Category Archives: Labor Unions

Stacking the Deck: Privileging ‘Employer Free Choice’ over Industrial Democracy in the Card Check Debate

Source: Raja Raghunath, University Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-10, Nebraska Law Review, Vol. 87, 2008

From the abstract:
“Card check” organizing is the most controversial issue in labor law today, and this article is the first to analyze Dana Corp., the landmark decision on card check that was issued by the National Labor Relations Board in September 2007. The Dana Corp. decision represents a fundamental shift in American labor relations, away from safeguarding the rights of employees to collectively bargain, and towards safeguarding employer choice as to whether to engage in collective bargaining at all. The purpose of this article is to call attention to this shift, and to refocus the card-check debate on the fundamental principle of asymmetrical employer power in the workplace. The importance of this principle in understanding the arguments surrounding card check is heightened by the shift in labor relations signaled by the Dana Corp. decision, as well as two significant recent developments in the California and Illinois public sector that also have gone unanalyzed.

Issue Brief: Unions Are Good for the Economy and Democracy

Source: Harley Shaiken, David Madland, Center for American Progress, Issue Brief, December 9, 2008

It is good for the economy and good for American democracy when workers join together in unions, despite the claims of some conservatives who are waging a campaign to block important legislation that would make it easier to join a union.

Only 12 percent of American workers are currently represented by unions, and those who attempt to unionize face an uphill battle. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which is likely to be one of the most important issues debated when the 111th Congress starts in January, holds the promise of restoring workplace democracy for workers attempting to organize, boosting unionization rates, and improving the economic standing and workplace conditions for millions of American workers.

Institutional Features of Wage Bargaining in 23 European Countries, the US and Japan

Source: Philip Du Caju, Erwan Gautier, Daphne Momferatou,Melanie Ward-Warmedinger, IZA Discussion Paper, No. 3867, December 2008

This paper presents information on wage bargaining institutions, collected using a standardized questionnaire. Our data provide information from 1995 and 2006, for four sectors of activity and the aggregate economy, considering 23 European countries, plus the US and Japan. Main findings include a high degree of regulation in wage setting in most countries. Although union membership is low in many countries, union coverage is high and almost all countries also have some form of national minimum wage. Most countries negotiate wages on several levels, the sectoral level still being the most dominant, with an increasingly important role for bargaining at the firm level. The average length of collective bargaining agreements is found to lie between one and three years. Most agreements are strongly driven by developments in prices and eleven countries have some form of indexation mechanism which affects wages. Cluster analysis identifies three country groupings of wagesetting institutions.

Unions and Upward Mobility for Women Workers

Source: John Schmitt, Center for Economic and Policy Research, December 2008

In 2007, women made up 45 percent of union members. If the share of women in unions continues to grow at the same rate as it has over the last 25 years, women will be the majority of the unionized workforce by 2020.

This paper uses the most recent data available to examine the impact of unionization on the pay and benefits of women in the paid workforce. The data suggest that even after controlling for systematic differences between union and non-union workers, union representation substantially improves the pay and benefits that women receive.

On average, unionization raised women’s wages by 11.2 percent – about $2.00 per hour – compared to non-union women with similar characteristics. Among women workers, those in unions were about 19 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance and about 25 percentage points more likely to have an employer-provided pension.

For the average woman, joining a union has a much larger effect on her probability of having health insurance (an 18.8 percentage-point increase) than finishing a four-year college degree would (an 8.4 percentage-point increase, compared to a woman with similar characteristics who has only a high school diploma). Similarly, unionization raises the probability of a woman having a pension by 24.7 percentage points, compared to only a 13.1 percent increase for completing a four-year college degree (relative to a high school degree).

For the average woman, a four-year college degree boosts wages by 52.6 percent, relative to a woman with similar characteristics who has only a high school degree. The comparably estimated union wage premium is 11.2 percent – over 20 percent of the full four-year college effect.

Skepticism Greets Non-Union Fees Case

Source: Tony Mauro, First Amendment Center, 10.07.08

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court seemed skeptical yesterday of the argument that the First Amendment rights of non-union members should include refusing to pay fees that support certain kinds of national union litigation.

The justices, on the opening day of the fall term, were hearing arguments in Locke v. Karass, the latest in a series of cases supported by the National Right to Work Foundation. The group opposes union dominance of workplaces by espousing the First Amendment rights of non-union members to refuse to fund union activities with which they might disagree.
See also:
Transcript of oral arguments
Source: US Supreme Court
Brief summary
Source: Law Professor Blogs LLC, October 2008
Oral Argument in Locke
Source: Law Professor Blogs LLC, October 6, 2008

Toward the Viability of State-Based Legislation to Address Workplace Captive Audience Meetings in the United States

Source: Paul M. Secunda, Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp. 209-246, 2008

From the abstract:
The U.S. Supreme Court has long interpreted the National Labor Relations Act as permitting employers to hold workplace captive audience meetings with their employees on labor-oriented issues. Employees must attend these meetings at pain of discharge and may not be able to leave these meetings, ask questions, or espouse pro-union views.

Under Worker Freedom Act legislation percolating presently in a number of state legislatures, employers would not only be prohibited from holding mandatory sessions during work to express opinions on labor-related, political, and religious issues, but would be liable for retaliating against workers who reported the holding of such sessions.

The focus of this essay is whether Worker Freedom Act legislation would be preempted by federal labor law. This essay answers this question in two ways. First, under current labor preemption doctrine and Supreme Court precedent interpreting rights of states to continue to regulate property and contract rights in the labor relations context, courts should find that such state laws are not preempted by the NLRA. Second, this essay renews the call for a reconceptualization of labor preemption doctrine by the Supreme Court to place such legislation on a more sound doctrinal foundation. Under this new conception, once federal labor law is satisfied by permitting the free exchange of ideas on unionization between employers and their employees, state should then be able to go beyond that floor and provide additional protections to employees to be free from mandatory indoctrination sessions by their employers at work.

Unions and Upward Mobility for Young Workers

Source: John Schmitt, Center for Economic and Policy Research, October 2008

From the abstract:
This report uses national data from the Current Population Survey (CPS) to show that unionization raises the wages of the typical young worker by 12.4 percent compared to their non-union peers. The study goes on to show that unionization also increases the likelihood that a young worker will have health insurance and a pension. The study also notes that despite being better educated, this age cohort earns 10% less than did their counterparts in 1979
See also:
Press Release

Rising Productivity, Deepening Inequality

Source: Horst Brand, Dissent, Vol. 55 no. 4, Fall 2008

Last January, the New York Times reported that assembly line workers at Detroit automobile factories, who have been earning around $28 per hour, would be “bought out” and gradually replaced by workers earning as little as half of that. … “In one industry alone, airlines, wage and pension concessions given back to employers since 2001… totaled over $15 billion,” Writes Labor Notes. Yet, output per hour in air transportation rose at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent between 1987 and 2005, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); it rose 3.8 percent in motor vehicles manufacturing. These to examples illustrate what is happening to the bargaining power of trade unions – a steady weakening, a loss that began with the defeat of the air traffic controllers strike in 1981 by Ronald Regan’s administration, a loss, therefore, that is political in nature. And it is in this sense that we must view the widening gap between the advances of productivity and the stagnation of working people’s incomes.