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.
Table of Contents
- U.S. Union Membership Data in Perspective/ Glenn Perusek, New Labor Forum
- How Unions Fracture Along Economic Lines/ Todd Zwillich with Ruth Milkman, The Takeaway, WNYC, Feb 1, 2018
- Organized Money: What is Corporate America Thinking?-Freedom’s Janus Face/Max Fraser, New Labor Forum
- If the Supreme Court rules against unions, conservatives won’t like what happens next/ Shaun Richman, The Washington Post, Mar 1, 2018
Photo by Phil Roeder via flickr (CC-BY)
Friday, November 17th, 2017
25 W. 43rd St., 18th Floor, New York, NY
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
Continue reading Conference: Janus & Beyond: The Future of Public Workers (11/17)
Organized labor has suffered sharp declines in recent years. So where does this leave the labor movement? And how do New York City and State compare to the nation as a whole?
Murphy Professors Ruth Milkman and Stephanie Luce have released a new report that addresses these questions. State of the Unions 2017: A Profile of Organized Labor in New York City, New York State and the United States looks at how union density has changed nationally and locally across demographics and industries over the past decades, and assesses the challenges and prospects that the labor movement faces now and in the coming years.
Explore this invaluable and accessible report here.
By Simon Taylor
Trade unionist Jimmy Reid described alienation as ‘the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the process of decision-making.’ This frustration is endemic in contemporary neoliberalised economies, and according to commentators, including George Monbiot, it contributes to the rise of populist backlashes and disempowerment.
Unions play a vital role in counter-balancing alienation and frustration, responding to organizations imposing alienating practices on their workers. However, neoliberal policies have contributed to a long-term decline of union membership and influence in the Anglosphere and elsewhere.
But workers and unions can counter alienation and other negative effects of neoliberal policies – such as outsourcing, precarity and union decline – in new and imaginative ways. Continue reading Union Cooperatives: What They Are and Why We Need Them
This post was originally featured at Labor Notes.
By Penny Lewis
With the election of Donald Trump as president and Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, we are entering a period of existential crisis for unions and our organized power. The coming months and years are going to call for a spirit of maximum solidarity.
In this short piece I describe the likely form and substance of the attacks. Here I’m limiting my discussion to issues that most directly implicate unions, though there’s plenty more for workers to fear from the incoming administration—including increasing privatization and broad-brush deregulation, as well as efforts to pit workers against one another by fanning the flames of racism, sexism, and hostility toward immigrants. Continue reading What’s Coming for Unions under President Trump
This article was originally featured in Jacobin and represents one of many perspectives on the question of police and unions.
On Friday, October 21st, 2016, the Murphy Institute hosted Black, Brown and Blue, a conversation bringing together academics, activists, students, and practitioners to pose crucial questions concerning the criminal justice system and the labor movements’ place and responsibility within it.
By Shawn Gude
Their profession is heavily unionized. Culturally, they have more in common with bus drivers than business executives. Many come from working-class backgrounds.
Yet on the beat, police come in contact with — to question, to arrest, to brutalize — the most disadvantaged. This presents a problem for radicals. If the Left stands for anything, it’s worker emancipation and labor militancy. But police and others in the state’s coercive apparatus, workers themselves in many respects, are the keepers of class society. Their jobs exist to maintain social control and protect the status quo. Continue reading Is this the Bad Kind of Unionism?