Tag Archives: Organizing

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New Labor Forum Highlights: November 2019

The New Labor Forum has a monthly 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.

Two historically important strikes came to a close last week, as 49,000 GM workers returned to work after the longest national work stoppage against the automaker in half a century; and 25,000 teachers and 7,500 school employees headed back to Chicago schools after landmark gains in negotiations with the city. Part of a rising tide of victorious strikes during the past two years, these workplace actions represent advancements worth noting in both public and private sector bargaining.

With $8.1 billion in earnings at GM in 2018 and $1.5 million in annual salary going to chief executive Mary Barra, UAW members were hell-bent on sharing in the company’s reversal of fortune since the Great Recession. A primary bargaining concern for workers was to raise the abysmal wages at the low end of their multi-tier contract, which included both temporary workers and “in progression workers” hired after 2007. A hallmark divide and conquer tool of management, multi-tier wage scales sell out the unborn by establishing lower wages and benefits for new hires, thus undermining worker solidarity and, in effect, giving employers reason to target older, more expensive workers. Undoing a multi-tier contract, which is precisely what UAW members managed to do, requires a heightened level of worker solidarity, given the need to direct contract gains toward workers on the lower end, in this case roughly 37% of the GM workforce. This sort of egalitarianism, heightened solidarity, and militancy in the private sector, the core of our economy, bodes well for a labor movement struggling to revive itself.

The Chicago Teachers Union − a leader in experimentation with a promising new strategy called Bargaining for the Common Good − won major concessions last week from the city in the form of contract language that went well beyond traditional negotiations over wages and benefits. Putting the demands of their community-based allies on the bargaining table, the union won lower class sizes and guarantees that every school will employ a nurse and social worker, as well as 120 new counselors, restorative justice coordinators and librarians in the highest-need schools, and improved staffing in bilingual and special education. These demands, including an unmet bargaining demand for affordable housing, make the union an increasingly powerful voice in policy-level concerns that impact educational outcomes. The strategic advance of Bargaining for the Common Good in the public sector presents a dramatic advance in joining the interests of worker and tax-payers in securing well-funded, equitable, high quality public services. The CTU strike, joined by SEIU Local 73, points the way in that direction.

With this installment of the newsletter, we offer a New Labor Forum article by Jobs with Justice Executive Director Erica Smiley that assesses organized labor’s growing militancy and innovation during the last year. We also bring to your attention to new publication from Labor Notes , “How to Strike and Win ,” which seeks to encourage and inform the rising tide of strikes by providing analysis and resources for unions and workers contemplating how, why and when to use the strike weapon.

Table of Contents

  1. Crisis, Creativity, and a Labor Movement Revival /  Erica Smiley, New Labor Forum
  2. How to Strike and Win/ Labor Notes, November 2019 Issue

Photo by Charles Edward Miller via flickr (cc-by-sa)

New Labor Forum Highlights: March 4th, 2019

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.

Until recently, it has been assumed that among the most highly skilled and best paid soft-ware engineers and technicians, the chances of collective resistance to the labor and other managerial practices of the giants of the industry were virtually nil. However, journalist Julianne Tveten’s article for New Labor Forum’s winter 2019 issue records the growing fight back on the part of precisely these kinds of workers at places like Google and Microsoft. And some recent tech worker efforts have resulted in remarkable victories. Among them, the protest of senior engineers and others at Google that caused the company to end “Project Maven,” its contract with the Defense Department using artificial intelligence to improve the strike precision of the Pentagon’s drones. A distinct feature of this new organizing is the manner in which it combines political and more traditional labor organizing.

Protests against sexual harassment at Google have brought these forms of organizing together to achieve a very recent, notable victory. In Wired, Nitasha Tiku covers the protests’ latest results: the ending of the company’s practice barring workers from initiating class-action suits, or from suing over discrimination or wrongful termination. The widening ideological and political divide between Silicon Valley’s CEOs and its employees has, no doubt, contributed to these advances. Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff, writing for The New Republic, note that media outlets have largely failed to take account of tech workers’ growing tendency to eschew the libertarianism prevalent in the corner offices of Silicon Valley for the solidarity of the labor movement. As evidence of this yawning ideological divide, we invite you to view SpeakOut.Tech’s video incitement to tech workers to stand up against their employers, assuring them, “We’ve got your back,” words common in any union hall.
Table of Contents
  1. Daniel in the Lion’s Den: Platform Workers Take on the Tech Giants in the Workplace and the World/ Julianne Tveten, New Labor Forum
  2. Google Ends Forced Arbitration After Employee Protest/Nitasha Tiku, Wired
  3. The Stark Political Divide between Tech CEOs and Their Employees/Moira Weigel and Ben Tarnoff, The New Republic
  4. Tech workers have incredible power/SpeakOut.Tech

Continue reading New Labor Forum Highlights: March 4th, 2019

What’s the Deal with Tariffs?

When the president starts talking trade protectionism, it can be hard to know how to evaluate his rhetoric. SLU professor Stephanie Luce untangled some of the history and policy particulars of the thorny subject of tariffs for Organizing Upgrade:

Donald Trump voiced the real concerns of many Americans when he spoke of the need to bring jobs to communities and to end unfair trade deals. By blocking the Trans-Pacific Partnership, pushing a re-negotiation of NAFTA, and increasing tariffs on a range of imports, Trump has appeared to finally take seriously the needs of unemployed and underemployed workers. Some unions have been calling for tariffs for years, most notably the United Steelworkers. While Obama ran in 2008 on a promise to renegotiate NAFTA he never did so, and in fact became a relentless proponent of expanding “free trade.” Meanwhile, the Trump administration recently announced details of the draft deal with Mexico, and it appears to contain benefits for U.S. and Mexican workers.

So is Trump the worker’s hero? Will increased tariffs return jobs to the US? The left has been weak on this issue. On the one hand, we need to take economic development and job creation seriously. Workers are suffering. Even though official unemployment rates are low, more and more of the jobs people hold are low-wage, insecure, non-union, and dead-end. The left lacks a real program to address the real concerns of those impacted by trade deals. We need to better understand the history of tariffs and trade, and we need an international vision for economic development.

Read the article here.

Photo by M Cheung via flickr (cc)

Video: Energy from Unlikely Sources

On Friday, October 12th, members of the wider SLU community gathered to ask big questions about the future of the labor movement.

For more than a quarter century, workers and the U.S. labor movement have sustained significant setbacks, including the broad expansion of “right-to-work” conditions; the increasing use by employers of vehicles that enable them to shirk standard employer responsibilities; and the Supreme Court’s tendency to prioritize employers’ property rights over worker rights. Despite these trends, 61 percent of Americans view unions favorably; organizing and unionization among young workers is surging, with three-quarters of new union members in 2017 being under 35 years old; and 2018 saw the largest wildcat strikes in decades, with teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona challenging wage stagnation and school funding cutbacks. What does this imply about the possibilities and struggles ahead for labor? What are strategic options that would enable organized labor to succeed at mass organizing and to join forces with racial and economic justice organizations to become a movement?

It was a wide-ranging and probing conversation featuring Lauren Jacobs, Deputy Director, The Partnership for Working Families; Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University;
Larry Cohen, Chair, Board of Directors, Our Revolution, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA); Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN NY; and SLU’s own Penny Lewis.

Event: Energy From Unlikely Sources: Opportunities For New Organizing (10/12)

Fri, October 12, 2018
8:30 AM – 10:30 AM EDT
CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies
25 W. 43rd Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10036

RSVP HERE

For more than a quarter century, workers and the U.S. labor movement have sustained significant setbacks, including the broad expansion of “right-to-work” conditions; the increasing use by employers of vehicles that enable them to shirk standard employer responsibilities; and the Supreme Court’s tendency to prioritize employers’ property rights over worker rights. Despite these trends, 61 percent of Americans view unions favorably; organizing and unionization among young workers is surging, with three-quarters of new union members in 2017 being under 35 years old; and 2018 saw the largest wildcat strikes in decades, with teacher walkouts in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Arizona challenging wage stagnation and school funding cutbacks. What does this imply about the possibilities and struggles ahead for labor? What are strategic options that would enable organized labor to succeed at mass organizing and to join forces with racial and economic justice organizations to become a movement?

Speakers Include:

Lauren Jacobs, Deputy Director, The Partnership for Working Families

Prior to joining PWF, Jacobs worked with the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC) as the National Organizing Director, and served as an organizer with UNITE and later SEIU. She organized thousands of previously non-union workers in three major metropolitan areas, and led campaigns that resulted in breakthroughs in wages, healthcare and other benefits.

Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director, Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University

Sneiderman has directed the National AFL-CIO’s Department of Field Mobilization, launching the national “Union Cities” initiative. Sneiderman served as Executive Director of AVODAH, Education Director at the Teamsters, faculty at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies and Georgetown Law School, and was an organizer and rank and file leader at AFSCME.

Larry Cohen, Chair, Board of Directors, Our Revolution, former president of Communications Workers of America (CWA)

Cohen is the former president of the Communications Workers of America. Cohen chaired major contract negotiations in the public and private sectors, including at Verizon and AT&T. He built alliances and support for telecom workers around the world, including in Mexico, Taiwan, South Africa, Germany and other countries. He is a founder of Jobs with Justice.

Maritza Silva-Farrell, Executive Director, ALIGN NY

Silva-Farrell played critical roles in coalitions such as Real Affordability for AllCaring Across Generations, the Universal Pre-K campaign, and the campaign that successfully halted Walmart’s development in East New York. Silva-Farrell is on the board of Partnership for Working FamiliesNew York Communities Organizing Fund, and Edward J. Malloy Initiative for Construction Skills.

Moderated by Penny Lewis, Professor CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies

Labor Notes Shares Vision for Organizing in Post-Janus America

Since the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME declared required agency fees for public sector unions unconstitutional, many in the labor world and media are scrambling to ask the question: Can labor unions bounce back after Janus?

According to Labor Notes, the answer is yes — but it will require thought and a plan. The publication just released “Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America,” offering historical context, a diagnostic tool and a prescription for how workers and their unions can remain strong and regain and rebuild power.

Check it out.