Category Archives: Labor Unions

Is Public Sector Collective Bargaining Identical to Lobbying for First Amendment Purposes?

Source: Max Utzschneider, On Labor blog, December 30, 2013

The Petitioners in Harris v. Quinn argue in their merits brief that Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ. should be overturned, essentially asking the Court to declare all public sector “agency shop” or “fair share” agreements unconstitutional. (For more background on Abood and the “fair share” agreement in Harris v. Quinn, see this explainer.)

This post analyzes one of the Petitioners’ arguments for overruling Abood: their argument that all public sector collective bargaining is lobbying, indistinguishable for First Amendment purposes from the political activity of private advocacy groups. In what follows, I argue that the Petitioners’ lobbying argument is rhetorical rather than substantive: it does not address the substantive basis for the Court’s longstanding distinction between public sector collective bargaining and lobbying but rather simply names all public sector union activity “lobbying.” The Harris v. Quinn Court’s ultimate treatment of its prior precedent should hinge on the persuasiveness of its previously articulated reasons for distinguishing lobbying and collective bargaining, not on whether public sector bargaining can abstractly be called “lobbying.”
Harris v. Quinn: One more amicus (six more states)
Labor Law Profs File Amicus in Harris v. Quinn
Harris v. Quinn: Amicus briefs by USG, fourteen states, homecare historians, and others

Unions, Wage Gaps, and Wage Dispersion: New Evidence from the Americas

Source: Fernando Rios‐Avila, Barry T. Hirsch, Industrial Relations: A Journal of Economy and Society, Vol. 53, Issue 1, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Using a common methodology, the effects of unions on wage levels and wage dispersion are estimated for two neighboring countries, Bolivia and Chile, and for the United States. The analysis shows that unions have broadly similar effects on the wage distribution within these three economies. The findings suggest that the political economy of unions, coupled with market constraints on labor costs, produce commonality in union wage effects that transcend other economic and institutional differences.

Which Way America: Labor Management Collaboration or a Return to Labor Wars?

Source: Thomas Kochan, Huffington Post, December 11, 2013

A number of state officials and the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court face a critical choice: Do they endorse a return to the 19th and early 20th Century era of conflict and bloodshed that characterized America’s labor history, or endorse a 21st Century labor management system based on innovation, partnership, collaboration, and mutual respect?…

Are Young Workers the Future of Labor?

Source: James Cersonsky, In These Times, Working ITT blog, December 11, 2013

…While the AFL-CIO has had constituency groups for women, workers of color, and LGBT workers for decades, only recently has organized labor treated young workers as a distinct category. In 2010, the the federation launched a caucus for 35-and-younger members, Next Up, a network of 20-plus groups within regional councils and state federations that provide space for affinity and issue advocacy. And at this year’s AFL-CIO convention, young workers, like workers of color, figured more prominently than ever before. In the name of “empower[ing] the next generation of labor leaders to challenge, inspire, build and organize around issues that directly affect their generation,” the federation unanimously passed a resolution calling for the tripling of young worker groups over the next four years….

…To discuss what’s next, In These Times spoke with Tahir Duckett, 30, the AFL-CIO’s National Young Worker Coordinator; Eric Clinton, 32, a former Disney World employee, a leader of Florida Young Workers, and president of Unite Here Local 362 in Orlando; Jessica Hayssen, 36, the head of the AFL-CIO-affiliated Minnesota Young Workers; and Austin Thompson, 27, the founder and lead organizer of SEIU Millennials. What follows is a condensed and edited version of our conversation….

Women Workers and Unions

Source: John Schmitt and Nicole Woo, Center for Economic and Policy Research, Issue Brief, December 2013

From the abstract:
This issue brief looks at the most recent national data available to examine the impact that being in or represented by a union has on the wages and benefits of women in the paid workforce. Even after controlling for factors such as age, race, industry, educational attainment and state of residence, the data show a substantial boost in pay and benefits for female workers in unions relative to their non-union counterparts. The effect is particularly strong for women with lower levels of formal education.
See also:
Press release

Jobs With Justice: 25 years of trying to transform Gompersism in the labor movement

Source: Paul Buhle, Labor and Working-Class History Association (LAWCHA), LaborOnline blog, October 31, 2013

These days, successful labor activity among the unorganized seems to depend, in ever greater degree, upon “faith based organizing,” union efforts interfacing with the constituencies of churches and the occasional synagogue. If this is a major trend, it surely begins with the story of Jobs with Justice.

The State of the Bank Employee on Wall Street

Source: Committee for Better Banks, 2013

From the summary:
The findings of this report raise major concerns that this is the tale of two banking industries – one of high paid executives and the other of struggling regular workers. Following are some key findings:
– While average wages have steadily declined on Wall Street since the financial crisis of 2008, the top fifty financial CEOs’ compensation collectively rose by 26% in 2010 and by 20.4% in 2011.
– Bank worker wages are so low that almost 1/3 of bank tellers receive some sort of public assistance nationwide.
– There are now 19,800 fewer people employed in the financial industry in New York City than before 2008.
– The Office of the State Comptroller estimates that every financial services position lost means two more in other industries are shed in New York City and that one job is lost
elsewhere in the state.

Low bank wages costing the public millions, report says
Source: Danielle Douglas, Washington Post, December 3, 2013

A Third of Bank Tellers Rely on Government Assistance, Study Says
Source: Karen Weise, Bloomberg Businessweek, December 04, 2013

Workers of the (finance) world unite – and unionize
Source: E. Tammy Kim, Al Jazeera America, December 3, 2013
New effort to organize low-wage bank workers in US targets entire industry

One New York for All of Us: Leveraging New York’s financial Power to Combat Inequality
Source: New Day New York Coalition, 2013

Key findings:
– The city and associated entities pay $160 million a year for bad deals with banks.
– The city, its pension funds, and the MTA pay $563 million in base Wall Street fees each year.
– New York City and State give banks subsidies worth about $300 million a year, without ensuring that New York City communities will benefit.
– Because their wages are so low, 39% of bank tellers and their family members rely on at least one public assistance program, at a total government cost of $112 million.
– During the past 5 years, foreclosures have cost New York City $1.9 billion in expenses and lost revenue.
Source: New Day New York Coalition, December 2013

Central Labor Councils: A Vehicle for Building Labor Union/Community Alliances?

Source: Bill Fletcher Jr., WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Volume 16, Issue 4, December 2013
(subscription required)

From the introduction:
One of the most underutilized vehicles in organized labor is the institution known as the “central labor council.” These bodies, originally constituted in the nineteenth century, bring together the local representatives of labor unions (known as “local unions”) within a defined geographic space, normally a city or county. Such organizations engage in political and legislative action; solidarity efforts with other unions (including strike support and occasionally support for organizing); and, in some cases, emergency relief efforts (in response to natural disasters as well as economic catastrophes).

The role of central labor councils evolved from their origin when they were frequently active in new organizing, in addition to their other roles. By the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, as components of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), their parameters were largely restricted to the areas noted above, in part due to the fact that the national affiliates to the AFL (and much later, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations [AFL-CIO]) did not want the central labor councils involved in new worker organizing….

Generation Hopeless?

Source: Matthew Richards, In These Times, November 25, 2013

Occupy has left some Millennials questioning their place in social movements. …

…Occupy was the source of both intense hope and despair for Richards. In the following essay, adapted from a piece that originally appeared on his Facebook page, Richards grapples with what the movement meant and whether Occupy’s unfulfilled promises are a lost cause or the seeds of the different world whose promise he glimpsed two years ago.

To foster a robust dialogue about the future direction of the movement, we asked a number of politically savvy people, young and older, to respond to Richards’ essay, to explore the role of social movements in creating political change and to tell us why we have reason to be hopeful—or not. —The Editors…

…Read responses to this essay from:

A Historical Perspective on Occupy
Neal Meyer
Why Occupy is a continuation of the Left’s struggle.

Who Are The 99%?
Asha Ransby-Sporn
A suggestion on how to build radically inclusive movements.

Occupy’s Success Will Take a Lifetime
Nick Espinosa
An organizer’s perspective on the need for continued efforts.

Occupy For the Long-Haul
Andrew Bashi
Why you can’t build movements based on immediate gratification.

Despite Becoming a Branded Revolution, Occupy Still Built Solidarity
Rebecca Burns
The movement becomes less about ‘social movement creation’ and more about making alliances between students and workers.

While Occupy Wasn’t Perfect, It Didn’t Fail Either
Michael Collins
How smaller coalitions are more inclusive and better equipped to address state powers.

Finding Power in Occupy
Kirin Kanakkanatt
How Occupy invigorated a generation’s fight for survival.

Advice For Strategic Planning
Susan Levine
A history professor weighs in on how Occupy will bring change.

If Occupy Is a Battle, the First Round Was a Success
Carl Davidson
Understanding that the tides of social movements bring challenges and victories.

The Institutions of the Left Did Little
Cole Stangler
How Occupy survived despite a lack of union support.

The Possibilities of Change
Sarah Jaffe
Young people continue to organize in the wake of Occupy

The Naiveté of Nihilism
Marilyn Katz
How Occupy challenged the way we think, speak and act upon resistance.

Occupy Is Not the Only Movement
Biola Jeje
The strength of radical movements lies in their variety.

‘Hopelessness is Our Biggest Enemy’
Linda Stout
Why young people must continue to fight for change.