Category Archives: Labor Unions

After ‘Harris v. Quinn’: The State of Our Unions

Source: Eileen Boris, Jennifer Klein, Joel Rogers, Joshua Freeman and Jane McAlevey, The Nation, July 2, 2014

After one of Supreme Court’s most anti-union rulings in recent years, is there still time for organized labor to save itself?…

….To help sort through these and other questions, we have gathered up a group of scholars and activists and asked them to expound. They include Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, Joel Rogers, Joshua Freeman and Jane McAlevey. Their pieces range from meditations on what Harris v. Quinn means for the vast corps of women (particularly women of color) who make up this new “partial public employee” category to the way the Court has warped the First Amendment into a scythe to slice apart some of our most basic social protections. And if the meditations are not always cheery, well, this isn’t a particularly cheery topic. Then again, it’s not hopeless either. As McAlevey argues, labor still has time to save itself.

Reducing Labor to Love” by Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein

How Harris v. Quinn and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Turned the First Amendment into a Weapon” by Joel Rogers

Is Harris v. Quinn a Threat to Labor Peace?” by Joshua Freeman

Labor’s Only Real Choice: Beating Harris v. Quinn and Right-to-Work Attacks from the Inside Out” by Jane McAlevey…

Why the Supreme Court’s Attack on Labor Hurts Women Most

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation blog, July 7, 2014

…..According to a CEPR analysis of the “union advantage” and gender inequality, union women are more likely to have decent family leave policies, retirement benefits and wages. Unionized female health aides generally earn wages that are 16 percent higher than that of their non-union counterparts. Meanwhile, though the union workforce is shrinking nationwide, women are becoming the majority and have especially high representation in public service jobs, thanks in large part to the immigration-driven growth in Asian American and Latina workers.

And that brings us back to why Illinois home attendants were a perfect target for the anti-union movement. Union-supported homecare demonstrates how women, “big government” and consumers can effectively work together, so naturally, the right is fighting to destroy this model before it catches on in more states.

Hobby Lobby revealed how companies can lord over working women’s reproductive freedom in a deeply inequitable insurance system. Harris struck from another angle—eroding union women’s labor power and threatening public health services in the process. Unions are a tool for resistance; although unionization alone won’t overcome greed or religious chauvinism in corporations, a strong collective bargaining system would give women a platform to hold bosses accountable and thwart reactionary attacks on health programs for workers and the poor…..
Related:
Harris v. Quinn Is About the Right of Home Care Workers to Improve Their Wages
Source: Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute, Working Economics blog, May 20, 2014

The Courts vs. Teacher Unionism

Source: Justin Law, LaborOnline, May 23, 2014

Teachers unions have faced some of the most challenging legal strictures in U.S. history. Before public collective bargaining employment laws, teachers effectively were told they had no right to organize by a judicial system that used a variety of constructions of the law to invalidate the citizen’s right to free speech and assembly in the workplace. One illustration of this legal labor history–one relevant to teachers power—is that of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation (CTF) legal battle to overturn the infamous “Loeb rule,” which presented nearly insurmountable obstacles to the organization of teachers by the labor movement. Under the administration of Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson, and under the leadership of School Board member and later President, Jacob M. Loeb, the Chicago Board of Education passed a rule in September of 1915 declaring that any teacher who was a member of a trade union or other unauthorized society would not be hired by the Board to work in the schools of Chicago….

California Grad Employee Contract Shows Reform Works

Source: Katy Fox-Hodess, Labor Notes, June 24, 2014

This week 13,000 teaching assistants, readers, and tutors at the University of California ratified a new four-year contract.

We made big gains on both bread-and-butter and social justice issues, with a 17 percent wage increase over four years, new language on class size, longer paid parental leaves, a larger child care subsidy with expanded coverage, a new committee to equalize opportunities for undocumented students, and a mandate to create lactation stations and all-gender bathrooms. (See box.)

It’s a good moment to look back on how we got here. This is the first contract since our reform caucus, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, took the helm of our union, UAW Local 2865, in the spring of 2011….

Everybody in the Tent: Lessons from the Grassroots About Labor Organizing, Immigrants, and Temporary Worker Policies

Source: Leticia M. Saucedo, University of California, Davis – School of Law, UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 382, May 16, 2014

From the abstract:
Why are so many immigrant workplaces non-unionized and what can the labor movement do about it? The questions about whether and how effectively to bring immigrant workers into the labor movement involve not just the impact of immigrant labor on organizing efforts, but also the effect of the labor movement’s policy positions on immigrant labor. According to the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (“AFL-CIO”), protections for immigrant workers are as important to the labor movement as protecting jobs for U.S. workers. While there are great examples of union success in organizing immigrant workplaces, however, the vast majority of immigrant workers remain unorganized. The residential construction industry is one of the areas where low-skilled, non-unionized immigrant workplaces dominate the landscape. Unions have had some limited and scattered success in rebuilding the residential construction industry labor movement in places like Los Angeles, California, but the success has not been sustained.

In this article, I share perspectives of local residential construction workers and labor leaders collected from a series of interviews in Las Vegas, Nevada about obstacles to organizing immigrants. I conducted over 100 interviews between 2006 and 2008 that are the basis for a larger project on working conditions among immigrant workers in the residential construction industry in Las Vegas. In this article, I explore how immigrant workers and local organizers respond to questions about the difficulties in organizing immigrants. Their responses should provide some guidance to policy advocates and the labor movement as they formulate positions around comprehensive immigration reform proposals.

In Part I of this article, I describe what academics view as obstacles to immigrant worker organizing, including changes in the structure of the construction industry, and restrictive immigration laws. In Part II, I describe the Las Vegas Residential Construction Industry Study and explore the gap in perceptions between local union leaders and non-union workers about obstacles to organizing. I conclude in this part that the construction trade union movement must incorporate aspects of immigrant organizing strategies that have occurred in the service industry. In Part III, I explore the effects of union activity in the most recent negotiations over comprehensive immigration reform, analyzing how the AFL-CIO’s position might work at cross-purposes to its stated goals of organizing immigrant workplaces and bringing immigrants into the labor movement. I conclude that by conceding the contingent nature of construction work and then limiting the legal avenues for immigration into construction work, the AFL-CIO’s compromises further weaken local labor organizers’ attempts to organize immigrants.

How Millennials Can Make Their Mark on Unions

Source: Alan Greenblatt, Governing, July 2014

Younger workers can bring a new energy to organized labor. But if unions want to attract millennials, they’ll have to change some of their ways…. For the first time in many years, unions see a chance to make themselves more attractive not just to graduate students, but to young workers in general. Today’s young people — the millennial generation, who are now 32 and under — are currently trending leftward in their attitudes about many economic issues. Specifically, they are much more likely to hold favorable opinions about unions than older adults. Polling by Gallup and the Pew Research Center shows that about 60 percent of those under 30 express support for unions, compared to about 40 to 45 percent of older Americans. The resentment that turned young people away from organized labor in the 1970s and 1980s — when there was a widespread perception that unions were in place mainly to protect the status quo for a select group — has largely faded away. It’s been replaced by at least a small uptick in feeling that unions can return to their roots as vehicles for collective action aimed at improving the lot of lower- and middle-class workers across the board….

Unions Boost Women’s Earnings, Benefits, and Workplace Flexibility

Source: Janelle Jones, John Schmitt, and Nicole Woo, Center for Economic and Policy Research, June 2014

From the press release:
Over the past four decades, women have played increasingly important roles as breadwinners in their families. At the same time, women’s share of unpaid care work and housework has remained high. A new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), “Women, Working Families, and Unions,” explores the role unions play in addressing the challenges facing working women and families in balancing their work and family responsibilities. The paper looks at trends in unionization for women; the impact of unions on wages, benefits and access to family and medical leave; and the role of unions in addressing work-life balance issues. … The report finds that unions increase access to benefits that help working families succeed in this economy. Women in unions are 36 percent more likely to receive health insurance benefits through their jobs and 53 percent more likely to participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan….

Underwriting Good Jobs: How to Place Over 20 Million Americans on a Pathway to the Middle Class Using Federal Purchasing Power

Source: Robert Hiltonsmith, Lew Daly, Dēmos, June 2014

From the http://www.demos.org/publication/underwriting-good-jobs-how-place-over-20-million-americans-pathway-middle-class-using-fe:
This report presents new research on the scope of federally-supported employment in the private economy and shows how, using our over $1.3 trillion dollars in federal purchasing, the President of the United States can place over twenty million Americans on a pathway to the middle class….

…Building on state and local precedents, a Good Jobs Policy for federal purchasing should include the following standards:
– Respecting employees’ right to bargain collectively with their employers, without being forced to take strike action to win better wages and conditions.
– Offering living wages, decent benefits including health care and paid leave for sickness and caregiving, as well as fair work schedules that are predictable and stable.
– Demonstrating an exemplary standard of compliance with workplace protection laws, including laws governing wages and hours, health and safety, and other applicable business regulations.
– Limiting executive compensation to fifty times the median salary paid to the company’s workers; in addition, the current cap on federal contract funds applicable for executive salaries should be substantially reduced….

Union Strength, Neoliberalism, and Inequality: Contingent Political Analyses of U.S. Income Differences since 1950

Source: David Jacobs, Lindsey Myers, American Sociological Review, Published online before print, June 9, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Do historically contingent political accounts help explain the growth in family income inequality in the United States? We use time-series regressions based on 60 years to detect such relationships by assessing interactive associations between the neoliberal departure coincident with Ronald Reagan’s election and the acceleration in inequality that began soon after Reagan took office. We find evidence for this and for a second contingent relationship: stronger unions could successfully resist policies that enhanced economic inequality only before Reagan’s presidency and before the neoliberal anti-union administrations from both parties that followed Reagan. Politically inspired reductions in union membership, and labor’s diminished political opportunities during and after Reagan’s presidency, meant unions no longer could slow the growth in U.S. inequality. Coefficients on these two historically contingent interactions remain significant after many additional determinants are held constant. These findings indicate that political determinants should not be neglected when researchers investigate the determinants of U.S. inequality.

Library Workers: Facts & Figures

Source: Department for Professional Employees – AFL-CIO, Fact Sheet, 2014

Libraries and library staff provide essential services for schools, universities, and communities. Americans use libraries for free, reliable, and organized access to books, the Internet, and other sources of information and entertainment; assistance finding work; research and reference assistance; and programs for children, immigrants, and other groups with specific needs, just to name a few.

This fact sheet explores: library staff in the workforce, diversity within the professions, educational attainment of library workers, the role of women in the professions, issues of pay and pay equity, and the union difference for library staff.