Category Archives: Labor Unions

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.

Comparing the Policy Preferences of Unions & Corporations

Source: Sean McElwee, Dēmos, Policy Shop Blog, June 12, 2014

…It’s important to note that the “mass based interest groups” include groups like the National Rifle Association and American Israel Public Affairs Committee which do not share the interests of average citizens. At the same time, one corporate lobbying organization, the American Hospital Association, is actually slightly correlated with the interests of average Americans. To parse out which groups are aligned with the preferences of Americans and which are positively malign, I used data from Gilens’s book Affluence and Influence. I stuck to groups which had at least one statistically significant correlation (either positive or negative) with one group of voters (10th percentile, 50th percentile and 90th percentile). This comparison yields some interesting results. First, we can see that most unions actually take positions that strongly correlate with the preferences of all Americans, although the correlation is stronger for the lower and middle class….

unions

Second, we can see that corporate lobbying groups do not, with one exception.

corporate lobbying groups

…To illustrate these differences, I’ve put the organizations on a scatter plot, divided into four quadrants. The y-axis shows where an organization aligns with the the top 90th percentile. The x-axis shows an organization’s correlation with the bottom 10th percentile. An organization in the upper right quadrant shares the preferences of the wealthy and the poor. An organization in the lower left does is working against the interests of Americans. Here we see that unions are all in the top right quadrant. No corporations are in the right half of the chart, indicating that none share the preferences of the poor….
scatter plot
Related:
Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
Source: Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Perspectives on Politics (forthcoming), March 7, 2014

How to Be a Staffer in a Democratic Union

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, June 5, 2014

Suppose you’re a union staff rep. (Or a business agent, an internal organizer, whatever the local lingo is.) And suppose you believe in union democracy: the members should run the fight against the boss.

Where do you come in, then? What exactly is your job, and how can you do it in a way that keeps the rank and file in the driver’s seat?

The obvious danger: you work for the union all day, while members have their jobs to do. It can be all too easy for members and staffers alike to start thinking “the union” means the people who have desks at the union hall: the top brass and the reps they hire. That’s not only undemocratic—it’s a terrible foundation for building power.

We asked four experienced staffers how they see their jobs and how they translate the idea that the members run the union into their day-to-day tasks….

Three New Ways the Koch Brothers Are Screwing America

Source: Elisabeth Garber-Paul, Rolling Stone, June 4, 2014

The fourth-richest men in America target low-wage workers, minority voters and unions. … Here, three of the fights to which these undocumented millions flow: Suppressing the Minimum Wage …. Breaking Unions “Really, what we would like to see is to take the unions out at the knees, so they don’t have the resources to fight,” says Scott Hagerstrom, the Michigan director of Americans for Prosperity – a group heavily funded by the Kochs – in a damning clip from the film. And it seems to sum up the Kochs’ approach to unions: Americans for Prosperity were integral to the 2011 union-busting fight in Wisconsin, and American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC, which works closely with the brothers) has drafted the model anti-union legislation used to slash collective bargaining rights for workers in 36 states. ….Disenfranchising Voters….
Related:
Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition

We’ve reissued Koch Brothers Exposed in an updated version, Koch Brothers Exposed: 2014 Edition, to shine a light on them. We’ve delved even deeper into where their money is going, who their money is hurting, and how much they are making during this whole process leading up to the 2014 Elections.

Who Is Behind the National Right to Work Committee and its Anti-Union Crusade?

Source: Jay Riestenberg and Mary Bottari, The Progressive, June 4, 2014

…The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF) is the 501(c)(3) arm of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), a 501(c)(4) organization. Additionally, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research is an affiliated anti-union research shop. Founded nearly 60 years ago, the NRTWC has been a national leader in the effort to destroy public and private sector unions. The groups have increased their funding and staffing in recent years. In 2012, the three groups combined reported over $25 million in revenue, making them a powerful instrument of the corporate and ideological interests that want to keep wages low and silence the voice of organized labor in the political arena…..

The NRTWC has deep connections within the national right-wing network led by the Koch brothers. Reed Larson, who led the NRTW groups for over three decades, hails from Wichita, Kansas, the hometown of Charles and David Koch. Larson became an early leader of the radical right-wing John Birch Society in Kansas, which Fred Koch (the father of Charles and David) helped found. Several other founders and early leaders of the NRTWC were members and leaders of the John Birch Society, specifically the Wichita chapter of which Fred Koch was an active member.

The groups remain tied to the Kochs. In 2012, the Kochs’ Freedom Partners group funneled $1 million to the National Right to Work Committee, while the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation gave a $15,000 grant to the NRTWLDF, which has also received significant funding from the Koch-connected DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Today, at least three former Koch associates work as attorneys for the NRTWLDF….In addition to the Koch brothers, the NRTWLDF has received significant funding from many big name conservative donors, including the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart), the Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation, Wisconsin’s Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust….