Category Archives: Labor Unions

Wage Differentials, Bargaining Protocols, and Trade Unionism in Mid-Twentieth-Century American Labor Markets

Source: John Pencavel, ILR Review, OnlineFirst, Published June 1, 2020
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From the abstract:
Income inequality in the United States has been lower in periods when trade unionism has been strong. Using observations on wages by occupation, by geography, and by gender in collective bargaining contracts from the 1940s to the 1970s, patterns in movements of wage differentials are revealed. As wages increased, some contracts maintained relative wage differentials constant, some maintained absolute differences in wages constant, others combined these two patterns, and some did not reveal an obvious pattern. The patterns persisted even as price inflation increased in the 1970s. The dominant pattern implies a reduction in inequality as usually measured.

Labor’s Legacy: The Construction of Subnational Work Regulation

Source: Daniel J. Galvin, ILR Review, OnlineFirst, First Published: August 5, 2020
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From the abstract:
In recent decades, much of the authority to regulate the workplace has shifted from national-level labor law to state-level employment law. What contributions, if any, did labor unions make to this historic shift in workplace governance? The author uses quantitative and qualitative analyses to test hypotheses and move incrementally closer toward drawing causal inferences. In the first part, he finds a strong statistical relationship between union density and state employment law enactments. Next, analyzing the cases the model identifies as “deviant” (Pennsylvania and Maine), he uses systematic process tracing to test the hypothesis that labor unions were integral players in legislative campaigns for stronger employment laws. Strong evidence supports the hypothesis that labor unions, even as they declined, contributed to the construction of this new system of subnational work regulation—arguably one of their most significant and durable legacies.

Why is the American South Poorer?

Source: Regina S Baker, Social Forces, Volume 99, Issue 1, September 2020
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From the abstract:
While American poverty research has devoted greater attention to poverty in the Northeast and Midwest, poverty has been persistently higher in the U.S. South than in the other regions. Thus, this study investigates the enduring question of why poverty is higher in the South. Specifically, it demonstrates the role of power resources as an explanation for this regional disparity, yet also considers family demography, economic structure, and racial/ethnic heterogeneity. Using six waves (2000–2016) of U.S. Census Current Population Survey data from the Luxembourg Income Study (N = 1,157,914), this study employs a triangulation of analytic techniques: (1) tests of means and proportion differences, (2) multilevel linear probability models of poverty, and (3) binary decomposition of the South/non-South poverty gap. The comparison of means associated with the power resource hypothesis yields the largest substantive differences between the South and the non-South. In the multilevel models, adjusting for power resources yields the largest declines in the South coefficient. Binary decomposition results indicate power resources are the second most influential factor explaining the South/non-South poverty gap. Overall, power resources are an important source of the South/non-South poverty gap, though economic structure and other factors certainly also play a role. Results also suggest an important interplay between power resources and race. Altogether, these results underscore the importance of macrolevel characteristics of places, including political and economic contexts, in shaping individual poverty and overall patterns of inequality.

….Beyond these factors, this study focuses on the role of politics and policy via power resources theory (PRT). Here,power resources refer to class-based collective political actors, such as labor unions and parties, and the social policies they are able to institutionalize…

October 2019 pre-print version

Labor Unions and White Democratic Partisanship

Source: David Macdonald, Political Behavior, Early View, Published: June 25, 2020
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From the abstract:
The Democratic Party’s declining support among white voters is a defining feature of contemporary American politics. Extant research has emphasized factors such as elite polarization and demographic change but has overlooked another important trend, the decades-long decline of labor union membership. This oversight is surprising, given organized labor’s long ties to the Democratic Party. I argue that the concurrent decline of union membership and white support for the Democratic Party is not coincidental, but that labor union affiliation is an important determinant of whites’ partisan allegiances. I test this using several decades of cross-sectional and panel data. I show that union-affiliated whites are more likely to identify as Democrats, a substantively significant relationship that does not appear to be driven by self-selection. Overall, these findings underscore the political consequences of union decline and help us to better understand the drivers of declining white support for the Democratic Party.

Labor Unions and White Racial Politics

Source: Paul Frymer, Jacob M. Grumbach, American Journal of Political Science, Early View, First published: June 29, 2020
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From the abstract:
Scholars and political observers point to declining labor unions, on the one hand, and rising white identity politics, on the other, as profound changes in American politics. However, there has been little attention given to the potential feedback between these forces. In this article, we investigate the role of union membership in shaping white racial attitudes. We draw upon research in history and American political development to generate a theory of interracial labor politics, in which union membership reduces racial resentment. Cross‐sectional analyses consistently show that white union members have lower racial resentment and greater support for policies that benefit African Americans. More importantly, our panel analysis suggests that gaining union membership between 2010 and 2016 reduced racial resentment among white workers. The findings highlight the important role of labor unions in mass politics and, more broadly, the importance of organizational membership for political attitudes and behavior.

Walkouts Spread as Workers Seek Coronavirus Protections

Source: Dan DiMaggio, Saurav Sarkar, Labor Notes, March 26, 2020

As the coronavirus spreads, more and more workers who are still on the job are taking action to defend their health and safety and demand hazard pay. Here’s a round-up. (For an earlier round-up, see “Organizing for Pandemic Time-Off,” Labor Notes, March 16, 2020.)

Can I Get Fired for Talking about Virus Risks?

Source: Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, March 31, 2020

Many workers still on the job during this pandemic are upset about their working conditions. But can you get in trouble for talking about your concerns—to your co-workers, on social media, or to the newspaper?

In a word: no. Not legally, anyway.

Below is a short run-down of your legal right to organize around wages, hours, and working conditions, even if you don’t have a union—and if you do have a union, your additional protection under your contract.

Let’s be real—employers have been known to break laws and contracts, and the bureaucratic remedies (court cases, grievances) are slow. But often threats are just meant to silence you. Showing that you know your rights may be enough to get management to back off its threats….

Related:
WEBINAR: Organizing without a Union During the Coronavirus / Organizándose sin sindicato durante el coronavirus
Source: Chris Brooks, Labor Notes, March 27, 2020

The Aftermath of Janus v. AFSCME: An Ongoing Assault on Public Sector Unions

Source: Ann Hodges, American Constitution Society, ACS Issue Brief, March 2020

From the summary:
With the Supreme Court having overruled precedent and declared public sector “fair share” fees unconstitutional in Janus v. AFSCME, anti-union forces now have a new target: repayment of the fees paid to unions prior to the 2018 decision. Arguing that Janus should be retroactive, these advocates are seeking “millions of dollars from public sector unions, money collected in compliance with existing laws and already spent on representing employees.”

In a new ACS Issue Brief, Ann Hodges, Professor Emerita at the University of Richmond School of Law, explains the history of these restitution claims and why they are legally dubious. Hodges also questions whether “the employee plaintiffs in these cases [are] acting out of moral conviction and righteous motives or [if] they [are] being used by powerful interests to defeat the efforts of working people to join together collectively to combat the power of wealthy individuals and corporate actors.”

Ceasing Dues Checkoff Is Lawful After Expiration

Source: Kimberly Kemper, Employment Alert, Vol. 37 no. 3. February 5, 2020
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About 13 months after the expiration of parties’ contract, Valley Hospital Medical Center stopped deducting and remitting to the Local Joint Executive Board of Las Vegas employees’ dues. The employer took this action after five days’ notice and without providing the Union an opportunity to bargain. The agreement had contained a dues checkoff agreement to be used by employees requesting dues checkoff. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held that the employer lawfully ceased checking off and remitting employees’ union dues after its contract with the union expired, overruling Lincoln Lutheran of Racine, 362 N.L.R.B. 1655, 204 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 1234, 2014-15 NLRB Dec. (CCH) P 16018, 2015 WL 5047778 (2015), and returning to the longstanding precedent set by Bethlehem Steel Co. (New York, N.Y.), 136 N.L.R.B. 1500, 50 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 1013, 1962 NLRB Dec. (CCH) P 11163, 1962 WL 16787 (1962), enforcement denied and remanded, 320 F.2d 615, 53 L.R.R.M. (BNA) 2878, 47 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P 18409 (3d Cir. 1963)For over half a century, this unilateral action was lawful under NLRB precedent beginning with Bethlehem Steel.

The Impact of Janus on Public Employee Unions So Far

Source: Irma Rodríguez Moisa, Nate J. Kowalski, Jay G. Trinnaman, and Eric T. Riss, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 45, No. 3, Winter 2019
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The authors examine the primary effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus , particularly for California employers under the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.