Category Archives: Organizing & Protests

Organizing at the Margins: Women Shape the Labor Movement

Source: WorkingUSA, Vol. 11 no. 4, December 2008
(subscription required)

This issue contains the following articles:
Eileen Boris, Premilla Nadasen

Jessica M. Smith

Michelle Kaminski, Elaine K. Yakura

Jessica Wilkerson

Pamela Stewart

Union Access to Workers During Union Organizing Campaigns: A New Look through the Lens of Health Services

Source: David J. Doorey, York University, October 16, 2008

From the abstract:
The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in the recent Health Services decision that the Canadian Constitutional protection of “freedom of association” should be interpreted to provide at least as much protection of associational rights as provided by international conventions that Canada has ratified (the “Equivalency Requirement”). However, the Court then made the Equivalency Requirement conditional upon a second requirement when it ruled that only government interference that amounts to a “substantial impairment” of freedom of association is protected (the “Substantial Impairment Requirement”). Therefore, Canadian laws that provide less protection for freedom of association than ratified international conventions will be Constitutionally valid provided they do not “substantially interfere” with freedom of association. This paper explores this peculiar result using the issue of union access to employer property for the purpose of organizing. In doing so, the article compares the approaches to union access to employer property under Canadian, American, and British law, as well as the approach of the ILO’s supervisory bodies interpreting ILO Convention 87, which Canada has ratified.

Stacking the Deck: Privileging ‘Employer Free Choice’ over Industrial Democracy in the Card Check Debate

Source: Raja Raghunath, University Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 08-10, Nebraska Law Review, Vol. 87, 2008

From the abstract:
“Card check” organizing is the most controversial issue in labor law today, and this article is the first to analyze Dana Corp., the landmark decision on card check that was issued by the National Labor Relations Board in September 2007. The Dana Corp. decision represents a fundamental shift in American labor relations, away from safeguarding the rights of employees to collectively bargain, and towards safeguarding employer choice as to whether to engage in collective bargaining at all. The purpose of this article is to call attention to this shift, and to refocus the card-check debate on the fundamental principle of asymmetrical employer power in the workplace. The importance of this principle in understanding the arguments surrounding card check is heightened by the shift in labor relations signaled by the Dana Corp. decision, as well as two significant recent developments in the California and Illinois public sector that also have gone unanalyzed.

Union Organizing Trends and the Question of Post-Industrial Unionism in the Early 21st Century

Source: Victor G. Devinatz, Labor Law Journal, Fall 2008

….In this article, I utilize data from 2003-05 (the current period) and compare it with the 1983-85 (the base period) data in order to construct a new typology of organizing trends for a select group of unions in the early 21st century.

Beyond The Mutual Backscratch: A New Model For Labor-Community Coalitions

Source: Amy Dean and Wade Rathke, New Labor Forum, Vol. 17 no. 3, Fall 2008
(subscription required)

Labor historian David Montgomery once compared the George Meany Era of the AFL-CIO to a great snapping turtle, “hiding within its shell to shield the working-class from contamination” and “snapping out” at those forces who venture too close. But, when he became the AFL-CIO president in 1995, John Sweeney announced that supporting “local coalition-building efforts with community, religious, civil rights and other organizations” would become part of labor’s organizing strategy. Today, collaboration with community groups is the official policy of the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and many individual unions.

Now, however, some trade unionists are questioning this commitment, asking whether the benefits are worth the costs. What does labor get in return for the money and effort it puts into cultivating community allies?

Hospital Organizing Has Slowed, Two Years After Labor Board’s Controversial Supervisor Decision

Source: Mischa Gaus, Labor Notes, October 2008

Joanne Thompson found out the hard way how management is exploiting a loose definition of a supervisor to strip workers of the ability to form unions. She had spent five years as a “charge nurse” at West Houston Medical Center, checking up on medication schedules and juggling workloads for the nurses on her floor, who monitor heart patients.

20 Ways to Fight for the Future: Young Activists Handbook

Source: Heather McGhee and Caleb Gibson, Dēmos, May 22, 2008

What’s at stake in the fight for the future? For generations, the American Dream has meant not only success for yourself, but a better life for your children. But for the first time in American history, experts are predicting that this generation of young people will be worse off than their parents. The American Dream of progress may end–with us. We are the first generation to come of age in a New Economy that’s marked by lower wages for average workers, fewer benefits and less job security. Yet our public policies have yet to respond and have often made matters worse. That’s because the last 30 years have seen not just an economic shift but a political shift as well, away from government investments in the financial security of its citizens.

It’s time for our generation to send a wake-up call to our city councils, state houses, Capitol Hill and the White House. The promise of our democracy is a government responsive to the needs of its citizens; when 14 million young adults are uninsured, when child care costs more than college tuition and college tuition costs triple what it did for our parents, our leaders are clearly falling down on the job. Of course, it’s our job to demand change. It’s important for young people to vote, and we applaud the doubling and even tripling of youth turnout so far in 2008. But when we vote, we’re primarily voting for candidates. For our ideas to win, we’ve got to build a movement. Hopefully, this handbook will help you do just that.

Understanding How Employees’ Rights to Organize Under the NLRA Have Been Limited: The Case of Brown University

Source: Ellen Dannin, American Constitution Society Issue Brief, August 20, 2008

From the abstract:
The National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB’s) 2004 Brown University decision held that graduate student teaching and research assistants were not employees, and therefore, were not protected by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Deciding whether individuals are employees as defined by the NLRA is critical to labor law, as it determines whether individuals have a protected right to engage in freedom of association, self-organization, collective bargaining, and acts of mutual aid or protection. This article explains and critiques the Brown decision as a departure both from precedent as well as from the central purposes of the NLRA. It also examines how Brown University “foreshadowed other cases in which the Board would ignore precedent and the policies underlying the NLRA.” The piece advises readers about the importance of precision in criticizing such decisions, because “if that criticism is not targeted to the specific wrong, it can do damage.” It further cautions that, while criticizing specific failures to enforce NLRA rights is essential, it is important to not wholly abandon the NLRA as a vehicle for protecting such rights, stating “We must insist that the promise of the NLRA to actively promote freedom of association in order to create equality of bargaining power between employers and employees . . . is kept.”

A Legal Pluralist Model of Labor Organizing: Evidence from the Anti-Sweatshop Movement

Source: Scott Cummings, UCLA School of Law Research Paper No. 08-27, August, 14 2008

From the abstract:
The field of labor organizing — once a site of progressive disenchantment with law — has now become a crucial locus of law’s resurgence. There is mounting evidence that legal innovation is contributing to a new dynamism within the labor movement as immigrant worker centers, community-labor coalitions, and other grassroots alliances creatively use law to mobilize low-wage workers. These efforts suggest that a reorientation is under way within the labor movement, with activists adopting a legal pluralist approach to organizing that takes strategic advantage of the multiple and intersecting ways in which both employee and employer activities are legally regulated to leverage the power of law to advance labor goals.