Category Archives: Labor Unions

Should Congress Adopt The Employee Free Choice Act?

Source: LERA, Perspectives Online Companion (Number 10), Spring 2009
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This tenth edition of LERA’s Perspectives Online Companion contains four articles on the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. Each derives from remarks delivered as part of the Distinguished Panel at LERA’s Annual Meeting in January 2009.

* For Organized Labor, The Employee Free Choice Act is Neither a Cinch, Nor a Panacea
By Steven Greenhouse
The nation’s labor law system “is inarguably broken,” writes Steven Greenhouse, labor reporter for The New York Times. However, supporters of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act face a tough uphill battle, and revitalization of union organizing will require more than this bill’s passage.

* Prospects for Labor Law Reform After the 2008 Election: A Law Perspective
By William B. Gould IV
Labor law reform has been attempted many times since 1959. “This time, we must we must get it right,” writes William Gould, a former chair of the National Labor Relations Board. This article analyzes the current Employee Free Choice Act proposal and presents Gould’s recommendations.

* Union Recognition and Collective Bargaining: How Does the United States Compare With Other Democracies?
By John Logan
Opponents portray the proposed Employee Free Choice Act as “radical and undemocratic,” writes John Logan, a scholar based at the University of California-Berkeley. His article demonstrates why the proposed legislation is a modest reform measure.

* Prospects for Labor Law Reform: A Labor Perspective
By Jonathan Hiatt
AFL-CIO general counsel Jonathan Hiatt explains why the current obstacles to expanded collective bargaining in the United States represent “a two-dimensional crisis of human rights and economic wellbeing.” According to Hiatt, coercion of workers will be less of a problem under the Employee Free Choice Act than it is under the present law.

Union Worker Wage Effect in the Public Sector

Source: Bahman Bahrami, John D. Bitzan and Jay A. Leitch, Journal of Labor Research, Vol. 30 no. 1, March 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study examines union wage premiums in the public sector for the 1998-2004 period. Unlike previous studies, our approach estimates union wage premiums considering differences in the rewards to education, experience, and other personal characteristics for union and non-union workers. The approach provides a larger estimated wage gap than the traditional approach, and allows for simulations of union-nonunion wage gaps for different types of workers. Moreover, we use an Oaxaca decomposition to explain the larger union-nonunion wage gap in the private sector in comparison to that in the public sector. We find that between 50% and 60% of the difference in union wage premiums between the private and public sectors is due to differences in the way unionized workers are rewarded in the private and public sectors, while the remaining portion is due to differences in personal characteristics of private and public sector workers.

Beyond The Employee Free Choice Act Debate: Unleashing The States In Labor-Management Relations Policy By Reforming Labor Law Preemption Doctrines Crafted By Judges A Half-Century Ago

Source: Henry H. Drummonds, Lewis & Clark Law School, 2009

This article proposes that Congress enact a major decentralization of labor relations law – the law that governs efforts by employees to deal with their employers collectively through unions and collective bargaining. Two events in 2007 and 2008 signaled the emergence of this labor law preemption issue. First, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Employee Free Choice Act triggering the deepest fundamental debate about labor relations policy since the 1947 Republican Congress reigned in the power of unions in the Taft-Hartley Act. Unlike the debate 60 years ago, the debate in 2009 is not about excessive union power but about whether labor relations law should become more favorable to employee organization in unions. While many possibilities exist for changes in labor relations policy, national consensus often eludes policy makers.

Second, in Chamber of Commerce v. Brown, a majority of the U.S. Supreme Court continued the expansion of judicially created labor law preemption doctrine by striking down California’s law attempting to limit employer use of state monies in union organizing campaigns; such rulings deprive citizens of their right under the constitutional division of powers, absent a decision of the Congress to supplant state authority under the Supremacy Clause, to express their preferences about labor relations policy through their local and state governments. As Chief Justice Rehnquist pointed out more than 20 years ago: “From the acorns of [two early] decisions has grown the mighty oak of this Court’s labor preemption doctrine, which sweeps ever outward though totally uninformed by any express directive from Congress.”

Still Open for Business: Unionization Has No Causal Effect on Firm Closures

Source: John DiNardo, Economic Policy Institute, EPI Briefing Paper #230, March 20, 2009

In the debate over legislation to expand employees’ right to choose union representation in the workplace, the organized business lobby has been drumming up fears that enactment of the Employee Free Choice Act would kill jobs by forcing more employers out of business. That claim is not borne out by historical data or existing credible research, according to this new report. In Still Open for Business, John DiNardo compares data on business failures among unionized and similar nonunion firms and concludes that unionized businesses are no more likely than nonunion ones to fail.

Service Employees Union Joins Move to Break Up UNITE HERE

Source: Paul Abowd, Labor Notes, No. 361, April 2009

The months-long tug of war within UNITE HERE continued, as UNITE leaders seceded from the union, embraced a partnership with the Service Employees (SEIU), and signaled they would form a new union to compete for members in HERE’s hotel and gaming jurisdictions–while stripping away as many members as possible on the way out. UNITE and HERE merged in 2004, but their clashes over control of resources and organizing strategy are reaching a fever pitch. Read more.

How Unions Can Help Restore the Middle Class

Source: Paula B. Voos, Economic Policy Institute, March 10, 2009

The following testimony on the importance of unions to restoring a solid middle class was given to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Tuesday, March 10, by Dr. Paula B. Voos, a professor in the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers, and an EPI research associate.

When Union Members in a Members-Only Non-Majority Union (MONMU) Want Weingarten Rights: How High Will the Blue Eagle Fly?

Source: Christine Neylon O’Brien, University of Pennsylvania Journal of Business and Employment Law, Vol. 10 no. 3, 2008

AFL-CIO General Counsel Jon Hiatt has also noted the narrowing of the NLRA’s coverage and protections, highlighting in particular the Board’s most recent decision that employees who are not represented by a union do not have a Weingarten right to have assistance from a co-worker during an investigatory interview. … The Steelworkers, represented by Professor Morris, and six other unions with their own counsel, have now filed a petition at the NLRB seeking rulemaking on the issue of members-only minority union collective bargaining, including the letter in support. … The Right to Representation in MONMUs – The Prospect on Weingarten Rights As far as the representational rights of employees in a MONMU are concerned, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Advice Memorandum has made clear that there is presently no obligation for an employer to recognize or bargain with a union that does not represent a majority of employees in a bargaining unit. … The IBM plurality noted that the Epilepsy decision rejected the three policy concerns expressed in DuPont when it revoked Weingarten rights for nonunion employees.

Commentary: Who Will Organize 2.5 Million Nurses In The U.S.?

Source: Herman Benson, WorkingUSA, Vol. 12 no. 1, March 2009
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Two million five hundred thousand registered nurses are employed in the U.S., mostly in hospitals. By 2016, we will need 500,000 more. Now that nurses are in demand and the nation faces a shortage, they are able to make a decent living. In some cities, with overtime and salary levels protected by unions, they can make lots of money. Still, the job is tough.

Nurses need union representation. At first glance, there seems to be a bewildering assortment of claimants to provide that representation: state affiliates of the American Nurses Association (ANA), Service Employees International Union (SEIU), United American Nurses (UAN), American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Communication Workers of America, American Federation of Teachers, California Nurses Association (CNA), American Federation of Government Employees. Even the International Union of Operating Engineers, a heavy-equipment construction union, enrolls its share of registered nurses, over 3,000. The Steelworkers, United Food Workers, Teamsters, and Laborers all have a piece of the action.

And so, as everyone wants to get into the act, nurse unionism might seem scattered and in disarray. But that appearance minimizes the actual power of contemporary nurses’ unionism and its potential influence in the broader labor movement.

Community Benefits Agreements: Lessons From New Haven

Source: Louise Simmons, Stephanie Luce, WorkingUSA, Vol. 12 no. 1, March 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Community Benefits Agreements (CBA) are a new tool for labor-community coalitions, designed to ensure that economic development projects benefits workers and residents. In 2006, a labor-community coalition in New Haven, Connecticut won a CBA with Yale-New Haven Hospital after a two-year campaign, and much longer campaign to unionize hospital workers. The CBA included provisions for affordable housing, job training, local hiring, access to healthcare, environmental and planning protections, and a commitment to union-organizing rights. This article analyzes the campaign for the CBA and examines some outcomes, including its implementation. The CBA campaign was successful in building labor-community alliances and political power, and had resulted in some concrete gains for residents. However, the Hospital has blatantly violated the union-organizing rights part of the agreement, highlighting some of the limits of the CBA strategy in the face of a hostile employer.