Category Archives: Labor Unions

Citizens of the Corporation? Workplace Democracy in a Post-Union Era

Source: Cynthia L. Estlund, New York University School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 13-84, December 12, 2013

From the abstract:
In the 20th century, the idea of industrial democracy was more closely linked to collective bargaining in the United States than in the rest of the industrial world. As union representation and collective bargaining coverage has shrunk to less than 7 percent of the private sector workforce, the very idea of workplace democracy has faded from public discourse. Against that bleak background, this essay asks what workplace democracy could mean in the 21st century for the great majority of workers who are destined to remain without union representation. It contends for a form of workplace democracy that can meet some employee needs and aspirations without provoking vehement employer resistance – a domesticated or “digestible” version of workplace democracy to supplement (not to replace) the essential right of workers to form a union.

The essay reviews evidence of “what workers want,” what they have, and what they need by way of representation in today’s workplace. It contends that workers still need a collective voice despite the rise of employment mandates and, in some quarters, improved workplace management practices. Finally, it suggests a role for responsible corporate citizens in supplying a measure of what workers want and need as workplace citizens (if the law would allow them to do so). The corporate embrace of workforce diversity and inclusion could offer a template for how norms of corporate social responsibility could be harnessed in support of a norm of worker representation in governance – but only if “worker representation” is not exclusively identified with unions.

Collective Bargaining and Poverty Reduction: OECD Data

Source: Jim Stanford, Progressive Economics Forum, February 6th, 2014

….I used bargaining coverage rather than union membership to capture the fact that in many countries, institutional arrangements (such as works councils, sectoral agreements, tripartite structures, etc.) allow unions to extend their influence over both workplace and social trends more than their formal membership would otherwise ensure. ….For a measure of inequality I chose the OECD’s standard relative poverty index: the share of the population receiving income (after tax, after transfers) less than half of the median. Again, this data is for the most recent year (2010 in most cases), and is available directly from the OECD’s on-line Income Distribution database.

The following figure illustrates the broad negative correlation between bargaining coverage and poverty: that is, the higher is bargaining coverage, the lower is relative poverty (and the more equal is income distribution)…. Low-unionization high-poverty countries are grouped tightly in the top left (including Mexico, the U.S., Turkey, Japan, and Korea). High-unionization low-poverty countries are grouped tightly in the bottom right (including several countries in continental Europe and Scandinavia with near-universal bargaining coverage). The rest of the OECD countries form a broad cloud between those two poles, with much variation but still a clear negative correlation…..

….Despite the limitations of the OECD data, therefore, and the richness of international experience regarding the determinants of inequality, I think it is reasonable on this basis to make the following conclusion: Collective bargaining (rooted in unions and labour law) has a very important impact in reducing inequality and relative poverty. Differences in collective bargaining coverage explain about one-third of the differences in relative poverty across most of the industrialized world…..

The Idea and Practice of Contract in U.S. Employment Relations: Analysis and Policy

Source: David Lewin, Perspectives on Work, Vol. 17 nos. 1-2, Summer 2013/ Winter 2014
(subscription required)

For several decades, the idea of contract in U.S. employment relations was predominantly reflected in practice by collective bargaining agreements negotiated between representatives of unionized employees and employers. At their peak, these agreements directly covered only about one third of the U.S. workforce, but they often spilled over to affect the terms and conditions of employment of non-union employees, including supervisors and managers. … Beyond collective bargaining, implicit employment contracting—largely unwritten and unpublicized—was also practiced on a wide scale. The terms of those implicit contracts were quite clear: an individual, typically a man, joined a company, worked at that company for his entire career, and retired from that company whereupon he received defined-benefit pension payments. Early on during his career that individual was paid less than the value of his performance (i.e., productivity), whereas later on he was paid more than the value of his performance. This helps explain why long-term employment contracting prevailed for a time in the U.S.: there was an obligation of one party to the other party during an employee’s career. Such implicit contracting was accompanied by explicit layoff and recall provisions of collective bargaining agreements. Hence, even during recessions, the dominant presumption was one of continuous employment with the same employer. …

Who Do Unions Target? Unionization Over the Life-Cycle of U.S. Businesses

Source: Emin Dinlersoz, Jeremy Greenwood, Henry R. Hyatt, US Census Bureau Center for Economic Studies Paper No. CES-WP- 14-09, February 1, 2014

From the abstract:
What type of businesses do unions target for organizing and when? A dynamic model of the union organizing process is constructed to answer this question. A union monitors establishments in an industry to learn about their productivity, and decides which ones to organize and when. An establishment becomes unionized if the union targets it for organizing and wins the union certification election. The model predicts two main selection effects: unions target larger and more productive establishments early in their life-cycles, and among the establishments targeted, unions are more likely to win elections in smaller and less productive ones. These predictions find support in union certification elections data for 1977-2007 matched with data on establishment characteristics.

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.… |