Category Archives: Labor Unions

Solidarity and disparity: Declining labor union density and changing racial and educational mortality inequities in the United States

Source: Jerzy Eisenberg‐Guyot, Stephen J. Mooney, Amy Hagopian, Wendy E. Barrington, Anjum Hajat, American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Early View, December 17, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Background:
Recently, United States life expectancy has stagnated or declined for the poor and working class and risen for the middle and upper classes. Declining labor‐union density—the percent of workers who are unionized—has precipitated burgeoning income inequity. We examined whether it has also exacerbated racial and educational mortality inequities.

Methods:
From CDC, we obtained state‐level all‐cause and overdose/suicide mortality overall and by gender, gender‐race, and gender‐education from 1986–2016. State‐level union density and demographic and economic confounders came from the Current Population Survey. State‐level policy confounders included the minimum wage, the generosity of Aid to Families with Dependent Children or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and the generosity of unemployment insurance. To model the exposure‐outcome relationship, we used marginal structural modeling. Using state‐level inverse probability of treatment‐weighted Poisson models, we estimated 3‐year moving average union density’s effects on the following year’s mortality rates. Then, we tested for gender, gender‐race, and gender‐education effect‐modification. Finally, we estimated how racial and educational all‐cause mortality inequities would change if union density increased to 1985 or 1988 levels, respectively.

Results:
Overall, a 10% increase in union density was associated with a 17% relative decrease in overdose/suicide mortality (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.70, 0.98), or 5.7 lives saved per 100 000 person‐years (95% CI: −10.7, −0.7). Union density’s absolute (lives‐saved) effects on overdose/suicide mortality were stronger for men than women, but its relative effects were similar across genders. Union density had little effect on all‐cause mortality overall or across subgroups, and modeling suggested union‐density increases would not affect mortality inequities.

Conclusions:
Declining union density (as operationalized in this study) may not explain all‐cause mortality inequities, although increases in union density may reduce overdose/suicide mortality.

Untapped Power: The Strength of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Working People

Source: Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) AFL-CIO, November 2019

Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) workers are the fastest growing working age population in the United States, overrepresented at the lower and higher ends of the labor market – meaning that our communities experience wide income disparity. And yet AANHPI working people are often overlooked and under organized. As our immigrant and working class communities are under attack, it is increasingly important that the labor movement, community-based organizations, and policymakers take into the unique challenges and needs that AANHPIs face as well as recognize the common issues and experiences that this community shares with all workers.

We wish to impart the urgency with which the labor movement and policymakers must continue to organize and protect AANHPI communities in order to secure safe, healthy, and prosperous livelihoods for all working people and to harness their political potential to drive progressive change. In short, the labor movement stands to grow stronger from organizing AANHPI workers, and AANHPI communities stand to benefit from uniting together and joining the labor movement.

This report takes a look at who AANHPI workers are, what barriers we face, and how advocates, policymakers, and the labor movement can fight for AANHPI communities and all workers.

As unions and the labor movement come under attack, it becomes increasingly important to organize Asian
Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders — the fastest-growing population in the United States.
There are more than 21 million AANHPIs, comprising roughly 5% of the population. …. In 2017, AANHPIs had a poverty rate of 11.1%. Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders had the highest poverty rates at 16.1% and 18.3% respectively. Notably, roughly 3 in 4 (72%) Asian American low-wage workers are immigrants; this is significant as Asian Americans account for over one-quarter (27.1%) of the immigrant population in the U.S. …. In 2018, union members had median weekly earnings of $1,051, which was $191 more than their non-union counterparts. Asian American union workers had median weekly earnings of $1,119, which was 2.5% higher than their non-union counterparts who earned $1,092. The union advantage is even greater for Asian American women, who had median weekly earnings of $1,033, compared to their non-union counterparts who made $929 a week — an 11% difference. ….

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Union workers more likely than nonunion workers to have retirement benefits in 2019

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, TED: The Economics Daily, October 25, 2019

Ninety-four percent of civilian union workers and 67 percent of nonunion workers had access to retirement benefits through their employer in March 2019. Access means the benefit is available to employees, regardless of whether they chose to participate. Eighty-five percent of union workers and 51 percent of nonunion workers participated in an employer-sponsored retirement benefit plan. The take-up rate—the share of workers with access who participate in the plan—was 90 percent for union workers and 77 percent for nonunion workers.

Employees Accuse Google of Developing ‘Surveillance Tool’ to Prevent Unions

Source: Ryan Gallagher, Bloomberg, October 24, 2019

Google employees are accusing the company’s leadership of developing an internal surveillance tool that they believe will be used to monitor workers’ attempts to organize protests and discuss labor rights.

Earlier this month, employees said they discovered that a team within the company was creating the new tool for the custom Google Chrome browser installed on all workers’ computers and used to search internal systems. The concerns were outlined in a memo written by a Google employee and reviewed by Bloomberg News and by three Google employees who requested anonymity because they aren’t authorized to talk to the press.

The tool would automatically report staffers who create a calendar event with more than 10 rooms or 100 participants, according to the employee memo. The most likely explanation, the memo alleged, “is that this is an attempt of leadership to immediately learn about any workers organization attempts.”

The Progressive Labor Platform is Popular

Source: Kevin Reuning, C. M. Lewis, Data for Progress and Strikewave, October 3, 2019

From the summary:
Data for Progress surveyed key components of Bernie Sanders’s “Workplace Democracy Plan” and Elizabeth Warren’s “Empowering American Workers and Raising Wages” and found that the platform’s policies are broadly supported by voters. The policies tend to have broad support from Democrats, but many also have net positive support among independents and Republicans. In addition, we find that there is a potential key bloc of voters that either did not vote in 2016 or voted for Trump that support components of the platform, making them potential targets for 2020 election efforts. One caveat is important: many of these policies also showed high rates of voters having no strong opinion, meaning the numbers could change.

The highlights:
– A federal “Just Cause” law, which would radically change employee-employer relations and is included in Sanders’s plan, is somewhat or strongly supported by 56 percent of voters and opposed by 30 percent of voters. Even among Republicans, “Just Cause” is two percent underwater (42 percent support, 44 percent oppose).
– Expanding federally protected union rights to farm and domestic workers has bipartisan support and is included in both plans. Democrats support it at 66 percent to 21 percent, and Republicans support it at 41 percent to 38 percent.
– A ban on forced arbitration, which is included in Warren’s plan, is supported by 45 percent of voters and opposed by only 27 percent.

The Recent Evolution of Wisconsin Public Worker Unionism since Act 10

Source: David Nack, Michael Childers, Alexia Kulwiec, Armando Ibarra, Labor Studies Journal, OnlineFirst Published July 30, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This paper examines the experience of four major public sector unions in Wisconsin since the passage of Wisconsin Act 10 in 2011. The four unions are the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-Wisconsin), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC), an affiliate of the National Education Association. Wisconsin’s prior legal framework for public sector collective bargaining is explained and compared to the new highly restrictive framework established by Act 10. That new framework, established by state legislation, is analyzed, as are its impacts on the membership, revenues, structures, and practices of the four unions. In general, we find the impacts to have been very dramatic, with a loss of active union membership averaging approximately 70 percent overall, and concomitant dramatic losses in union revenues and power. These shocks have engendered the restructuring of two of the unions examined, the downsizing of the third, and the de facto exiting from the state’s public sector in another. There have also been significant changes in representation practices in one union, but less so in the others. We conclude by discussing best union practices based on this experience, as well as considering what the recent public sector union history in Wisconsin may portend for public worker union membership nationwide, since the issuing of the Janus Decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

How to Strike and Win: A Labor Notes Guide

Source: Labor Notes, November 2019

From the introduction:
A good strike is an exercise of power, not just a rowdier form of protest. There is something you want, and a decision-maker who could give it to you but doesn’t want to. The point of the strike is to make it harder for this decision-maker to keep saying no—and easier for the decision-maker to stop the pain by saying yes.

For a private-sector employer, the primary way a strike exerts power is by hurting profits.

For a public-sector employer, it is by interfering with the normal functions of public service and creating a political crisis that elites must respond to.

It’s essential to carefully appraise all the forms of power, or leverage, the union can muster. Don’t hit the bricks without assessing what it will take to win.

Once your leverage is identified, you’ll have to do the organizing legwork to make it real. Leverage is only potential until you bring it to life. The union will rely on its own internal solidarity to remain united in the face of intimidation and to generate widespread solidarity from others. The advice in the rest of this manual is designed to build that internal and external solidarity.

But the best organizing in the world may fail to move your employer if you don’t start with a solid plan to win. That’s an analysis of how the actions by workers and supporters will add up to enough pressure to make the decision-maker back down.

Labor in Academic Libraries

Source: Emily Drabinski, Aliqae Geraci, and Roxanne Shirazi, Issue Editors, Library Trends, Volume 68, Number 2, Fall 2019

Articles Include:
Participatory and Ethical Strategic Planning: What Academic Libraries Can Learn from Critical Management Studies
Danya Leebaw

Abstract:
This paper introduces a subfield of management studies, “critical management studies” (CMS) in order to rethink mainstream management practices in academic libraries, with strategic planning as an illustrative example. Mainstream management models from the corporate sector prioritize efficiency, productivity, and numerical measures for assessing impact. Academic libraries have generally borrowed uncritically from this mainstream management praxis, but how well does this serve our needs, especially when it comes to the most complex issues we face? CMS draws on critical theory to interrogate the methods and goals of mainstream management, with an emphasis on denaturalizing “taken for granted” practices and prioritizing ethics and worker equity. After providing a brief overview of the history and adoption of mainstream management in academic libraries, this paper focuses on strategic planning as an illustrative exploration of CMS principles in an academic library context. Strategic planning is a common managerial practice that has been embraced by academic libraries and generally modeled after mainstream approaches. Yet, CMS scholars contend that traditional strategic planning reproduces workplace inequities and universalizes managerial interests. In this article, I employ ideas from CMS to rethink library strategic planning by opening participation, reframing problems, and embracing our ethical agency.

“Being in Time”: New Public Management, Academic Librarians, and the Temporal Labor of Pink-Collar Public Service Work
Karen P. Nicholson

Abstract:
Time is a site of power, one that enacts particular subjectivities and relationships. In the workplace, time enables and constrains performance, attitudes, and behaviors. In this qualitative research study, I examine the impact of the values and practices of new public management on academic librarians’ experiences of time when engaged in pink-collar public service (reference and information literacy) work. Data gathered during semi-structured interviews with twenty-four public service librarians in Canadian public research-intensive universities, members of the U15 Group, serve as a site of analysis for this study. Interview data were first analyzed using thematic analysis (Braun and Clarke 2006) within a constructionist framework. Sharma’s (2014) theory of power-chronography—time as power—was then used as an analytical framework. Findings suggest that, in keeping with research on the temporal experiences of faculty, academic librarians’ temporal labor is structured and controlled by the logics and institutional arrangements of new public management. Moreover, like their faculty counterparts, academic librarians experience temporal intensification and acceleration. However, as marginal educators and members of a feminized profession, librarians also encounter “recalibration” (Sharma 2014), the need to modify the tempo of their own labor to be “in time” with the dominant temporalities of faculty and students.

“The Power of Knowledge, Objectified”: Immaterial Labor, Cognitive Capitalism, and Academic Librarianship
Sam Popowich

Abstract:
This article analyzes current trends in academic librarianship from the perspective of Italian autonomist Marxism. With the rise of new technologies and the advent of a period variously called the “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” “Industry 4.0,” and “The Second Machine Age,” academic librarianship is undergoing various changes in work-flow, technology, and service provision. The body of thought that developed out of the Italian Marxist tradition provides ways of thinking through and understanding these changes by placing them within a larger dynamic of capitalist development and the restructuring of labor processes. After looking at changes to academic librarianship from the perspective of immaterial labor and cognitive capitalism, the paper offers ways that academic librarianship can think about the possibility of resistance to these changes.

Low Morale in Ethnic and Racial Minority Academic Librarians: An Experiential Study
Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, Ione T. Damasco

Abstract:
Library and information science (LIS) literature about workplace bullying and burnout in academic libraries continues to grow, and a recent study has revealed the experience of low morale in the same environment. Concomitantly, research focusing on continuing recruitment, promotion, advancement, and retention problems for ethnic and minority librarians; links between North American library values and workplace abuse; and historiographies on the historic marginalization of minority librarians has also appeared in LIS literature. Citing aforementioned developments in LIS literature and the racially homogenous participant make-up of Kendrick’s 2017 study of low morale in academic libraries, this follow-up qualitative study focuses on racial and ethnic minority academic librarians to understand this group’s experience of low morale. Emerging data validate the development, trajectory, and health-related consequences of low morale; center the load of additional impact factors; and highlight the impact of low morale on recruitment and retention efforts of racial and ethnic minority librarians employed in North American colleges and universities.

Reconsidering Technical Labor in Information Institutions: The Case of Analog Video Digitization
Zack Lischer-Katz

Abstract:
Technical labor is still typically made invisible in the functioning of academic libraries and other information institutions even as they begin to disseminate technical and craft knowledge through makerspaces and other sites of library innovation. This paper seeks to recover one type of technical labor, digitization, as information work that embodies mental and manual activities and is both materially and intellectually productive. This paper draws on findings from an empirical study conducted by the author from 2015–2017 that used qualitative-interpretive methods to study the discursive and material practices of professional media preservationists as they worked to digitize analog video recordings in small-scale, high-quality (“artisanal”) digitization projects. One key finding of this research is that in order to produce “legitimate” digital copies within their institutional contexts, media preservationists must coordinate their physical and mental activities to develop understanding of the invisible electrical signals that carry the encoded video information, blending objective and subjective modalities of knowledge. These findings have implications for understanding how the invisible labor of digitization has significant mental as well as manual dimensions, contributing to ongoing debates in information studies and the digital humanities on the relationship between “doing” and “signifying” in terms of knowledge work.

Empty Presence: Library Labor, Prestige, and the MLS
Maura Seale, Rafia Mirza

Abstract:
In this essay, we explore the relationship between the MLS and professionalization within librarianship broadly and then look more specifically at academic librarianship, which increasingly turns to other means of professionalization, such as more prestigious forms of credentialing, due to its precarious existence within higher education. The emphasis on professionalization through credentialing invisibilizes library labor, which is already feminized and devalued. Academic librarianship instead seeks to gain prestige and power by associating itself with whiteness and masculinity, rendering its specialized work and knowledge domain unimportant. Removing the MLS requirement from professional library positions will not address these broader issues, and as hiring trends demonstrate, might already be a moot point. Prestige, professionalization, and credentialing within academic librarianship have been debated since the inception of the profession; the interaction of these with gender ideologies and a predominantly female workforce has received attention since the 1970s. Librarianship’s constant state of crisis and search for external markers of prestige can only exist comfortably outside of historical memory and critical analysis, however. This essay problematizes individual solutions such as credentialing that paper over systemic sociopolitical issues; specific solutions are beyond the scope of this paper, but we do suggest that solutions need to account for broader context, such as current and historical gender ideologies.

Scope of Work, Roles, and Responsibilities for Academic Librarians: Tenure-Track vs. Non-Tenure-Track Professionals
Eric Hartnett, Wendi Arant-Kaspar, Wyoma vanDuinkerken

Abstract:
The purpose of this multi-institutional study is to determine how many academic libraries have chosen to institute a two-track system for their librarians: tenure-track faculty and non-tenure-track faculty. It will approach this inquiry in a two-fold manner, first with a survey questionnaire sent to library deans or directors of research libraries and then with the collection and analysis of formal policy documents from these libraries defining the expectations and work of librarians on the two tracks. This study will highlight how these tracks are distinctive in terms of the scope of work, workload, and other related factors and the implications for the development of the profession. Results of this study will add to recent research and perceptions of librarianship and higher education by providing an understanding of how these factors influence the organizational culture of academic libraries.

Librarians in the Academic Ecosystem
Rachel Applegate

Abstract:
Much of what academic librarians do does not look like what “faculty” do—classic, stereotypical, tenure-track, classroom faculty. Instead, it looks like support work, or administration, or is invisible: all things that are distinctly not valued by classic faculty. Much of the research in library literature, the talk among academic librarians themselves, seems to center on benefits and privileges, and the distinctions are not based on faculty vs. librarian status but on other factors; for example, salaries for librarians, as for economists, English faculty and nursing instructors are mostly set by discipline and market conditions. It will be more productive for librarians to take a political and strategic perspective: with one overarching realization, and one focused goal. The realization is that the “faculty” role is itself diverse: it is not classic nor stereotyped nor even “classroom” in many cases. The variation within the group “faculty” is in many respects more significant than the variation between the groups “faculty” and “librarians.” The focused goal is to seek the status that will place librarians in the decisions of which they should be part.

From Slavery to College Loans
kynita stringer-stanback

Abstract:
My story begins back in 1793 when November Caldwell was “gifted” to Helen Hogg Hooper (whose father-in-law, William Hooper, signed the Declaration of Independence), the wife of the first president of UNC–Chapel Hill, Joseph Caldwell. November Caldwell is my great-great-great-grandfather. Currently, I owe over six figures in student-loan debt to the very institution that enslaved my ancestors. We are at a particular place in the political history of our nation. White supremacy is morally corrupt. It requires that we deny the humanity of human beings for one reason or another. It is hard to stand up against white supremacy because folks who do are often ostracized from their families and communities. We have all been socialized to believe in white supremacy—it was one of our nation’s founding principles. In this essay I hope to break open a dialogue about the white supremacist hegemony institutionalized within our neoliberal university system. Connecting the past atrocities of slavery with actual educational experiences of the descendants of those who served the proslavery institutions has not been widely publicized or talked about. We must interrogate our history or we will be doomed to continue to repeat the horrific inhumane atrocities.

Lessons from the Field: Organizing a Faculty Union in the Era of Janus
Kelly McElroy

Abstract:
On June 27, 2018, the Oregon Employment Relations Board certified United Academics of Oregon State University (UAOSU) as the sole bargaining unit to represent teaching and research faculty of our university. On the same day, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. In this personal narrative, I will describe our organizing campaign, considering our success in the light of Janus. I conclude with reflections on how what I have learned from organizing continues to shape my work as an academic librarian.

Democratizing the Union at UC Berkeley: Lecturers and Librarians in Solidarity
Margaret Phillips, David Eifler, Tiffany Linton Page

Abstract:
This article explores how librarians and lecturers at the University of California, Berkeley, worked together to make their union more participatory in a context of increasing corporatization in public higher education. Written as a case study, we examine this ongoing revitalization process initiated by lecturers in the summer of 2016 and how it transformed librarian activism and bargaining strategy. For context, we also examine the history and unique nature of the University Council–American Federation of Teachers, the union representing both librarians and lecturers. We discuss why librarians had become ambivalent about their union and how an active group of librarians changed the culture in the organization and worked to bring members’ voices into the 2018/2019 librarian contract negotiations. Engaging membership and encouraging participation required a group of committed organizers, with the support of paid union staff, to actively seek feedback from members, to communicate regularly, and to organize solidarity events. Throughout this process, the local worked to build coalitions with other campus unions, and members became increasingly aware of the important role unions play in protecting and advancing the mission of a public university and as a site for social justice activism.

Now Is a Good Time for Working People to Get Involved in Politics: An Interview with Liliana Rivera Baiman

Source: Meagan Day, Jacobin, September 27, 2019

Liliana Rivera Baiman is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), a working mother, an immigrant, and a community and union organizer who’s running for city council in Columbus, Ohio.

Jacobin’s Meagan Day spoke to Baiman about the power of a city council to fight for workers and unions, Baiman’s experience growing up in a co-op village in Mexico, how the labor movement activated her politically, and what working-class people deserve…..

AFL-CIO Commission on the Future of Work and Unions

Source: AFL-CIO Commission on the Future of Work and Unions, Report to the AFL-CIO General Board, September 2019

….We present this report with fresh optimism that working people can and will build a future of work that works for all of us. But getting the job done requires more than engaging with innovation in the workplace. We must innovate ourselves, strengthen our unions, organize new ones and bring more workers into our ranks. The stakes are enormous. A system that fails to provide a decent standard of living for its people will not stand. So if technology and public policy continue to be used to further concentrate economic power in the hands of the wealthy few, our system of government and our way of life are in grave danger. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The labor movement can be inclusive enough and strong enough to raise living standards across the economy and ensure good jobs for everyone who wants to work.

This report is our plan to make that happen…..