Tag Archives: Organizing

Building Power before Janus – And After: Lessons from CUNY

This article was originally featured at Labor Notes.

Want to learn more about public sector unionism? Join us for a one day conference on November 17th, “Janus and Beyond: The Future of Public Sector Unions.”

By Luke Elliott-Negri

As recently as 2014, just 22 percent of my co-workers were members of our chapter in our big wall-to-wall union. The rest—some 1,242 employees—paid the “agency fee,” which for us is the same as membership dues. The chapter had been defunct for several years. Few bothered to explain to new employees why it mattered to join and what power might come from engagement.

Both because of the right-wing assault in the form of legal cases like Janus v. AFSCME—the Supreme Court case that will make the whole public sector “right-to-work” by next year—but also because this is what unions should be doing anyway, a group of us set out to change these numbers. Continue reading Building Power before Janus – And After: Lessons from CUNY

AT&T Workers Prepare to Strike

If they haven’t won a contract by 3pm today, 40,000 AT&T workers will go on strike. Coming on the heels of last year’s Verizon strike, this marks another potentially historic action for the Communications Workers of America (CWA) — and the workers have much cause for grievance. From David Bacon at In These Times:

In California and Nevada, around 17,000 AT&T workers who provide phone, landline and cable services have been working without a contract for more than a year. Last year, they voted to authorize a strike with more than 95 percent support. And in February, an estimated 21,000 AT&T Mobility workers in 36 states voted to strike as well, with 93 percent in favor.

Workers have issued an ultimatum, giving company executives until 3 p.m. ET on Friday to present serious proposals—or the workers will walk.

It wouldn’t be the first strike at AT&T. Some 17,000 workers in California and Nevada walked off the job in late March to protest company changes in their working conditions in violation of federal law. After a one-day strike, AT&T agreed not to require technicians to perform work assignments outside of their expertise. Nevertheless, the biggest issues for workers remained unresolved.

Bacon continues:

AT&T is the largest telecommunications company in the country with $164 billion in sales and 135 million wireless customers nationwide. It has eliminated 12,000 call center jobs in the United States since 2011, representing more than 30 percent of its call center employees, and closed more than 30 call centers. Meanwhile, the company has outsourced the operation of more than 60 percent of its wireless retail stores to operators who pay much less than the union wage, according to CWA.

Read the full article at In These Times.

Featured photo by Mike Mozart via flickr (CC-BY).

Livestream: The Resistance with Frances Fox Piven (3/23)

Thursday, March 23 | 6pm-8pm
Murphy Institute
25 W. 43 Street, 18th Floor
New York, NY

Can’t make it in person? Watch the livestream here:

Across the country, people are organizing in growing numbers. Who is participating? What kind of organizing is happening? Is this resistance different than what the world has seen before? What are the prospects of sustained resistance?

Join us for a discussion on the resistance with internationally renowned social scientist, scholar, and activist, Frances Fox Piven. She is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Sociology, CUNY Graduate School, and Distinguished Lecturer in Labor Studies at the Murphy Institute, author and co-author of more than 200 articles published in academic journals, books, popular publications and journals of opinion since 1965. Her most recent book is Who’s Afraid of Frances Fox Piven? The Essential Writings of the Professor Glenn Beck Loves to Hate. Read more.

After “Vigorous” Resistance Campaign, Andrew Puzder Withdraws

Yesterday afternoon, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder announced that he would be withdrawing his nomination to be the next US labor secretary. This came on the heels of last week’s announcement that Puzder was being sued via  class-action lawsuit for an illegal wage-fixing scheme at his Carl’s Jr. restaurants.

Of course, as David Dayen reported in the Intercept, this was only on in a “growing list of concerns” before Puzder’s confirmation hearing, formerly slated for later today. Puzder had:

“[…] delayed his hearing four times to get his financial disclosures in order; admitted to employing an undocumented housekeeper; and worked under the tutelage of a notorious mob lawyer. His ex-wife appeared on Oprah in disguise in the 1990s to discuss domestic violence incidents in their marriage; senators in both parties have viewed the footage, and divorce records, which include additional allegations of assault, were unsealed on Tuesday.” Continue reading After “Vigorous” Resistance Campaign, Andrew Puzder Withdraws

Avoiding Concessions Under Trump

In a recent In These Times article (When Raising the Minimum Wage is a Bad Thing), Murphy Prof. Stephanie Luce and Jen Kern warn of the perils of conceding ground on minimum wage in the name of short term gains:

First, we cannot accept short-term gains in the form of a higher wage if they mean concessions that undermine our ability to organize over the long haul. Such concessions could include the ability to form unions, engage in collective bargaining, strike and protest. For example, a minimum wage increase that comes alongside cuts to the Department of Labor’s inspection staff would be a major setback. A minimum wage increase that comes at the price of “right-to-work” provisions would be disastrous.

The minimum wage is a valuable tool for raising the incomes of millions of workers, but it loses much of its value if worker organizations and movements are too weak to enforce the law. It doesn’t help people without jobs and only minimally helps those with few hours of work. Most importantly, minimum wages have the greatest impact when workers have unions to protect their jobs and help them move up to higher paid positions.

Second, we must be wary of attempts to divide our movement. The first minimum wage, which was passed in 1938, excluded domestic workers and farmworkers—occupations that were dominated by African-American workers. Today, the federal law sets a much lower minimum wage for tipped workers—a practice that disproportionately hurts women and people of color. An increase to the minimum wage must benefit everyone, including farmworkers and people who work for tips.

It’s also quite possible that a higher minimum wage could be linked to concessions on policies that impact unemployed workers, through cuts to unemployment benefits and the safety net. If we accept an increase to the minimum wage on these terms, we will drive a further wedge between the so-called “deserving” and “non-deserving” poor. Indeed, our ability to win depends on whether this fight is an inclusive one. 

They remind us:

Our job isn’t to find common ground with Trump or to figure out ways to work with a hostile administration that will put forward terrible deals. Our job is to build organizations and make our movements more powerful.

For more on the role of unions, trade and infrastructure under Trump, read the full article at In These Times.

Photo by Stephen L via flickr (CC-BY-NC)

Grad Students Are Employees: NLRB’s Historic New Ruling

It’s a battle cry that graduate students have been chanting for years: let us organize!

Today, in a historic 3-1 ruling, the NLRB declared that graduate students at private universities are, in fact, employees — and are therefore eligible to organize, unionize and bargain as such. This ruling marks a reversal of the 2004 Brown University decision, wherein the NLRB ruled that graduate teaching assistants were primarily students, and were therefore ineligible for collective bargaining.

Today, the Board wrote otherwise: “a graduate student may be both a student and an employee; a university may be both the student’s educator and employer.” Continue reading Grad Students Are Employees: NLRB’s Historic New Ruling