Category Archives: Labor Unions

Foreign-Born Wage and Salary Workers in the US Labor Force and Unions

Source: Chuncui Velma Fan and Jeanne Batalova, Migration Policy Institute, August 2007

Labor unions have departed from their historical skepticism of immigrant workers as the overall number of wage and salary immigrant workers and their proportion in the labor unions have increased. Instead, labor unions have become an important force in support of proimmigrant policies.

This Spotlight looks at the available data on immigrant workers and unions, highlighting variations in union representation rates of immigrant workers across industrial sectors.

New Orleans Unions Plant Seeds for Growth with First Preapprentice Training Program

Source: Angelle Bergeron, Engineering News Record, Vol. 259, no. 4, July 30, 2007
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Hoping to boost its visibility in an open shop stronghold and bolster numbers and skill levels of a badly needed craft workforce, the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Dept. is bringing its message to the Hurricane Katrina recovery zone through a fast-track training and job placement center that will feed recruits to union apprentice programs for the first time.

Law in the Labor Movement’s Challenge to Wal-Mart: A Case Study of the Inglewood Site Fight

Source: Scott L. Cummings, UCLA School of Law, UCLA Public Law Series, Paper 7-01, July 3, 2007

This Article studies the role of law in the successful community-labor challenge to Wal-Mart’s first proposed Los Angeles-area Supercenter in the working-class city of Inglewood. It focuses on the use of legal and legislative challenges to mobilize opposition to Wal-Mart’s Inglewood initiative—a technique known as the “site fight” because of its focus on blocking Wal-Mart at a specific location. The aims of this Article are twofold. First, it seeks to understand the site fight in relation to broader shifts within the labor movement, which have driven some unions to promote pro-labor legal reform at the municipal government level. Part I therefore explores how labor leaders have responded to the limits of traditional unionism by pursuing an alternative model of labor activism that uses political opportunities available in the local development process to advocate policy reforms designed to increase union density.

Part II provides a detailed case study of the defining campaign of the anti-Wal-Mart movement—the Inglewood site fight—in which labor leaders allied with land use and environmental lawyers to oppose Supercenter plans on the ground that the negative community impacts outweighed consumer benefits.

Part III draws four central lessons from the Inglewood campaign.

“Why Unions Matter” An Orientation for Oregon Legislators, Candidates, and Their Staffs

Source: Robert Bussel, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 32 no. 2, June 2007
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…To be sure, many legislators exhibited an appreciation of the union movement’s political role, especially its fundraising ability and capacity to mobilize volunteers for electoral activity. However, members of the United Labor Lobby believed that the focus on specific pieces of legislation and the logistics of campaign support tended to obscure political leaders’ understanding of the underlying values and motivations involved in shaping labor’s political priorities. As a result, the United Labor Lobby and LERC agreed to develop an educational program that would address this knowledge gap and provide Oregon legislators with a broader perspective regarding unions’ fundamental beliefs and their larger social role.

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
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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
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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

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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.