This week, the NYTimes ran a story by Rachel L. Swarns showing the stark differences in labor conditions for unionized vs non-unionized retail workers. In an article that will come as no surprise to those who have been following labor struggles among retail workers, Swarns writes about the relatively stable labor conditions for workers at Macy’s in New York City’s Harold Square, explaining:
…these union workers savor something that is all too rare in the retail industry right now: guaranteed minimum hours — for part-time and full-time employees — and predictable schedules.
Unfortunately, as an upcoming report by Murphy Professor Stephanie Luce and the Retail Action Project shows, these benefits are accruing to only a fraction of the retail industry as a whole. Swarns writes that the researchers, “surveyed 236 retail workers in Manhattan and Brooklyn and found that only 40 percent had set minimum hours per week.”
For more on the state of unions and retail workers, and a look at some of the changes the retail industry is undergoing, read the full story.
Photo via NYTimes
This article was originally posted on Times Union.
By Ed Ott and Nancy Rankin
As we head back to work after the Labor Day weekend, it’s a good time to reflect on how things are going for New York’s 9 million working people.
We’ve made some progress this year: the lowest-paid workers got the first installment of their raise, as the state minimum wage went to $8 an hour. Not nearly enough, and tipped workers are still owed their promised increase, but a start. The labor movement succeeded in achieving greater child care funding in the state budget. And over 1.2 million workers in New York City who did not have a single paid sick day before this year are now able to take sick leave without losing their wages or their jobs.
All of these will be good for New Yorkers and good for New York. When workers earn a decent living with sensible policies — like child care and sick days — they can take care of their families, pay their taxes and help grow our businesses.
But lawmakers left Albany before completing one important initiative: paid family leave. Continue reading Paid Family Leave Should Be Required
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”