Lawrence Ben is a long way from his home in Adelaide, South Australia.
Lawrence made the arduous two-day journey in August 2018 with a very specific purpose: to experience SLU’s Union Semester program.
“My parents sparked my interested in labor,” Lawrence said. “They were both teachers and union members and always told me that ‘when you go to work the first thing you need to do is join your union.’ I also worked as a fruit-picker in my teenage years and was never paid for my work, which sparked an interest in working for a union. While I was studying Law and Arts at the University of Adelaide I took a part-time job with the retail and fast food union in Australia. After I graduated from university, I worked full-time there.”
How did he learn about Union Semester? “I googled it,” he laughed. “It’s really rare to find a program like that with a stipend attached. The stipend made it possible for me to come here. And what better place to study labor than New York City—the classic union town and the center of the labor movement in America.” He added, “I did the application online and Diana Robinson responded right away. She facilitated everything, helped me deal with the international hurdles—she pulled down the roadblocks all the way, for me and for the other students in my cohort from overseas.”
Continue reading Out of Australia and into CUNY SLU
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
As Twitter battles and cabinet confirmation hearings dominate the news cycle this week, one state has been following a different story: the passing of new so-called “right-to-work” legislation.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed legislation this past weekend that allows workers in that state to choose not to pay union dues to unions that represent them — delivering a blow to the collective bargaining rights of those unions. A piece of legislation that has long been in the works, this new law was passed by a newly-Republican legislature and takes effect immediately.
Reid Wilson at The Hill explains:
Kentucky is the 27th state in the country to adopt right-to-work legislation, and the last state in the South to pass such a law.
Republicans who took control of the Kentucky state government have plotted an aggressive assault on unions, abortion rights and other pillars of the Democratic coalition.
The GOP-led House and Senate also passed a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, which Bevin said he would sign this weekend.
The legislature is also considering measures to roll back a law requiring construction companies to pay workers prevailing wages for public works projects.
In a statement, Kentucky AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan called the right-to-work and prevailing wage measures “some of the most extreme anti-workers bills in the nation today, slashing wages and silencing working people across the Commonwealth.”
Aside from Kentucky, labor groups are playing defense in such states as Missouri and Iowa, where Democrats suffered losses in November.
Photo by Ken Lund via flickr (CC-BY-SA)
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Some Americans known him from his short stint as an also-ran in the race for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. Most on the left also know him as one of the more loathsome state executives around: an enemy of public unions who proudly boasts about his ability to ignore the unified voices of protestors and destroy collective bargaining rights in his state.
On Friday, Walker suffered a setback, as the right-to-work law that he championed and bragged about during his run for the nomination was struck down for violating the constitution. From Crain’s:
Three unions filed the lawsuit last year shortly after Walker signed the bill into law. Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Twenty-four other states have such laws.
The unions argued that Wisconsin’s law was an unconstitutional seizure of union property since unions now must extend benefits to workers who don’t pay dues. Dane County Circuit Judge William Foust agreed.
He said the law amounts to an unconstitutional governmental taking of union funds without compensation since under the law unions must represent people who don’t pay dues. That presents an existential threat to unions, Foust wrote.
“While (union) losses today could be characterized by some as minor, they are not isolated and the impact of (the law) over time is threatening to the unions’ very economic viability,” he wrote.
Foust noted that no other state court had struck struck down a right-to-work law on those grounds, but said he wasn’t obligated to follow other states.
Republicans who backed the law dismissed the ruling, saying it will be reversed.
Read more at Crain’s.
Photo by Michael Vadon via flickr (CC-BY-SA)