Category Archives: Labor Unions

The Effects of Public Unions on Compensation: Evidence from Wisconsin

Source: Andrew Litten, University of Michigan: Department of Economics and Ford School of Public Policy, December 3, 2016

This paper seeks to identify the effect that public sector unions have on compensation. Specifically, I look at the compensation premium associated with teachers’ unions in Wisconsin. In 2011, Wisconsin passed a landmark law (Act 10) which significantly lowered the bargaining power of all public sector unions in the state. Using an event study framework, I exploit plausibly exogenous timing differences based on contract renewal dates, which caused districts to be first exposed to the new regulations in different years. I find that the reduction in union power associated with Act 10 reduced total teacher compensation by 8%, or $6,500. Roughly two-thirds of this decline is driven through reduced fringe benefits. Sub-group analysis shows that the most experienced and highest paid teachers benefit most from unionization. I supplement the event study approach with synthetic control and regression discontinuity methods to find that regulatory limits on contract terms, rather than other mechanisms such as state financial aid cuts or union decertification, are driving the results.

Dining Workers Strike at Harvard, World’s Richest University

Source: Samantha Winslow, Labor Notes, no. 452 November 2016

On October 5, instead of setting up breakfast for thousands of college students, 750 cafeteria workers at the richest university in the world kicked off their first strike in three decades.

Harvard University’s dining hall workers are demanding a living wage of $35,000 a year, and fighting administration efforts to increase co-pays on top of already costly health insurance plans.

Though their average wage is $22 an hour, workers say it’s a struggle to get by during summer breaks, when they’re out of work or forced to rely on lower-wage temp jobs. They say university administrators are unconcerned about the situation…..

Facing Labor and Politics Under Trump

Source: Sarah Jaffe and Michelle Chen, Dissent Magazine, Belabored Podcast #116, November 11, 2016

We look at some bright spots from the election, including the story of how a unique labor-community coalition in Arizona helped defeat the reelection bid of the infamous bigot Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The Next Democratic Party
Source: Timothy Shenk, Dissent Magazine, November 15, 2016

Parties recover from defeat in two ways. They can try to beat the opposition at their own game, or they can try to change the rules of the game. Donald Trump did the latter. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn.

From Complacency to Solidarity
Source: Madeleine Schwartz, Dissent Magazine, Blog, November 9, 2016

At this moment, it’s hard for me to hope that the Trump presidency and its horrors will mobilize Americans enough. But it must.

Labor in the Trump Years: A Series

Source: OnLabor blog, November 2016

Posts include:
Labor and Politics: Learning the Right Lessons from 2016
Source: Jake Rosenfeld, OnLabor blog, November 23, 2016

A presidential loss, especially an unexpected one, produces no shortage of scapegoating and second-guessing among activists and insiders of the defeated party. In this regard, the otherwise unprecedented 2016 election proved utterly normal. The emerging narrative pins the Clinton campaign’s shocking Electoral College defeat on its neglect of the white working-class, a constituency buffeted by decades of de-industrialization and declining union memberships. As evidence, adherents of this theory point to Rust Belt counties and states that flipped from blue to red between 2012 and 2016, and exit polls showing a smaller share of union households backing Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama. Journalists have had no trouble digging up disaffected white working-class voters who cast their first Republican ballot this year.

What’s remarkable is how quickly this narrative congealed into conventional wisdom. As an interpretation of what went wrong, it leads to one obvious path for Democrats to take going forward, summed up here by the Times’ David Leonhardt: “Figuring out how to win more white working-class votes, especially in the Midwest, has to be at the center of any Democratic comeback plan.”

Choosing this path would be a mistake….

Labor in the Trump Years: A Series
Source: Benjamin Sachs, November 16, 2016

The election of Donald Trump along with a Republican Congress presents a set of profound challenges and questions for the labor movement and for workers. As the readers of OnLabor know, the election of 2016 may mean (among other things): a national right to work law for the private sector; national right to work rules for the public sector (through the return of Friedrichs-type cases); the possibility that exclusive representation itself could eventually be ruled unconstitutional; a reshaped NLRB willing to undo much of what the Obama board has done, including on questions of joint employment, arbitration, graduate student organizing, and rules for non-union workplaces; a Department of Labor, potentially led by Scott Walker, and willing to undo what the historic Obama Department has achieved; workplace raids aimed at undocumented immigrant workers; a different approach to Title VII and the EEOC. The list, of course, continues…..

In This Moment, Labor Must Become a Movement
Source: Moshe Marvit, OnLabor blog, November 21, 2016

With the election of President-elect Donald Trump, labor faces a unique opportunity. Yes, it will face hostility in all branches of the federal government, and will have to maintain a multi-pronged fight. Yes, union density numbers are at historically low levels, and the bulwark of public-sector unionism may suffer a major blow at the Supreme Court through a case challenging the constitutionality of fair-share fees in the public sector. Yes, it will face unprecedented challenges to expand, let alone stay afloat. But in the midst of all this, labor has the opportunity to reform itself so that it can not only survive a Trump administration, but grow as well. Perhaps “opportunity” is the wrong word to describe the moment; labor has the existential imperative to reform itself, harness the existing energy, and lead a movement….

The Future of Labor
Source: Catherine Fisk, OnLabor blog, November 18, 2016

From the end of Reconstruction up through the election of 2016, political elites have done a masterful job convincing the white working class that they do not share a common interest with nonwhite workers.  They used regional differences to political advantage by convincing Southern and rural voters that Northerners, urbanites, and intellectuals disdain them.  The task for labor and the left now is to make sure that the 2016 election is the last time that happens.  Rather than demonize those who voted for Trump as bigots, labor should take their economic demands seriously.  Labor should seek common cause among all people around the economic issues that animated the vote for change.  White voters in Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin put Trump in office because he promised to improve their lives.  When he doesn’t deliver on his populist promises because his policy agenda is entirely about cutting taxes and freeing corporations from all labor regulation, labor must remind middle class and working class voters of all races and ethnicities that corporate interests are dominating a Trump Administration….
Donald Trump’s Supreme Court will be a real threat to labor — and that’s going to hurt the Democrats
Source: Amanda Marcotte, Salon, November 17, 2016
Nice work, Rust Belt! Trump’s high court is almost certain to undercut labor organizing and workplace rights

Trump, Sunk Cost Fallacies, and the Next Labor Movement
Source: David Rolf, OnLabor blog, November 16, 2016

….But although Donald Trump spent precious few words on labor law and labor policy during his campaign, it’s fair to expect that single-party Republican control of all three branches of the federal government will bring only bad news for America’s already-fading unions.

Between now and at least 2021, the best scenario that union leaders can reasonably hope for from the Federal government includes hostile appointments to the NLRB, the DOL, and the judiciary; a rolling-back of progressive Obama-era efforts to modernize both NLRB election procedure and DOL overtime rules; the use of regulation, budget-writing, procurement, and other government powers to chip away around the edges of prevailing wages, wage and hour protections, workplace safety, and nondiscrimination; total or partial repeal of Obamacare; and some short-term job creation if the President-elect is successful in passing an infrastructure package and renegotiating trade agreements on more favorable terms (and assuming he is simultaneously unsuccessful in deporting 11 million wage-earners and triggering a depression by doing so)…..

Transforming Labor: A Comprehensive, Nationwide Comparison and Grading of Public Sector Labor Laws

Source: Priya Abraham, Commonwealth Foundation, Policy Report, November 13, 2016

From the summary:
In the last five years, Americans have seen an unprecedented sweep of public sector labor reforms across several states. Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana—and most recently, West Virginia in July 2016—have all become right-to-work states. Other states have limited the scope of collective bargaining, increased the transparency of union contract negotiations, and created stronger protections for individual workers who do not want to be union members. For the first time since states enacted public sector collective bargaining laws in the mid-to-late twentieth century, right-to-work states outnumber forced-union states 26 to 24.

Black from White: How the Rights of White and Black Workers Became “Labor” and “Civil” Rights after the U.S. Civil War

Source: Cedric de Leon, Labor Studies Journal, Published online before print November 17, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Drawing on primary and secondary sources on the nineteenth-century U.S. labor movement both nationally and in Chicago, I argue that the major postbellum labor federations foundered on the shoals of racial exclusion and evolved into a segregated movement; from there, black labor leaders took their appeal for civil rights to the Republican Party. The separation unfolded in three interrelated processes. The first was discursive: white labor leaders framed the civil rights struggle as past or already accomplished by the Civil War, and the fight against wage slavery as the natural successor struggle. The second was institutional: the labor movement split into white and black unions; black leaders then shifted strategy to focus on achieving civil rights through partisan channels. The third was local in nature: black workers were systematically excluded from the member organizations of the National Labor Union and Knights of Labor, and socially by white workers in general. Together these processes conspired to fracture the initially biracial labor movement into a white labor movement and a black civil rights movement.

This Is Not a Drill: Bracing for the Trump Era

Source: Mark Brenner, Labor Notes, November 17, 2016

Donald Trump’s win is the gut-punch finale to a surreal election season. For thousands of rank-and-file activists the outcome is even more bitter after the inspiration and energy stirred up by Bernie Sanders’ improbable campaign.

Unfortunately, we don’t need a crystal ball to figure out what a Trump presidency has in store for labor, especially with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate.

National “right-to-work” legislation, outsourcing and privatizing more public services, large-scale deportations, a ban on prevailing-wage laws, pulling the plug on Obamacare—these are just the tip of the iceberg. So after we mourn, we need to organize….