Category Archives: Labor Unions

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
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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…..

Harvard Hopes Trump Will Help It Undermine Unions

Source: John Trumpbour and Chris Tilly, Labor Notes, September 14, 2017

….Like other private universities, Harvard appears to be banking on Trump appointees to the Labor Board to help fight off graduate student unionization. But Harvard’s going the extra mile in seeking to undermine all unions’ right to an accurate list of employees during a union election campaign…..

Related:
Opinion: Are elite universities ‘safe spaces’? Not if you’re starting a union
Source: Thomas Frank, The Guardian, September 9, 2017

For all their trigger warnings and safe spaces, places like Yale and Columbia are not very democratic when it comes to unions. ….

….Once Trump’s members are seated on the Labor Board, there is every likelihood they will revisit the matter of graduate student teachers and reverse themselves on the question, which would in turn permit university administrations to refuse to negotiate and even to blow off the results of these elections.

A radicalized university that lives to coddle young people would sit down immediately at the bargaining table and give those graduate students what they want.

A corporation that is determined to keep its employees from organizing, on the other hand, would stall and delay and refuse to recognize the union until Trump’s new, right-wing NLRB can saddle up and ride to the rescue. And guess what: that is exactly what these universities are doing – refusing to begin contract negotiations, filing challenges to the elections, appealing this and that…..

Unions Aren’t Obsolete, They’re Being Crushed by Right-Wing Politics

Source: Livia Gershon, Vice, September 11, 2017

….Few economic or political elites preach much about the virtues of a union. …. This year in Davos, Switzerland, at an annual gathering of CEOs, billionaires, and world leaders, the assembled glitterati fretted about inequality but blanched at talk of workers being able to bargain for benefits.

Even Democrats have largely remained silent about unions, which remain an important part of their base. The party’s “Better Deal” plan to help ordinary workers that Democrats released earlier this year talked about raising the minimum wage, growing the economy, and fighting outsourcing, but didn’t mention making sure workers had the ability to organize.

But a report released last month by the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank that focuses on the needs of low- and middle-income workers, points out just how relevant the labor movement remains. The decline of unions—which now represent just over one in ten US workers, down from one in five from 1983—has been less about their value for workers than the result of a concerted effort to destroy the labor movement…..

….The EPI report details the tactics companies use to stop unions. In many cases, they use temp agencies, franchise arrangements, or other techniques to avoid taking legal responsibility for their workers. Labor laws that date back more than a half century aren’t equipped to help workers negotiate with companies that do their employing through third parties while retaining all real, practical power over workers. Similarly, companies ranging from Uber to local construction firms and beauty parlors try to classify workers as independent contractors, avoiding the traditional responsibilities employers have for employees under labor law. Most blatantly, when faced with unionization efforts, three-quarters of private employers hire consultants to help them quash them. …. But von Wilpert said the most effective anti-union tactic may be simply firing pro-union workers. That’s illegal, but the EPI report finds that between one in five and one in seven union organizers gets the boot for their organizing activity. Even when companies get punished for breaking the law, penalties are minimal and the damage to the union is already done…..

Research Shows Unionized Workers Are Less Happy, but Why?

Source: Patrice Laroche, Harvard Business Review, August 30, 2017

Many employers are paying more and more attention to the well-being of their employees and to how they perceive their current jobs, especially because employee satisfaction is associated with important work-related outcomes such as organizational commitment and job performance, as well as with lower levels of turnover and absenteeism. But what role do unions, historically advocates for the well-being of workers, play in promoting employee happiness? The relationship between union membership and job satisfaction is still disputed vigorously among scholars. Many of the early studies suggest that union members are less satisfied than nonunion workers but are also less inclined to quit their jobs. This surprising finding has been considered an anomaly by many researchers, as unions should achieve better working conditions, which common sense suggests should lead to higher job satisfaction.

My research helps answer this puzzle. In a recent meta-study, I found that unions don’t seem to make workers less satisfied. Rather, workers who are likely to be dissatisfied — even after controlling for various aspects of their work — are more likely to join unions…..

The Lost Art of Being Anti-Fascist: Another Reason Why We Need a Labor Movement

Source: Sharon Block, On Labor blog, August 30, 2017

….The question that many of us have been asking since Election Day — “how did we get here” — has taken on greater urgency in the wake of Charlottesville. There has been much thoughtful writing and commenting on the root causes of this now evident phenomenon. I recently came across an article by Senator Robert Wagner, primary sponsor of our bedrock federal labor law, the National Labor Relations Act, that got me thinking about an unexplored possible contributing factor – whether there is a plausible relationship between the decline in the labor movement and the vulnerability of our population to fascism.

The framework of this argument was articulated by Senator Wagner in a May 1937 article in the New York Times Magazine. The NLRA had passed in July 1935 but questions about its future as a result of challenges to its constitutionality lingered until April 1937. As Senator Wagner was witnessing the rise of a fascist power, he described his ideal industrial state. One attribute of his ideal vision was a strong labor movement, bringing the experience of collective bargaining to the American working class.

In addition to the many economic arguments that Wagner made in defense of the NLRA was his argument that the process of being a member of a union and engaging in collective bargaining in the workplace gave Americans the experience of participating in a democratic process in a way that had become remote in their political life. He lamented that politics had been “impersonalized” and that the nature of the nation’s problems – too big, complex and fast-moving – made it difficult for ordinary Americans to get involved in addressing them. Thus, in his view, the workplace became the more likely venue for the “expression of the democratic impulse”…..

Labor Day 2017: Sept. 4

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Facts for Features, August 9, 2017

The first observance of Labor Day was likely on Sept. 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City for a parade. The parade inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. Later that year, with Congress passing legislation and President Grover Cleveland signing the bill on June 29, the first Monday in September was designated “Labor Day.” This national holiday is a creation of the labor movement in the late 19th century and pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of workers in America.