Is Traditional Union Organizing a Lost Cause?

The Most Successful Union Organizer in America Thinks Traditional Organizing Is a Lost Cause

On the latest episode of “The Bottom Line” podcast, David Rolf of the SEIU explains why worker advocates need to move to a different model.

https://capitalandmain.com/the-most-successful-union-organizer-in-america-thinks-traditional-organizing-is-a-lost-cause

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The Janus Effect in New York

https://www.empirecenter.org/publications/the-janus-stakes/

End of the Legal Line for Gerawan Farms – Capital & Main

Source: End of the Legal Line for Gerawan Farms – Capital & Main  

by David Bacon

The Right to Strike

Will-Strike

For half a century, the loss of the right to strike has moved in lock step with the increase in income inequality. According to an International Monetary Fund study of twenty advanced economies, union decline accounted for about half of the increase in net income inequality from 1980 to 2012. The following is the start of a Boston Review discussion on US workers’ right to strike.

James Gray Pope, Ed Bruno, Peter Kellman

Boston Review

May 22, 2017

In December 2005 more than 30,000 New York City transit workers walked out over economic issues despite the state of New York’s Taylor Law, which prohibits all public sector strikes. Not only did the workers face the loss of two days’ pay for each day on strike, but a court ordered that the union be fined $1 million per day. Union president Roger Toussaint held firm, likening the strikers to Rosa Parks. “There is a higher calling than the law,” he declared. “That is justice and equality.”

The transit strike exemplified labor civil disobedience at its most effective. The workers were not staging a symbolic event; they brought the city’s transit system to a halt. They claimed their fundamental right to collective action despite a statute that outlawed it. For a precious moment, public attention was riveted on the drama of workers defying a draconian strike ban.

How did national labor leaders react?

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney issued a routine statement of support, while most others did nothing at all. To anybody watching the drama unfold, the message was clear: there is no right to strike, even in the House of Labor.

About a decade earlier in 1996, Stephen Lerner, fresh from a successful campaign to organize Los Angeles janitors, had warned in Boston Review that private sector unions faced an existential crisis: density could soon drop from 10.3 percent to 5 percent if unions did not expand their activity beyond the limits imposed by American law. He called for unions to develop broad organizing strategies—industry-wide and regional—and to engage in civil disobedience. Few embraced these radical strategies. Today private sector union density is about 6.5 percent, not quite as low as Lerner predicted, but down from a high of over 30 percent in the mid-1950s. Continue reading

Which Way to the Barricades?

An interesting and long piece from Jacobin by Stephen Fraser and Nelson Lichtenstein. Excerpt:

Surprisingly, these recent calls for strike come primarily from middle-class activists, usually without the faintest connection to the labor movement. They summon people to deploy a weapon linked, since Peterloo, to an oppressed working class in revolt while decrying what they understand as white working-class backlash. The very incongruous timing and social location of these calls makes them odd, awkward, and naive, but also socially and culturally imaginative.

After all, what remains of the organized labor movement has avoided strikes like the plague for a long time; unions are simply too weak to conduct them. As late as 1975, each year witnessed more than four hundred strikes, involving more than a thousand workers. Today, ten or fifteen work stoppages occur, mostly for defensive reasons — to preserve pensions, wages, or health insurance against an aggressive employer.

Strikes have cropped up among unorganized, low-wage workers, sometimes assisted by outside unions. The Fight for $15 movement has generated a good deal of social energy and achieved some legislative success on the state and local level. But as important and even heroic as such struggles are, these strikes-cum-referendum-campaigns hardly disturb the country’s economic machinery.

Read the entire piecehttps://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/05/mass-general-strike-history-may-day-barricades

Needed H 1-B Visa Reform

News from EPIH-1B visa needs reform to make it fairer to migrant and American workers

A new EPI fact sheet outlines the major flaws in the H-1B visa program and the ways in which it can be reformed to make it fairer for both U.S. workers and guestworkers.

The H-1B program provides temporary, nonimmigrant visas for college-educated workers and fashion models from abroad. While it is important to attract high-skilled workers to the United States—many of whom contribute greatly to the economy—the H-1B program has been hijacked. The biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B program are not high tech, innovative companies, but are outsourcing companies that use the visas to replace thousands of U.S. workers with much-lower-paid H-1B workers and have a business model designed to send tech jobs abroad to lower-cost countries.

“The H-1B visa is supposed to bring the best-and-brightest workers to the United States,” said EPI Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research Daniel Costa. “But the truth is businesses like it because it provides a steady supply of workers who they can legally underpay and who can’t speak up about wage and hour abuses.”

H-1B workers are underpaid and easily exploited, as the visa itself is owned and controlled by the employer so an H-1B worker who is fired or laid off for any reason becomes instantly deportable. H-1B workers often pay large fees to labor recruiters, which means that many arrive essentially indentured to their employer, fearing retaliation or termination if they speak out about workplace abuses or unpaid wages.

Simple reforms that could fix the H-1B program include:

  • Requiring employers to recruit U.S. workers and offer jobs to any equally or better qualified U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers.
  • Requiring employers who cannot find qualified U.S. workers to pay the H-1B workers they hire no less than the local average wage for the job.
  • Providing the Labor Department with additional legal authority to crack down on abuses and exploitation of U.S. and H-1B workers, and to conduct random audits of H-1B employers.
  • Increasing funding to the Labor Department to hire additional agents in the Wage and Hour Division and better scrutinize H-1B applications.
  • Providing H-1B workers with additional protections against employer retaliation and workplace abuse.
  • Ban employers from hiring additional H-1B workers if they have violated any wage and hour, labor, or immigration laws.
  • Reforming the H-1B lottery to prioritize higher-paying employers and non-H-1B-dependent employers.

See related work on Immigration

Continue reading

Jobs at $20 Per Hour

by Denis Drew

Neither rust-belt Americans nor Chicago gang-bangers are interested in up-to-date kitchens or two vans in the driveway.  Both are most especially not interested in $10 an hour jobs.

Both would be very, very especially interested in $20 an hour jobs.

80 years ago Congress forgot to put criminal enforcement in the NLRA(a).  Had union busting been a felony all along we would be like Germany today.  Maybe at some point our progressives might note that collective bargaining is the T-Rex in the room — or the missing T-Rex.

The money is there for $20 jobs.  49 years — and half the per capita income ago — the fed min wage was $11.  Since then the bottom 45% went from 20% overall income share to 10% — while the top 1% went from 10% to 20%.

How to get it — how to get collective bargaining set up? States can make union busting a felony without worrying about so-called federal preemption:
+ a state law sanctioning wholesalers, for instance, using market power to block small retail establishments from combining their bargaining power could be the same one that makes union busting a felony — overlap like min wage laws — especially since on crim penalties the fed has left nothing to overlap since 1935
+ First Amendment right to collectively bargain cannot be forced by the fed down (the current) impassable road.  Double ditto for FedEx employees who have to hurdle the whole-nation-at-once certification election barrier
+ for contrast, examples of state infringement on federal preemption might be a state finding of union busting leading to a mandate for an election under the fed setup — or any state certification setup for labor already covered by NLRA(a) or RLA(a).  (Okay for excluded farm workers.) Continue reading