Category Archives: Labor Unions

Union Membership Rises, but Quality of Jobs Has Changed

Source: Jeremy Smerd, Workforce Management, February 7, 2008

The proportion of union workers is up for the first time in decades, but jobs are more likely to be low-wage.

Union membership as a part of the overall workforce in the United States grew last year for the first time in a quarter-century, according to analysis by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The news, published January 25, came a day after the Ford Motor Co. announced it would further reduce the number of hourly workers by 11,000 on top of the 44,000 jobs the auto-maker has shed since 2006.

It represents part of the seismic shift in the makeup of America’s unionized workforce. Today, a union worker is more likely to be a low-skilled, low-paid service worker than a skilled, well-paid manufacturing employee.

“The future of the unions is the $8-an-hour home health care worker,” says David Gregory, professor of law at St. John’s University. The unions may have regained membership with lower-wage service workers, but they cannot regain the dues lost along with higher-paid jobs, Gregory says.

British Union Plans Merger With American Steelworkers

Source: Mark Milner, The Guardian, February 11 2008

· Super-union will square up to multinational firms
· Unite and USW merger will cover 3m members

Two of the largest British and American unions are hoping to announce an agreement this summer to create a transatlantic super-union capable of defending workers’ rights in the globalised marketplace.

Unite, which has about two million members, and the United Steelworkers union (USW), which represents about a million members in the US, Canada and the Caribbean, see the creation of an international union presence as the key to meeting the challenges posed by the onward march of globalisation.

Labor Hits Jackpot

Source: Melinda Tuhus, In These Times, February 5, 2008

Foxwoods Resort Casino rises from the hills of rural southeastern Connecticut like a gambler’s Oz.

It is one of the country’s biggest Indian casinos and it is the largest employer in the state, with 10,000 workers. Of those employees, about 2,600 are dealers of games such as poker and blackjack. And on Nov. 24, 2007, many of these dealers placed a bet on a better life with the United Auto Workers (UAW). ….

It’s the first election at an Indian casino to be overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which made a groundbreaking ruling last year that allowed Indian casinos to be unionized. But casino management has appealed the vote, claiming it violates tribal sovereignty.

Union Members in 2007

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, USDL 08-0092, January 25, 2008

• 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 37.2 percent, followed closely by protective service occupations at 35.2 percent.
• Among demographic groups, the union membership rate was highest for black men and lowest for Hispanic women.
• Wage and salary workers ages 45 to 54 (15.7 percent) and ages 55 to 64 (16.1 percent) were more likely to be union members than were workers ages 16 to 24 (4.8 percent).

Administrative Criminal Law & Procedure in the Teamsters Union: What Has Been Achieved After (Nearly) Twenty Years

Source: James B. Jacobs and Dimitri D. Portnoi, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Volume 28, no. 2, 2007

This article is a comprehensive case study of the most important civil RICO labor racketeering case in American history, U.S. v. IBT. It provides the first empirical study of the effort by DOJ and the federal courts to purge organized crime from the IBT and to reform the union so that it will be resistant to future corruption and racketeering. Drawing on 18 years of litigation generated by the effort of court-supervised monitors to enforce the 1988 settlement, it utilizes a database of all disciplinary charges brought by and the sanctions imposed by the court-supervised monitors. This article traces the remedial phase which has generated an immense amount of litigation right up to the present and focuses on the disciplinary (as opposed to the election) part of the remedial effort. The magnitude of this effort can hardly be exaggerated. The two remedial entities that the settlement established to enforce the consent order have expelled more than 600 officers and members from the IBT and placed some 40 IBT locals and joint councils under the international union’s trusteeship. This work has been accomplished via the creation of an IBT-specific criminal justice system that has evolved into an elaborate system of procedural and substantive disciplinary law. U.S. v. IBT is an experiment in institution building. It may allow us to determine, or at least to knowledgeably assess, the potential and limits of civil RICO as a methodology for attacking deeply entrenched systemic criminality in powerful formal organizations.

The Sound and the Fury: Did the Split in the Labor Movement Signify Anything?

Source: New Labor Forum, Fall 2007
By Jake Metzger

Not a whole lot has changed since seven unions established the Change to Win (CtW) labor federation in the summer of 2005 to rival the AFL-CIO. As one who had more fears than hopes for the split, I take some comfort in that. I expected much worse… That the worst hasn’t happened is a testament, I think, to the good sense and commitment of local leaders and staff who seem to have successfully ignored the rivalries of top leaders and gone about their business, for good or for ill, as if “all that” didn’t matter. … Could child care workers be the equivalent in our time of the 1930s auto workers (or rubber workers)? I haven’t heard anybody m ake that claim, probably because it isn’t clear how much of a difference unions can actually make in these workers’ wages and conditions or in their form of organization. But they’re off to a good start in making a real difference, according to a 2007 study by the National Women’s law Center. And if there is to be one spark that sets off a fire of organizing, ti could be this low-wage, overwhelmingly female, multicolored workforce that requires a combination fo political, community, and labor organizing of a thoroughly nontraditional kind.

In the Shadow of Globalization: Changing Firm-Level Employment Practices and Shifting Employment Risks in the United States

Source: UCLA School of Law, Law-Econ Research Paper

Globalization generates increased competition between firms in the product market, which induces firms to seek flexibility in their labor relations – flexibility to hire and fire on short notice, to increase or shrink the overall size of their workforce, to adjust pay to short-term performance results, to redeploy workers within the firm and to outside production partners, and to retain workers with particular skills on an as-needed basis. These practices are in tension with the labor law regimes throughout the Western world. In the United States, employers’ drive for flexibility has fueled aggressive de-unionization efforts, and has induced employers to increase their use of temporary workers and independent contractors and to restructure pension and benefit plans. A crucial question for employment regulation thus becomes how to protect workers – how to mitigate their vulnerabilities and ameliorate the shifting risks that today’s workplace practices impose. The author argues that other countries are experiencing the same tension between flexibility and worker protection, and suggests that we learn from other countries’ efforts to devise mechanisms to preserve worker security at the same time relaxing traditional labor protective regimes.

Full text (PDF; 184 KB).

The Future of Global Unions: Is Solidarity Still Forever?

Source: Alan Howard
Fall 2007

Last November in Vienna, fifteen years after the demise of the Soviet Union and well into the third decade of corporate-driven globalization, the international trade union movement was reorganized to eliminate its debilitating cold war political divisions and to enhance coordination across industrial lines made obsolete by globalization. The founding of this new organization, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which represents 168 million workers in 153 countries, was hailed as historic by the few dozen people who follow these things, which it may well be, though you probably missed the coverage in your local newspaper.

Earlier this year AFL-CIO president John Sweeney met with Iraqi trade unionists in Jordan (there being no place secure enough in Iraq to hold such a meeting) to support Iraqi union resistance to an array of Bush administration policies, particularly on the privatization and denationalization of the oil industry; Teamster president James Hoffa and Service Employees International Union president Andy Stern were in China with a delegation of Change to Win (CTW) unions, the group that split from the AFL-CIO, meeting with communists and capitalists to exchange views on worker rights in the global economy. In Ottawa, Steelworker president Leo Gerard announced a merger that would bring together nearly three million American, Canadian, British and Irish workers in one union, and Communication Workers president Larry Cohen was in Athens to raise the visibility of an organizing campaign aimed at the world’s largest cell phone service company, which operates in twenty-five countries on four continents.

These events reflect the realization at the highest levels of organized labor that unions have no future if they do not become truly global institutions. What is not said publicly, but known only too well, is that unions may have lost so much ground on the international playing field and have been so weakened over the past half century that they will no longer be able to provide an effective counterweight to the inequities of capitalism.

Union Dues Objections: A Twisted Path to Endless Litigation

Source: Ronald Miller, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 58 no. 3, Fall 2007

It’s been thirty years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, holding that requiring nonunion members of a bargaining unit in the public sector to provide financial support for the collective bargaining activities of a union in the form of agency fee payments did not violate the nonmembers’ First Amendment rights. However, three recent decisions, including one by the Supreme Court, make it clear that implementing an agency fee program that meets constitutional muster is still a troubling issue in a number of respects.

Exclusive Representation and the Wagner Act: The Structure of Federal Collective Bargaining Law

Source: Raymond Hogler Labor Law Journal, Vol. 58 no. 3, Fall 2007

Conditions for collective bargaining in the United States are poor and deteriorating. A large body of labor law scholarship documents the weakness of legal protections and processes designed to promote unionism in this country. Professor Morris’s theory about minority union bargaining is offered as a means of strengthening unions in a hostile environment. This article argues that the strategy is a risky one because it invites a resurgence of company unions, which threatened to overwhelm the modern American labor movement at its inception in the 1930s. A better option would be for labor to attack the root source of its contemporary decline. The three pillars of collective bargaining as envisioned by Wagner are independent unions, exclusive representation, and organizational security. The malignancy of right to work laws has destroyed one of those pillars. Morris’s vision of going back to the future would eliminate the other two.