Category Archives: Labor Unions

Labor Needs New Ideas

Source: Rich Yeselson, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
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Labor needs ideas, so it should incubate them in theory and practice. It needs (notwithstanding arguments to the contrary) the support of sympathetic state actors, so it must leverage both local and the federal government to its advantage. It needs to pay much closer attention to its existing membership, and galvanize those members to defend themselves and to increase their ranks. And it needs a continuing presence within the one domestic sector of the globalized economy that can enable it to exert immense pressure on economic and political elites—transportation. Let us consider these suggestions in turn. ….

Collective Bargaining 3.0

Source: Erica Smiley, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
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The first lesson network leaders learn in the Jobs With Justice training is never give your power away. While easier said in a workshop than in the North Carolina General Assembly, it does compel us to remember how change happens. While we need labor law reform, we should not wait for it to build a movement to expand the scale and scope of collective bargaining. Early industrial unions were bargaining long before the Wagner Act codified the practice, leveraging their ability to halt production when necessary. Only through exercising their power, and even breaking some rules, were they able to win the legal protections to back up workers’ ability to bargain equally with employers. ….

… In a recent article for the American Prospect, Lane Windham of Penn State University adds, “in depending on unions to do the negotiating for a social wage, the U.S. had inadvertently given employers in the U.S. a higher incentive than employers in other nations to fight union organizing.”

And fight they have! The corporate class attacked the very power that makes workers equal at the bargaining table—regardless of whether they are attacking a union or a worker center. The Taft-Hartley Act was the first well-known blow, prohibiting jurisdictional strikes, wildcat strikes, solidarity or political strikes, secondary boycotts, secondary and mass picketing, and more. States could pass right-to-work laws, gutting union membership first in the South, and later throughout the country. Riding this legacy, Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers would have us believe collective bargaining is in its final death throes.

In its current form, it may be…..

What Should Unions Do Now?

Source: Craig Becker, Dissent, Vol. 62 no. 4, Fall 2015
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….The labor movement should seize the opportunity of the present moment to persuade people of good faith that raising the minimum wage is not enough, vibrant organizations of working people, that is, unions, are critical to the economy and to a democratic polity. Making the case that unions are a vital part of fixing what is troubling working people requires both unity and focus. The solution is not strengthening any single union but revitalizing the movement as a whole. Yet, the organized labor movement has been fractured at the national level since 2005 when six unions representing over a third of the AFL-CIO left the federation…. When effective local labor movements build out from key cities and meet a unified national movement, it may be possible not only to convince people that vibrant unions are part of the solution to what troubles working America, but to actually make good on that promise. …

Blueprint to Empower Workers for Shared Prosperity

Source: Richard Kirsch, Dorian Warren, and Andy Shen, Roosevelt Institute, October 7, 2015

The Future of Work (FoW) Initiative, a project of the Roosevelt Institute, has been working since 2013 to strengthen the right to organize and collectively bargain, uplift and uphold labor standards, and end racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination in the workplace.

The Blueprint to Empower Workers for Shared Prosperity is the culmination of a two-year process that brought together labor unions, academics, leading thinkers from worker organizing centers, community and policy groups, and attorneys to identify major areas in which to explore new policies. Based on these discussions, the Future of Work leadership team commissioned a set of papers to develop significant policy proposals. This Blueprint synthesizes those papers and a small number of related papers. The result is a set of bold proposals that, taken together, would transform the American workplace, making it more inclusive, dignified, and just.

We believe that in order to challenge inequality and achieve economic justice, we must rebuild the fundamental norms of the workplace. We need to fight inequality at its source, from low wages to lack of bargaining power to systemic labor market exclusion. Doing so will improve economic performance, as workers’ increased incomes drive spending and raise the standard of living. We will build a fair and high-performing economy from the bottom up and the middle out.

Building on this core principle, the Blueprint explores five policy strategies to empower workers and advance shared prosperity: (1) maximizing worker power and voice in the new economy; (2) ensuring local residents receive a fair share of the wealth generated by publicly funded projects; (3) holding all employers accountable for violations of labor and civil rights; (4) promoting worker-centered business models and socially responsible business practices; and (5) valuing care by valuing care workers.

For Republicans, Killing Unions Is More Important Than Improving Education

Source: Dale Hansen, Huffington Post, October 6, 2015

…. The reality is, the issue here is not that teachers unions are bad for education but rather that teachers’ unions are bad for Republican education reform ideas. So instead of falsely claiming data exists to support their errant positions, Republicans have resorted to attacking the unions that stand in the way of the Republican plan to turn America’s children into widgets that their corporate sugar daddies can profit from. For Republicans, education represents the next great opportunity to bilk the federal government out of billions of dollars while pretending to have American’s best interests in mind, much like they have done for decades with the military industrial complex that has the U.S. spending more on defense than the next ten countries combined. If these politicians were being honest they would acknowledge that multiple studies show teachers’ unions have a positive impact on educational outcomes, while another study showed that in areas where union membership was greater, children in low income families were more likely to achieve higher incomes. Since when did increasing test scores and lifting kids out of poverty become destructive? Beyond that, if unions were the biggest obstacle to improving education, then why do so many countries that outperform the U.S. have higher rates of unionization among their teachers? ….
Abolishing Teachers’ Unions Will Not Improve Schools
Source: Walt Gardner, Education Week, Reality Check blog, October 7, 2015

Worker Voice In A Time Of Rising Inequality

Source: Council of Economic Advisers, Issue Brief, October 2015

From the summary:
Over the past six and a half years, the President has put forward his vision for middle-class economics where everyone plays by the same set of rules and if you work hard, you can get ahead. A key piece of his agenda to build a stronger economy for working Americans is to ensure that they have a voice in the workplace through unions and other organizing groups. Today’s Summit on Worker Voice highlights the economic case for strengthening worker representation, and a new CEA issue brief reviews the evolution of unions over time, their impact on a broad range of workplace outcomes, and new forms of organizing that have begun to take shape.

Stronger Together: How Unions Help Strengthen Families and the Nation

Source: Democratic Staff of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, October 2015

…. Unions could help these workers bargain for a better deal. But for too long, Republican lawmakers have been trying to kill off unions by weakening the protections available under the law for workers’ organizing efforts. And all too often, employers manipulate the law and engage in illegal tactics that make it extremely difficult for workers to form a union. Despite these obstacles, as this report documents through data analysis and workers’ own accounts, joining a union and bargaining for better wages and working conditions has been and remains among the best ways to raise wages, reduce inequality, and restore the link between productivity and prosperity. The workers who share their views on the critical importance of unions in this report make a powerful case for strengthening protections for workers’ fundamental right to choose a union. Lastly, there are steps Congress can take to restore workers’ ability to bargain for their fair share. This report offers important recommendations toward that end. …..

How California Birthed the Modern Right Wing

Source: Chris Lehman, In These Times, October 6, 2015

Many of 20th-century conservatism’s tricks were honed in 1930s agribusiness’s fight against farmworkers. ….. Conservative rule in America is by now so deep-seated that a veritable cottage industry has sprung up to explain its origins. By varying accounts, the modern Right’s resurgence has its roots in populist religious revivals, Cold War paranoia, racial scapegoating and the ongoing cultural backlash against the New Left. Taken together, they raise the question: What served as the mainspring force? …..

The Historical Roots of American Domestic Worker Organizing Run Deep

Source: Jake Blumgart, In These Times, Working in These Times blog, September 21, 2015

Domestic workers and their advocates have been making an increasing number of headlines since 2010, when New York became the first state to pass a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Guaranteeing overtime and time off, such legislation has spread to four other states and is being fought for in many more. But organizing around domestic work has been ongoing since at least the 1930s, an often forgotten corner of the labor movement. …

Latino Workers and Unions: A Strategic Partnership for America’s Progress

Source: Hector E. Sanchez, Victor Baten, Marcela Barrientos, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), 2015

This report will examine the unique partnership the labor movement and the Latino community can achieve together. Unions are in desperate need of new membership while Latinos need the protection and wages a union job can provide them. This mutually beneficial partnership can curb the negative conditions Latino workers face while saving a movement that has changed the American workforce. …..