Category Archives: Labor Unions

Can Labor Still Use the Wagner Act?

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, Dissent, Fall 2017

…. Eighty years after the Wagner Act’s validation, the triumph of collective bargaining in mass production industries seems as ancient as Exodus, and Cox’s optimism as quaint as greeting card poetry. Whereas the industrial Midwest once throbbed with demands for industrial democracy, today its depleted cities continue to bleed jobs and its hinterlands struggle with rampant opioid addiction. Flint, once home to a mobilized working class capable of taming General Motors, is today a desperately impoverished city lacking in decent jobs, whose residents continue to suffer from the aftermath of lead poisoning. Whereas sit-down strikers were protected by Governor Frank Murphy in 1937, today’s Michigan is a “right-to-work” state presided over by Governor Rick Snyder, a venture capitalist whose efforts to wrest local control away from distressed communities led directly to Flint’s poisoning. Little remains of the industrial union movement born in 1937, as private-sector union membership rates today dip toward 6 percent.

Nor is there reason to suppose the Supreme Court will help matters as it did eighty years ago. Today’s Court instead seems bent on interring the last legal vestiges of the New Deal labor order. In the case of Janus v. AFSCME, which the Court will decide in the coming term, the right of public-sector unions to collect “agency fees” from the workers they represent is being challenged. Opponents argue that government workers’ unions are merely political vehicles, and therefore granting them the right to collect agency fees infringes on the rights of workers who might not share the politics of the union that represents them. The case threatens to overturn a forty-year-old precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which recognized the unions’ rights to collect such fees in the interest of orderly workplace governance wherever state law allowed the practice…..

The 2017 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability – Sustained Growth Among S&P 500 Companies Signals Commitment to Political Disclosure and Accountability

Source: Bruce F. Freed, Center for Political Accountability (CPA), September 26, 2017

The CPA-Zicklin Index benchmarks the political disclosure and accountability policies and practices of leading U.S. public companies. Issued annually, it is produced by the Center for Political Accountability in conjunction with the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The indicators used to score companies are available here, and the detailed Scoring Guidelines can be downloaded here. To see the raw data used to compile this report, see this spreadsheet.

Related:
Your favorite companies may be political black boxes
Source: Lateshia Beachum, Center for Public Integrity, September 26, 2017

Union education is a key to member engagement

Source: CUPE, September 6, 2017

Tips for mobilizing members with union education
• Get union orientation or training language in your collective agreement. Negotiate provisions that allow members, whether full-time, part-time or temporary, to attend union education during working hours.
• Develop local-specific training that answers the most common questions members ask about the local, CUPE policy and collective agreements. Adapt local training to meet members’ needs, which may change over time or be different for different job groups in your local.
• Encourage participation in union education in the wider labour movement. Provincial federations of labour, the Canadian Labour Congress and your CUPE Division, among others, offer training to union members.
• Do specific outreach to under-represented members. To ensure the local meets the needs of the diversity of its membership, encourage members from equality-seeking groups to attend training specific to them.
• Update members regularly about the business of the local and education opportunities. ….

Related:
Building Strong Locals: sharing our stories
Building local strength by empowering the most vulnerable members
Building strength one local at a time in Halifax

Enhancing transnational labour solidarity: the unfulfilled promise of the Internet and social media

Source: Torsten Geelan and Andy Hodder, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 14, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the activities of Union Solidarity International (USI), a new UK-based organisation in the international union arena. USI seeks to encourage and support international solidarity between trade unions and other worker movements around the world by harnessing the dynamism of the Internet and social media. Drawing on a combination of in-depth semi-structured interviews, documentary analysis, Google Analytics and social media data, the findings of this case study suggest that USI is successfully developing an international audience in the United States, the UK and Ireland. However, USI’s ability to reach beyond English-speaking countries and mobilise people to engage in collective action appears limited. The article makes an important contribution to the growing literature on social media in industrial relations through analysing the extent to which digital technologies can contribute to effective transnational labour solidarity.

Partners in protest: parents, unions and anti-academy campaigns

Source: Suzanne Muna, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, September 25, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
An analytical framework has been developed in order to enhance our ability to interrogate and understand the critical factors for successful union–community coalitions. The framework is then tested on a single case study, a campaign run by trade unions, parents and community groups engaged in opposing academisation of their community school. The framework helps structure analysis and aids evaluation of the impact of activists’ choices on campaign outcomes.

The United Auto Workers’ Attempts to Unionize Volkswagen Chattanooga

Source: Stephen J. Silvia, ILR Review, Online First, August 3, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The author examines attempts by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize the Volkswagen (VW) plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. These efforts were a pivotal test of labor’s ability to organize in the South. The UAW failed to organize the entire plant, despite an amenable employer, because of heavy intervention by external actors, the union’s failure to develop community support, and a paragraph in the pre-election agreement that promised wage restraint. VW management’s fear of losing state subsidies and their desire to not alienate the local business and political establishment took the card-check procedure for recognition off the table. VW management’s adoption of an accommodating position toward unionization for the entire plant, but resistance to it for the small skilled-mechanics unit, suggests that the company was willing to accept unionization only as a means to the end of creating a works council rather than out of a commitment to collective bargaining as a practice.

Welfare Benefits and Unemployment in Affluent Democracies: The Moderating Role of the Institutional Insider/Outsider Divide

Source: Thomas Biegert, American Sociological Review, First Published August 29, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The effect of generous welfare benefits on unemployment is highly contested. The dominant perspective contends that benefits provide disincentive to work, whereas others portray benefits as job-search subsidies that facilitate better job matches. Despite many studies of welfare benefits and unemployment, the literature has neglected how this relationship might vary across institutional contexts. This article investigates how unemployment benefits and minimum income benefits affect unemployment across levels of the institutional insider/outsider divide. I analyze the moderating role of the disparity in employment protection for holders of permanent and temporary contracts and of the configuration of wage bargaining. The analysis combines data from 20 European countries and the United States using the European Union Labour Force Survey and the Current Population Survey 1992–2009. I use a pseudo-panel approach, including fixed effects for sociodemographic groups within countries and interactions between benefits and institutions. The results indicate that unemployment benefits and minimum income benefits successfully subsidize job search and reduce unemployment in labor markets with a moderate institutional insider/outsider divide. However, when there is greater disparity in employment protection and when bargaining either combines low unionization with high centralization or high unionization with low centralization, generous benefits create a disincentive to work, plausibly because attractive job opportunities are scarce.

How 1,000 Nurses in Northern Michigan Went Union

Source: James Walker, Labor Notes, September 20, 2017

Nurses in rural northern Michigan made history August 9-10 when we won labor’s biggest organizing victory since “right to work” took effect in the state in 2013. By a vote of 489–439, more than 1,000 RNs at Traverse City’s Munson Medical Center, the area’s largest employer, will be represented by the Michigan Nurses Association.

Munson nurses tried to organize years earlier, unsuccessfully. “I was involved in the effort to organize 15 years ago,” said critical care pool RN Dagmar Cunningham. “Since then benefits have decreased and the workload due to sicker patients has increased. Something had to change.”

This time around, we succeeded. How did we do it?. ….

Surveying the Home Care Workforce: Their Challenges & The Positive Impact of Unionization

Source: Anastasia Christman, Caitlin Connolly, National Employment Law Project (NELP), Data Brief, September 22, 2017

From the summary:
In the closing months of 2016, we asked home care workers (i.e., caregivers who provide non-medical in-home assistance with daily living tasks such as mobility, eating, dressing, toileting, and bathing) to participate in an online survey about their jobs and their lives. More than 3,000 workers located in 47 states and the District of Columbia responded to a short survey; 2,600 of them went on to complete a second, more detailed section. These responses reveal an experienced and committed workforce that puts in long hours caring for consumers but receives unsustainably low pay and few benefits. A sizeable percentage of respondents are treated as independent contractors and may be misclassified. These workers are overwhelmingly women of color, many of whom are in their prime earning years. Despite the importance of the work they do, they frequently have to supplement their home care work with other jobs to make ends meet.

In addition to examining the experience of the workforce as a whole, we also compared the responses of unionized versus non-unionized home care workers. In doing so, we found several trends that speak to the difference that unionization makes—not only for home care workers but for the consumers they care for as well. To gain additional insight into the impact of home care unionization, we conducted phone interviews with four unionized home care workers whose stories are included in this report…..

Without Strong Unions, Middle-Class Families Bring Home a Smaller Share

Source: Alex Rowell and David Madland, Center for American Progress, September 14, 2017

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that in 2016, the median U.S. household earned $59,039, a 3.2 percent increase from the previous year. Seven years after the end of the Great Recession, the median household’s income has approximately recovered to its pre-recession level, when adjusted for inflation, but has effectively remained stagnant since the late 1990s.

Middle-class households are not seeing the high levels of income growth that are being enjoyed by America’s highest-income earners. Furthermore, the share of income that is earned by the middle 60 percent of households, by income, has fallen to record lows. A revitalized union movement could help reverse the decades-long trend of growing inequality and a shrinking middle class. But anti-union attacks at the state and national levels threaten to further tilt our nation’s economy against workers…..