Category Archives: Labor Unions

Metropolitan Coalitions: Creating Opportunities for Worker Organizing

Source: Ben Beach and Kathleen Mulligan-Hansel, Roosevelt Institute, October 7, 2015

From the summary:
Today, the ever-more-attenuated relationship between workers and companies with economic power over their jobs creates obstacles for those who wish to expand opportunities for worker organizing, especially among low-wage workers. The ever more distant nature of the relationship between unions and communities makes those obstacles harder to surmount.

Changing this landscape will require new strategies. Major cities are the place to start, as they are where capital wants to be, where favorable politics and constituencies are concentrated, and where government has the power to shape regional economies for the better. In the last several years, community-labor coalitions working in cities have demonstrated what is possible. Working in permanent coalition, they are winning campaigns that push cities to transform local sectors of the economy, raising standards for all workers and creating better conditions for organizing. Their campaigns have focused on, among other things, community benefits at major development projects, real construction careers for excluded communities, and a waste and recycling sector that respects workers, the environment, and local communities. Those interested in expanding opportunities for worker organizing should invest in such strategies.

Labor Standards and Worker Organization Strategy

Source: Michael J. Piore and David W. Skinner, Roosevelt Institute, October 7, 2015

From the summary:
This paper explores a new strategy for workplace-based worker organizations. The strategy is suggested by the contrast between the U.S. system of work regulation, in which regulations are administered by a number of different agencies, each with a relatively narrow jurisdiction, and the system prevailing in Southern Europe and Latin America, where a single agency administers the whole of the labor code. The latter system is particularly effective where, as is generally the case, the work practices of a company are interrelated and “patterned.” The patterns typically reflect the company’s production practices and business strategy; these are the ultimate determinant of work practices and need to be adjusted if violations are to be remedied. The Franco-Latin approach encourages the regulatory agency to recognize these patterns, and then to look for remedies that address the root causes.

Workplace-based worker organizations could simulate the Franco-Latin approach by identifying violations, bringing complaints simultaneously to all the different agencies that have jurisdiction over them, and pressuring those agencies and employers involved to work together with the worker organization to identify the underlying causes of the problems and develop appropriate remedies. This strategy could be developed by a local organization operating on its own or in coordination with other organizations at the local, state, or national level on the model of the recent campaigns to raise the minimum wage.

Tackling Workplace Segregation Through Collective Bargaining: The Case of UNITE-HERE and the Hotel Industry

Source: Dorian Warren and Virginia Parks, Roosevelt Institute, October 7, 2015

From the summary:
More than 50 years since passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, the little progress we have made as a country in ending job segregation by race and gender has stalled. As women and people of color make up a growing majority of America’s workforce, we must find new and innovative solutions to ending workplace segregation and promoting equal opportunity for all. This case study of UNITE-HERE’s work in the hotel industry demonstrates one effective solution in light of the inadequacy of the Civil Rights Act: collective bargaining.

We identify direct ways in which UNITE-HERE, through the collective bargaining process, influenced the racial and ethnic division of labor beyond network recruitment among individual members. We show how outside of apprenticeship programs, unions may directly influence racial, ethnic, and gender representation by legislating hiring practices through specific contract language, such as mandating diversity commitments from employers, implementing stronger nondiscrimination practices, and requiring direct outreach to underrepresented applicants.

Union Organizing in National Labor Relations Board Elections

Source: Dorian Warren, Roosevelt Institute, October 7, 2015

From the summary:
Is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) broken? Yes. But does that mean it is irrelevant for workers attempting to organize? No. As data in this paper shows, particularly when focused on certain demographic groups, labor unions are still using the NLRB, and in many cases, very effectively.

This paper examines the use of the NLRB election process since 2000, and especially from 2008 to 2012. The author finds that while the majority of new private sector union members have not gained recognition through the broken NLRB election process, the data show a significant number of workers who do in fact gain representation through NLRB elections. The data also show a notable decline in the numbers of workers gaining unionization through the NLRB, though at the same time, the “win” rates of workers who do use the process have increased over the last decade.

Based on analysis of original data on the demographics of those organized using the NLRB process, the win rates for workers in NLRB elections increases with the diversity of the workplace. specifically, workers of color, women, and especially women of color overwhelmingly vote in favor of unionization through the NLRB election process.

Labor-Management Relations in Public (and Business) Administration: A Textbook Case?

Source: James S. Bowman, Jonathan P. West, Journal of Public Affairs Education, Vol. 21 no. 3 Summer 2015

From the abstract:
Unions are a perennial topic of controversy in American society. This article examines the attention
that labor-management relations receive in introductory public administration textbooks. These
publications define the focus of the field, its paradigm, and its essential elements; they also likely
affect how the subject is presented in the classroom. Given the interest in labor-management
relations and their place in the administrative state, how is the topic portrayed in beginning texts?
This investigation provides an overview of contemporary union activity and a description of the
methodology used, followed by the study findings. While all books reviewed give some attention to
employer-employee relations, the context and content of the coverage is, at best, modest. The
analysis briefly compares public and business administration texts in each subsection of the findings,
and generally reveals small differences between them. The conclusion discusses the implications of
the data.

The Changing Face of Unions and White Labor Support for the Democratic Party

Source: John F. Camobreco, Michelle A. Barnello,The Forum, Volume 13, Issue 2, August 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This manuscript examines the political behavior of White union members, with a focus on the differences between private sector and public sector union members. In the last several decades, private sector union membership has drastically declined, but public sector union membership has greatly increased. This has transformed the White unionized workforce from a group composed primarily of non-professional men with no college education to one that is much more female, college educated, and professional. We test the proposition that White public sector union members have greater incentives to support the Democratic Party than their private sector counterparts. The method employed is an examination of the presidential vote among both unionized and non-unionized Whites during the 1950s and the 2000s, using data from the American National Election Studies. Support among unionized Whites for Democratic presidential candidates in the 2000s came primarily from college educated and professional White union members, which represents a reversal of the pattern found during the 1950s. These results provide evidence that the White union members currently voting for Democratic candidates belong mainly to public sector unions.

Labor Unions: A Public Health Institution

Source: Beth Malinowski, Meredith Minkler, and Laura Stock, American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 105, No. 2, February 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using a social–ecological framework, we drew on a targeted literature review and historical and contemporary cases from the US labor movement to illustrate how unions address physical and psychosocial conditions of work and the underlying inequalities and social determinants of health. We reviewed labor involvement in tobacco cessation, hypertension control, and asthma, limiting articles to those in English published in peer-reviewed public health or medical journals from 1970 to 2013. More rigorous research is needed on potential pathways from union membership to health outcomes and the facilitators of and barriers to union–public health collaboration. Despite occasional challenges, public health professionals should increase their efforts to engage with unions as critical partners.

US Union and Workers’ Movements, Past and Future

Source: Daniel Schneider, Judith Stepan-Norris, Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences: An Interdisciplinary, Searchable, and Linkable Resource, May 15, 2015

From the abstract:
The last half century of US labor movement history is characterized by dramatic decline in both density and (since 1979) real numbers. While unions and union federations in the mainstream union movement have attempted to adjust, developments outside their sphere have been especially prominent: the rise of independent unions and the initiation of alternative forms of workers movements. With union decline, community labor organizations [typified by Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)], worker centers, and living wage campaigns have risen to fill the void. These alternate paths for worker representation, like other forms developed in the past, bring new tactics, new activists, and new links to labor struggles and may yet contribute to the future of labor movements in the United States.

How Does Declining Unionism Affect the American Middle Class and Intergenerational Mobility?

Source: Richard Freeman, Eunice Han, David Madland, Brendan V. Duke, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 21638, October 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper examines unionism’s relationship to the size of the middle class and its relationship to intergenerational mobility. We use the PSID 1985 and 2011 files to examine the change in the share of workers in a middle-income group (defined by persons having incomes within 50% of the median) and use a shift-share decomposition to explore how the decline of unionism contributes to the shrinking middle class. We also use the files to investigate the correlation between parents’ union status and the incomes of their children. Additionally, we use federal income tax data to examine the geographical correlation between union density and intergenerational mobility. We find: 1) union workers are disproportionately in the middle-income group or above, and some reach middle-income status due to the union wage premium; 2) the offspring of union parents have higher incomes than the offspring of otherwise comparable non-union parents, especially when the parents are low-skilled; 3) offspring from communities with higher union density have higher average incomes relative to their parents compared to offspring from communities with lower union density. These findings show a strong, though not necessarily causal, link between unions, the middle class, and intergenerational mobility.

Underpaid Workers Overwhelmingly Support A $15 Minimum Wage And Unions, Survey Finds

Source: Mitchell Hirsch, National Employment Law Project (NELP) blog, October 6, 2015

A first-ever national poll of workers who are paid less than $15 per hour shows 72 percent approve of labor unions, and 75 percent support $15 and a union, the goals of the Fight for $15 movement. …

…. Key findings from the poll include the following:
• 72 percent approve of labor unions;
• 75 percent support $15 and a union;
• 69 percent say it should be easier for workers like themselves to form and join a union;
• 72 percent believe that unions can make a real difference in their ability to obtain raises;
• 69 percent support raising the minimum wage to $15;
• 66 percent say they would have a better chance of making $15 an hour if they could join a union; and • Support for $15 and a union is particularly strong in the South at 77 percent.

Among the respondents who were not registered to vote, 69 percent said they would be more likely to register if there were a presidential candidate who supports raising the minimum wage to $15 and making it easier to join a union. And among registered voters, 65 percent said they would be more likely to vote if there were such a presidential candidate……