Category Archives: Strikes

The new American way—how changes in labour law are increasing inequality

Source: Mark Stelzner, Industrial Relations Journal, Early View, First published: 27 June 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
How have changes in labour law affected income inequality in the United States over the last half century? Curiously, even though employers have increased the degree to which they break labour law, workers have decreased their utilisation of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the strike. How do we understand the unwillingness of labour to utilise the NLRB and the strike when under increasing attack? To answer these interrelated questions, I analyse three central changes in federal labour law and norms from the middle of the 20th century to present: the usage of permanent replacement workers, adjudication of the main federal labour law—the National Labor Relations Act—and change in administration of the NLRB—the body charged with overseeing the National Labor Relations Act.

Nursing Home Workers Win Wage Gains with Credible Strike Threat

Source: Leah Fried, Labor Notes, May 26, 2017

After close to three years of negotiations, stickers and leaflets weren’t getting the boss any closer to a fair agreement. The master contract covering 10,000 nursing home workers in Illinois had been expired for two years and extended several times.

Management was insisting on a wage freeze until Illinois overcame its budget impasse and increased Medicaid reimbursements. Long-term workers were languishing at minimum wage, even when their employers had begun offering higher wages to entice new hires.

Meanwhile, staffing was dangerously short. Often a certified nursing assistant was forced to care for 20 or more residents in an eight-hour shift—bathing, feeding, and assisting them at a furious pace. On top of keeping the nursing home clean, a housekeeper had to collect meal trays for hundreds of residents because there weren’t enough dietary aides.

To win a new agreement, it was clear that workers would need to be prepared to strike.

But their local, Service Employees (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois-Indiana (HCII), hadn’t ever waged a strike over its master nursing home contract. In fact, the last time there was a nursing home strike at any of these facilities was in 1979. The local’s previous contract campaigns had been lackluster. Mobilization had been limited to stickers, petitions, and a practice picket.

And giving each nursing home the organizing attention it needed now was a huge challenge. The bargaining unit covers 28 different employers and 103 facilities statewide…..

May Day protest: The history of May Day; why people are protesting

Source: Debbie Lord, Cox Media Group, May 1, 2017

Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in cities across America and across the world on Monday in May Day demonstrations. Considered by many a celebration of spring days to some, others look at May 1 as a day to protest everything from worker’s rights to oppressive policies to immigration reform. Here’s a look at the history of May Day and why some people choose it as a day of protest….

Related:
May Day Marchers Around The World Celebrate Workers, Immigrants
Source: Camila Domonoske, NPR, May 1, 2017

May Day Strikes Hit Cities Around The Country
Source: Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, May 1, 2017

Workers all over the country are protesting Trump’s immigration crackdown.

May Labour Day: What is International Workers’ Day?
Source: Al Jazeera News, April 2017

We examine the history of May Day and ask what kind of protests and commemorations can be expected this year.

Q&A: What is May Day?
Taylor Mirfendereski, KING-TV, PDT May 1, 2017

The Bloody Story of How May Day Became a Holiday for Workers
Source: Lily Rothman, Time, May 1, 2015

How A Rat Balloon From Suburban Chicago Became A Union Mascot

Source: Max Green, WBEZ, March 8, 2017

Large inflatable-rats, with their claws out and lips curled into a snarl, have become a common sight on picket lines throughout the Chicago area. The balloons, which range in size from six- to 25-feet tall, are usually gray or yellow. And almost all look like they are ready to attack. The rat balloons prompted Curious Citizen Phillip Williams to ask: How did balloons become a part of union strikes? When do they decide to bring out the rat? The rat balloons, nicknamed “Scabby,” started in the Chicago area in 1990 and have grown into a worldwide symbol for union strikes. But the balloons aren’t without controversy. From the picket line to the courtroom, employers have tried to snuff out Scabby many times.

Major Work Stoppages in 2016

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Economic News Release, USDL-17-0180, February 9, 2017

In 2016, there were 15 major work stoppages involving 99,000 workers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics reported today. (See table 1.) Private industry organizations accounted for over 94
percent of the 1.54 million total days idle for major work stoppages in effect during 2016.

This year marks 70 years of work stoppages data collected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Over the past four decades (1977-1986 to 2007-2016) major work stoppages declined approximately 90
percent. (See table A and table 1.) The period from 2007 to 2016 was the lowest decade on record, averaging
approximately 14 major work stoppages per year. The lowest annual number of major work stoppages
was 5 in 2009.

In 2016, the information industry had the largest number of workers involved in major work stoppages
with 38,200. Educational services were the next largest industry with 33,600 followed by health care
and social assistance with 12,100 workers. These three industries accounted for over
84 percent of workers idled for major work stoppages.

MLK’s Advice on Strike Strategy Still Relevant Today

Source: Rand Wilson, Labor Notes, January 18, 2017

…King’s strategic advice to the striking Memphis sanitation workers is still useful for workers seeking to improve their lives with direct action today:
– Once on strike, expand the struggle beyond the immediate company to its corporate allies and suppliers.
– Use boycotts and economic action to involve supporters.
– Transform the pain inflicted on strikers to pain inflicted on executives, board members, and investors.
– Be prepared to stay in the struggle one day longer with “dangerous unselfishness.”
– And perhaps most importantly, place the struggle in a larger context that challenges elected officials and government at every level to make America a better nation!

Don’t Curse, Organize

Source: Michael Kazin, Dissent, Winter 2017

A cruel irony lurks beneath the debacle of the 2016 election: Donald Trump may have won the roughly 80,000 voters he needed in the Rust Belt at least in part because he vowed to fix a massive problem of twenty-first-century capitalism that the left had propelled into national prominence: economic inequality. The insurgents of Occupy, the fighters for $15, and Bernie Sanders and his young apostles had all drawn the media’s attention to the nagging wage gap, bad trade deals, and lousy, non-union jobs. Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 partly because he stoked this discontent when he ran against a businessman who wrote off nearly half the population of his own country. But last fall, it was Trump, not the uninspiring Democratic nominee, who made an effective, albeit classically demagogic, appeal to white working people to change a system “rigged” against them. “He stoked his base’s fears,” observed Gary Younge in the Guardian; “she failed to give her base hope.”

So how should radicals and liberals resist and help defeat an administration hostile to every principle and policy that makes a decent society possible? Several contributors to this issue offer sharp, sensible views about those burning questions. …. Leftists, in and out of social movements, should instead seize the opportunity that Hillary Clinton’s defeat has given them—by transforming the Democratic Party from inside.

Articles include:
The Fight Ahead:

Tomorrow’s Fight
Jedediah Purdy
Trump has put us where he put his followers all year: frightened, in a besieged place, a country we do not feel we recognize, in need of a champion. Now we all have to be one another’s champions.

Left Foot Forward
Sarah Leonard
….Now that our enemies are in power, what comes next? For starters, if the Democrats stand a chance in the near future, Republicans have conveniently demonstrated for them what they did not believe coming from the left: economic populism works….

The Next Democratic Party
Timothy Shenk
Parties recover from defeat in two ways. They can try to beat the opposition at their own game, or they can try to change the rules of the game. Donald Trump did the latter. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn.

A Call for Sanctuary
Mae Ngai
The American public does not support mass removal of immigrants. And by turning cities and campuses into sanctuaries against raids and deportations, we have the power to stop it.

Prepare For Regime Change, Not Policy Change
N. Turkuler Isiksel
Lessons from the autocrats’ toolkit. …. Confidence in the exceptional resilience of American democracy is particularly misplaced in the face of today’s illiberal populist movements, whose leaders are constantly learning from each other. Trump has a wide variety of tried and tested techniques on which to draw; already, he has vowed to take pages out of Putin’s playbook. Defenders of liberal democracy, too, must learn from each other’s victories and defeats. Below are some hard-earned lessons from countries that have been overrun by the contemporary wave of illiberal democracy. They could be essential for preserving the American republic in the dark years to come…..

A Devil We Know
Robert Greene
Frightening as it is, Trumpism has many precedents in U.S. history—and the social movements of the last century, from the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to ACT UP, offer important lessons for how to fight it.

Texas’s New Ground Game
Michelle Chen
….The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), a gritty grassroots network linking three rapidly browning cities—San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston—has fought and won enough local battles to demonstrate the value of seeding incremental progressive wins on the neighborhood level in order to build a grassroots people’s movement. And they know better than to take anything about Texas for granted. For TOP’s communications director Mary Moreno, giving people a reason to believe voting still makes a difference in a politically predictable state starts with talking about them, not their vote…..

The Future of Work:

Introduction: No Retreat
Sarah Jaffe and Natasha Lewis
….When we sat down to consider the future of work, then, we decided to set aside the debate over whether, how many, and how fast the robots are coming and concentrate on these questions of politics, of power. Which workers have it, and how do they wield it? Whose work is valued, and how much? Who is a member of the working class these days, and how is that likely to change?

And we decided to think big. Though it might be hard to imagine a more dire political reality than the one we currently face, the shock of the recent election shows there is space for new political ideas. The authors in the following pages set out provocations and strategies to win the future we want, and warn of the futures we might get if we lose these fights…..

Thank God It’s Monday
Kate Aronoff
….Reverence for hard work is not simply a decorative gimmick, but core to the WeWork philosophy. The imperative to hustle reflects the way the founders see (and wish to shape) the future of work. Meanwhile, WeWork’s popularity is driven—in part—by the increasing atomization of labor, across income brackets. By offering workers an alternative to days spent alone behind a computer, Neumann and McKelvey discovered they could turn a profit by exploiting one of the defining features of work’s so-called future: isolation….

A Strike Against the New Jim Crow
Janaé Bonsu
(subscription required)
….Last September, inmates around the nation boldly resisted as exploited workers have often done in the past. They staged the largest prison strike in U.S. history. It was organized by the Free Alabama Movement, a group of prisoners and allies, and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a segment of the Industrial Workers of the World…..

Love’s Labor Earned
J.C. Pan
(subscription required)
….To most women today who find themselves exhausted by unwaged, unappreciated emotion work, receiving payment for it probably seems like a pretty delightful idea. Why continue to coddle and counsel men without getting something in return? Why work as therapists without charging therapist rates?….

Learning from the Rank and File: An Interview with Barbara Madeloni
Sarah Jaffe and Barbara Madeloni
On November 8, as the electoral map turned redder and redder, Massachusetts and the surrounding northeastern states began to look like a little blue island. Reliably Democratic in presidential elections even after a Republican took the governor’s office in the state two years ago, Massachusetts was still the site of significant election-night drama, as an initiative that would have drastically expanded the reach of charter schools was on the ballot—and went down, sixty-two to thirty-eight. Barbara Madeloni is the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and helped build the No on Two coalition that defeated the initiative. She spoke with Dissent about the lessons from that fight for the future of the labor movement as it prepares for the attacks that will likely come from a Trump administration.

An Economist’s Case for Open Borders
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
…..Last April, an economist named Branko Milanovic published a proposal to reduce global economic inequality in the Financial Times. The best way to help the world’s poor, he wrote, is to encourage movement of labor and get countries to open up their borders. But of course, that’s easier said than done: many citizens of rich host countries balk at the idea of increased migration. When they imagine foreigners settling down within their borders, they fear that their jobs, their benefits, and their idea of national (and, let’s face it, ethnic) unity will be threatened. The campaigning around the British initiative to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election will endure as the consequences of this talk in action. Milanovic’s suggestion is as follows: what if we make some concessions to these concerns and fears, and formally reduce the rights and benefits foreigners are entitled to, so long as they are welcome to come, work, and get a shot at improving their economic situation, at least for a limited time?….

Bargaining with Silicon Valley
Rebecca Burns
(subscription required)
…..At this rate, it’s unlikely that all of us will be working on online platforms anytime soon. But the defining feature of the gig economy isn’t really that workers accept jobs through an app on their phone: it’s that they work with no benefits, no job security, and no unions. And it’s this model of the future, in which workers are fully fungible, that is being embraced not only by tech acolytes, but also by traditional employers and the broader right. Under the guise of inevitability, a host of tech, business, and anti-union groups appear eager to use the gig economy as a Trojan horse for changes that affect far more workers: privatizing what remains of the social safety net, “modernizing” (read: gutting) key labor laws, and further hobbling unions…..

A Left Vision for Trade
Erik Loomis
(subscription required)
….Both Trump and Clinton explained their objection to the TPP in terms of the very real threat it posed to American jobs. But globalization is not going away, with or without the TPP. So how can we make it fairer?….

The Effect of Police Slowdowns on Crime

Source: Andrea Cann Chandrasekher, American Law and Economics Review, Volume 18, Issue 2, Fall 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Though police strikes have been well studied, there are almost no articles written on the public safety consequences of police work slowdowns—labor actions where police officers reduce their ticket-writing and/or arrest productivity for a temporary period. This article fills the current void by presenting evidence on the 1997 New York City Police Department work slowdown, to my knowledge the longest documented police slowdown in U.S. history. Drawing on several, originally collected data sources from the NYPD and other city agencies, the article assesses the impact of the slowdown on ticket enforcement, arrest enforcement, and crime. The findings indicate that, at least in the context of contract-motivated slowdowns where the union may be motivated to garner public support for pay increases, the effects on public safety may be limited. Specifically, in the case of the 1997 slowdown, ticket-writing for all categories of tickets fell dramatically but arrest enforcement for all types of serious crime stayed the same or increased. Accordingly, the crime effects were mostly concentrated in the area of minor criminal disorder (misdemeanors and violations). Only two categories of serious crime (larcenies and assaults) were affected and those crime increases were minimal.