Category Archives: Labor Unions

Behind the Closed Doors at a Coca-Cola Anti-Union Meeting: Workers Push Back

Source: Stuart Elliott, Talking Union blog, July 10, 2014

In the vast majority of union organizing drives, the company calls mandatory meetings to deliver its anti-union message. Increasingly, workers are standing up and sharing their experiences with the closed meetings. Recorded on July 9, 2014 in Atlanta, GA at the South Metro distribution center in College Park. Here Coca Cola’s Director of Labor Relations Brian LaVelle and his assistant force workers to attend a mandatory (mis)’information session’ about the Teamsters union. Listen when workers push back and demand to know how much the union busters get paid for running such meetings. Powerful audio here. Go behind closed doors at Coke’s anti-union meetings….

Special Issue: Achieving Health Equity in the Workplace

Source: American Journal of Industrial Medicine, Vol. 57 Issue 5, May 2014
(subscription required)

Articles include:
Introduction to a special issue: Eliminating health and safety inequities at work

Work organization, job insecurity, and occupational health disparities
Changes in employment conditions in the global economy over the past 30 years have led to increased job insecurity and other work organization hazards. These hazards may play a role in creating and sustaining occupational health disparities by socioeconomic position, gender, race, ethnicity, and immigration status. … There is consistent evidence that workers in lower socioeconomic or social class positions are exposed to greater job insecurity and other work organization hazards than workers in higher socioeconomic positions. Likewise, racial and ethnic minorities and immigrants are exposed to greater job insecurity. Limited research examining the effects of interventions targeting work organization hazards on disparities has been conducted; nonetheless, intervention strategies are available and evidence suggests they are effective. Job insecurity and work organization hazards play a role in creating and sustaining occupational health disparities. Employment and workplace policies and programs have the potential to reduce these hazards, and to reduce disparities. …

Characterizing the low wage immigrant workforce: A comparative analysis of the health disparities among selected occupations in Somerville, Massachusetts
This study estimates job-related risks among common low wage occupations (cleaning, construction, food service, cashier/baggers, and factory workers) held by predominantly Haitian, El Salvadorian, and Brazilian immigrants living or working in Somerville, Massachusetts…. Construction workers reported significantly higher health risks, and lower access to occupational health services than the other occupations. Compared to cashier/baggers, the reference population in this study, cleaners reported significantly lower access to health and safety and work training and no knowledge of workers’ compensation. Factory workers reported significantly lower work training compared to cashier/baggers. Food service workers reported the least access to doctors compared to the other occupations. We found significant variability in risks among different low wage immigrant occupations. The type of occupation independently contributed to varying levels of risks among these jobs. We believe our findings to be conservative and recommend additional inquiry aimed at assuring the representativeness of our findings….

Examining occupational health and safety disparities using national data: A cause for continuing concern
Occupational status, a core component of socioeconomic status, plays a critical role in the well-being of U.S. workers. Identifying work-related disparities can help target prevention efforts. … Employment in high-injury/illness occupations was independently associated with being male, Black, ≤high school degree, foreign-birth, and low-wages. Adjusted fatal occupational injury rate ratios for 2005–2009 were elevated for males, older workers, and several industries and occupations. Agriculture/forestry/fishing and mining industries and transportation and materials moving occupations had the highest rate ratios. Homicide rate ratios were elevated for Black, American Indian/Alaska Native/Asian/Pacific Islanders, and foreign-born workers. These findings highlight the importance of understanding patterns of disparities of workplace injuries, illnesses and fatalities. Results can improve intervention efforts by developing programs that better meet the needs of the increasingly diverse U.S. workforce. …

Promoting integrated approaches to reducing health inequities among low-income workers: Applying a social ecological framework
Nearly one of every three workers in the United States is low-income. Low-income populations have a lower life expectancy and greater rates of chronic diseases compared to those with higher incomes. Low- income workers face hazards in their workplaces as well as in their communities. Developing integrated public health programs that address these combined health hazards, especially the interaction of occupational and non-occupational risk factors, can promote greater health equity. Examples of successful approaches to developing integrated programs are presented in each of these settings. These examples illustrate several complementary venues for public health programs that consider the complex interplay between work-related and non work-related factors, that integrate health protection with health promotion and that are delivered at multiple levels to improve health for low-income workers. Whether at the workplace or in the community, employers, workers, labor and community advocates, in partnership with public health practitioners, can deliver comprehensive and integrated health protection and health promotion programs. Recommendations for improved research, training, and coordination among health departments, health practitioners, worksites and community organizations are proposed…..

Effects of social, economic, and labor policies on occupational health disparities
This article introduces some key labor, economic, and social policies that historically and currently impact occupational health disparities in the United States. … Many populations such as tipped workers, public employees, immigrant workers, and misclassified workers are not protected by current laws and policies, including worker’s compensation or Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforcement of standards. Local and state initiatives, such as living wage laws and community benefit agreements, as well as multiagency law enforcement contribute to reducing occupational health disparities. There is a need to build coalitions and collaborations to command the resources necessary to identify, and then reduce and eliminate occupational disparities by establishing healthy, safe, and just work for all….

Discrimination, harassment, abuse, and bullying in the workplace: Contribution of workplace injustice to occupational health disparities
This paper synthesizes research on the contribution of workplace injustices to occupational health disparities. … Members of demographic minority groups are more likely to be victims of workplace injustice and suffer more adverse outcomes when exposed to workplace injustice compared to demographic majority groups. A growing body of research links workplace injustice to poor psychological and physical health, and a smaller body of evidence links workplace injustice to unhealthy behaviors. Although not as well studied, studies show that workplace injustice can influence workers’ health through effects on workers’ family life and job-related outcomes. Injustice is a key contributor to occupational health injustice and prospective studies with oversample of disadvantaged workers and refinement of methods for characterizing workplace injustices are needed….

Race-based job discrimination, disparities in job control, and their joint effects on health
To examine disparities between job control scores in Black and White subjects and attempt to discern whether self-rated low job control in Blacks may arise from structural segregation into different jobs, or represents individual responses to race-based discrimination in hiring or promotion. … Black subjects exhibited lower mean job control scores compared to Whites adjusted for age, sex, education, and income. This difference narrowed to 1.86 when adjusted for clustering by occupation, and was greatly reduced by conditioning on race-based discrimination. Path analyses showed greater reported discrimination in Blacks with increasing education, and a stronger effect of job control on health in Black subjects. Individual racially-based discrimination appears a stronger determinant than structural segregation in reduced job control in Black workers, and may contribute to health disparities consequent on work. …

Occupational health disparities: A state public health-based approach
This report used employment and public health surveillance data in Michigan to characterize work-related race/ethnic health disparities. … Blacks and Hispanics were over-represented in lower wage–higher manual–labor occupations and in highest risk occupations. Blacks were at greater risk of silicosis, work-related asthma, and work-related burns than whites, and Hispanics had higher rates of work-related acute fatal injuries and pesticide injury than non-Hispanics. Michigan employment data indicated that blacks and Hispanics were overly represented in lower paid and more hazardous jobs. Occupational health surveillance data confirmed disparate risks for some illnesses and injuries. This approach can be used in other states to bring awareness to policy makers and direct interventions….

Losing Sparta: The Bitter Truth Behind the Gospel of Productivity

Source: Esther Kaplan, Virginia Quarterly Review, Summer 2014

…One morning in November 2010, a Philips executive no one recognized drove up and walked into the plant, accompanied by a security guard wearing sunglasses and a sidearm. He summoned all the employees back to the shipping department and abruptly announced that the plant would be shut down. Though the workers didn’t know it at the time, most of their jobs would be offshored….

…These are catastrophic job losses. Yet no regulatory body ever asks the firms responsible to explain why they offshored the jobs—​even when those firms, like Philips, receive substantial taxpayer subsidies.

It was left to two scholars, Kate Bronfenbrenner, of Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, and Stephanie Luce, of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, to look behind the numbers. In a 2004 study, they found that offshoring, that old story from the 1970s and ’80s, was still sharply on the rise. They used detailed first-​quarter data to estimate that 406,000 jobs would be offshored in 2004 (a number roughly triple the widely recognized undercount from BLS), compared with 204,000 three years earlier. More of these jobs, they found, moved to Mexico than to any other country. Other details are salient. “Once a place sells to somebody else that’s not union, you might as well shut the damn doors,” Bo McCurry said to me one afternoon, and Bronfenbrenner’s data shows he’s probably right. Though only 8 percent of private-​sector workplaces are unionized in the United States, 29 percent of production shifts involved unionized facilities, implying that offshoring may be, at least in part, a union-​avoidance strategy. Even more interestingly, the overwhelming majority of the facilities being offshored were owned by large, profitable multinationals—​not, as one might imagine, by firms struggling to compete. And many of the closures took place soon after the plants had been acquired.

“Corporations often do things to impress their shareholders,” Bronfenbrenner said. “Everybody is offshoring and outsourcing, even though it isn’t necessarily a good financial decision. It may actually cost more, but to investors it looks like sound management. It’s just keeping up with the Joneses, where the Joneses are every other manufacturing company in the world.”

A 2012 study by Michael E. Porter and Jan W. Rivkin of Harvard Business School, based on interviews with 1,767 executives involved in location decisions over the previous year, confirms Bronfenbrenner’s view. Porter and Rivkin found that “rigorous processes for location choices” are “far from universal” and that such decision-​making processes “have lagged behind those for virtually all other major investment decisions.” They found that companies often underestimate the hidden costs of offshoring, overlook the advantages of a US location and “fall prey to biases that work against the U.S.”

Combined, this research hints at a radical idea: that offshoring has simply become a reflex. And if that’s true, all the lean manufacturing and just-​in-​time production and automation and retraining and two-​tier pay scales in the world won’t be enough to save American production jobs.

So much in the Sparta story defies the familiar political scripts: Norris, the union-​avoidance expert, along with Bailey and Sullivan, of the Chamber of Commerce, joining hands with the IBEW to help save a union plant; small businessmen in Tea Party country championing community ownership. It became clear from my conversations that Philips’s actions had deeply offended people’s sense of decency, from the laid-​off workers to what Donna McCurry calls “the big wheels in town,” and that this sense of corporate indecency is what had brought such politically disparate people together. ….

The Limitations and Possibilities of Student-Labor Coalitions

Source: Sarah Jaffe, Talking Union blog, July 9, 2014

….The subpoena brouhaha was only the latest chapter in an expansive battle with Straus’s companies on one side and 1199 SEIU Healthcare Workers East, 1199 SEIU New England, and the Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) at NYU on the other—while NYU, claiming neutrality, remained in the middle. It’s a multi-year, multi-state struggle that began with low-wage care workers being locked out in 2011 and hasn’t ended with Straus losing his seat on the law school’s board. A close examination of the story yields important lessons about the possibilities and limitations of student-labor coalitions, the latest anti-union strategies of corporations, and the current state of labor struggles…..

…Universities, particularly large research universities, of which NYU is the prototype, provide useful points of pressure on corporate bad actors because of the customer-service relationship with their students that they cultivate. That means that students making demands, whether in response to labor law violations or investments in dirty energy, have some sway with administrators, who in turn control large chunks of money or, in the case of Straus, prestigious board appointments.

But once Straus is off the board, the university students no longer have much power, though their solidarity and support is still appreciated. The workers at HealthBridge and CareOne continue to struggle, and the RICO suit goes forward; the subpoenas have not gone away…..

SCOTUS’ Quiet Expansion of Harris

Source: Moshe Marvit, In These Times blog, July 8, 2014

On July 1, the day after the Supreme Court issued its controversial decisions in Harris v. Quinn and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, it issued a round of “miscellaneous orders” to wrap up loose ends before the Court went into recess. In the first of a long list was a GVR (grant, vacate, remand) order voiding the 6th Circuit’s decision in another case that had been appealed to the Court, and sending it back to the lower court “for further consideration in light of Harris v. Quinn.” In Harris, the Supreme Court held that the First Amendment did not permit a fair share or agency fee provision requiring objecting home healthcare workers to pay a fee to the union for collective bargaining and contract administration.

The case at issue is Schlaud v. Snyder, out of Michigan, and in many ways it looks like Harris. Just as in Harris, the plaintiffs—also represented by the right-wing National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW)—are a few homecare providers suing the union, the governor, and the state Department of Human Services for the return of union dues on First Amendment grounds….

….It’s hard to know the Supreme Court’s motivation in vacating and remanding Schlaud, but it may be a quiet expansion of the Harris decision. If the Supreme Court is sending a signal to the lower court that Harris requires that it reverse itself on the class certification issue, then it is indicating an agreement with one of NRTW’s problematic arguments: that the baseline for union agreement should be reversed so that it is assumed that workers object to the union unless they continually affirm their support. If the NRTW’s argument is taken to its logical extreme, workers who vote for the union and for the contract could still be considered union objectors.

The Supreme Court’s GVR order cannot necessarily be read as agreeing with NRTW’s argument, but it is likely to cause such confusion. Erwin Chemerinsky and Ned Miltenberg—who have both argued cases many times before the Supreme Court—have written that the Supreme Court issues such orders “rather reflexively, even when its underlying decisions on the merits of one case provides scant reason for revising a lower court’s ruling in a different case.” However, they argue that such orders often lead lower courts to reverse their decisions for fear that the Supreme Court will overrule them. If that is the ultimate result in Schlaud, then Harris will provide anti-union groups yet another tool to attack labor….

2014 Symposium: Reimagining Pensions: The Next 40 Years

Source: Pension Research Council, May 2014

Forty years after the passage of the US Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974, confidence in retirement systems is shakier than ever. This event will examine opportunities and challenges for the future of retirement security, with speakers discussing the adequacy, efficiency, equity, and stability of our current retirement model. Participants will also propose options for policy reform and examine new pension provision models including in the international sphere. Conference attendees include academics, actuaries, plan sponsors, benefits specialists, policymakers, and others concerned about pension provision for the future.

Session I: Today’s Retirement System: Adequacy, Equity, Efficiency, and Stability
∙ “Are Retirees Falling Short? Reconciling the Conflicting Evidence” – Alicia Munnell, Matthew S. Rutledge, and Anthony Webb, Boston College
∙ “Retirement Plans and Prospects for Retirement Income Adequacy” – Jack VanDerhei, EBRI
∙ “The Changing Concept of Retirement” – Julia Coronado and Laura Rosner, BNP Paribas
Discussant: Cynthia Mallett, MetLife

Session II: New Thinking about Retirement Risk Sharing
∙ “Risk Sharing Alternatives for Pension Plan Design” – Anna Rappaport, Anna Rappaport Consulting, and Andrew Peterson, Society of Actuaries
∙ “United States Pension Benefit Plan Design Innovation: Labor Unions as Agents of Change” David Blitzstein, Blitzstein Consulting
∙ “The Promise of Defined Ambition Plans: Lessons for the United States” – A. Lans Bovenberg and Theo E. Nijman, Tilburg University

Session III: Implications of the Regulatory and Fiscal Environment for the Future of Pensions
∙ “Cultivating Pension Plans” – John Vine, Covington & Burling LLP
∙ “Entitlement Reform and the Future of Pensions” – Gene Steuerle, Urban Institute; Pamela Perun, Independent Consultant; and Ben Harris, Brookings Institution

Session IV: Practicalities of New Plan Design
∙ “Retirement Shares Plan: A New Model for Risk Sharing” – Don Fuerst, American Academy of Actuaries
∙ “Back to the Future: Hybrid Co-op Pensions and the TIAA-CREF System” – David Richardson and Benjamin Goodman, TIAA-CREF
∙ “Portfolio Pension Plans” – Richard Shea, Covington & Burling LLP
Discussant: John (Jamie) Kalamarides, Prudential Financial

Session V: International Perspectives on Pension Reform
∙ “Australian and United States Retirement Income Systems: Comparisons and Lessons” -John Piggott and Rafal Chomik, University of New South Wales
∙ “Singapore’s Social Security Savings System: Review and Reforms” – Benedict S. K. Koh, Singapore Management University
∙ “Insights from Switzerland’s Pension System” – Monika Buetler, Universitaet St. Gallen

Can a new brand of unions help America’s workers?

Source: Thomas A. Kochan, Fortune, July 7, 2014

As unions come under siege, emerging labor groups are testing new ways to rebuild workers’ bargaining power. …. The good news is a wide range of experiments with new forms of mobilization and worker representation is now underway inside and outside of the labor movement. …. A growing number of union leaders and community activists are engaging local level business, political and other leaders in multi-party negotiations on issues critical to their local economy and workforce. …. Employee associations in education, hospitality and other industries are learning from the Freelancers Union in New York to offer benefits like health care, career counseling and job opening information. In doing so, they are inching toward models that provide “life-long” individual memberships rather requiring a majority of workers in a specific firm to vote for representation in order to gain one new member, only to lose that member when he or she leaves the job. Other groups are experimenting with use of social media to inform, educate and mobilize workers—especially young workers. ….

After ‘Harris v. Quinn’: The State of Our Unions

Source: Eileen Boris, Jennifer Klein, Joel Rogers, Joshua Freeman and Jane McAlevey, The Nation, July 2, 2014

After one of Supreme Court’s most anti-union rulings in recent years, is there still time for organized labor to save itself?…

….To help sort through these and other questions, we have gathered up a group of scholars and activists and asked them to expound. They include Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, Joel Rogers, Joshua Freeman and Jane McAlevey. Their pieces range from meditations on what Harris v. Quinn means for the vast corps of women (particularly women of color) who make up this new “partial public employee” category to the way the Court has warped the First Amendment into a scythe to slice apart some of our most basic social protections. And if the meditations are not always cheery, well, this isn’t a particularly cheery topic. Then again, it’s not hopeless either. As McAlevey argues, labor still has time to save itself.

Reducing Labor to Love” by Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein

How Harris v. Quinn and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Turned the First Amendment into a Weapon” by Joel Rogers

Is Harris v. Quinn a Threat to Labor Peace?” by Joshua Freeman

Labor’s Only Real Choice: Beating Harris v. Quinn and Right-to-Work Attacks from the Inside Out” by Jane McAlevey…

Why the Supreme Court’s Attack on Labor Hurts Women Most

Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation blog, July 7, 2014

…..According to a CEPR analysis of the “union advantage” and gender inequality, union women are more likely to have decent family leave policies, retirement benefits and wages. Unionized female health aides generally earn wages that are 16 percent higher than that of their non-union counterparts. Meanwhile, though the union workforce is shrinking nationwide, women are becoming the majority and have especially high representation in public service jobs, thanks in large part to the immigration-driven growth in Asian American and Latina workers.

And that brings us back to why Illinois home attendants were a perfect target for the anti-union movement. Union-supported homecare demonstrates how women, “big government” and consumers can effectively work together, so naturally, the right is fighting to destroy this model before it catches on in more states.

Hobby Lobby revealed how companies can lord over working women’s reproductive freedom in a deeply inequitable insurance system. Harris struck from another angle—eroding union women’s labor power and threatening public health services in the process. Unions are a tool for resistance; although unionization alone won’t overcome greed or religious chauvinism in corporations, a strong collective bargaining system would give women a platform to hold bosses accountable and thwart reactionary attacks on health programs for workers and the poor…..
Related:
Harris v. Quinn Is About the Right of Home Care Workers to Improve Their Wages
Source: Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute, Working Economics blog, May 20, 2014

The Courts vs. Teacher Unionism

Source: Justin Law, LaborOnline, May 23, 2014

Teachers unions have faced some of the most challenging legal strictures in U.S. history. Before public collective bargaining employment laws, teachers effectively were told they had no right to organize by a judicial system that used a variety of constructions of the law to invalidate the citizen’s right to free speech and assembly in the workplace. One illustration of this legal labor history–one relevant to teachers power—is that of the Chicago Teachers’ Federation (CTF) legal battle to overturn the infamous “Loeb rule,” which presented nearly insurmountable obstacles to the organization of teachers by the labor movement. Under the administration of Mayor “Big Bill” Thompson, and under the leadership of School Board member and later President, Jacob M. Loeb, the Chicago Board of Education passed a rule in September of 1915 declaring that any teacher who was a member of a trade union or other unauthorized society would not be hired by the Board to work in the schools of Chicago….