and a seat at the table. …..

The Strike As the Ultimate Structure Test

Source: Jane McAlevey, Catalyst, Vol. 2 no. 3, Fall 2018

As the labor movement has begun to show signs of a revitalization, we excavate a volume, long consigned to obscurity, from an earlier era. As Jane McAlevey observes, even though almost a century has passed since its initial publication, Steuben’s book remains astonishingly relevant today — which speaks both to the enduring facts of employment relations in capitalism, as well as to the efficacy of Steuben’s strategic perspective.

Organizing to Win a Green New Deal

Source: Jane McAlevey, Jacobin, March 26, 2019

The labor movement has to be central to winning a Green New Deal and reversing climate change. Recent labor victories show how we can do just that, from the ground up, and quickly.

What the New Deal Can Teach Us About a Green New Deal
Source: Richard Walker, Jacobin, March 26, 2019

The original New Deal was a bold, visionary effort that transformed the economic and political life of the country. The Green New Deal could do even more.

How to Use Grievances to Organize

Source: Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle, Labor Notes, March 8, 2019

The difference between a truly democratic union and one that follows a servicing model is stark when it comes to grievance handling. In a strong democratic union there may not even be many grievances; members organize to convince supervisors to stop violating the contract without having to use the formal procedure…..

Finding Workers Where They Are: A New Business Model to Rebuild the Labor Movement

Source: Mark Zuckerman, The Century Foundation, February 7, 2019

From the summary:
– While corporations and political campaigns have been able to leverage direct marketing and other digital tools to advance their interests, the labor movement seems to be struggling to do the same.
– Labor’s traditional “retail” model of organizing, in which professional organizers physically go into one workplace at a time, is not cost-effective for reaching many workers who do want to unionize—in particular those in smaller and/or geographically isolated workplaces
– Collective bargaining units of twenty-four or fewer employees, for example, are 11.6 percent more likely to win a union election than larger groups, and these employees consistently demonstrated more cohesion in their vote in support of the union.
– A digital organizing strategy that includes an online organizing platform that directly empowers workers to self-initiate organizing drives and file National Labor Relations Board paperwork can help organized labor significantly increase its membership.