Category Archives: Labor Unions

The State of Unions in the U.S. Health Care Industry

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

– Health care workers’ union membership is up as Obamacare comes online.
– Efforts are under way to organize home health providers, who receive low wages and no benefits.
– Several unions are competing to represent RNs and other health care workers.

Improving Government Through Labor-Management Collaboration and Employee Ingenuity

Source: Erin Johansson, Jobs With Justice Education Fund, January 2014

From the summary:
Public employees and their unions are frequent scapegoats when elected officials seek to score political points or contract out government services. But despite what you may have read, there are many examples of productive labor-management relations in the public sector. A new report released by the Jobs With Justice Education Fund, Improving Government Through Labor-Management Collaboration and Employee Ingenuity, profiles how public employees and their unions are working collaboratively with management to improve the way government runs. …

Key findings of this report include:
– The Federal Aviation Administration and National Air Traffic Controllers Association worked together to successfully roll out new technology at 17 of 20 air traffic control centers, saving millions of dollars of software development costs.
– The Naval Sea Command and AFL-CIO Metal Trades Council implemented a system for improving productivity that proved successful enough at reducing inefficiencies that it was expanded to all four shipyards.
– Charlotte County Public Schools partnered with its unions to tackle rising health-care costs by creating a self-funded health plan with a free clinic for employees and their families.
– The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the Patent Office Professional Association developed a new system for managing patent examiner time. Despite a steady increase in unexamined applications every year since 2009, examiners reduced the backlog of applications by 20 percent between 2009 and 2013.
– The State of Michigan and the United Auto Workers employed “lean techniques” to reduce lobby wait times for social services clients from three hours to 30 minutes.
– The Cleveland Public Library and Service Employees International Union developed a system for transferring library employees to avoid layoffs and maintain library hours during a recent budget crisis.
– The City of Phoenix worked with a coalition of unions to create an Innovation and Efficiency Task Force, which has saved the city nearly $60 million annually since it began in 2009.
– Ohio State University partnered with the Communications Workers of America to encourage employee participation in a wellness program, which led to a quadrupling of union member participation.
– Colorado Workers for Innovative and New Solutions, a union representing Colorado state mental health employees, is convening state and community representatives to proactively address changes to the provision of mental health care. …

Two Roads Forward for Labor: The AFL-CIO’s New Agenda

Source: Nelson Lichtenstein, Dissent, Winter 2014

…. [T]here are two roads that lead toward a genuine revival of the American trade union movement. And when I say “revival” I mean not just a larger set of unions with more members, but rather a labor bloc, social and demographic, that is on the offensive, setting the economic and social agenda on multiple fronts so that employers and politicians find that concessions to or solidarity with the unions seem the most practical and common-sense policy, if only because they will ensure their own prosperity and survival….

Collective Bargaining – Narrating Your Story

Source: Robert Moll, HR Pulse Magazine, Summer 2013

Many hospitals and health systems are asking their employees to help balance budgets as the hospitals work to implement elements of health care reform, operate with lower government and commercial reimbursements, and adjust to higher benefit costs. For those with unionized employees, often this means concessionary labor negotiations that may lead to corporate campaigns, picketing, and strikes.

Historically, employers have allowed unions to control the story about labor-management relations. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employers have limited means to mitigate union activities. But employers can tell their side of the story and increasingly more are choosing to do that. Federal labor law guarantees employers the right of free speech, which includes the right to communicate directly with employees during negotiations about collective bargaining and related issues. Through frequent and timely communications with internal and external stakeholders, employers can put the reality of their situation in context by explaining the rationale for their contract proposals. This helps build an employer’s narrative before it is necessary to react or respond to union rhetoric. …

Reform, new labor issues likely to keep unions busy in 2014

Source: Joe Carlson, Modern Healthcare, January 15, 2014
(subscription required)

Labor unions didn’t break any records for organizing activity in healthcare in 2013, but opponents and supporters of organized labor think conditions are ripe for a major surge in the coming year. Factors driving that surge include the National Labor Relations Board likely approving new rules expediting union elections, and healthcare workers are feeling greater anxiety over wages and job security due to partly market and policy pressures to reduce healthcare costs. …

The latest data on union activity in healthcare show that for the first 11 months of 2013, there were 185 votes on whether to certify a union of hospital workers, and unions won 68% of those votes, according to NLRB data. That compares with 238 votes in 2012, 72% of which went for the union.

The number of elections and the win rate for unions were slightly below their respective averages for the past decade. But Jim Trivisonno, president of labor-management advisory firm IRI Consultants, said the dip suggests union activity will increase. “I think there’s a lot of pent-up demand,” said Trivisonno, whose firm analyzes labor trends for the American Hospital Association. “The Affordable Care Act means people will have to look at costs, and that sometimes leads to change and less job security. And that leads to more organizing activity.”

IRI’s most recent report on healthcare labor activity found that the SEIU filed 42% of all the healthcare organizing petitions during the first six months of 2013, followed by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, which filed 17% of the petitions. The rest were divided among a few unions, including the National Nurses United, which filed 2%. …

Walmart Organizes Against Workers

Source: Occupy Wall Street, January 14, 2014

Following the release of a claim from Anonymous that Walmart would be targeted, we received the following secret internal documents on Walmart’s attempts to thwart workers who are mobilizing for basic rights and a decent wage. These documents go a long way in revealing just how scared Walmart is of its own workers standing together for change. …

Walmart Labor Relations Training – Salaried Manager Module
Source: Walmart, (no date)

What You Should Know About OURWalmart
Source: Walmart, (no date)

Leaked Walmart Documents Reveal Propaganda Campaign to Fight Workers Attempting to Organize
Source: Aaron Cantú, AlterNet, January 15, 2014

The mega-retailer misinforms and tells managers to tattle on employees who discuss organizing.

How the Rise of Women in Labor Could Save the Movement

Source: Bryce Covert, Nation, January 10, 2014

A new wave of female labor leaders are winning by thinking big. … These women are bringing new ideas and strategies to labor organizing, many of which are borrowed from the women’s movement—like making the connection between what workers face on the job and what they’re dealing with at home. They don’t only target corporate bosses, but bring together a variety of stakeholders within communities to fight for change in the workplace and beyond. And they’re bringing an influx of new members to the movement by reaching out to primarily female workforces that have often been excluded. Most importantly, for a movement accustomed to a steady erosion of power: they’re winning….

From Coolidge to Christie: Historical Antecedents of Current Government Officials Dealing with Public Sector Labor Unions

Source: Bryan J. Soukup, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 64 no. 4, Winter 2013
(subscription required)

One might ask: what do Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, Scott Walker and Chris Christie have in common? The most obvious answer is that they all are (or were) Republican Governors, but these four men have something much deeper in common. All four have faced-off against powerful public sector labor unions and won. This paper will address and examine the similarities between the anti-union actions taken by these men- Coolidge and the Boston Police Strike of 1919, Reagan and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers (“PATCO”) Strike of 1981, and Walker and Christie’s recent dealings with public employee unions. In the end, the reader will view the work of these political figures as an inspirational passing of the torch between political eras. …

The Growing Commitment to Global Organizing by the U.S. Labor Movement

Source: Peter Evans, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, July 2013

Hard times can push social movements toward new strategies, and American trade unions have certainly seen their share of adverse economic and political trends in recent decades. One result has been a turn toward building global alliances. By reaching out to fellow workers across national boundaries, and at times working in concert with other employees of one transnational corporation, U.S. unions have been able to gain new leverage in what has otherwise been an era of receding union power.

Global collaborations involving three mainstream U.S. unions – the Steelworkers, the United Automobile Workers, and the Service Workers International Union – illustrate some of the goals and accomplishments that can be furthered. Counterpart unions can form a pincers movement to pressure a shared corporate adversary, and union drives stand a better chance of success if various national sets of workers participate at the same time.

How the Decline of American Unions Has Boosted Corporate Profits and Reduced Worker Compensation

Source: Tali Kristal, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, August 2013

Most research on rising economic inequality focuses on growing wage gaps between different groups of workers. But of course that is only part of the story. Just as important is the division of the national economic pie between profits going to capitalists and the “labor share” that includes all of the wages and benefits earned by workers. It’s a zero-sum game: the portion of the total national income that is not going to the workers goes to profits for capitalists.

In recent times, U.S. corporate profits have been going up at the expense of workers’ wages and fringe benefits. From 1979 through 2007, labor’s share of national income in the U.S. private sector decreased by six percentage points. What does that mean? Back in 1979, American workers claimed about 64% of national income, and if labor’s share had stayed at this level, the 120 million American workers employed in the private sector in 2007 would have received as a group an additional $600 billion in compensation. That is more than $5,000 extra per worker!

Where did that huge amount of money go instead of into workers’ wallets? It went to corporate profits, mostly benefiting very wealthy individuals. And things did not change with the recent economic recession. Although the big economic downturn of 2009 reduced corporate profits as a share of national income, the effect was short-lived. Since 2010, the golden age of swelling corporate profits has resumed.