Category Archives: Labor Unions

How Janus Could Spill into the Private Sector Without Radically Redefining the State Action Doctrine

Source: Boyd Garriott, On Labor blog, April 19, 2018

This term, the Supreme Court will decide Janus, where it will determine the future of agency shop agreements in public sector unions. Despite being a public-sector union case, Justice Ginsburg raised a question on many people’s minds at oral argument: “what happens in the private sector?” Her question may prove prescient, considering that five justices in Harris v. Quinn’s dicta questioned an older line of cases upholding private sector agency fee arrangements. Contrary to others who have spoken on this issue, I believe that a holding striking down public sector agency shop agreements in Janus could spill into the private sector without doing much violence to the state action doctrine….

Indiana Teachers ‘Go Green’ To Track Member Sign-Up

Source: Samantha Winslow, Labor Notes, April 13, 2018

What will happen to public sector unions after the Supreme Court rules on the Janus v. AFSCME case this spring? Indiana teachers are already there. Slammed by a “right to work” law in 1996 and a new barrage of attacks in 2011, the teachers experienced what many unions are afraid of—a big drop in membership.

But the Indiana State Teachers Association didn’t roll over and give up after that. The union developed a tracking system called “Go Green” to help local leaders get membership back up.

It’s working. The first year of the program, the union narrowed its deficit between existing members lost to retirement and new members gained. The second year, it broke even. The third year, statewide membership increased.

This is in a legal environment that’s worse than right to work. Budget cuts in 2011 were paired with sweeping restrictions that kneecapped unions. Teachers bargain over only wages and benefits, and only between September and November of each year. Past that, impasse is declare and a third-party factfinder decides the final agreement.

…. So how does it work? The heart of the “Go Green” program is getting teachers in every school involved in signing up members.

Schools below 50 percent union membership are flagged as red. Schools at 50 percent or higher are coded yellow, and those at 70 percent or higher are green. The color scheme helps officers and association reps (stewards) prioritize which schools, and even which parts of buildings, need the most help. ….

….LIVING WITHOUT DUES DEDUCTION

A popular line of anti-union attack by state legislators is to ban employers from deducting dues from members’ paychecks. Dues deduction is banned for Michigan teachers, for instance, and for the whole public sector in Wisconsin.

Indiana has no such law at this point—but the teachers union opted to stop payroll deduction anyway. When new members sign up, they give the union their bank or credit card information to process dues directly.

This preempts a fight with hostile legislators and keeps the union’s focus on talking to teachers. It also takes control of union funds out of the hands of employers…..

The Special Status of Union Stewards

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, April 13, 2018

Standing up to bosses is essential to being a steward. On the shop floor and in grievance meetings, you must defend the actions of members and contest those of management.

In many cases you should be able to make your points temperately, practicing “quiet diplomacy.” But occasions will undoubtedly arise when you will want to raise your voice, challenge a supervisor’s credibility, or argue your case in other vigorous ways.

A widely accepted labor relations canon allows employers to discipline workers who fail to act respectfully toward management. Some legal treatises call this the “master-servant rule.”

But if stewards were subject to this rule while engaging in union activity, they would face an intolerable risk: speaking up for a member could put their own jobs in jeopardy. To resolve this dilemma, labor law accords a special status to union representatives. ….

Red Oklahoma

Source: Eric Blanc, Jacobin, April 13, 2018

A century ago, Oklahoma had the strongest socialist movement in the US. Today, there are signs it’s being reborn.

Related:
Learning lessons from the Oklahoma walkouts
Source: Elizabeth Lalasz and Sean Larson, Socialist Worker, April 25, 2018

The April rebellion of the teachers in the “right-to-work” state of Oklahoma has turned politics and life upside down in a once-reliably conservative state. ….

Wage Boards for American Workers: Industry-Level Collective Bargaining for All Workers

Source: David Madland, Center for American Progress, April 9, 2018

…. The United States needs a different kind of collective bargaining that responds to the changes in the economy over recent decades. In this modernized bargaining system, virtually all workers would be able to collectively bargain; bargaining would occur primarily at the industry level; and workers would have sufficient power to negotiate with employers. This new kind of bargaining can be created through a national policy of bargaining through wage boards, where employers, workers, and the public negotiate collectively. Wage boards would represent a significant change from the current bargaining process, but they have a proven track record in several U.S. states as well as in other countries.

Wage boards raise compensation for all types of workers, whether they are contracted temp workers or employees of a dominant firm; whether they are in a union or not; and regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Rather than allowing potentially arbitrary or discriminatory factors influence workers’ pay levels, wage board panels set minimum pay levels based on measurable indicators such as the work and required skills. Furthermore, because wage boards raise minimum standards for wages and benefits across an industry, they help reduce firms’ incentives to try to cut labor costs by discriminating, contracting out work, or fighting unions.

Wage boards would also help boost productivity by ensuring that similar work receives similar pay. This enables a more efficient allocation of resources and encourages more cooperative firm-level relations between workers and their managers.11 Wage boards would help high-road businesses compete on an even playing field, as low-road employers would face new minimum standards for pay and benefits. ….

….In order for bargaining above the firm level to function properly, workers must be able to take collective action without fearing retaliation from their employer. Not only does current law fail to protect actions necessary for firm-level bargaining, but it also provides fewer protections for the kinds of actions—such as boycotting and striking—needed to make industry-level bargaining work. This is why policymakers must broaden and enhance worker protections.

Additionally, wage boards create a free-rider problem because workers will benefit from higher standards even if they do not pay the costs of achieving them. As a result, wage board policy reforms will need to establish new ways of joining unions and other worker organizations that do the work necessary for industry-level bargaining…..

Labor Renaissance in the Heartland

Source: Lois Weiner, Jacobin, April 6, 2018

Red state teachers are reviving the labor movement’s core values: respect for democracy and the dignity of work.

Related:
The Teachers’ Strikes Have Exposed the GOP’s Achilles Heel
Source: Eric Levitz, New York Magazine, April 5, 2018

Last week, Republicans in Oklahoma voted to raise taxes on fossil fuel companies, so as to increase pay for public sector workers. That might sound like a perfectly ordinary thing for a state government to do. But in Mary Fallin’s Oklahoma, it’s anything but. This is a state that responded to a $1.3 billion budget shortfall in 2016 by cutting taxes on the rich, and renewing a $470 million tax break for oil and gas companies. It’s a state that has allowed fracking interests to turn it into the earthquake capital of the world; let a gas company literally dictate policy to its attorney general; and forbade itself from raising taxes on anyone unless three-fourths of its state legislature approves (and its state legislature is dominated by tea party conservatives). All this has made increasing taxes on the state’s top industry so unthinkable to Oklahoma Republicans, they have repeatedly found it preferable to plug budget gaps by raiding their state’s emergency funds, and forcing one-fifth of its school districts to adopt four-day weeks instead.

Thus, it was more than a little remarkable when, last Thursday, Governor Fallin signed her name to a bill that more than doubled the state’s tax on fossil fuel production, limited itemized deductions for high-earning individuals, and gave a $6,000 raise to the state’s teachers…..

Why workers go on strike

Source: M. Simms, The Conversation, March 23, 2018

The employment relationship – between employer and employee – is full of tensions, bargains and compromises. Even the most motivated employee has days when they would rather be doing something else. Or when they simply dislike the way their boss asked them to do something. These tension points often go unnoticed and unremarked upon. They are usually part of the give and take in the workplace.

Sometimes, however, they flare into something bigger. An industrial dispute is the most collective and formal manifestation of those tensions. A strike brings those compromises into sharp relief for all the parties involved. Strikes have become far less common as there are fewer workplaces where trade unions are recognised and well organised. But they do still happen, as recent strikes among junior doctors and higher education professionals highlight….