Category Archives: Labor Unions

Teachers Unions and Management Partnerships – How Working Together Improves Student Achievement

Source: Saul A. Rubinstein and John E. McCarthy, Center for American Progress, March 2014

From the summary:
….Yet within some districts and schools, union leaders and school administrators have found an alternate path to reform—one that is based on building strong relationships that facilitate collaboration among educators and is focused on teaching quality and educational improvement for students. This report explores the impact of school-level, union-management, institutional partnerships on teacher collaboration and student performance. Moreover, it offers strong evidence for this alternative direction to the policy debate on public school reform by analyzing the role of union-management relations in educational quality…..

Theses toward the development of left labor strategy

Source: Bill Fletcher, Talking Union blog, March 26, 2014

Preface: The following is what used to be termed a “struggle paper,” i.e., a paper presented as an argument for a position. It is not presented as a final position, however. It is, instead, inspired by the content of the February Left Strategies web discussion on the labor movement. This paper does not try to present the ideal tactics or all elements of strategy. It does, however, attempt to identify–for purposes of discussion–issues and concepts for consideration in the development of a full-blown left labor strategy. Feedback is welcomed.

The Trouble with “Solution-Driven Unionism”: Labor’s Crisis of Ideas and the Promise of Economic Democracy

Source: Costas Panayotakis, WorkingUSA, Volume 17, Issue 1, March 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article interprets the concept of “solution-driven unionism” recently adopted by the American Federation of Teachers as a manifestation of the American labor movement’s crisis of ideas. A more adequate and politically effective reconceptualization of the role of unions would require us to recognize capitalism’s contradictions and to foreground economic democracy as an alternative to the capitalist organization of socioeconomic life.

The UAW’s Do-or-Die Battle in Canton

Source: Joseph B. Atkins, New Labor Forum, Vol 23 no. 1, January/February 2014
(subscription required)

…The unionization of [Canton, Mississippi’s] 5,200-employee Nissan plant is organized labor’s most important campaign in decades….

…This is the union that helped spark the rise of labor in the 1930s with its historic sit-down strikes, its “Battle of the Running Bulls” in Flint, Michigan, and the “Battle of the Overpass” at Ford’s River Rouge plant where Reuther himself was beaten by Ford goons. Even though those sit-downs actually began at a General Motors plant in Atlanta, the UAW, like other major unions, has always struggled in the South, a region New York Times writer Peter Applebome has called “American labor’s Waterloo, the nut that never cracked.”

The UAW has to crack that nut if it is going to survive. With a membership that has declined by 75 percent since 1979 to less than 400,000 today, its once-fiery image tarnished by concession after concession, and in an industry that has seen the rise of “Detroit South” where foreign-owned, non-unionized auto plants dot the Southern landscape, it has no choice. It cannot allow a union-free South to be an industry model, where foreign companies like Nissan and Toyota thrive while the Big Three increasingly look abroad to locate new plants. …

Forces of Divergence – Is surging inequality endemic to capitalism?

Source: John Cassidy, New Yorker, March 31, 2014

….What are the “forces of divergence” that produce enormous riches for some and leave the majority scrabbling to make a decent living? Piketty is clear that there are different factors behind stagnation in the middle and riches at the top. But, during periods of modest economic growth, such as the one that many advanced economies have experienced in recent decades, income tends to shift from labor to capital. Because of enmeshed economic, social, and political pressures, Piketty fears “levels of inequality never before seen.”

To back up his arguments, he provides a trove of data. He and Saez pioneered the construction of simple charts showing the shares of over-all income received by the richest ten per cent, the richest one per cent, and, even, the richest 0.1 per cent. When the data are presented in this way, Piketty notes, it is easy for people to “grasp their position in the contemporary hierarchy (always a useful exercise, particularly when one belongs to the upper centiles of the distribution and tends to forget it, as is often the case with economists).” Anybody who reads the newspaper will be aware that, in the United States, the “one per cent” is taking an ever-larger slice of the economic pie. But did you know that the share of the top income percentile is bigger than it was in South Africa in the nineteen-sixties and about the same as it is in Colombia, another deeply divided society, today? In terms of income generated by work, the level of inequality in the United States is “probably higher than in any other society at any time in the past, anywhere in the world,” Piketty writes…..

….In the United States, the story was less dramatic but broadly similar. The Great Depression wiped out a lot of dynastic wealth, and it also led to a policy revolution. During the nineteen-thirties and forties, Piketty reminds us, Roosevelt raised the top rate of income tax to more than ninety per cent and the tax on large estates to more than seventy per cent. The federal government set minimum wages in many industries, and it encouraged the growth of trade unions. In the decades after the war, it spent heavily on infrastructure, such as interstate highways, which boosted G.D.P. growth. Fearful of spurring public outrage, firms kept the pay of their senior executives in check. Inequality started to rise again only when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan led a conservative counter-revolution that slashed tax rates on the rich, decimated the unions, and sought to restrain the growth of government expenditures. Politics and income distribution are two sides of the same coin…..

Getting Organized: Unionizing Home-Based Child Care Providers – 2013 Update

Source: Helen Blank, Nancy Duff Campbell, and Joan Entmacher, National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Febraury 2014

From the summary:
In February 2007, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) published Getting Organized: Unionizing Home-Based Child Care Providers. That report focused on the growing movement to authorize home-based child care providers—both regulated family child care (FCC) providers and “family, friend, and neighbor” (FFN) care providers who are exempt from regulation but receive public funds—to join unions and negotiate with the state for better compensation and working conditions. This 2013 Update reports on legal developments between early 2010 and October 2013 that expanded—or limited—authority for home-based child care providers to organize and negotiate with the state.

Green Shoots from the Grass Roots? The National Shop Stewards Network

Source: Jo McBride, John Stirling, New Technology, Work and Employment, Vol. 29, Issue 1, March 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper presents an analysis of the significance of the Internet in rebuilding a shop stewards movement in a time of circumscribed trade union organisation and power. It takes the National Shop Stewards Network as the focus for empirical research and places the argument within the broader context of two historical periods of trade union activity. The study finds significant historical parallels in terms of the key questions of the relationship between a network and a movement and the virtual and real worlds. It suggests that the Internet is particularly significant in forging horizontal rather than vertical links between shop stewards and unions and also provides the potential for mutual support and solidarity. However, the empirical research suggests different levels of engagement with the network, which the paper categorises and it also illustrates how a political party can become engaged in the networking activity.

The Speech and Association Rights of Employees: Implications of Knox v. SEIU, Local 1000 and Harris v. Quinn

Source: Catherine Fisk, Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Irvine School of Law, Research Paper No. 2014-13, February 12, 2014

From the abstract:
In 2012, the Supreme Court held in Knox v. SEIU, Local 1000 that a union representing government employees may assess money from the employees whom it represents to support political activity only if those employees first opt in to supporting political expenditures. In reaching this holding, the Court reasoned that public sector employees have a First Amendment right to refuse to contribute money to support the political speech of their union and that protection of that First Amendment right requires states to allow such assessments only if the employees first opt to make a financial contribution. Knox is the latest in a long series of Supreme Court cases delineating when a union selected as the exclusive bargaining representative by the majority of employees in a workplace violates the First Amendment rights of dissenting employees by acting on behalf of the majority. The Court’s next case in this line, Harris v. Quinn, which was argued in January and will be decided later this year, presents the question whether home care workers who are state employees have a First Amendment right to refuse to pay the union anything for the services the union is statutorily obligated to provide them. The petitioners in Harris invite the Court to overrule decades of precedent and hold that the First Amendment prohibits a union representing government employees from collecting dues or fees from dissenting employees. In colloquial terms, the petitioners in Harris seek to have the Supreme Court declare that, as a matter of the First Amendment, all government employment must be on a “right-to-work” basis. The petitioners in Harris argued that bargaining on behalf of employees is petitioning the government and “political in nature” even when it addresses wages, and it violates the First Amendment to require dissenting employees to support the union’s bargaining. As the Justices recognized at oral argument, the logical extension of the petitioners’ argument is that the First Amendment invalidates any statute allowing employees to bargain collectively on the basis of exclusive representation. While the petitioners noted that the Harris case itself did not require the Court to consider whether empowering a union to be the exclusive representative of employees for purposes of negotiating wages and working conditions necessarily involves compelled speech with respect to those employees who disagree with the majority representative’s positions, their brief invited the Court to find collective bargaining on the basis of exclusive representation to be unconstitutional. This article analyzes Harris, Knox, and other leading Court cases to assess union representation and the First Amendment, contradictions in applied standards of associational speech, and the future of public sector collective bargaining.

Labor Unions and Title VII: A Bit-Player at the Creation Looks Back

Source: Theodore J. St. Antoine, University of Michigan Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 388, February 27, 2014

In A Nation of Widening Opportunities? The Civil Rights Act at Fifty, edited by S. R. Bagenstos and E. Katz. University of Michigan Press, 2014, Forthcoming

From the abstract:
The author, an AFL-CIO lawyer when the 1964 Civil Rights Act was passed, discusses varying views of the role of organized labor in securing the inclusion of Title VII (EEO) in the Act. The “disparate impact” theory of discrimination and the treatment of seniority and affirmative action under Title VII are also analyzed.