Category Archives: Organizing

Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America: A Labor Notes Guide

Source: Labor Notes, July 2, 2018

….Janus is a serious blow—but we have good news. As plenty of unions in open-shop states and sectors can testify, it’s still possible to win campaigns and maintain high membership rates despite the legal hurdles. We talked to workers in schools, factories, buses, hospitals, oil refineries, grocery stores, post offices, and shipyards.

This guide reveals the principles and practical steps behind their successes. Here’s the punchline: the unions that build power in open-shop America will be the ones that fight hard on workplace issues their members care about, and where large numbers of rank-and-file members take on their own fights…..

Context
How We Got Here
Our Prescription
The Racist History of Right to Work
Who’s Next?
The Anti-Union Game Plan

Diagnostics
Exercise: The Open-Shop Stress Test
Quiz: Assess Your Danger Level
Jump-Starting a Weak Union from Below

Brass Tacks
1. Be Democratic
2. Fight the Boss
3. Turn Up the Heat
4. Ask People to Join
5. Count Noses
6. Don’t Go It Alone

Training to empower: A decade of the Retail Action Project

Source: Peter Ikeler, Giovanna Fullin, Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 21 no. 2, June 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Founded by a union in 2005, the Retail Action Project (RAP) has led multiple campaigns for workers’ rights, back wages and unionization in the heart of Manhattan’s retail district. It has also undertaken worker training and hiring efforts while cultivating a community of creative worker‐members. This combination of organizing, community building and attempted re‐skilling, along with its industrial rather than ethnic focus and operation within a leading center of postindustrial capitalism, make RAP unique among U.S. worker centers and potentially prefigurative of revitalized unionism. Our study examines the organization’s 12‐year history and draws out lessons for organizing young workers in an increasingly precarious economy. Although RAP has tried to both materially empower and socialize young workers to the labor movement, we find it has been more successful at the latter than the former and that its lessons may find application in other retail‐dense urban centers within and outside the United States.

In a Direct Challenge to Their Employers, Tech Workers Begin to Organize

Source: Sam Harnett, KQED, July 6, 2018

#TechWontBuildIt.

This was the theme of two unprecedented meetings earlier this week in San Francisco and Seattle. Tech workers, including engineers and programmers, gathered for a forum put on by the labor advocacy group Tech Workers Coalition.

The meeting in San Francisco was standing room only. More than 100 tech workers from both small companies and major corporations like Google and Facebook talked about how to organize, challenge their powerful employers and stop the companies they work for from creating products and services they find unethical. This meeting was the latest in what is becoming a rising wave of tech worker activism and protests…..

Related:
Why Tech Worker Dissent is Going Viral
Source: Itasha Tiku, Wired, June 29, 2018

Silicon Valley has a long and secretive history of building hardware and software for the military and law enforcement. In contrast, a recent wave of employee protests against some of those government contracts has been short, fast, and surprisingly public—tearing through corporate campuses, mailing lists, and message boards inside some of the world’s most powerful companies.

The revolt is part of a growing political awakening among some tech employees about the uses of the products they build. What began as concern inside Google about a Pentagon contract to tap the company’s artificial-intelligence smarts was catalyzed by outrage over Trump administration immigration policies. Now, it seems to be spreading quickly. ….

….. Silicon Valley’s recruiting pitch has long been: Work with us to change the world. Employees are encouraged to make their work life synonymous with their social identity, and many internalize those utopian ideals. “People who signed up to be tech heroes don’t want to be implicated in human rights abuses,” says a senior Google employee involved in the protest against Project Maven.

Tech workers may feel freer to challenge their employers in part because they have marketable skills at a time of great demand, says Nelson Lichtenstein, a history professor and director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at UC Santa Barbara. “Why don’t you find this among the people wiring the circuit boards together in China? Because there they are much more vulnerable,” he says. ….

Right-Wing, Business-Funded Groups Are Preparing to Use the Janus Decision to Bleed Unions, Internal Documents Show

Source: Lee Fang, Nick Surgey, The Intercept, June 30, 2018

Just moments after the Janus vs. AFSCME ruling came down, several conservative think tanks launched campaigns to leverage the pivotal Supreme Court decision as a means of starving unions of funds and eventually disbanding them altogether. The effort is aimed at encouraging public-sector workers in 22 states to withhold minimum bargaining fees from their labor unions, a shift made possible by the Janus decision. As labor comes under attack, the advocacy groups will launch decertification campaigns to nullify certain unions in certain jurisdictions.

Withholding the funds and dismantling the unions could have profound effects on American politics — a feature, not a bug, of the conservative activism following Janus. Many public-sector unions and the activists who work with them are affiliated with the Democratic Party, and the organizing they carry out is dependent on the hundreds of millions of dollars they expect to collect in union fees in the coming years…..

Supreme Court Rules Against Public-Sector Unions

Source: Colleen Flaherty, Inside HigherEd, June 28, 2018

High court says public employees don’t have to pay regular agency fees to unions that represent them in collective bargaining and more, which could hurt faculty and staff unions.

Related:
Janus, Faced
Source: Matt Reed, Inside HigherEd, Confessions of a Community College Dean blog, June 27, 2018

The ruling on unions.
A friend in grad school once commented that she and I followed the Supreme Court the same way that normal people follow baseball. So yes, I’ve been mulling over the Janus v AFSCME case for months. Longer, in fact, if you count the version that didn’t get decided when Scalia died.

I’ve been working in unionized public higher education since 2003. At all three community colleges, and in both states, representation fees were part of the order of the day. I’ve known faculty who swear that the union is the only thing standing between them and penury, and I’ve known faculty who wanted absolutely nothing to do with their union. Having also worked in a decidedly non-union setting — DeVry — I’ve seen the differences. But here I’ll focus instead on possible long-term fallout. Assuming the ruling stands for a while, what’s likely to happen?

The obvious immediate impact will be that the folks who only pay representation fees because they’re compelled to, will stop. Anecdotally, I’d guess that this is a small, but non-zero, number. That will represent lost income for the union, and a short-term boost in take-home pay for those employees.
What happens next is less obvious.

Teachers’ activism will survive the Janus Supreme Court ruling
Source: Sherman Dorn, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

….As a scholar of the history of post-World War II education policy, I see this decision as an important landmark in the history of teachers unions. The Supreme Court ruling is a serious legal and financial blow, but it will not kill public employee unions, teachers unions – or the ability of teachers to work together to amplify their voices for social change….

Trump’s Supreme Court Strikes Blow to Government Workers, Good Paying Jobs
Source: Mary Bottari, Center for Media and Democracy, June 27, 2018

In a major blow to organized labor and good paying government jobs, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged fees to reimburse the union for the cost of representing them in collective bargaining.

The decision was 5-4 in the Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 case, with Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch supplying the deciding vote. Justice Samuel Alito, who actively invited a challenge to union fees, wrote the decision for the Court’s right-wing majority.

In today’s decision, Alito wrote that the fees, called “agency fees,” violated the First Amendment. In doing so, Alito overruled a 41-year-old Supreme Court decision legalizing these fees in the Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education decision.

The decision ushers in “right to work” style conditions for public employees in states across the nation. These anti-union measures originated in the Jim Crow South as a means of undermining unions who were organizing black and white workers together in the same shop. Predictably, Koch brothers groups–such as Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the State Policy Network–cheered the ruling, while union leaders prepared to renegotiate thousands of contracts and deal with a new legal landscape for unions across the land.

Janus decision extends First Amendment ‘right of silence’
Source: Robert A. Sedler, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling extends strong protection to the First Amendment ‘right of silence’ and continues their trend of expanding First Amendment rights, often at the behest of conservatives.

Nevada’s unions show how organized labor can flourish even after an adverse Supreme Court ruling

Source: Ruben J. Garcia, The Conversation, June 28, 2018

American labor unions have long been bracing for a “post-Janus” future in which collecting dues would be harder than ever.

The Janus case has been moving through the courts for two years and addresses the question of whether a public employee can be forced to pay dues to a union that represents him or her.

On June 27, the Supreme Court said no, which means the much-feared poorer future is now upon organized labor. While some pundits argue that this may “cripple” certain unions across the country, my research in Nevada suggests it doesn’t have to be that way.

Nevada unions have been operating under this very constraint for 65 years and yet have managed to thrive. As such, I believe they offer three important lessons for labor unions in other states as they grapple with an indisputably bleak legal environment…..