This post was originally published at The Diamondback. Reposted with permission.
By Olivia Delaplaine
Top on the long list of worries for most graduating students is the prospect of finding a job. Each day a hiring manager doesn’t email us back or a website removes a job listing — and the looming anxiety of paying back exorbitant student loans draws closer — our desperation grows. Soon, we abandon pipe dreams of a livable salary with health insurance and paid leave, and begin to search for any work we can find.
We enter interviews insecure, self-conscious and vulnerable. We might take the first offer that comes our way, because we don’t know any better. We feel like it’s a privilege to even be offered a job; so who are we to ask for a higher salary, fixed hours or better health insurance? It’s not like we had the chance to negotiate as a part-time student employee, teaching assistant or intern. We may have even tolerated daily harassment or intimidation while doing our jobs, unable to do anything about it. Why should we expect that to change?
So instead of convincing us that we should dress up and put on a show for companies and organizations that won’t even pay us a living wage, our institutions of higher education should have a central role in preparing students for the workplace. Just as they’re active in teaching us marketable skills, they should be teaching us about how to negotiate fair pay and benefits.
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.
New Labor Forum’s September 2018 print issue is rolling off the press now. It contains as good a reason as there is to subscribe now: thoughtful analysis and lucid writing on a wide range of issues vital to anyone who cares about the prospects of workers and working-class communities in the U.S. and throughout the world. Articles in the new issue: assess the options available to blue collar women and female care workers seeking to combat sexual harassment; ask if there is a deep state and what interests it serves; argue that the labor of Palestinians in building the Israeli nation magnifies their claim for full citizenship rights; and trace the remarkable rise of Jeremy Corbyn, once a marginal figure, held in contempt by UK Labour Party elites, now leader of the party and with a chance to lead the country.
On this Labor Day, we highlight two proposals to organized labor. In the first, Larry Cohen argues for a new national system of collective bargaining, modeled on the sectoral bargaining that sets industry-wide wages and working conditions for workers from Norway to South Africa. Moshe Marvit and Shaun Richman make the case for new “Right to Your Job” legislation that would end our “at will” employment regime and force employers to prove that terminations are related to work-performance. Because this legislation stands a fair chance of passing in a number of municipal and state legislatures, Marvit and Richman insists it should become a policy priority for organized labor and its allies.
And we announce that the CUNY Board of Trustees has voted to establish the Murphy Institute, publisher of New Labor Forum, as the new CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies. The School’s inaugural round of fall public programming, begins with a public forum on September 14th, entitled A Failing Marriage: Democracy & Capitalism.
China’s Mingde Institute of Labor Relations and CUNY’s Advancing the Field of Labor Relations (ALR) program collaborated for the second time to present a Comparative Collective Labor Disputes Conference between the U.S. and China in Changsha in April 2015. More than 40 Chinese leading scholars, local union officials, governmental arbitrators, and labor attorneys attended the conference. Many active figures in China’s labor relations field participated as speakers and discussants, including professors from Peking University, Wuhan University, Shanghai Business and Finance, Capital University of Business and Economics, China Institute of Industrial Relations, Nanjing University, Sun Yat-san University, and researchers from the local MOHRSS arbitration department from Hunan, Shanghai, Guizhou, etc. Representatives from ILO also commented at the conference.
Representing the U.S. was Diane Frey, Senior Research Consultant at CUNY ALR, who spoke on labor organizing in the U.S., and Richard Fincher, Fellow and Instructor at the Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution at Cornell University, who presented on the U.S. arbitration and mediation system.
Murphy’s Advancing the Field of Labor Relations Program seeks to broaden and strengthen communications and exchanges between China and U.S. universities and unions.
www.ALRexchange.org is an English-Chinese bilingual website, developed by Murphy’s Advancing the Field of Labor Relations Program to serve as a hub of resources for both academics and practitioners in the field of Labor Relations. More than five hundred searchable bilingual bibliographies, contract languages, training materials, relevant Labor Relations articles and U.S.-China comparative curriculum materials for the study of labor relations have been posted and shared in our website. Find it on our resource page.
Appointed by the Republican Governor Tom Corbett, the School Reform Commission (SRC) unilaterally canceled the Philadelphia Public Education contract on Monday, October 6th. The agreement covers 15,000 teachers and other staff workers. And SRC announced that it intends to take over the union-controlled benefits program and impose 5%-13% employee contributions instead of its current fee-free features. The union was not notified of the Commission’s move in advance. Its president Jerry Jordan promised to fight and said the union would consider “job actions” if members were ready for them.
Since the financial depression of 2007-2008, public sector unions have been on a seven-year defensive. Many contracts have been negotiated with below-inflation rate salary increases, or none at all. Health and pension benefits almost inevitably require employee contributions, and many programs are diluted. In New York City, the United Federation of Teachers negotiated a nine-year agreement (four of them covering the past years of zero salary raises) that fails to match the actual inflation, although the benefits program remains unchanged.