By Joshua Freeman
In a Labor Day op-ed article in the NY Daily News, I argued that even as unions have suffered a series of setbacks and continue to slip in the percentage of workers they represent, labor issues are more prominent now than at any time in the recent past. What we are seeing might be called the re-emergence of “the labor question.” (New York is somewhat exceptional because, as the Murphy Institute’s Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce show in a forthcoming study reported in The New York Times, union membership in the city has been rising significantly of late.)
“The labor question” was once a common term, widely used in the early 20th century. On the simplest level, it asked how orderly relations could be maintained between employers and employees, preventing the outbursts of labor strife that had become common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Continue reading The Labor Question
On Labor Day this year, Murphy faculty members Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce were quoted in a New York Times article entitled Study Suggests a Rebound for Union Jobs in New York. The article describes the pair’s research findings around trends in union membership in New York City, referencing their recent “State of the Unions” report — which notes a “pretty healthy uptick” in the number of union workers in New York City.
Read the full report here.
In a recent article published in Labor Notes, Natasha Raheja, a third-year PhD student in Anthropology at New York University and a member of GSOC-UAW, celebrates the recent win for NYU’s graduate students, who, she writes, “are poised to again become the only private sector student workers with a union contract in the U.S.”
She then challenges her union to go further than it has,
“calling for more transparency and for building strength through member participation. We want to revive our organizing committee, hold biweekly open member meetings, and send members regular detailed updates. We want to end closed-door negotiations without student workers present and promptly replace our three resigned bargaining committee members.”
She explores some of the recent internal issues she sees the union facing — including a narrow focus and a lack of democracy — before concluding that:
“As the first unionized graduate student workers at a private university in the United States, we at NYU have the opportunity to create a model, good or bad. A member-led contract victory will reverberate across the academic labor movement.”
Read Raheja’s full statement at Labor Notes.
Photo by Michael Gould-Wartofsky via Labor Notes
On July 3rd, we posted Part III of Nick Unger’s series on union structures, labor history and union member consciousness. What follows is a response to that piece.
From Martin Morand, Professor Emeritus, Industrial and Labor Relations, Indiana University of Pennsylvania:
Nick’s (rare?) compliment (“Morand is right”) encourages me to plunge in and ahead.
Yes, “The Wagner Act promise of ‘labor peace through collective bargaining’ rings hollow.” How come? Not just because, “….we stopped using the tools that worked” — the sit down and general strikes — but because Wagner Never gave us ANYTHING MORE than the right to say to the boss, a la Oliver Twist, “Please sir, may I have some more?” It never gave a union a contract nor a worker a dime — except where, backing it up, was the power and threat of a strike. We became seduced and addicted to a process, to recognition of our right to exist, to legitimacy. To nothing more substantive than that.
Continue reading Responses to Nick Unger’s “Another Look at Labor in Dark Times – Part 3”
Yesterday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in a 5-2 decision that the much-reviled Act 10 does not violate the constitution. This law strips most public sector employees of their collective bargaining rights by “limit[ing] bargaining rights to issues only involving base wages, ban[ning] some government employers from automatically taking union fees from employee paychecks, and requir[ing] yearly recertification standards,” among other restrictions.
This decision came alongside a ruling requiring photo identification at the voting booth.
Photo by Gateway Technical College via flickr (CC-BY-NC-ND).
What’s the relationship between corporations and their franchisees? That’s the question at hand in the latest ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
In a decision first reported by the Associated Press on Tuesday, General Counsel for the NLRB ruled that McDonald’s is jointly responsible for the actions of its franchise restaurants — creating a precedent that could have far-reaching implications for fast-food workers and national labor organizing in general.
According to an article by Steven Greenhouse in Portside:
If upheld, the general counsel’s move would give the fast-food workers and the main labor group backing them, the Service Employees International Union, more leverage in their effort to unionize McDonald’s restaurants and to increase hourly wages. The average fast-food wage is about $8.90 an hour.
Read more at Portside
Photo by Fibonacci Blue via flickr (CC-BY).