Category Archives: Labor Unions

A Modest Blueprint for Representing Working People and Labor Unions in Fraught Times

Source: Jonathan Harkavy, Patterson Harkavy LLP, Date Written: September 9, 2019

From the abstract:
This article suggests approaches to dealing with the current anti-union climate in the American workplace. Building on examples of what union-side lawyers did when faced with the challenge of representing labor unions in Southern textile mills, the article makes a number of specific suggestions to counter what observers have termed a relentless assault on labor involving unchecked corporate power accompanied by income inequality and a decline in the well-being of working Americans. The article recommends, among other things, imposition of employer fiduciary responsibility for workers, a more clarion collective voice in the Supreme Court for working people, and increased use of state laws and federal antitrust laws to combat inequities in the workplace.

2019 Supreme Court Commentary: Employment Law

Source: Jonathan Harkavy, Patterson Harkavy LLP, Date Written: September 9, 2019

From the abstract:
This article summarizes in detail all decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States from its October 2018 Term (2018-2019) that affect employment law, labor relations, employment arbitration and the employment relationship generally. The article also provides commentary on each of the decisions and on the Supreme Court’s regulation of the employment relationship. The article also summarizes briefly the grants of certiorari in employment-related cases for the October 2019 Term and concludes with brief commentary on justice in the American workplace.

Alt-Bargaining

Source: Michael M. Oswalt, Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 82 no. 3, 2019

….The article proceeds as follows. Part II canvasses evolutions in organizing since the 1970s to show how innovations that start at the unionization phase don’t stay there. Corporate, comprehensive, and social movement advances all became mainstay bargaining strategies. While the present breakthrough, alt-labor, defies easy characterization, Part II tries based on its three exceptional relationships to law. Part III addresses the next question: when and how might alt-labor’s legal insights begin to reverberate in later stages of organizing. After identifying the existing echoes, I argue that time is now.

Part IV explores mechanics. Embedded in alt-bargaining’s three new legal orientations is a sophisticated understanding of interest formation that allows the campaigns to press for broad, “common good”-type community benefits with minimal outside conflict, minimal internal dissension, and—most critically— draw big crowds. In doing so, leaders use practices steeped in community-based activism that incorporate months of transformational political and relational education. As Gabe Winant has described, unions’ modern challenge is to get the nurse, custodian, fast-food worker—and, increasingly, Uber driver—to “understand their fates as intertwined.” The realities of “race, economic position, and social status,” can make the task feel intractable. Alt-bargaining’s approach suggests it’s not impossible.

Finally, Part V offers a vision of alt-bargaining’s ambitions, plus a slate of legal and structural reforms—especially the introduction of community “pool voting”—that might support them. Part VI briefly concludes…..

Blue Solidarity: Police Unions, Race and Authoritarian Populism in North America

Source: Mark P Thomas, Steven Tufts, Work, Employment and Society, OnlineFirst, July 26, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
With a focus on police unions in the United States and Canada, this article argues that the construction of ‘blue solidarity’, including through recent Blue Lives Matter campaigns, serves to repress racial justice movements that challenge police authority, acts as a counter to broader working class resistance to austerity and contributes to rising right-wing populism. Specifically, the article develops a case study analysis of Blue Lives Matter campaigns in North America to argue that police unions construct forms of ‘blue solidarity’ that produce divisions with other labour and social movements and contribute to a privileged status of their own members vis-a-vis the working class more generally. As part of this process, police unions support tactics that reproduce racialised ‘othering’ and that stigmatise and discriminate against racialised workers and communities. The article concludes by arguing that organised labour should maintain a critical distance from police unions.

PERB Addresses Need for Procedural Admonitions for Post Investigation Union Member Interviews

Source: William A. Diedrich, Neel Ghanshyam, and Marleen L. Sacks, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The authors of this article discuss a case that highlights the need for employers to conduct thorough, neutral investigations in any situation involving allegations where a union member accused of misconduct, or who files a grievance, has the right to an adversarial hearing.

For Public Employees, Speech Is Free, But Is Anyone Listening?

Source: Dina Kolker, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 1, Summer 2019
(subscription required)

In the current political environment many groups feel that “government” is not listening to their needs and issues, but most would be surprised to discover that the government has no legal obligation to listen to any of us. This legal “secret” is of particular import to the long-run wrestling match between the public sector labor movement and their right-wing opponents, where the so-called “right to work,” presented as a positive, often translates into the right to be ignored, a decided negative.

The “Right to Work” movement often touts its focus on empowering workers through the First Amendment. The name itself is designed to indicate a right to a job and implies some individual control over the terms of that employment. “Give yourself a raise,” and other variations of that sentiment, are declared on mass mailings targeting public employees in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, overturning a four-decades old precedent that had permitted unions to collect fair share fees from nonmembers. The decision is praised by some as a win for worker free speech, but what does it mean for a public employee’s right to be heard? Anyone who has ever repeated the same request multiple times to a distracted child knows that there is a world of difference between speaking and being heard.

Indeed, the admittedly catchy invitation only thinly veils the reality of what was won and what was at risk of being lost in Janus. The mailing does not say call your boss and demand a raise higher than the one your union was able to negotiate for everyone in the last contract. Yet, individual negotiation of terms and conditions of employment is implicit (if not explicit) in the employee-facing rhetoric of Right to Work groups. The implication is that by turning down the volume knob on public sector unions you somehow inherently amplify the voices of individual workers. Nothing could be further from the legal — and practical — truth. The simple fact is that, absent collective bargaining laws, the government, neither as employer nor as sovereign, has any obligation to listen. In fact, government generally has no obligation to listen to any citizen, from the president on down…..

US Labor Studies in the Twenty-First Century: Understanding Laborism Without Labor

Source: Jake Rosenfeld, Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 45, July 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, labor studies has flourished even as labor unions in the United States have continued their long-term downward trajectory. One strain of this research has situated the labor movement, and its decline, at the center of economic inequality’s rise in the United States. Another has explored the labor movement’s interconnections with political dynamics in the contemporary United States, including how labor’s demise has reshaped the polity and policies. This body of scholarship also offers insights into recent stirrings of labor resurgence, ranging from the teachers’ strikes of 2017 to the Fight for 15 minimum wage initiatives. Yet the field’s reliance on official union membership rates as the standard measure of union strength, and on official strike statistics as the standard measure of union activism, prevents it from fully understanding the scope and durability of worker activism in the post-Wagner age.

How Democrats can win back workers in 2020

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, August 16, 2019

Labor unions and the workers they represent were once the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

The 2016 presidential election revealed just how much that has changed. Hillary Clinton lost in key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin in part because she took labor support for granted.

A survey my team of labor scholars at MIT conducted about five months after the election showed that most workers feel they lack a voice at their jobs. Many Americans apparently felt that Donald Trump did a much better job than Clinton showing he was on their side and had a plan to help them.

As I watch the 2020 presidential debates, I wonder: Will Democrats make the same mistake? Or will they return to their roots and put the full range of workers’ needs and aspirations front and center in their campaigns?

Some of the candidates vying to be the 2020 nominee have offered plans to support organized labor, but they mainly endorse bills already in Congress to shore up collective bargaining rights. None have offered a clear vision and strategy for assuring workers have a voice in the key decisions that will shape the future of work.

This won’t be enough to give workers the stronger and broader voice at work they are calling for today.

In our 2017 survey, we learned two key things about what workers actually want…..

Know Your Members: Assessing the Bargaining Unit for Internal Organizing

Source: Steward Update, Vol. 30 no. 3, 2019
(subscription required)

To get a good contract, pass pro-labor legislation, support charities and community groups or just get one supervisor to stop harassing union members, unions need to do something called “mobilization.” Mobilization is a systematic effort to get members and other to act as a group in taking action – fill out a bargaining survey, lobby their elected officials, join an anti-cancer walk-a-thon, or challenge a supervisor.

A key part of getting members in motion is having a strong connection between union leadership and membership. Stewards who regularly share information from leaders with their members and communicate members’ concerns to leaders are the most important part of any effort to harness member power to make positive change. To perform this role well, stewards need to maximize their relationship with each member. ….

See Where Teachers Got Pay Raises This Year – Protests across the country swayed governors to push for salary bumps

Source: Daarel Burnette II & Madeline Will, Education Week, Vol. 38 Issue 36, Published in Print: June 19, 2019

More than a year after teachers across the country began walking out of their classrooms en masse to demand higher salaries, at least 15 states have given their teachers a raise.

And lawmakers in several more states are putting the final touches on plans to raise teacher salaries, according to an Education Week analysis…..

….Here’s what you need to know about each state’s plan (as of June 17) to raise teacher pay. (The average teacher salary for each state reflects the National Education Association’s estimate for the 2018-19 school year, which would not include these raises.)

Click a state in the dropdown to jump to that section: ….