Category Archives: Organizing

The Collective Bargaining Rights of Immigrant Workers: Organizing in Difficult Times

Source: Eliseo Medina, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Vol. 32 no. 2, 2011
(subscription required)

Eliseo Medina delivered the 2011 Feller Memorial Labor Law Lecture.
…I was asked to speak today about the collective rights of immigrant workers and organizing in difficult times. As you may know, our union -the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)- was founded in 1921 by a group of Eastern European immigrants who were Chicago flat janitors. They took care of the apartment buildings in Chicago…. In return they were paid a miserable wage… They were allowed rooms in the basement of the buildings next to the boilers, and because of their status as employees an immigrants, their children were forbidden to play with the children of the tenants…. They were denied not only a living wage and a decent standard of living, but also the most fundamental thing for any human being: respect and dignity. So they decided that the way to change their lives was to organize a union not just in Chicago, but throughout this country. And thus was born the modern SEIU…

..While today’s immigrants come primarily from other parts of the world than those that came here in 1921, they have the same dreams and the same hopes for the future and for themselves and for their children. And like the immigrants of 1921, they are facing some difficult challenges both as workers and as immigrants. Therefore, the question of immigrants unions is as relevant today as it was in 1921, and I am absolutely convinced that the way for today’s immigrants to claim their little piece of the American dream is to also organize a union….

NLRB Overrules Dana, Boosting Union Organizing via Card Counts

Source: Kevin C. Donovan, Employee Relations Law Journal, Vol. 37 no. 4, Spring 2012
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The National Labor Relations Board recently overturned its decision in Dana Corp. the effect is to make it easier for unions and employers into enter voluntarily into exclusive bargaining relationships that will not be subject to expedited challenges, and without a secret ballot election to determine the employees’ preference. The author of this article explains the NLRB’s new rule and advises any employer to carefully consider its impact when contemplating voluntary recognition of a union that claims to represent employees.

Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City

Source: Jane LaTour/Talking History, 2012

This is the story of what it was like to go first.

The women’s movement of the mid-20th century inspired many women to seek new opportunities in the workplace. Beginning in the mid-1970s, pioneering young women sought to break down gender barriers in traditionally male, blue-color jobs. They faced daunting obstacles to entering these occupations. On the job they endured unrelenting, often vicious harrassment. They also received support from men who taught them their trades and helped them navigate unfamiliar territory.

Twenty years ago journalist and labor activist Jane LaTour began an oral history project dedicated to preserving their remarkable stories. The focus of her work is a group of women who entered the blue-collar workforce in New York City during the late 1970s and early 1980s. Sisters in the Brotherhoods is their story, told in their own words and voices.

This website, produced by Talking History in partnership with LaTour, features audio and transcripts of the Sisters interviews as well as material from LaTour’s book Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City (2008).

New Rules for Wisconsin Unions: No Rules

Source: Theresa Moran, Labor Notes, February 10, 2012

Wisconsin public workers face harsher work rules and shrinking paychecks as contracts expire and additional provisions of Governor Scott Walker’s anti-union bill set in. State unions are being forced to shift from a decades-old servicing model to an organizing model in a fight for their survival.
In Wisconsin, assessing a new labor law’s impact
Source: Daniel C. Vock,, February 13, 2012

New Rules for Radicals: 10 Ways To Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World

Source: Sara Robinson, Alternet, February 1, 2012

The world is changing quickly, and we need to help steer it according to our shared values — our vision of what might be.

The first rule is this: The world is different now. The rules have changed.

Since Occupy, we all understand this. Nothing works now the way it did even just a couple of years ago. Political tactics that haven’t budged public opinion in years — like petitions and big street demonstrations — are suddenly working again. Narratives that seemed unassailable — like the primacy of free markets and low taxes — are being openly questioned….

2. No despair. Despair is a waste of time and energy.
3. Try everything.
4. Trust the vision.
5. Focus on our goals, not on our enemies.
6. Expect resistance.
7. Find and nurture innovators.
8. Expect iterations, not perfection.
9. Celebrate every win, no matter how small. Every one matters.
10. Replicate success.

As elder care grows, so do labor battles

Source: Michael Lawson, American university School of Communication, What Went Wrong blog, January 23, 2012

The pay is low, and injuries are common, but nursing care is a rare bright spot in the gloomy economic landscape, adding jobs at a steady clip. As the field has grown, so, too, have efforts to unionize.

Those unionization campaigns are being fought on a shifting battleground, from massive chains to private homes. With baby boomers moving into retirement and beyond, the tensions aren’t likely to abate any time soon.

Reflections on Wisconsin and Ohio

Source: Rosemary Feurer, LAWCHA: Labor and Working Class History Association Newsletter, Fall 2011
(scroll down)

We present here perspectives on the events in Wisconsin and Ohio. The first is by Wisconsin resident and retired history professor Paul Buhle, who together with Mari Jo Buhle, has just published an edited collection of accounts and reflections on the mobilization, It Started in Wisconsin. (Verso, 2012). It is followed by labor educator Michael Yates, with an excerpt from the introduction to his new edited anthology, Uprising: Labor Fights Back (Monthly Review, March 2012). In July, I interviewed two veterans of labor protest from the Midwest, Jerry Tucker and Ed Sadlowski, and excerpts of that interview are presented next. We end the section with an reflection by labor historian Caroline Merithew on the recent landmark win in Ohio against SB5.

AFGE’s Minority-Union Campaign And The Largest U.S. Organizing Victory In Decades: TSA Workers’ Journey For Rights And Union Representation

Source: Sharon Pinnock, WorkingUSA, Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
It has been over a decade since Juravich and Bronfenbrenner published their findings on public sector certification elections and employer opposition–in which they warned public sector unions to “prepare for the worst.” Since then, public sector unions have faced unprecedented attacks at the federal, state, county, and municipal levels. In 2001, responding to the tragic events of September 11, the Bush Administration created a new federal agency–the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)–with the intent of denying collective bargaining rights to the 44,000 workers it would soon employ. In March 2011, the Wisconsin State Senate successfully gutted the collective bargaining rights of the state’s workforce. Illinois, Idaho, Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee have all mounted similar assaults on the rights of public sector workers. Unions seeking to combat this disturbing trend may find hope in the recent organizing victory waged by the American Federation of Government Employees on behalf of worker rights at TSA.

This article has three goals. First, it means to summarize the 9-year organizing campaign that culminated in June 2011 with the largest union victory in the history of the federal sector–and the largest for any U.S. union in 70 years. Second, it seeks to examine current thinking about the reasons workers in the U.S. join unions. Finally, it hopes to share a few of the lessons learned from a nontraditional organizing campaign about new ways to organize and win.

Temp Agency Workers In New Jersey’s Logistics Hub: The Case For A Union Hiring Hall

Source: George Gonos and Carmen Martino, WorkingUSA, Volume 14, Issue 4, December 2011
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article reports on preliminary research concerning temp agency workers in the logistics hub that serves the Port of Newark/Elizabeth. Our objective is to explore the potential for organizing temporary workers in this industry, and the viability of the hiring hall model in particular. The first section describes several aspects of the regional labor market in which temp agency workers are recruited for the inland warehouses and distribution centers. The second section explores the history and legality of hiring halls, and why this organizing model has in recent decades faded into disuse. The third section sets forth an exploratory plan for organizing the temporary workforce in New Jersey’s logistics industry.

Employee Free Choice: Amplifying Employee Voice without Silencing Employers: A Proposal for Reforming the National Labor Relations Act

Source: Amy Livingston, Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Vol. 45 no. 1, Fall 2011

This Note investigates the effectiveness of the National Labor Relations Act
(NLRA) in balancing unions’, employers’, and employees’ rights during the course of union organizing drives. After reviewing case law and commentary, it concludes that the NLRA’s certification regime is ineffective and permits pressures that inhibit employees from expressing their real desires about whether or not to be represented by a union. This Note then examines proposed alternatives for certifying unions, and takes note of Canada’s federal and ten provincial certification regimes. Finally, it concludes that the NLRA must be amended to protect worker free choice, and proposes reforms including limiting unions to a public sixty-day organizing campaign, designing a uniform authorization card to be
submitted with a fee by employees desiring union representation, and establishing a verification process for these cards.