Category Archives: Labor Unions

Who Is Behind the National Right to Work Committee and its Anti-Union Crusade?

Source: Jay Riestenberg and Mary Bottari, The Progressive, June 4, 2014

…The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF) is the 501(c)(3) arm of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), a 501(c)(4) organization. Additionally, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research is an affiliated anti-union research shop. Founded nearly 60 years ago, the NRTWC has been a national leader in the effort to destroy public and private sector unions. The groups have increased their funding and staffing in recent years. In 2012, the three groups combined reported over $25 million in revenue, making them a powerful instrument of the corporate and ideological interests that want to keep wages low and silence the voice of organized labor in the political arena…..

The NRTWC has deep connections within the national right-wing network led by the Koch brothers. Reed Larson, who led the NRTW groups for over three decades, hails from Wichita, Kansas, the hometown of Charles and David Koch. Larson became an early leader of the radical right-wing John Birch Society in Kansas, which Fred Koch (the father of Charles and David) helped found. Several other founders and early leaders of the NRTWC were members and leaders of the John Birch Society, specifically the Wichita chapter of which Fred Koch was an active member.

The groups remain tied to the Kochs. In 2012, the Kochs’ Freedom Partners group funneled $1 million to the National Right to Work Committee, while the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation gave a $15,000 grant to the NRTWLDF, which has also received significant funding from the Koch-connected DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund. Today, at least three former Koch associates work as attorneys for the NRTWLDF….In addition to the Koch brothers, the NRTWLDF has received significant funding from many big name conservative donors, including the Walton Family Foundation (of Walmart), the Coors family’s Castle Rock Foundation, Wisconsin’s Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, and the Searle Freedom Trust….

Dark Money, Dirty War: The Corporate Crusade Against Low-Wage Workers

Source: Mariya Strauss, Political Research Associates, June 4, 2014

Corporate interests have taken credit for reducing private-sector unions to a fraction of their former strength, and for eroding public-sector collective bargaining, especially since the 2010 “Tea Party midterms.” A resurgence in low-wage worker organizing, sparked by growing inequality in the United States, promises to help defend the rights—and paychecks—of vulnerable workers. But corporations and their paid shills aim to snuff out the movement before it catches fire. …

Government Mandates and Atypical Work: An Investigation of Right-to-Work States

Source: Christopher J. Surfield, Eastern Economic Journal, Vol. 40 no. 1, Winter 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Atypical work forms, such as agency temporary, consulting/contracting, and contract work, have been criticized as providing employers with a means to avoid government-mandated employment protections. In such cases, we would expect to see a lower prevalence of atypical work in right-to-work (RTW) states relative to non-RTW states. We test for this possibility using data from supplements to the 1995–2005 Current Population Surveys. Our empirical results provide a degree of support for this contention as we see significantly lower overall fractions of atypical work in RTW states than we do in agency- or union-shop states.

‘Labor Priests’ Reviving Social Justice Teachings—and Action

Source: Robert Richter, Labor Notes, May 28, 2014

“Labor priests” were a recognized presence in the labor movement of the 1920s through the 1960s. Father Barry, the Karl Malden character in the 1954 film “On the Waterfront,” was the model of the priest who sided with workers.

Priests conducted Parish Labor Schools where workers interested in collective bargaining studied Catholic social justice doctrine, labor law, and parliamentary procedure.

While parish-based Labor Schools have been largely replaced today by worker centers, labor priests are once again gaining numbers (100 at last count) who share their vision that to diminish workers is to rob them of their God-given vocation.

The Priest-Labor Initiative was founded in 2012 by Father Clete Kiley and held its third meeting this month in Atlanta, with two dozen priests in attendance. Kiley was pastor of a large immigrant parish in Chicago, worked on organizing drives at university food services and at O’Hare airport, and is now director for immigration policy for UNITE HERE, the hotel workers union….

Public Sector Unions Under Siege – Solidarity in the Fight Back

Source: Richard W. Hurd, Tamara L. Lee, Labor Studies Journal, Vol. 39 no. 1, March 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The 2011-2013 assault on public sector collective bargaining rights is unprecedented in its breadth and depth. Legislative proposals that would roll back bargaining, limit unions’ ability to negotiate security arrangements, stop payroll deduction of union dues, and constrain labor’s political activity have been introduced in a majority of states. This coordinated attack from the Republican right has spurred an aggressive, unified response from a broad cross section of unions. Through labor unity tables at the national and state levels, unions are demonstrating a rare level of solidarity in the fight back. This ongoing experiment in movement building is encouraging, but challenges remain.

Using Pyette to Counter the Fall of Contract-Based Unionism in a Global Economy

Source: Stephen A. Plass, Vol. 34 no. 2, 2013

Structural changes in the economy that contributed to high unemployment have combined with global wage competition to destroy the contract-making and contract-enforcement powers of unions. Supporters of labor uniformly insist on defining the role of unions as contractual, and condemn the Supreme Court’s Pyett decision that permits unions to take control of their members’ legal claims. Yet unions’ contractual powers have dwindled under the National Labor Relations Act, thereby leaving workers vulnerable to the bargaining demands of their employers. This article shows how Pyett can renew the importance of unions.

The Article argues that read appropriately, Pyett is positively transformative in the same way as the Steelworkers Trilogy. Although the Pyett decision did not offer a compelling justification for its conclusion that unions are authorized to bargain about antidiscrimination rights, unions’ effective advocacy for their members’ antidiscrimination claims may be a practical necessity today. The Article focuses on Pyett’s potential to transform the workplace by eliminating the line between contract and legal disputes. Using the Trilogy as a backdrop, and antidiscrimination rights as an example, the article addresses the theoretical and practical concerns cited as obstacles to Pyett’s viability. It provides original answers to the questions Pyett left open and provides a roadmap on how the decision may be implemented contractually to advance employers’ and workers’ interests.

The CEO got a huge raise. You didn’t. Here’s why.

Source: Josh Boak, Associated Press, May 27, 2014

…While pay for the typical CEO of a company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 stock index surged 9 percent last year to $10.46 million, it rose a scant 1.3 percent for U.S. workers as a whole. That CEO now earns 257 times the national average, up from a multiple of 181 in 2009, according to an analysis by The Associated Press and Equilar….

Here are five reasons why CEOs are enjoying lavish pay increases and five reasons many people are stuck with stagnant incomes.

1. They’re paid heavily in stock. ….
2. Peer pressure. ….
3. The superstar effect. ….
4. Friendly boards of directors. ….
5. Stricter scrutiny. ….

1. Blame the robots. ….
2. High unemployment. ….
2. Globalization. ….
4. Weaker unions. ….
5. Low inflation. ….

Courts vs. Unions: Speech and Association Rights under Fire

Source: Catherine Fisk, New Labor Forum, Vol. 23 no. 2, May 2014
(subscription required)

In 2012, the Supreme Court held in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, Local 1000 that a union representing government employees may assess money from the employees whom it represents to support political activity only if those employees first opt in to supporting political expenditures. The Court decreed that public sector employees have a First Amendment right to refuse to contribute money to support the political speech of their union and that states are required to allow such assessments only if the employees first opt to make a financial contribution. Knox, brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW), is one in a long series of Supreme Court cases delineating when a union selected by the majority of employees violates the First Amendment rights of dissenting employees. A case currently pending in the Supreme Court, Harris v. Quinn, brought by NRTW on behalf of a dissenting worker against the state of Illinois, asks whether state home care workers have a First Amendment right to refuse to pay for the services the union is statutorily obligated to provide them. Harris may enable the Court to overrule decades of precedent and declare that all government employment must be on a “right-to-work” basis.

Harris v. Quinn may enable the Supreme Court to declare that all government employment must be on a “right-to-work” basis.

The case has tremendous significance for the future of the labor movement. Historically, unions have found it difficult to survive in right-to-work states because employees—like everyone else—are reluctant to pay for services they can get for free. Moreover, while no one seriously expects it to decide that collective bargaining violates the First Amendment rights of non-union employees, if the Court finds it unconstitutional to require employees to contribute money to support union speech on behalf of employees whom the union represents, it may be hard-pressed to explain why allowing a union to bargain on behalf of dissenting employees is not also unconstitutional.

Big Brother Unionism? The Landrum-Griffin Act and the Fight for AFSCME’s Future, 1961 – 1964

Source: Joseph E. Hower, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 11 no. 2, Summer 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In this article, Joseph Hower examines the regulation of union elections by the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (commonly known as the Landrum-Griffin act) through a case study of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). Drawing on local and national union records and oral history transcripts, he reconstructs Jerry Wurf’s campaign for the union presidency (1961–64) and shows how Wurf and his dissident caucus were reluctant to invoke Landrum-Griffin’s protections, even in the midst of a fiercely contested election campaign, for fear that it would legitimize the anti-union intentions of the law’s architects. Instead, Wurf and the other dissidents turned the law to their own ends, holding out the threat of legal action to force incumbent president Arnold Zander to curb his worst excesses, while using his administration’s misdeeds to underscore their broader case for union reform. Narrowly defeated in 1962, Wurf managed to unseat Zander at the union’s 1964 convention. The successful challenge, a rarity in twentieth-century labor history, ratified a more militant vision of the union, setting the stage for AFSCME’s impressive growth during the second half of the twentieth century.

Advocating for Better Salaries Toolkit

Source: Editors and Writers: Jennifer Dorning, Tara Dunderdale, Shannon L. Farrell, Aliqae Geraci, Rachel Rubin, Jessica Storrs, American Library Association – Allied Professional Association (ALA-APA), Fifth Edition: April 2014

Successful salary improvement efforts begin and end with library workers. This toolkit is designed to provide library workers with the resources and strategies they need to improve their salaries. Library workers are not alone in their fight for fair compensation. …. The toolkit has four parts: Building Your Case for Better Salaries; Pay Equity; Unions; and Speaking Out. This toolkit will be helpful whether you are a librarian, administrator, or support staff.

Part 1 focuses on building the individual library workers’ case for better salaries and providing tools for salary negotiation. To build the case, the toolkit outlines resources to help you determine your fair market value and effectively demonstrate your value and the value of your library. Part 1 also includes information on living wage campaigns and the effect of faculty status on salary. Part 1 concludes with salary negotiation advice for individuals as well as advice aimed at administrators looking to improve staff salaries.

Part 2 outlines the process for initiating a pay equity campaign in your library. This section provides tools for identifying pay inequities in your library and outlines the options for recourse. While legal recourse is available in pay equity cases, this section also outlines the steps libraries can take to revise job descriptions, position classifications, and job evaluations to achieve pay equity.

Part 3 provides resources for library workers who want to seek union representation in their library. This section also outlines the benefits of joining a union as well as frequently asked questions about unions.

Part 4 explains the five steps necessary to presenting an effective case for increasing salaries. Part 4 also looks at how to handle challenges and setbacks when seeking fair pay, including budget cuts, employee turnover, and labor market saturation and recruitment.