The New Labor Forum has a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.
Recently released figures for 2017 from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal a reversal in the decades-long decline in unionization rates. For those who have watched with chagrin the downward slope of union density, this appears to be a welcome bright spot. But not so soon, cautions Glenn Perusek in an essay for New Labor Forum. After all, the uptick is a small one, he notes, and perhaps better explained by new hiring in already unionized workplaces, than by massive new union organizing. The data does show an increase in young workers represented by unions, as well as new gains in unionization in white collar fields, including journalism and academia. NLF Consulting Editor and CUNY Sociology Professor Ruth Milkman makes sense of these trends in a WNYC interview with Todd Zwillich, included here.
Anyone concerned about organized labor’s prospects has noticed the dark cloud on the horizon in the form of the Janus v. AFSCME case, currently pending before the Supreme Court. This case threatens a body blow to public sector unionism if, as expected, it manages to abolish the mandatory “agency fees” that workers who don’t join the union currently pay to the unions that must represent them and negotiate their contracts, regardless. In his forthcoming NLF column, Organized Money: What Is Corporate America Thinking?, Max Fraser devotes his attention to the big money interests that instigated the Janus case, and presently stand poised with sophisticated campaigns to convert public sector workers into “free riders” through opting out of union membership and associated dues. The right-wing foundations that have long pushed to weaken public sector unions by overturning the “agency fee” may, however, find they’ve gotten more than they’ve bargained for. So argues NLF regular Shaun Richman in a recent piece for The Washington Post. He suggests that the deal that brought about the “agency fee,” also contributed to labor peace, in the form of no-strike clauses and exclusive representation. In the post-Janus labor chaos Richman predicts unionists may find new possibilities for militant action, while conservatives may rue the day they brought it about.
Many thanks to everyone who supported our recent conference, “Janus and Beyond: the Future of Public Sector Unions,” held November 17th and sponsored by the Cornell Worker Institute and the Murphy Institute at CUNY. Over 170 union activists, leaders, staff and allies attended, coming from over 40 labor locals, councils and federations.
The energy in the rooms was palpable throughout the day. Our morning speakers underscored the urgency of the moment we face by educating us about the where the current attacks are coming from and sharing their firsthand experience of the aftermath of Harris v Quinn in Washington and “right-to-work on steroids” in Wisconsin. In the afternoon we turned to the nuts-and-bolts of best practices: preparing for Janus and going forward in a right-to-work future. Speakers shared their successes and challenges, and workshops allowed participants to drill down in the particulars of communication, member-to-member organizing, legislative campaigns, new approaches to bargaining, and more.
We were grateful to be joined by Janella Hinds, Secretary-Treasurer, NYC Central Labor Council, and UFT Vice President, who opened our conference; City Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair, NYC Council, Committee on Labor and Civil Service, who spoke with us during lunch; and Tony Utano, President, TWU Local 100, who shared closing remarks.
Friday, November 17th, 2017
9am-4pm Murphy Institute 25 W. 43rd St., 18th Floor, New York, NY REGISTER HERE
Join union leaders, scholars and activists during this one-day conference to discuss the implications of the Janus v. AFSCMEcase for workers and organized labor, possible immediate outcomes, and strategic options for combatting the attack on public sector unionism.
Janella Hinds, Secretary-Treasurer of the NYC Central Labor Council
City Council Member I. Daneek Miller, Chair of the Committee on Civil Service and Labor
Tony Utano, President of Transport Workers Union Local 100
Barbara Terrelonge, Director of Organizing at DC37, AFSCME
The right-wing’s decades-long attack on public sector unionism is slated for a hearing before the Supreme Court later this fall in the Janus v. AFSCME case. The September 2017 issue of New Labor Forum contemplates the probable implications and strategic options facing public sector unions once the ruling is handed down.
Also under contemplation in the Fall 2017 issue is the historically troubled, but occasionally productive, relationship between organized labor and civil rights organizations. Strengthening that alliance in the years ahead will prove critical to the fate of labor and racial justice movements. The journal examines the historical obstacles to such alliances, and suggests new grounds on which to reinvigorate those efforts under current circumstances.
Each season, the Murphy Institute brings incisive public programming about the political and social issues facing our city, our country and our world. This fall, we’re going deep on our democracy, our history and ourselves, exploring where we’ve been and where we might go from here.
We begin this season with debate and strategic thinking regarding two major cases before the Supreme Court, opening with Gill v. Whitford on the practice of redistricting through partisan gerrymandering. We will then turn to the future of public sector unions, made precarious by the pending Janus v. AFSCME case. We will also be looking closer to home by examining, together with Hunter College’s National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, the 50th anniversary of the the Public Employees Fair Employment Act, commonly known as the Taylor Law. Also of special concern to New Yorkers is the City’s current transit crisis, an issue we’ll explore in a forum that will discuss solutions to enable New York to sustain itself as a world-class city. We will round out the year by marking the 20th anniversary of the Murphy Institute’s journal, New Labor Forum, and use this occasion to assess efforts to rebuild a working-class movement that the journal has for two decades debated and discussed.
The New Labor Forum has launched a bi-weekly newsletter on current topics in labor, curated by the some of the most insightful scholars and activists in the labor world today. Check out some highlights from the latest edition below.
For the past half-century, Labor Day has more often than not presented the occasion for a sobering assessment of the diminished power of organized labor and the resulting decline in living standards for the entire working-class – from wage stagnation and precarious work to the whittling away of employer-based health and pension coverage. And this Labor Day forces an even grimmer-than-usual reckoning. The fact that, only a week ago, the Trump regime inducted the likes of former President Ronald Reagan into the Labor Department Hall of Honor is emblematic of the crisis. With the addition of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, the right-wing’s decades-long attack on public sector unionism is likely to score a big victory in the Janus v. AFSCME case, slated for a hearing later this fall. In theSeptember 2017 issue of New Labor Forum, rolling off press now, we contemplate the probable implications and strategic options facing public sector unions once the ruling is handed down. Included in this newsletter is an article from the issue by Chris Brooks, arguing against a strategy of members-only unionism advocated by some on the left in response to the predicted end of the agency shop.
Also under contemplation in the Fall 2017 issue, is the historically troubled, but occasionally productive, relationship between organized labor and civil rights organizations. Strengthening that alliance in the years ahead will prove critical to the fate of labor and racial justice movements. We offer here a piece from the journal by Brandon Terry and Jason Lee, examining the historical obstacles to such alliances, and suggesting new grounds on which to reinvigorate those efforts under current circumstances.
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