Category Archives: Organizing

The Employee Free Choice Act and the South

Source: R. Pepper Crutcher, Engage: Volume 10, Issue 1, February 2009

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is among the top items on President Obama’s legislative agenda; it was a clear campaign promise to a core constituency–organized labor. Most Southern business and political leaders strongly oppose EFCA’s practical elimination of secret ballot union representation elections, as well as its imposition of labor contracts through government-controlled interest arbitration. They see EFCA as a rustbelt effort to impose a failed business model on sunbelt employers. Because EFCA is perceived to threaten decades of social and economic development progress, aggrieved state legislatures may well retaliate by passing laws that purport to regulate union organizing, strikes, and related activities already regulated by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Opponents of such state laws may argue, based on decades of judicial decisions, that the NLRA pre-empts state regulation of labor relations. Southern business and political leaders are already preparing to fight this battle.
See also:
The Employee Free Choice Act, The Federalist Society Online Debate Series, June 1, 2009

Technology Push in Hospitals Puts Stress on Workers

Source: Mischa Gaus, Labor Notes, no. 364, July 2009

Big Bother Comes in for a Check-Up

Beyond the whiz-bang applications that will smooth record-taking and make the hospital safer lie more familiar reasons why Shands is spending up to $7 million installing a high-tech backbone in its newest facility.

The sensors can also track the location of each IV stand – and every hospital worker, whose badges will include a tag that registers their location.

Hospitals could also use the technology to defeat organizing drives by identifying union supporters.

A Lower “Salt” Content for Employers

Source: Katie A. Mabanta, Alyson B. Skloot, Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, Volume 26, No. 1, Fall 2008

This Note argues that recent NLRB decisions such as Oil Capitol II have not only altered the law in this field, but have also had the effect of putting employers in a more economically favorable position. Part II provides a brief history on the unionization technique of salting, defines the role and characterization of salts, and distinguishes the use of this technique in the construction industry. Part III discusses the law establishing “union salts” as protected “employees” under the NLRA. Part IV describes the Wright Line test used by the NLRB to determine whether the General Counsel has established a prima facie case that the employer has committed an unfair labor practice. Part V examines the remedies issued by the NLRB in hiring discrimination cases, i.e., backpay. Part VI provides a synopsis of the Oil Capitol II holding, specifically in regards to the new evidentiary standard set forth with respect to the establishment of backpay remedies. Further, this section addresses the dissenting Board members’ opinions. Part VII argues that because of Oil Capitol II and its progeny, employers will inevitably discriminate against union salts. Part VIII discusses the possible effect that Oil Capitol II will have on the investigative and litigation strategies of the General Counsel. Part IX includes both cases spawning from Oil Capitol II and cases issued subsequently to Oil Capitol II, which used its newly established framework. Part X provides a political analysis of the impact of these decisions on the NLRB and the workforce. This Note concludes, that these law-changing decisions have not only assisted employers, but will potentially cause unions to rethink their usage of salts as a unionization method.

From the Rat to the Mouse: How Secondary Picketing Laws May Apply in the Computer Age

Source: Thomas Moyher, Robert T. Szyba, Hofstra Labor & Employment Law Journal, Volume 26, No. 1, Fall 2008

This Note discusses the development of secondary activity by labor unions under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”), and how, based on the past and current state of the law, courts and the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”) may handle future disputes arising from use of the Internet in these secondary activities. By analyzing the laws regarding handbilling and picketing, and their extension to banners, inflatable rats, and street theatre, this Note discusses the extension of these laws to websites and e-mail. This Note recognizes that there is a necessity for workable doctrines that will capture the intended policies of the NLRA and produce logical results, and that will be applicable to future cases involving use of cyberspace in new and innovative ways in the secondary picketing context.

Institutional Obstacles To RN Unionization: How “Vote No” Thinking Is Deeply Embedded In The Nursing Profession

Source: Suzanne Gordon, WorkingUSA, Volume 12 Issue 2, June 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The essay examines private sector unionization in the U.S., arguing that elections for representation frequently are unfairly unbalanced against supporters of union representation. Given that hospital administrators typically harbor an antiunion bias, with few exceptions, representation elections are permeated with employer propaganda to ensure their institutions remain nonunion. Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would significantly improve the capacity of nurses to organize unions of their choice through card check rules, while reducing the hospital management “vote-no” campaigns that are highly unfavorable toward labor organizing. Unionization is a means to significantly improve conditions for nurses, who are the principle “guardians of the sick.”

Pirates Of The Caribbean: SEIU’s Failed Bid In Puerto Rico

Source: César F. Rosado Marzán, WorkingUSA, Volume 12 Issue 2, June 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In October of 2008, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) failed to obtain majority support to represent a 40,000-member bargaining unit of public school teachers in Puerto Rico even though it had most of the odds stacked in its favor: a huge war chest, a decertified and bankrupt rival, and the Puerto Rican government qua employer’s neutrality, if not outright support. The Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico, the SEIU’s rival, campaigned against the SEIU’s bid for exclusive representation by focusing on rank-and-file mobilization and a message against raiding by a “colonial” union. The event showed that even progressive and successful unions such as the SEIU are not immune to oligarchic tendencies and may raid other unions in pursuit of money and power. Strategies that combine more democratic, bottom-up mobilization, including, in the case of Puerto Rico, strengthening the long-established tradition of minority unionism, could dampen future oligarchic tendencies, buttress industrial democracy, and create better coexistence between trade union organizations. To move forward, especially given the global crisis that has befallen us, unions need to start acting in the most principled of ways and expressing solidarity in the deepest manners.

Organizing the Unemployed

Source: Jake Blumgart, American Prospect, Web Only, May 21, 2009

During past recessions, collective action among laid-off workers was common. Will this financial crisis foster a similar movement?

At last count, conservatively speaking, 13.2 million Americans were unemployed, and according to Paul Krugman, we can expect the numbers to keep rising through 2010. The spirit-crushing reality of those figures has led several commentators to pen editorials bemoaning the passive state of the American worker. While laid-off French workers bossnap (kidnap their bosses) and the Chinese Commerce Minister warns of unemployment-related unrest, Americans have exhibited few signs of protest.

It hasn’t always been this way. During the Great Depression, the unemployed — often led by political radicals — engaged in militant action. They restored gas heating to those who could no longer afford it, reinstated broke families in their homes, and pressed government for more aid. In 1975, the Philadelphia Unemployment Project was launched in order to organize the poor and unemployed. But where is such outrage and organization today?
See also:
Unemployment Lifeline

Second and Ninth Circuits Address Balance Between Union Speech Rights and Employer Property Rights

Source: Jeffrey S. Bosley and Larae N. Idleman, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 35 no. 1, Summer 2009

In this article, the authors discuss two circuit court cases which examine the balance between employer property rights and the rights if non-employees and unions to engage in organizing activity and other communications. These conflicting decisions, and the different analysis applied in each case, underscore the importance of careful review of restrictions on non-employee access and speech. The authors advise employers and property owners to continue ti monitor this evolving area of the law.

Majority Authorizations and Union Organizing in the Public Sector: A Four-State Perspective

Source: Robert Bruno, Adrienne E. Eaton, Mohammad Abbas Ali, Sally Alvarez, Legna J. Cabrera, Lynn Feekin, Keith Appleby, Jennifer Schneidman, A Joint Research Project of the: University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations, Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations – Rutgers University, Extension Division, School of Industrial and Labor Relations – Cornell University, University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, May 14, 2009

New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Oregon have provided a mechanism for nearly 35,000 public sectors workers to express their interest in becoming union members. The process has worked without systematic or episodic employer or union abuse. While not identical, the states’ majority sign-up provisions are similar to the proposed federal Employee Free Choice Act. As the debate over the national legislation continues, it is important for policymakers to have access to hard data detailing the impact of a majority sign-up provision. In the interest of constructing sound public policy, the states can make a valuable contribution to the pursuit of an informed judgment about labor law reform.

As is true in so many other policy areas, on the subject of union representation, the states are incubators for new ideas and practices. New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and Oregon have demonstrated that a majority-authorization petition can genuinely determine the will of the employees to be unionized and provides a functional, largely non-adversarial and eventless process for insuring a fair work environment for everyone.

As Easy as ABC?: Learning to Organize Private Child Care Workers

Source: Tony Brown, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 34 no. 2, June 2009
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the emergence of privatized child care in Australia and the efforts of one trade union to organize previously unorganized child care workers. The rapid growth of private child care delivery and the profits that are being generated are recent phenomena in Australia. The company that has emerged as the biggest provider is now expanding into the North American market and believes that its model is transferable into other human services areas, such as aged care. The article considers these developments in the context of the spread of precarious work and the new organizing methods being adopted by the child care workers’ union to recruit members and establish their power within the industry.