Tag Archives: Unions

Unions and Cooperatives: How Workers Can Survive and Thrive

This article was originally featured at Truthout.org. Reprinted with permission.

By Brian Van Slyke, Truthout 

The year 2008 was when the big banks were bailed out, but it was also the year that catalyzed one group of window makers into democratically running their own factory.

On the former industrial hub of Goose Island in Chicago, the employees of Republic Windows and Doors made headlines after they were locked out of their jobs just before Christmas without the back pay or severance they were owed. Organized by the United Electrical Workers Union, these displaced workers did exactly what the ownership hoped they wouldn’t do. They refused to quietly accept the layoffs. Instead, the workers engaged in a sitdown strike at their factory, garnering local and national media attention. Eventually, the employees won the occupation, forcing Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase (Republic’s primary creditors) to create a fund to give the workers their back pay, benefits, and health insurance. This became viewed as a much-needed victory for workers and unions in a desperate economic time.

And this January, more than seven years after their initial takeover, the workers finally received their last payment won from their struggle. According to the Chicago Tribune, “The National Labor Relations Board announced Wednesday that it will distribute to 270 union workers $295,000 in back pay stemming from labor law violations.”

While many people know about the takeover of Republic Windows and Doors, the story of what happened next has flown under the radar. Continue reading Unions and Cooperatives: How Workers Can Survive and Thrive

Unprecedented? Unions and Community Unite to Halt Plans to Build Coal Export Terminal in Oakland, California

By Elena Mora for Trade Unions for Energy Democracy

A short but well-organized campaign to stop plans to build a coal export terminal in the Oakland Port resulted in a packed Oakland City Council meeting on September 21, and a vote requiring a public health impact study to guide the Council’s action, up to and including a moratorium on coal.

Screenshot 2015-09-26 10.47.56

The campaign, “Coal Free Oakland,” led by the Sierra Club and others, brought together a very broad coalition (more than 80 organizations), with significant union participation, including the Alameda Labor Council, which passed a resolution calling on the city to reject the coal export plan. Continue reading Unprecedented? Unions and Community Unite to Halt Plans to Build Coal Export Terminal in Oakland, California

De-Unionization & the Future of Work

Pacific Standard is working on a special project in which experts and activists weigh in on the future of work. In a recent entry (The Future of Work: The Forces Against Organized Labor, Oct 1, 2015), Murphy Prof. Ruth Milkman outlines the forces producing the decline in unionization in the United States. She writes:

Contrary to popular belief, de-unionization is not primarily due to globalization or new technology: Successful attacks on organized labor have affected many place-bound low-tech industries, like construction or hospitality, nearly as much as manufacturing. The primary driver of labor’s decline is the growing power of corporate employers who are fiercely determined to weaken unions where they already exist and to prevent their emergence elsewhere. That determination is reinforced by the ideology of market fundamentalism, for which both unionism itself and governmental protection of the right to organize are anathema. Continue reading De-Unionization & the Future of Work

Photos from Trade Union Climate Summit

On June 29th, the International Program for Labor, Climate and Environment, in partnership with 32BJ, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and Rosa Luxemburg Siftung – New York, hosted a one-day climate summit. The summit brought together unions from the U.S. and 12 other countries for a day of discussion on the Paris talks and related actions; the international trade union movement’s program and strategy and the need to confront the ‘energy and climate emergency,’ and to hear how unions are linking climate protection to the anti-austerity and equality movements that are gaining momentum in different countries.

Check out these photos from the summit, courtesy of Rosa Luxemburg Siftung – New York.

On this panel (from left) Sari Sairanen (Director of Health and Safety, UNIFOR), Donald Lafleur (Executive Vice President, CLC), and Mireille Pelletier (advisor, CSN-Québec) are optimistic about the power shift taking place in Canadian politics.
On this panel (from left) Sari Sairanen (Director of Health and Safety, UNIFOR), Donald Lafleur (Executive Vice President, CLC), and Mireille Pelletier (advisor, CSN-Québec) are optimistic about the power shift taking place in Canadian politics.

 

Maité Llanos (TUED and Global Labour Institute--Geneva) offers an overview of preparations for the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Paris while (from left) Fabienne Cru-Montblanc (National Executive Committee, CGT, France) and Marie-Christine Naillod (Policy Advisor, CGT) listen attentively.
Maité Llanos (TUED and Global Labour Institute–Geneva) offers an overview of preparations for the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Paris while (from left) Fabienne Cru-Montblanc (National Executive Committee, CGT, France) and Marie-Christine Naillod (Policy Advisor, CGT) listen attentively.

 

Chris Baugh (Assistant General Secretary, PCS, UK) facilitates a panel on the connection between the climate fight and the struggle against austerity and inequality in southern Europe.
Chris Baugh (Assistant General Secretary, PCS, UK) facilitates a panel on the connection between the climate fight and the struggle against austerity and inequality in southern Europe.

 

Wol-san Liem (Director of International Affairs, KPTU, Korea) discusses the need for a "programmatic shift" in international labor's climate policies while Alana Dave (Education Director, ITF) and Asbjørn Wahl (International Advisor, Union of Municipal and General Employees, Norway) carefully consider her remarks.
Wol-san Liem (Director of International Affairs, KPTU, Korea) discusses the need for a “programmatic shift” in international labor’s climate policies while Alana Dave (Education Director, ITF) and Asbjørn Wahl (International Advisor, Union of Municipal and General Employees, Norway) carefully consider her remarks.

 

Colin Long (Victorian State Secretary, NTEU, Australia) poses a question from the floor.
Colin Long (Victorian State Secretary, NTEU, Australia) poses a question from the floor.

 

Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez (President, NYSNA) describes how her union has engaged members through climate education and mobilization while (from left) Bruce Hamilton (Vice President, ATU), Fernando Losada (Collective Bargaining Director, NNU), and Christopher Erikson (Business Manager, IBEW Local 3) join her in insisting on the need for the U.S. labor movement to take the lead in the struggle to stop climate change.
Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez (President, NYSNA) describes how her union has engaged members through climate education and mobilization while (from left) Bruce Hamilton (Vice President, ATU), Fernando Losada (Collective Bargaining Director, NNU), and Christopher Erikson (Business Manager, IBEW Local 3) join her in insisting on the need for the U.S. labor movement to take the lead in the struggle to stop climate change.

 

Lenore Friedlaender (Assistant to the President, SEIU 32BJ) introduces three leaders who are building a new socio-ecological mass movement: (from left) Jacqui Patterson (Director, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program), Denise Fairchild (President and CEO, Emerald Cities Collaborative), and Dean Hubbard (Director, Sierra Club Labor Programs).
Lenore Friedlaender (Assistant to the President, SEIU 32BJ) introduces three leaders who are building a new socio-ecological mass movement: (from left) Jacqui Patterson (Director, NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program), Denise Fairchild (President and CEO, Emerald Cities Collaborative), and Dean Hubbard (Director, Sierra Club Labor Programs).

 

Sean Sweeney (Director, International Program for Labor, Climate and the Environment, The Murphy Institute, CUNY) gives a report on TUED's progress.
Sean Sweeney (Director, International Program for Labor, Climate and the Environment, The Murphy Institute, CUNY) gives a report on TUED’s progress.

In Search of a Model: Workforce Development in Corporate America

How have decades of union busting, “right-to-work” and the decline of organized labor affected workforce development? According to Corporate America beat back its best job trainers, and now it’s paying a price, a post on the Washington Post’s Wonkblog by Lydia DePillis, they’ve led to a decline in overall job preparedness — alongside an ever-growing need for an educated workforce.  DePillis writes:

Although unions have historically constructed high-quality educational pipelines to well-paying jobs in cooperation with employers, labor has lost ground over the years. In the absence of union training programs, businesses in vast sectors of the economy are scrambling to meet their workforce needs through other means, like piecemeal job training programs and partnerships with community colleges, with few solutions that have really broad reach.

Over the years, [costs have] shifted to workers and the public education system. Companies in general have been spending less on training, as jobs have grown more transitory. Companies don’t see the point in investing in someone who’ll only stick around for a few years, if that, particularly when economic prospects are uncertain. So, at a time when manufacturing requires more sophisticated knowledge, the companies have found themselves without a base of trained workers, leading to complaints about a “skills gap.”

For the full article, visit the Washington Post.

 

Photo by Bill Jacobus via flickr (CC-BY).

News Roundup 6/12/15

Unions. What can we say — we love ‘em. And if recent news is any indication, the future’s looking (mostly) bright. Some developments from the past couple weeks…

  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership was significantly set back in Congress as the House of Representative voted down fast-track authority (via Washington Post). Russell Berman over at the Atlantic credits none other than the American labor movement.
  • Gawker Media became the first digital media company to be unionized (via CBS News)
  • Contingent faculty members at Barnard have moved to organize (via Columbia Spectator)
  • About 1,300 low-wage workers gathered in Detroit to celebrate minimum-wage hikes (via Al Jazeera)
  • On Wednesday, the NYC City Council passed the Fair Chance Act, blocking private companies with 4+ employees from discriminating against applicants based on arrest or criminal record (via Colorlines)
  • Internal training materials from Walmart reveal an unfortunately not-so-shocking anti-union bias. Steven Greenhouse describes in detail over at The Atlantic. (“How Walmart Persuades Its Workers Not to Unionize”)

Photo by Mike Mozart via flickr (CC-BY).