Category Archives: Labor Unions

U.S. Labor 2006: Strategic Developments across the Divide

Source: Richard W. Hurd, Journal of Labor Research, Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2007

The AFL-CIO and Change to Win have learned to co-exist without debilitating acrimony. The AFL-CIO has established Industry Coordinating Committees to facilitate cooperative bargaining and organizing ventures. On the political front, the AFL-CIO took the lead in labor’s 2006 electoral operations and conducted an extensive, efficient, and unified campaign. Change to Win unions worked together to build strategies for a growth agenda. The success of UNITE-HERE’s Hotel Workers Rising Campaign indicates the potential of this approach. Difficult challenges remain, but the strategic developments show signs of life and offer hope that labor may find a path to the future.

The AFL-CIO Split: Does It Really Matter?

Source: Gary Chaison, Journal of Labor Research, Volume 28, Number 2, Spring 2007

In 2005, the AFL-CIO split and the Change to Win Coalition (CtW) was founded because of the personal ambition of dissident union leaders and their frustration with the severe and continuing decline in union membership. The CtW was build on a shared faith that only a fresh start could lead the unions out of their crisis. But a convincing case has not been made that the seceding unions would be more successful outside of AFL-CIO. When it is seen against the backdrop of the crisis in the labor movement and the enormity of the task of union organizing and revival, the AFL-CIO split does not really matter.

North Carolina AFL-CIO: How a Small State Federation Builds Political and Legislative Power Without Money or Numbers

Source: Monica Bieski Boris and Randall G. Wright, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

It would not be surprising if in a state like North Carolina, whose union density is less than 3 percent and whose labor budgets are small and tight, the state federation concentrated on a traditional labor agenda of only servicing the remaining union members in an effort to merely survive. All of the main ingredients of building effective labor power—deepening relationships with community partners, developing a progressive agenda, electing and holding accountable political champions, leadership development, and support for organizing—require significant resources. Yet, because the resource base is small, the state federation has become the natural base from which to grow such strategies. By pooling resources to hire talented staff and by fostering deep relationships among community players with key resources, the North Carolina AFL–CIO is able to have an impact far greater than its paper strength. Although there is a paucity of literature on central labor councils, recent research points to the model as an important element of building a strong labor movement (Ness and Elmer 2001; Ruffini 2002; Richter 2003; Rogers and Streeck 1995).

Atlanta: Local Initiative Combines With National Support

Source: Tom Karson, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

For over a decade the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council has had a reputation as an activist council engaged in innovative coalition building. Looking to build on this work and learning from the power-building experiences in California and elsewhere, the Council founded the nonprofit Georgia Stand-Up in 2005. The new organization immediately leaped into coalition work around Atlanta’s massive new economic development initiative—the BeltLine Project. This article looks at how local leadership was able to combine seeds laid by prior work with national support to produce a dynamic example of the new second generation of regional power building.

Commentary: Reflections On New Alliance Across The Country

Source: Bruce Colburn, Scott Reynolds, David Reynolds, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10 no. 1, March 2007
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New York was the first state to embark on the New Alliance process, originally approved by the American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL–CIO) Convention in 1999 and reaffirmed in 2005. Since New York acted, New Alliance processes have been initiated in nine other states—Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, and Pennsylvania. Ohio was the most recent state to act. In April 2006, some 600 delegates approved a reorganization plan that consolidated the state’s thirty-six central labor councils into twenty-two councils working under five area labor federations, each with full-time staff….

…New Alliance seeks to take state and regional labor structures built for a prior era and reorganize them to stimulate growth in the labor movement. It essentially asks labor leaders to consider what their state and local labor movements would look like ideally if they had the luxury of starting from scratch today. By struggling over this question and connecting the answers to where the labor movement now is, New Alliance hoped to produce a vision for state and local labor movements and a concrete program to build toward this direction.

A New Alliance In New York State: A Progress Report On The Labor Movement’s Restructuring, Capacity Building, And Programmatic Work

Source: Jeff Grabelsky, WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 10 no. 1, March 2007

(subscription required)

The labor movement in New York State (NYS) has undergone a dramatic restructuring that is part of a national American Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations program called the New Alliance. The purpose of the New Alliance is to build the capacity of local labor movements and to empower unions to help shape a region’s political and economic agenda. The restructuring in NYS led to the consolidation of twenty-five central labor councils into five area labor federations, each of which is developing the resources, staff, and leadership to help grow labor’s regional power across the state. This article describes the origins of the New Alliance, the nature of the restructuring process, the ways in which the capacity of local labor movements are expanding, the programmatic work the restructured central bodies have undertaken in the last five years, and the impact of the national split on local and regional central bodies across NYS.

Giving Labor the Business? Changes in Business and Labor Reporting from 1980 to 2000

Source: David J. Park and Larry M. Wright, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 1, March 2007
(subscription required)

This study empirically examines the extent to which business journalism has taken over labor reporting between 1980 and 2000. The authors conduct a content analysis of The New York Times , The Washington Post, and Associated Press during this time frame. Our results note a widening gap between labor and business coverage dramatically in favor of business-oriented journalism. Business journalists now cover labor issues. Qualitative and quantitative changes in coverage are discussed, as well as the implications from these trends. The authors suggest that labor groups invest in more media and/or public relations to better convey their messages.

Union Members in 2006

Source: United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 25, 2007

In 2006, 12.0 percent of employed wage and salary workers were union members, down from 12.5 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of persons belonging to a union fell by 326,000 in 2006 to 15.4 million. The union membership rate has steadily declined from 20.1 percent in 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available.
Some highlights from the 2006 data are:
• Workers in the public sector had a union membership rate nearly five times that of private sector employees.
• Education, training, and library occupations had the highest unionization rate among all occupations, at 37 percent.
• The unionization rate was higher for men than for women.
• Black workers were more likely to be union members than were white, Asian, or Hispanic workers.

Liar, Liar: The New Propaganda War Against Unions

Source: Esther Kaplan, New Labor Forum, Vol. 16 no. 1, Winter 2007

Who exactly is behind the Center [for Union Facts] its founder Richard Berman won’t say, except to note that he’s already raised $2.5 million from a variety of companies, trade organizations, and individuals. But the Chamber of Commerce, the leading pro-corporate lobby group, has its fingerprints all over the project, The AFL-CIO reports that Berman addressed a conference of the state Chambers of Commerce in January, where, according to one attendee, participants pledged millions of dollars in support. And Randel Johnson, a vice-president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, served as an advisor in creating the Center. (Sarah Longwell, spokesperson for the Center for Union Facts, did not return repeated phone calls requesting further information.)