Category Archives: Labor Unions

The Strike As the Ultimate Structure Test

Source: Jane McAlevey, Catalyst, Vol. 2 no. 3, Fall 2018

As the labor movement has begun to show signs of a revitalization, we excavate a volume, long consigned to obscurity, from an earlier era. As Jane McAlevey observes, even though almost a century has passed since its initial publication, Steuben’s book remains astonishingly relevant today — which speaks both to the enduring facts of employment relations in capitalism, as well as to the efficacy of Steuben’s strategic perspective.

Organizing to Win a Green New Deal

Source: Jane McAlevey, Jacobin, March 26, 2019

The labor movement has to be central to winning a Green New Deal and reversing climate change. Recent labor victories show how we can do just that, from the ground up, and quickly.

Related:
What the New Deal Can Teach Us About a Green New Deal
Source: Richard Walker, Jacobin, March 26, 2019

The original New Deal was a bold, visionary effort that transformed the economic and political life of the country. The Green New Deal could do even more.

How to Use Grievances to Organize

Source: Mike Parker and Martha Gruelle, Labor Notes, March 8, 2019

The difference between a truly democratic union and one that follows a servicing model is stark when it comes to grievance handling. In a strong democratic union there may not even be many grievances; members organize to convince supervisors to stop violating the contract without having to use the formal procedure…..

Finding Workers Where They Are: A New Business Model to Rebuild the Labor Movement

Source: Mark Zuckerman, The Century Foundation, February 7, 2019

From the summary:
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
– While corporations and political campaigns have been able to leverage direct marketing and other digital tools to advance their interests, the labor movement seems to be struggling to do the same.
– Labor’s traditional “retail” model of organizing, in which professional organizers physically go into one workplace at a time, is not cost-effective for reaching many workers who do want to unionize—in particular those in smaller and/or geographically isolated workplaces
– Collective bargaining units of twenty-four or fewer employees, for example, are 11.6 percent more likely to win a union election than larger groups, and these employees consistently demonstrated more cohesion in their vote in support of the union.
– A digital organizing strategy that includes an online organizing platform that directly empowers workers to self-initiate organizing drives and file National Labor Relations Board paperwork can help organized labor significantly increase its membership.

Through the Working Class – Five union members from across the Rust Belt reflect on eroding faith in the media

Source: Steven Greenhouse, Columbia Journalism Review, Winter 2019

…. The media covers blue-collar America less closely than it did several decades ago. Christopher R. Martin, author of No Longer Newsworthy: How the Mainstream Media Abandoned the Working Class, which will be published in May, tells me that as more outlets became publicly owned and traded on the stock exchange, they began pursuing a different audience to help boost profits. “Many moved from a mass audience to more of an upscale audience,” Martin says. “Many newspapers have cut back on, or entirely eliminated, the labor beat—the one beat that talked about the life of the working class.” 

At many news organizations, editors are assigning more “upscale minded” stories about skiing vacations in Aspen and whether to invest in Apple and fewer pieces about factory closings in Akron and layoffs in Cincinnati. A result of this approach: the one-hour walkout by 20,000 Google workers received tremendous coverage in the national media, while a steelmaker’s lockout of 2,200 blue-collar workers, for seven painful months, garnered hardly any attention at all. ….

A Union Default: A Policy to Raise Union Membership, Promote the Freedom to Associate, Protect the Freedom not to Associate and Progress Union Representation

Source: Mark Harcourt, Gregor Gall, Rinu Vimal Kumar, Richard Croucher, Industrial Law Journal, Volume 48, Issue 1, 21 February 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Workers are defaulted to being non-union in employment relationships across the world. A non-union default likely has substantial negative effects, consistent with the empirical literature reviewed, on union membership levels, because of switching costs, inertia, social norms and loss aversion. A union default would likely have positive effects on union membership, and has the additional virtues of partially internalising the public goods externalities of unions, improving the freedom to associate (the right to join a union) and preserving the freedom not to associate (the right not to join a union). A union default would also strengthen the extent and effectiveness of union representation.

The Union That Roars

Source: Graham Vyse, Governing, February 2019

In an anti-union era, nurses are proving that organized labor can still be powerful. ….

…. NNU isn’t new to this fight. Breaking up the for-profit health-care system has been a defining mission of the union since its founding a decade ago. But now the group faces a new challenge. NNU is embarking on a revamped Medicare for All campaign not only at the federal level — where the prospects of success are bleak, at least in the short term — but in states across the country, especially those with Democratic governors, most notably California, Minnesota and New York. ….

Why the Seattle General Strike of 1919 should inspire a new generation of labor activists

Source: Steven C. Beda, The Conversation, February 6, 2019

It shut down a major U.S. city, inspired a rock opera, led to decades of labor unrest and provoked fears Russian Bolsheviks were trying to overthrow American capitalism. It was the Seattle General Strike of 1919, which began on Feb. 6 and lasted just five days.

By many measures, the strike was a failure. It didn’t achieve the higher wages that the 35,000 shipyard workers who first walked off their jobs sought – even after 25,000 other union members joined the strike in solidarity. Altogether, striking workers represented about half of the workforce and almost a fifth of Seattle’s 315,000 residents.

Usually, as a historian of the American labor movement, I have the unfortunate job of telling difficult stories about the decline of unions. However, in my view, the story of this particular strike is surprisingly hopeful for the future of labor.

And I believe it holds lessons for today’s labor activists – whether they’re striking teachers in West Virginia or Arizona, mental health workers in California or Google activists in offices across the world….

How Black Activists Shaped the Labor Movement

Source: Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue, No Class, February 7, 2019

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent his final full day on earth advocating for the rights of workers in what’s now known as his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. It was April 3, 1968, and King stood up at the Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, and spoke in support of the city’s 1,300 sanitation workers, who were then on strike fighting for better safety standards, union recognition, and a decent wage — a work stoppage that was inspired partly by the deaths of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who had been crushed to death by a garbage truck.

“We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end,” he told the assemblage. “Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point, in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”,,,