Category Archives: Labor Unions

What Will Become of Public-Sector Unions Now?

Source: Charlotte Garden, The Atlantic, February 16, 2016

With the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, organized labor may be spared—for a little while….
Friedrichs Is Dead; Labor’s Crisis Is Not. The ‘Scalia Dividend’ Is a Rare Opportunity for Unions.
Source: Shaun Richman, In These Times, February 16, 2016

The Friedrichs vs. CTA Supreme Court case, a nakedly partisan assassination attempt on the labor movement, has died with Justice Antonin Scalia. What cannot die with it is the sense of existential crisis within the labor movement. We need a far-reaching conversation about the pathway back to increased activism, membership and power…..

Menu of coverage about Justice Scalia
Source: Andrew Hamm, SCOTUSblog, February 16, 2016

Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead Saturday at a ranch in Texas, after apparently having died in his sleep. Here is a collection of our coverage:….

How Scalia’s death may save teachers unions — for now
Source: Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2016

….In Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Assn., many court watchers had expected Scalia to deliver the deciding vote against unions, limiting their ability to collect membership dues and other fees. Without Scalia, a 4-4 split is considered likely. That would maintain the status quo — a huge win for unions, at least for now. Though union opponents could mount a new case, that would probably take at least another year, said Jeffrey H. Keefe, a research associate at the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute…..

Scalia’s death and Friedrichs
Source: Brian Mahoney, Politico, Morning Shift, February 16, 2016

….Morning Shift guesses (though of course we can’t be certain) that an Obama appointee to the court — were he or she to win Senate confirmation — would vote against the Friedrichs plaintiffs, if only to avoid overturning a 1977 Supreme Court precedent. Were that to occur, the re-hearing’s practical result for public employee unions — continued collection of fair share fees — would be the same as an inconclusive 4-4 ruling this term. It would just take longer to resolve itself … during which time the unions would continue to collect fair share fees.…

Commentary: Unions could still lose Friedrichs – even if we win
Source: Dave Kamper, Workday Minnesota, February 14, 2016

….Unions can still lose, but the important point is that losing doesn’t depend on what the Court does. We will lose if we fail to learn the lessons of these few months of panic, a panic that has shown both the depths of strength and the glaring weaknesses in the American labor movement. Three lessons stand out….

The most significant Supreme Court case that could be immediately affected by Scalia’s death
Source: Lydia DePillis, Washington Post, Wonkblog, February 13, 2016

A grave threat to public sector unions may have been averted — for now….So now, all signs point to the court deadlocking 4-4. In that scenario, the decision of the lower court — rejecting Friedrichs’ argument — would be affirmed. That decision would carry no precedent, so the court would be free to accept another case with a similar fact pattern, and rule the other way. But that would take at least another year, probably more….

The Labor Prospect: What Scalia’s Death Means for Unions
Source: Justin Miller, American Prospect, February 16, 2016

The impact of Scalia’s death goes way beyond Friedrichs, plus West Virginia goes right-to-work, and Minneapolis moves toward mandatory sick leave.

Justice Scalia’s Death: This Changes Everything
Source: Roger Parloff, Fortune, February 13, 2016

….On our closely divided Supreme Court, which sooner or later seems to decide all of the most emotionally freighted political questions of the day—affirmative action, abortion, gun rights, gay rights, labor and employment issues, immigration, Obamacare, the death penalty, and on it goes—a decisive, conservative 5-4 majority has just been shaved to a 4-4 toss-up……

Scalia’s Death Probably Flips Big Cases
Source: Noah Feldman, Bloomberg View, February 16, 2016

….How will the death of Justice Antonin Scalia affect the major cases before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, all of which are expected to be decided by the end of June? The answer doesn’t depend entirely on how Scalia would’ve voted. It also depends on a necessary rule of procedure: When the Supreme Court is divided equally, it upholds the decision below. Applying this dual analysis to five major cases in the pipeline yields some surprising results. The issues involved are: fees in lieu of union dues for nonunion workers, the University of Texas’s affirmative-action admissions program, Texas’s restrictive abortion law, President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration, and a group of nuns’ demand to be exempted from filing a certificate so they won’t have to pay for employees’ contraceptive insurance under the Affordable Care Act….

When Scalia Died, So Did ‘Friedrichs’—And an Even Grander Scheme To Destroy Unions
Source: Moshe Z. Marvit, In These Times, February 15, 2016

….Last week, in a little-noticed case called D’Agostino v. Baker, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation lost at the First Circuit in their attempt to argue that the First Amendment does not allow exclusive representation of home healthcare workers. This case sought to expand the Harris holding by arguing that the First Amendment prohibits home healthcare unions not only from collecting fees from workers who don’t want to pay, but also from bargaining on behalf of any worker who doesn’t opt to be a member. Former Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote the decision for the First Circuit in D’Agnostino, relying heavily on Abood and its progeny. If history is any indication, National Right to Work was planning on appealing this case to the Supreme Court. The case provided a glimpse of what the likely post-Friedrichs plan of attack would have been: After you win on the dues front, go after membership. In addition, other cases, such as Bain v. CTA, that attacked the membership rights of unions but had been thrown out by lower courts, were likely to reappear…..

Here Are Six All-Important Cases Now Pretty Much Decided After Scalia’s Death
Stephanie Mencimer, Mother Jones, February 13, 2016

….Because of the polarized nature of the court, Scalia’s death makes it all but certain that in most of those cases, the votes will result in a 4-4 tie, which means that the decision of the lower courts will likely stand unless one of the justices goes off the reservation and votes with the opposite side. That means we can probably predict the outcome of several key cases without having to wait until June.
The results are a mixed bag. The Obama administration is likely to lose an important fight over immigration. Unions win. Reproductive rights for women could suffer. And challenges to redistricting are likely to founder.

Here’s a rundown of how six of those cases are likely to unfold:
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association: Perhaps the biggest beneficiaries of Scalia’s death are public sector unions. This case, which produced one of the more contentious oral arguments of the term, was headed towards a 5-4 decision in favor of Rebecca Friedrichs and the other plaintiffs who were challenging the California’s teachers’ union’s right to charge public school employees fees to cover the costs of the collective bargaining it did on their behalf, even though they aren’t members of the union. The case was teed up by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, and labor supporters feared a ruling against the union could devastate what’s left of labor’s power. The lawyers for Friedrichs asked the lower court to rule against them to hasten the case’s arrival at the Supreme Court. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals complied, and now that decision is likely to stand if the liberal-conservative split on the court delivers a 4-4 vote. Labor wins…..

The untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia will likely decide several hot-button cases.
How Scalia’s Death Will Affect Pending Cases Before the Supreme Court
Source: Massimo Calabresi, Time, February 13, 2016

….When the Supreme Court justices split evenly on how to rule, the decision of the lower court stands. This can happen when a justice is recused from a case, or when there is a vacancy on the court. Scalia represented the fifth vote for conservatives on the court and in those cases that were expected to split 5-4 along ideological grounds, his death may affect the outcome. In the event of a tie among the justices, the Supreme Court effectively upholds the lower court’s ruling and any opinions issued are considered non-binding. The most likely case currently before the court to be affected by Scalia’s death is a union case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which could have restricted unions’ ability to collect fees from non-members for collective bargaining. If the court issues a ruling this year, it is unlikely to break with the settled constitutional interpretation that unions can do so…..

How Scalia’s Death Affects This Term’s Biggest Supreme Court Cases
Source: Jordan Weissmann, Slate, February 13, 2016

Here’s a brief rundown of how Scalia’s passing will (or won’t) affect the biggest cases of this term…..
Case: Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association
Issue: Public sector union rights
Outcome in a split: The liberals win.
Not to be too blunt, but presenting this case before a post-Scalia court is an enormous break for American labor unions. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the court is considering whether public servants can be forced under “fair share” laws to pay fees to unions in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining on their behalf, even if they’re not members. A ruling against the teachers’ unions would effectively extend right-to-work laws to government employees across the nation and significantly cut into public-sector union revenue. And as of oral arguments, it looked as if that was about to happen. But with Scalia no longer on the court, the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which upheld fair share rules, may still stand…..

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al.
Source: The Center for Individual Rights, February 17, 2016

….If these predictions are correct, then the current panel of eight Justices would result in a 4-4 decision which would not settle the question of whether compulsory dues are constitutional. If the Court were to issue such a decision, the lawyers for Rebecca Friedrichs and the nine other plaintiffs will file a motion for rehearing….

Labor Movement Needs to Organize Against Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association

Source: Shamus Cooke, Speakout, February 10, 2016

…..Every historic victory of organized labor was won with “no justice, no peace” at its foundation, and every other organized group of oppressed people used the same approach to win power.

This is the only way to fight Friedrichs, since it was how unions won the decision that Friedrichs seeks to destroy. When unions won Abood v. Detroit in 1977, it was the culmination of years of mass strikes in the public sector, where public transportation grinded to a halt and teachers shut down school districts, demanding the dignity that comes with strong unions.

The pro-union Abood decision wasn’t a gift from the Supreme Court, but a recognition of the existing power that unions were actively expressing. The 1977 Supreme Court said publicly that the Abood decision was, in large part, motivated in order to deliver “social peace.” And after the court gave the unions justice, the unions gave the government peace.

Unions are under attack now precisely because they aren’t viewed as a potential threat. But there is still time to show that the court has misjudged union power. The court will not decide Friedrichs until June, and until then, labor remains on the battlefield. If unions engage and mobilize their memberships to strike preemptively, it may lessen the blow of Friedrichs, while a powerful strike could avoid the blow completely…..

Can Renewal Emerge from Destruction? Crisis and Opportunity in Wisconsin

Source: Don Taylor, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 4, December 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article explores public sector labor relations in Wisconsin after the 2011 “uprising” and subsequent attempts to recall public officials, including the governor. While unions there have faced catastrophic setbacks and confront an uncertain future, the potential exists for Wisconsin to forge a new approach to escape the confines of the “service model,” which has left unions as “houses of straw.” If Wisconsin public sector unions can combine lessons from history and nonbargaining states with comprehensive plans for organizational culture change, a crucially important model could take shape for the entire U.S. labor movement.

Right-to-Work Laws, the Southernization of U.S. Labor Relations and the U.S. Trade Union Movement’s Decline

Source: Victor G. Devinatz, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 4, December 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article provides a framework for explaining why the right-to-work (RTW) movement is thriving in the twenty-first century’s second decade while outlining how RTW has negatively impacted the U.S. trade union movement. I argue that the recent growth of the RTW movement is due to the Southernization of U.S. labor relations that has led to not only an assault on private sector unionism but on public employee unionism as well. After presenting recent developments concerning RTW legislation, the roots of the Southernization of U.S. labor relations are discussed followed by sections outlining the historical development of the Southernization of both the U.S. working class and U.S. politics before presenting the effects of the Southernization of U.S. labor relations. The article’s penultimate section reports on the major economic effects of RTW legislation, primarily through outlining three RTW hypotheses and the associated empirical evidence. The final section proposes a methodology for potentially dealing with the RTW movement given the Southernization of U.S. labor relations.

Promises Unfulfilled: Right-to-Work’s Early Economic Track Record in Indiana

Source: Frank Manzo IV, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 4, December 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article examines the early economic track record of Indiana’s “right-to-work” (RTW) law on labor market outcomes. It analyzes various labor market metrics to compare the experience in Indiana relative to nine neighboring states, as well as to the United States in the aggregate. Data are analyzed both 36 months before and 36 months after Indiana passed RTW. Initial “difference-in-difference” estimates find that the labor market performance of Indiana has not surpassed that of neighboring states following passage of the law, contrary to the claims promised by its proponents. Wage and employment growth in Indiana’s construction industry, in particular, has fallen significantly behind the rest of the region. Regression analyses are subsequently performed, which conclude that RTW’s unique effect has been to lower hourly wages in the state economy by 1.1 to 1.5 percent on average and have little to no impact on employment. The combination of effects results in state income tax revenues that are annually $16 to $52 million lower than they would be in the absence of the RTW policy.

The Economic Effects of Adopting a Right-to-Work Law: Implications for Illinois

Source: Robert Bruno, Roland Zullo, Frank Manzo IV, Alison Dickson, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 4, December 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While considerable efforts have been made by legislators, business associations, and political organizations to pass right-to-work (RTW) laws in states across the country, the empirical evidence on the effect of adopting an RTW law on labor market outcomes and state budgets is both varied and mixed. This article provides a forecast on the effect of RTW laws on important labor market outcomes—including earnings, employment, unionization, and inequality. It also investigates RTW’s impacts on two particularly affected industries (manufacturing and construction) and three demographic groups (African-American, Latino/a, and female workers). The findings are subsequently applied to the state of Illinois to project the potential law’s impact on Illinois workers and on the state’s tax revenues. By and large, as a policy prescription, RTW would generate harmful effects to Illinois’ economy, lower its capacity to provide essential public services and degrade the quality and condition of the state’s labor force.

How Michigan Became a Right to Work State: The Role of Money and Politics

Source: Michelle Kaminski, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 40 no. 4, December 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The passage of Right to Work (RTW) legislation in Michigan was a surprise to many, given its relatively high unionization rate. Previous studies that examine state RTW status and the process of passing RTW legislation are not a good fit for the events in Michigan. Instead, single-party Republican control of state government and a wealthy donor who prioritized RTW combined to introduce legislation, pass it, and sign it into law in a one-week period. Contextual factors helped create an opportunity for this campaign to succeed. The Michigan experience raises questions about long-term strategies for labor in similar environments in the era of big-money donors.

Union Revitalization: How Women and Men Officers See the Relationship Between Union Size and Union Tolerance for Sexual Harassment

Source: Steven Mellor, Lisa M. Kath, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, Volume 28 Issue 1, March 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Larger memberships resulting from union mergers and consolidations have heightened the issue of union responsiveness to economic and noneconomic needs of members. In this study, we focused on a gender-moderated relationship between union size and perceived union tolerance for sexual harassment, in which low perceived tolerance (a desirable outcome) was anticipated as a noneconomic need relevant to union women. Data were collected from women and men officers (N = 120) in various unions. Officers were viewed as well-positioned informants on tolerance in relation to union policies and practices. As hypothesized, the data confirmed that women in larger unions rated tolerance significantly higher (an undesirable outcome) than women in smaller unions. No such tolerance variation was found for men in relation to smaller and larger unions. Implications for union revitalization and future research on union size are discussed.

Union Members – 2015

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, News Release, USDL-16-0158, January 28, 2016

The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 11.1 percent in 2015, unchanged from 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.8 million in 2015, was little different from 2014. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers. The data on union membership are collected as part of the Current Population Survey (CPS), a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households that obtains information on employment and unemployment among the nation’s civilian noninstitutional population age 16 and over…..