Why Do Workers Strike?

Source: Martin Glaberman, Jacobin, May 30, 2018

Think conservative workers won’t strike? Think again. History shows it’s not workers’ ideas that count, it’s the conditions they face on the job.

…. Here, we reproduce the concluding chapter of Wartime Strikes. The historical backdrop of wartime strikes and those that have taken place today are obviously different, and Glaberman’s analysis of why auto workers took the actions they did can’t be directly transposed onto today’s events.

But his insistence that working people can be transformed when they’re forced to deal with the reality in front of them is an essential reminder for anyone trying to understand where and how the next working-class upsurge might continue to spread today. ….

Reinventing the public value of libraries

Source: Nick Field & Rosie Tran, Public Library Quarterly, Latest Articles, Published online: January 11, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Libraries worldwide have had to re-think their purpose and adapt to changing community needs and expectations. They are no longer simply repositories for old books. Rather, they are vital components of a community’s social and economic infrastructure that connects communities and fosters creativity and innovation. This paper explores the changing role of libraries—and public value organizations more broadly—in creating positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes for individuals and communities.

Strategies for sustainable funding: a metadata review of the independent library district model

Source: Matthew Goldman, Public Library Quarterly, Latest Articles, Published online: April 10, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public libraries have seen a decline in public funding, relying on a mixture of external types of funding to keep services running. With state and local governments continuing to face financial pressures, some libraries have explored alternative ways to maximize funding, by forming library districts. This report aimed at exploring library districts in three states, Colorado, Michigan, and Oregon, which have similar funding structures. The report found more stable and predictable funding patterns in library districts versus their counterparts and provides evidence that is a strong alternative for public libraries seeking a change in the way they obtain funds.

Poverty and Public Library Usage in Iowa

Source: Jeffrey Meyer, Journal Public Library Quarterly, Volume 37, Issue 1, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This analysis identifies relationships between library usage, poverty, and median household income in Iowa. Quantitative analysis identifies two distinctive correlations within this data set. First, there is a negative correlation between library usage and poverty, associating higher library usage with lower poverty. Second, there is a subtle positive correlation between library usage and median household income, associating higher library usage with higher median household income. Library usage data is derived from the Iowa Library Services’ Iowa Public Library Statistics (July 1, 2013–June 30, 2014). Poverty and median household income data is derived from the United States Census Bureau.

The NFL’s “take a knee” ban is flatly illegal

Source: Benjamin Sachs, Vox, May 25, 2018

NFL team owners this week decided that players will no longer be allowed to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem. And if they do, they will be subject to punishment and their team will be subject to fines.

The owners did provide the players with an alternative, of sorts: If a player does not wish to stand and salute the flag, he can stay in the locker room and wait for the anthem to end. This new league policy is meant to enforce a particular vision of patriotism, one that involves compliance rather than freedom of expression. The policy is also illegal — for a host of reasons.

The clearest illegality derives from the fact that the league adopted its new policy without bargaining with the players union. When employees, including football players, are represented by a union, the employer — including a football league — can’t change the terms of employment without discussing the change with the union. Doing so is a flagrant violation of the employer’s duty to bargain in good faith.

If, as the NFL Players Association says, the employer implemented this change on its own, the policy is flatly illegal for that reason and should be rescinded by the league…..

Free Speech Rights: Public Employees v. Football Players

Source: Sharon Block, Maddy Joseph, On Labor blog, May 30, 2018

“[S]peech on public issues occupies the highest rung of the hierarchy of First Amendment values, and is entitled to special protection.” Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443, 452 (2011) (citation omitted).

Nearly every brief filed in Janus v. AFSCME advocating for the Supreme Court to invalidate as unconstitutional union fair share dues, including the Petitioner and Trump Administration’s briefs, centers this quotation and sentiment. These briefs argue that the essence of democracy hangs on the right and ability of citizens to freely express their own individual political beliefs in the marketplace of ideas. Their deepest concern is that required fair share dues compel public sector workers to subsidize political speech. The government’s brief deems this a “severe burden” on workers’ constitutional rights.

While we don’t share the view that the effect of fair share dues is to compel speech, we don’t disagree that free speech is essential to democracy and that employer coercion of worker speech is detrimental to democracy. (Indeed, a new book by Alexander Hertl-Fernandez of Columbia University argues that this is a growing problem in the American workplace.) That’s one reason why we’re troubled by the NFL’s new policy punishing taking a knee during the national anthem. As Ben recently argued in Vox, the NFL policy raises serious free speech concerns and should violate the First Amendment. President Trump and Vice President Pence actively encouraged adoption of the ban on anthem protests; NFL owners have even stated that the ban was “initiated” by the President’s interventions. The ban is exactly the kind of coercion and subsidization of political speech that Janus supporters should be howling about. Yet, as several OnLabor readers have pointed out (here and here), Janus supporters have been curiously silent about the free speech rights of NFL players. This silence raises the question of how strongly and under what circumstances Janus supporters believe their own argument…..

Teen Organizers in Birmingham Are Working to Build an Inclusive Movement

Source: Lizzie Shackney, Teen Vogue, May 30, 2018

….The March for Our Lives Birmingham student organizers knew that diverse leadership mattered, but they struggled to achieve suburban/urban equity within the structure of their group in the month leading up to the event. Their efforts were hindered by the fact that before the march, they say, they had only a limited connection to the city of Birmingham and the students who went to school there.

In order to understand the challenge of building a representative antigun violence movement in Birmingham, one must examine the state of segregation in Jefferson County. Today, high schools in suburban school districts such as Hoover, Mountain Brook, Trussville, and Vestavia Hills are majority white. Birmingham City Schools are 99 percent black. It’s likely that the barriers to inclusive, coalition-based organizing derive from systems set up long ago to prevent the recognition of shared interests and collective action…..

“Human-centric lighting” may be the key to feeling better at work

Source: Lynne Peeples, Quartz, May 29, 2018

…. Indeed, it’s not the buoyancy lesson that has drawn me to this school just outside of Seattle, but those funky new lights, which are designed to mimic the shifting colors and intensities of the rising and setting sun. Scientists believe that exposure to bright, blue-rich white light during the day, and to softer, amber hues at night, helps restore the human body’s natural circadian rhythm, a deeply ingrained, physiological drumbeat that, many experts argue, has been disrupted to ill-effect by our constant exposure to standard incandescent or fluorescent lighting — and more recently, to the relentless glow of electronic screens. ….

Lowe’s Is Making Managers Sign Arbitration Agreements If They Want Their Bonuses

Source: Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, May 29, 2018

We’re going to see a whole lot more of these “voluntary” agreements after last week’s Supreme Court ruling.

Lowe’s has a message for its store managers: Sign this or else.

Salaried managers and assistant managers at the big-box home improvement retailer are being required to enter binding arbitration agreements under the threat of losing their valuable bonuses, according to a copy of the contract obtained by HuffPost.

By signing the contract, managers agree they won’t take Lowe’s to court with any claims or join in class-action lawsuits against the company. Instead, any grievance they have must be taken individually and in private to an arbitrator ― an arrangement that could significantly cut back workers’ legal claims of unpaid work. ….

Related:
The Supreme Court’s Arbitration Ruling Is Already Screwing Thousands Of Chipotle Workers
Source: Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, May 27, 2018

The burrito chain has asked a court to exclude 2,814 workers from a massive wage theft lawsuit because they signed mandatory arbitration agreements.

Editorial: Forced arbitration hides workplace abuses. No one should forfeit rights for a job
Source: Sacramento Bee, May 24, 2018

Forced Arbitration
Source: Economic Policy Institute, 2017

Forced arbitration, especially where it prohibits the use of a class action of any kind, can be very destructive of employee rights, undermines labor standards, and contributes to wage suppression, discrimination, and poorer working conditions.

The Supreme Court Favors Forced Arbitration at the Expense of Workers’ Rights
Source: Galen Sherwin, ACLU Women’s Rights Project, May 22, 2018

The #MeToo movement has offered an important lesson on the collective power of voices joining together to take on individual experiences of injustice. On Monday, the Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to precisely this kind of collective power, ruling against the ability of workers to join together to take on employment discrimination and abuse.

The court ruled that employers are free to force workers who have been victims of unfair labor practices into private arbitration to address their claims — even in cases where workers sought to bring a collective legal action. The decision came in a case about failure to pay overtime, but its implications are far broader and extend to many of the claims of harassment and discrimination that have surfaced thanks to the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements…..

When Teachers Strike, Support Staff Has the Most to Lose

Source: Madeline Will, Education Week, May 29, 2018

The national spotlight on the strikes and walkouts this spring has been on the teachers themselves. But in the shadows was another group that’s just as critical for keeping schools running: support staff.

Often overlooked in the broader public discourse, these workers, including instructional aides and paraprofessionals, sometimes had more at stake in the walkouts than full-time teachers. When schools were closed, many didn’t get paid.