Category Archives: Labor Unions

The Drivers of Public Sector Pension Reform Across the U.S. States

Source: Michael Thom, The American Review of Public Administration, Volume 47, Issue 4, May 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study analyzes the diffusion of public sector pension reforms across the American states between 1999 and 2012, a policy area notable for its fiscal implications as much as its recent political polarization. Previous enactment in other, non-contiguous states was the largest and most consistent driver of reform. Otherwise, empirical findings suggest that reform antecedents varied by reform type. Existing funding levels reduced the likelihood that states would cut benefits, change pension governance, or reduce cost of living allowances, but had no effect otherwise. Evidence for partisan legislative influence is weak, although Republican control had partial, positive effects on the enactment of pension governance reforms and increases to the retirement age. Across the board, other relevant factors such as constitutional pension protections, collective bargaining rights, and union membership density had no effect. That external contagion pressures have a more robust influence than endogenous conditions raises questions about the future efficacy of pension reform.

Health Care Workers Bring Sanctuary Movement into the Union

Source: Porfirio Quintano, Labor Notes, April 13, 2017

I had no money and spoke no English when I illegally crossed the border into California 23 years ago, but I worked hard and fought for the right to stay here.

Had I made that harrowing journey this year, I’m sure I’d be deported right back into the crosshairs of the Honduran government’s death squads that had targeted me and many other community organizers.

Instead I quickly won a grant of political asylum—and later received full American citizenship.

I know I’m one of the lucky ones. At the San Francisco hospital where I work, nine out of 10 members of my union are foreign-born. We never ask anyone about their immigration status, but I know several green card holders who are getting ready to apply for citizenship now that their place in America seems less secure.

People might think the Bay Area is one big protective cocoon for immigrants, but that’s not the case. The suburb where I live is not a sanctuary city. And my elected county sheriff contracts with the Department of Homeland Security to house people awaiting deportation hearings.

Who can my co-workers count on if Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents come looking for them or their family members? Our union, thankfully…..

We Need To Restore the Frayed Alliance Between Unions and Progressives

Source: Cynthia Phinney, Peter Kellman and Julius Getman, In These Times, March 30, 2017

Progressives are finally energized. Millions of young people became politically active through the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders and several million more joined the women-led solidarity marches of the inaugural weekend. Many of the recently activated are seeking to channel their enthusiasm into effective political resistance. These are heartening developments. But it is far too early to declare victory over those who seek to make America great by returning it to a less tolerant, less progressive past.

A dismayingly large share of the white working class, including union members that once supported liberal candidates and causes, remains supportive of President Donald Trump and his agenda. Only when liberals recognize the importance of labor, and when a progressive labor movement returns to its historic roots, will the battle against right-wing demagogues and zealots be won.

What we are calling for is an active alliance between progressives and organized labor. For progressives and intellectuals, organized labor has much to offer: a rich history, seasoned leaders and, most significantly, an immediate connection to workers. For organized labor, the potential of such an alliance is equally significant. It can renew the commitment to social and political change, reminding workers and their leaders that unions are far more than just vehicles for economic gain. ….

A reborn American labor movement is coming—if unions are bold enough to change

Source: Dan Schlademan, Quartz, April 6, 2017

Donald Trump’s presidency has elevated debate about the grim future of unions. While more policies and laws undermining workers seem inevitable, the movement’s death is not. United against the politics that have led to a rigged economy, workers and organizers from red and blue states are looking for a future in which their families are not constantly struggling, while those in power at corporations, banks, and in Washington help only themselves.

Working people in this country can not and should not underestimate their power. History, as well as emerging movements and organizations, show that working people are not facing a question of life or death. Rather, they are facing the opportunity for renewal. The US labor movement has reinvented itself repeatedly in the past. These rebirths have been crucial to the evolution of the movement’s power. We are now at another historical moment of rebirth. But it’s important to understand how we arrived here, so to best take advantage of the opportunity ahead…..

Showdown at Nissan: the 1989 campaign to organize Nissan in Smyrna, Tennessee, and the rise of the transplant sector

Source: Timothy J. Minchin, Labor History, Latest Articles, Published online: 05 Dec 2016
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From the abstract:
In July 1989, workers at Nissan’s plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, voted 1622 to 711 against being represented by the United Automobile Workers of America (UAW). At the time, many reporters saw the well-publicized Nissan vote – dubbed a ‘showdown’ by the New York Times – as a defining moment in modern labor history. The election deserves further exploration, especially as it played a key role in establishing the non-union ‘transplant’ sector. UAW leaders blamed the Smyrna loss on Nissan’s anti-union tactics, while the company claimed that workers did not need a union because they were already well paid (although this was largely due to the UAW’s presence). This article is the first to provide a detailed analysis that draws on the union’s records of the campaign, as well as many other sources. While the factors cited publicly were important, the article demonstrates that there were additional reasons for the union’s defeat, including internal divisions, unanticipated staffing problems, and the logistical challenge of organizing such a big – and new – facility. Although Nissan workers had many grievances, the company also fostered loyalty by not laying off workers, and by expanding the plant. Finally, it secured a high level of community support, and drew off the conservative political climate of the era.

The Union Household Vote Revisited

Source: Jake Rosenfeld and Patrick Denice, OnLabor blog, April 11, 2017

A spate of labor-related election postmortems converged on one key theme: Donald Trump managed to cleave significant union support away from the Democrats. …. It is true that the Democratic-Republican vote split among union households was narrower in 2016 than in any time since, well, Ronald Reagan’s re-election. In 2016, exit polls indicate that voters in union households supported the Democratic over the Republican candidate by only 8 points. In 2012, by contrast, the Democratic advantage among members of union households was a yawning 18 points. And 2016’s gap looks positively miniscule compared to the Democratic vote advantage among union households Bill Clinton enjoyed. In 1992, exit polls suggest that members of union households preferred Clinton to George H.W. Bush by over 30 points. ….

…. But there is another way of investigating the issue. What if the shrunken Democratic vote advantage among union households in 2016 didn’t so much stem from Trump’s inroads among union household members, but from union households turning to outsider candidates over the Democratic Party choice? ….

Your Boss’s Big Little Secret

Source: Rebecca Kolins Givan, Jacobin, April 4, 2017

You have a right to know how much your coworkers are paid — and if you want to close the wage gap, you should. …

….For most American workers, however, the salaries of their fellow workers remain a mystery. But it’s a mystery that can be solved, and the best way to do so is through collective bargaining. Most collective bargaining agreements include transparent pay scales where an employee can locate his or her salary based on job title, credentials, skills, seniority, experience, or some combination thereof. Pay under most collective bargaining agreements is open and transparent. Unions can eliminate wage disparities within a single employer and dramatically limit wage inequality even across employers. Collective bargaining agreements remove the ability for managers to set pay based on their own criteria which may be arbitrary, or influenced by implicit or explicit bias…..

The Impact of “Right-to-Work” Laws on Labor Market Outcomes in Three Midwest States: Evidence from Indiana, Michigan,and Wisconsin (2010–2016)

Source: Frank Manzo IV, Robert Bruno, Illinois Economic Policy Institute, Project for Middle Class Renewal, April 3, 2017

From the summary:
A new study finds that the introduction of “right-to-work” laws has reduced the unionization rate by 2.1 percentage points and lowered worker wages by 2.6% in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Recent “right-to-work” laws have had negative consequences for many workers in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

The analysis focuses on labor markets in six Midwest states from 2010 through 2016. Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin all enacted “right-to-work” (RTW) laws during this period, providing a regional experiment on the effects of the laws. Three neighboring states– Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio– serve as a comparison group because they did not have RTW laws at the beginning of the time frame and still do not have RTW today.

As of 2016, there were significant differences between the two groups of states. Notably, workers in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin earned 8% less per hour on average than their counterparts in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio…..

A Modern Union for the Modern Economy

Source: Jeffrey M. Hirsch, Joseph Seiner, University of North Carolina School of Law, UNC Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2924833, Last revised: 19 Mar 2017

From the abstract:
Membership in traditional unions has steeply declined over the past two decades. As the White House and Congress are now completely Republican controlled, there promises to be no reversal of this trend in the near future. In the face of this rejection of traditional bargaining efforts, several attempts have been made to create alternative “quasi-union” or “alt-labor” relationships between workers and employers. These arrangements represent a creative approach by workers to have their voices heard in a collective manner, though still falling far short of the traditional protections afforded by employment and labor law statutes.

This Article critiques one such high-profile, quasi-union effort in the technology sector—the Uber Guild. While the Guild does not provide any of the traditional bargaining protections found in the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it offers Uber drivers some input over the terms and conditions under which they work. Falling somewhere between employment-at-will and unionization protected under the NLRA, the Uber Guild is a creative attempt to help both workers and the company to better understand how they can improve the working relationship.

This Article navigates the Uber Guild and other nontraditional efforts that promise a collective voice for workers in the face of a precipitous decline in union membership. Closely examining the implications of these existing quasi-union relationships, this Article explores how workers in the technology sector face unique challenges under workplace laws. We argue that these workers are particularly well situated to benefit from a nontraditional union model and explain what that model should look like. While there can be no doubt that a traditional union protected by the NLRA is the optimal bargaining arrangement, we must consider the enormous challenges workers in the technology sector face in obtaining these protections. A modern union is needed for the modern economy.