The Labor Law Reform We Need

by Rand Wilson

Rand Wilson

When the next opportunity for labor law reform arrives, union membership will be smaller and our political clout even more diminished. If we are to succeed, future reform proposals must be wrapped in a broader mantle that will appeal to all workers.

The four-year drive for the Employee Free Choice Act was the single largest union-backed campaign in decades and it succeeded in uniting the labor movement as never before. I doubt there was a steward in the country who wasn’t familiar with EFCA and why we needed it.
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Rising Above the Odds With the National Labor Relations Board Process

by Cory McCray

Corey McCray

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to aid the workers of a sub-contractor that Comcast employs. The workers goal was to organize to have a voice at the workplace and obtain a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). On Election Day the final result was 58 Votes No to 40 Votes Yes, with 12 Challenged Votes. How could these results happen if over 65% of the 87 technicians signed authorization cards for representation?

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Fired for Organizing a Union

Companies dump workers for union activity all the time, and they often get away with it.

By Josh Eidelson

Josh Eidelson

Last month Target fired Tashawna Green — but not for being bad at her job. They fired her, she says, for trying to make her job better. Green, a 21-year-old single mom, was the most public supporter of a campaign to unionize the workers at her Long Island, New York store. Before an unsuccessful union vote there, she told The New York Times and other media outlets about the challenge of supporting her daughter on $8 an hour and insufficient hours. Her photo appeared in several newspapers.
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Labor’s Missed Opportunity

by Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw

In March 2009, then-SEIU President Andy Stern was optimistic about labor’s progress in President Obama’s first year. Stern told me that of labor’s top three priorities – universal health care, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), and comprehensive immigration reform – he expected the first two to pass in 2009 if not all three; he even joked that labor might have no legislative program left for 2010.

But despite spending over $150 million in 2008 to elect Obama and a pro-union Congress, organized labor’s legislative program failed. And it failed without much of a fight, as both SEIU and the AFL-CIO proved incapable of seizing upon labor’s best if not last chance to meaningfully reverse declining private sector union membership. Labor’s ongoing failure to achieve its national legislative goals speaks to an institutional dysfunction that transcends particular union leaders, and requires a dramatic shift from funding political campaigns to financing ongoing worker organizing.

Organized labor had an historic opportunity in 2009 to start reversing a sixty-year decline in private sector union membership from 34% in 1948 to less than 10%. But unions never mounted a powerful national grassroots campaign for either labor law reform or comprehensive immigration reform in 2009. When a drive for the latter began in early 2010, the labor movement had already given up on labor law reform without a Congressional vote or even a public fight.

Why did the labor movement suffer such an epic fail?

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Steve Early on the poison pill in health care that helped kill labor law reform

Steve Early

Talking Union contributor Steve Early has written a lengthy, informative analysis of Obama, healthcare reform, and the Employee Free Choice Act for the September 2010 issue  of  Working USA. Here is the abstract.

Embedded in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 was a poison pill for labor. It took the form of an excise tax on higher-cost, job-based medical coverage—the so-called “Cadillac health plans” negotiated by unions themselves. This deadly political booby-trap became a major organizational distraction and resource drain during a key phase of labor’s health-care campaign. Instead of mounting a broad fight for expanded social insurance, unions were forced to wage a frantic defensive struggle against taxation of worker benefits. The “Cadillac tax” backed by Barack Obama was so redolent of John McCain’s own stance on health care during the 2008 presidential campaign that it produced a “working class revolt” in Massachusetts. There, a Republican opposed to the excise tax defeated the Democratic Senatorial candidate running for the late Ted Kennedy’s seat in January 2010. When the Democrats’ lost their filibuster-proof “super-majority” in the Senate, the already controversial Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) became the first political casualty of “ObamaCare.” In November 2010, there are likely to be many more.

The entire article (“The Poison Pill in ‘Obamacare That Helped Kill Labor Law Reform”) is available on Steve Early’s website.

New Outrage Exposes Obama’s Failure To Help Unions

by Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw

On June 11, St. Joseph’s Health Systems (SJHS) did something that employers have long done but which Barack Obama’s presidency was supposed to stop: it filed a frivolous NLRB appeal to delay unionization for workers who won an election. In this case, SJHS is denying unionization to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital workers who chose the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) in the largest successful hospital election of 2009. SJHS’s appeals could keep over 600 workers non-union for another year, an action tantamount to John McCain appealing his defeat in November 2008 and allowing George W. Bush to stay as President through today. President Obama has done nothing to change these undemocratic union election laws, despite committing to do so. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka should visit workers at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital and tell Obama that, as the President often puts it, “Now is the time and this is the place” for the President to bring “change” for workers.

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Labor Unions May Have To Abandon Obama to Beat Corporate America

By Mike Elk

Mike Elk

As president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka is emerging as the voice of an increasingly irrelevant labor movement. As unionized work sinks to only 7 percent of the private sector, the labor movement is losing its influence within the Democratic Party. To revitalize labor, Trumka must not only challenge Democratic leaders, but wage political battles outside the bounds of party politics by bringing labor back to its working-class activist roots.

The failure of President Barack Obama to make a major push on the Employee Free Choice Act — let alone give even a single speech dedicated to the topic — is a telling sign of organized labor’s declining momentum inside the Beltway. As Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson noted in February, “For American labor, year one of Barack Obama’s presidency has been close to an unmitigated disaster.” Labor ranks so low on the president’s list of priorities that a new generation of Obama activists is now planning for a political environment altogether devoid of the labor movement.

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