Category Archives: Labor Unions

Choosing union representation: the role of attitudes and emotions

Source: Adrienne E. Eaton, Sean E. Rogers, Tracy F. H. Chang and Paula B. Voos, Industrial Relations Journal, Volume 45 no. 2, March 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In the United States, most unions are recognised by a majority vote of employees through union representation elections administered by the government. Most empirical studies of individual voting behaviour during union representation elections use a rational choice model. Recently, however, some have posited that voting is often influenced by emotions. We evaluate competing hypotheses about the determinants of union voting behaviour by using data collected from a 2010 representation election at Delta Air Lines, a US-based company. In addition to the older rational choice framework, multiple regression results provide support for an emotional choice model. Positive feelings toward the employer are statistically significantly related to voting ‘no’ in a representation election, while positive feelings toward the union are related to a ‘yes’ vote. Effect sizes for the emotion variables were generally larger than those for the rational choice variables, suggesting that emotions may play a key role in representation election outcomes.

Facing New York’s New Mayor, Public Unions Should Fuse Their Bargaining Power

Source: Rosie Frascella, Labor Notes, April 24, 2014

….On paper, all the city’s union leaders are saying the same thing: their members want and deserve retroactive pay for the several years our wages have been frozen because of expired contracts. Though the city wants big health care concessions in exchange for retro pay, so far no union leaders have put givebacks on the table.

However, the union who settles its contract first will set the pattern for the rest—and New York’s unions have been on the defensive for decades, not only from employers but also from each other. Rank-and-file workers have been carrying the burden through frozen pay and increased costs for pensions and health, as the cost of living steadily rises.

A new coalition of rank-and-file union members, Public Workers United, has formed to call for a unified plan to win retroactive raises for all. The coalition includes members from Professional Staff Congress (PSC), Communications Workers, United Federation of Teachers (UFT), Organization of Staff Analysts, Teamsters 237, AFSCME District Council 37 (including Locals 371, 768, 1549, and others), Transport Workers (TWU), New York State Nurses (NYSNA), and a few other unions and locals.

The coalition organized a March 6 forum where 75 rank-and-file employees gathered to discuss how to organize—not only for fair retroactive raises, but also for better public services for New Yorkers….

Why Passengers Cheered a Vermont Bus Strike

Source: Ellen David Friedman, Labor Notes, April 22, 2014

An 18-day bus drivers’ strike in Burlington, Vermont, ended in a win April 3 when drivers ratified a new contract 53-6.

Strikes are rare these days, and fewer still result in victories—so why was this one different? What generated public support for the strike, despite management’s aggressive plan to blame drivers for the loss of bus service for nearly three weeks?

This strike succeeded through a powerful combination of workers organizing on the job and organized community solidarity, the roots of which go back to at least 2009…..

Trade Unions And Worker Cooperatives: Where Are We At?

Source: International Journal of Labour Research, Vol. 5 no. 2, 2013

From the abstract:
Last May, ACTRAV and the ILO cooperative branch held a seminar on the topic of relations between trade unions and worker cooperatives. The goal was to re-examine the relationship between the two movements by taking stock of recent initiatives around the world. To be sure, the relationship between trade unions and cooperatives is as long as the history of trade unions. In fact, it is fair to say that the first associations of workers that emerged in Europe looked more like cooperatives than trade unions.

Articles include:
Trade unions and cooperatives: The experience of CICOPA−Mercosur
José Orbaiceta

Workers’ cooperatives in Argentina: The Self-administered Workers’ Association
Bruno Dobrusin

Trade union support for labour cooperatives: An experiment in cooperation between Brazil and Canada
Pierre Patry, Claude Dorion, Arildo Mota Lopes, João Antônio Felício, Léopold Beaulieu and Jean Bergevin

Trade unions and worker cooperatives in Europe: A win–win relationship. Maximizing social and economic potential in worker cooperatives
Marina Monaco and Luca Pastorelli

An emerging solidarity: Worker cooperatives, unions, and the new union cooperative model in the United States
Rob Witherell

The experience of SYNDICOOP in Africa: A model for trade union action?
Stirling Smith

Saving Our Unions: Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win?

Source: Steve Early, Monthly Review, Vol. 65 no. 9, February 2014

Any review of the recent ups and downs of U.S. labor must start in Michigan, long a bastion of blue-collar unionism rooted in car manufacturing. Fifteen months ago, this Midwestern industrial state became another notch in the belt of the National Right to Work Committee, joining the not-very-desirable company of Texas, Oklahoma, Alabama, and twenty other “open shop” states.… The emergence of sun-belt labor relations in the birthplace of the United Auto Workers (UAW) was shocking to some. But this political setback was preceded by high-profile defeats in neighboring states that began in 2005. First Indiana, followed by Wisconsin and Ohio, stripped public workers of their bargaining rights (although the Republican attack on government employees was later repelled by popular referendum in the Buckeye State). Then in early 2012, GOP legislators in Indiana passed a right-to-work law applicable to private industry.… |

The Blue Eagle Has Landed – The Paradigm Shift from Majority Rule to Members-Only Representation

Source: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Workforce Freedom Initiative, April 2014

From the introduction:
…One of the most recent efforts embraced by traditional labor unions to reverse their decline has been to promote and embrace so-called worker centers. The worker center model of representation differs significantly from that envisioned under U.S. labor laws. Specifically, worker centers seek to negotiate with employers on behalf of employees whom they may not actually represent. In fact, many of the recent protests promoted by worker centers are conducted with the support of, at most, a handful of employees. There is no evidence that a majority of workers wants these groups to advocate or negotiate for them….

…At the same time worker centers have become an increasingly important part of the union strategy for renewal, the institutions charged with administering the nation’s labor laws have started to subtly accommodate or even promote members-only representation.

The principal actors include the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB, or “Board”) and the United States Department of Labor (DOL). These agencies have taken positions and issued decisions that, when viewed as a whole, have advanced a members-only model of representation. For example, the NLRB has issued several decisions that empower small groups of workers and enhance their ability to influence employers. A number of key prosecutorial decisions also appear to favor members-only representation. Similarly, the DOL has taken measures to empower worker centers by funding them with grants and according them a special role as advocates for workers.

This shift toward a members-only model could represent the leading edge of a significant change in labor law — with far-reaching effects. Not only would a members-only system empower and embolden groups that have not been selected by a majority of employees to speak on its behalf, but it would also enable traditional labor unions to organize and begin collecting dues from small pockets of workers recruited through worker centers.

Such a system would be fundamentally at odds with the principles of workplace democracy as we have known them for decades. It would also undermine the intent of the NLRA, which was to strike a balance between the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, and the free flow of commerce. Unless Congress changes the law to offer an alternative structure, the agencies responsible for administering that law should stay true to that mandate.

This article will address this subject in three sections. The first will cover the legal theories behind the viability of members-only representation. The second will address how that theory is inconsistent with the basic principles of U.S. labor laws. The third will survey how organized labor, the NLRB, and the DOL have begun to effectuate the paradigm shift toward members-only representation….
U.S. Chamber of commerce predicts Members-Only collective bargaining
Source: Charles J. Morris on Labor Relations blog, May 1, 2014

…Although the title and central focus of the Chamber’s report concern members-only minority-union collective bargaining, its featured complaint concerns the establishment and role of worker centers, which it views as forerunners of minority bargaining— notwithstanding the absence of any evidence tying those two concepts together. My concern here, however, is not with what it asserts about worker centers and their effect, but with the major falsehoods that it asserts about members-only bargaining, of which it disapproves. I leave to others the task of correcting misconceptions about worker centers. …

What’s a Union For?

Source: Carla Murphy, Colorlines, April 16, 2014

Labor unions in the U.S. are at a crossroads and workers of color—particularly women, and immigrants— figure prominently in how well they move forward. Big labor, now down to representing only about one in every 10 American workers, knows this. But incorporating immigrants and non-union and unemployed workers will also mean addressing their community issues, too—like mass incarceration and immigration reform. And for many young workers facing a bleaker present and future than many current pensioners, advancing non-workplace issues affecting low-income and working class people of color makes the difference between joining up or observing from a distance. Some unions get that. And that’s all some young workers are demanding…. How unions use (or, don’t use) their organizing power was a key theme among young workers of color and young whites, too, at a recent Chicago labor conference attended by 3,000 rank-and-file members from around the country. In an era of cutbacks in jobs, public services, wages and, until recently, healthcare, a union’s willingness to represent the hard issues facing their generation and all working communities appears to matter even more. It is not enough to work for members’ on-the-job concerns, only….

Who Rules America Today? The Triumph of the Corporate Rich

Source: G. William Domhoff, UC Santa Barbara Mellichamp Global Studies Lecture, January 23 , 2014

Whether we look at the rising income of the top 1%, the decline in union density, the decline in the purchasing power of the minimum wage since 1968, or the fate of a wide range of legislation, the corporate rich have triumphed over their adversaries in the liberal-labor-environmental coalition. This talk explains that triumph through an archival and interview study of the corporate community’s string of successes beginning in the late 1930s as seen through the eyes of two corporate policy-discussion groups, the Committee for Economic Development and the Council on Foreign Relations.