Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

First some logistics.  Andy Stern is going to be in DC tomorrow as part of this book tour for 'A Country That Works.' He's going to be at Olsson's Bookstore at 1307 19th Street at 7pm and at The Big Hunt 1345 Connecticut Ave at 8pm.  This book matters, and you should go see Andy talk, if only because he's one of the most  powerful people in the progressive movement who gets what we're about.  Over the next few years, my guess is that there will be a strong alliance between labor and blogs, and that Andy will be one of the key drivers building that coalition.

Ok, now on to the big bad news.  The National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, just made it illegal for millions of workers to unionize by reclassifying almost anyone with small supervisory responsibilities as management.  I haven't been able to get in touch with my union friends, but this is really really bad for all of us.  In Virginia, Hospitals are already planning to break the state nurse's union.

Stephen Colbert has the best explanation out there.

The AFL-CIO blog has more details.  Suffice to say, this is going to make the nurse shortage in this country much worse, and it's going to damage our health care system dramatically.  When nurses can't organize and speak out, it means that errors and corruption by hospital management will probably multiply and worsen since there will be a strong disincentive towards speaking up.  

Politically, this is going to be bad for Democrats because labor is a huge funder of the party, and provides reliable volunteers and muscle for GOTV efforts.  There is nothing good in this decision at all.  It's classic Bush, and it's going to hurt anyone who has to go to a hospital.  Rallies are scheduled, and I'm trying to find out what else is planned.

Heckova job, NLRB.

Tags: Kentucky River Case, Labor, Labor Law, NLRB, Oakwood Case, Supervisory Employees under Labor Law, Unions (all tags)

Comments

20 Comments

Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

Why can't there be union of management professionals?

by David in Burbank 2006-10-03 12:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

Court challenges on the way, I assume? Anyone care to elaborate on the standing and merit issues they might involve, and their chances of overturning this decision with today's courts?

It just seems to me that this decision violates workers' rights in clearly demonstrable ways and cannot stand on its merits if challenged. I'll leave it to the lawyers to work out the details.

by kovie 2006-10-03 12:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

In a nice bridge between the two parts of this post, Andy Stern is going to be the guest on tonight's Colbert show. SO even if you have to skip part of the Daily SHow (tonight's guest: Dennis Miller, ugh), Stern and Colbert should be an interesting combination...

by Lefty Minion 2006-10-03 01:27PM | 0 recs
Correction

Good post.  

One correction - The Huffinton Post link on the hospital busting the nurses union is about Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, not hospitals in Virginia.

by John Mills 2006-10-03 01:27PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

Matt, thanks for this post.  It is nice to see people paying attention to this issue.

Of all of the bars to go to he picks the Big Hunt?  I have many happy memories of wing nights at that place, interspersed with rats and toilets sitting in the kitchen.  They do have a nice selection of beers on tap.  Though it sort of goes without saying that you have to order a Bad Ass, because when else do you get to say "I'll take a Bad Ass please."

by juls 2006-10-03 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

They can't fully destroy the last leg of the New Deal coalition (and the major leg of the labor movement that is growing) through Democracy, so they destroy it through administrative decisions. Fucking brilliant. I am so pissed right now.

by adamterando 2006-10-03 01:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

The most ironic piece of all of this is that the law that made supervisors ineligible to be union members was intended to protect unions from having management infiltrate their ranks.  Now they are using it to weaken unions.

by juls 2006-10-03 02:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

This is directed towards Stoller or anyone else who knows. Is the plan now to get nurses unions to bypass NLRB elections and force hospitals to recognize nurses unions anyway? Didn't a hospital in California preemptively do this, where the nurses got the hospital to agree to recognize their union regardless of the KY River outcome?

by adamterando 2006-10-03 02:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

Courtesy of Jordan over at FDL here are the CNA's plans

  1. Put employers on notice in all CNA/NNOC-represented facilities that the RNs will strike if the employer seeks to exploit the ruling. More than 30,000 CNA/NNOC members have already signed strike pledges to do just that.
  2. Hold protests or other public events with RNs Thursday, October 5 in Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, and Bangor, Me. as a beginning wave of actions in response to the decision.
  3. Work with the AFL-CIO and AARN on legislation in Congress to overturn the decision.

by juls 2006-10-04 09:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

I think this ruling is a bridge too far. People fight back and now there are millions of decertified union members who are going to be fighting mad. Nurses have among the highest credibility of any profession and did real damage to Gov. Arnold when he was talking tough. This is a bad decision for sure but it's also a clear sign that new fighting techniques are required to protect workers.

I think this ruling has the potential to cross the wires of the health care debate with the organizing debates. Individually they were part of a menu of issues but combined they might be a platform for return to power.

The US has fewer doctors, fewer nurses, and fewer hospital beds while spending twice as much as any western country. Getting less for more isn't any bargain. The keystone to health care should be nursing and attacking nurses wages and protections isn't going to improve health care for America. That's the message to retake power.

by joejoejoe 2006-10-03 02:53PM | 0 recs
Re: the rising cost of health care

But the US has been hiring more people in the health insurance business.  They are busy denying claims. Doctors are hiring more staff to deal with insurance companies.  Business is booming.

by FishOutofWater 2006-10-03 07:46PM | 0 recs
With some extra defeatism please:

Now only is the ruling but this post is a bridge too far. To be honest, if not particularly kind, the following is defeatest bull.

"Suffice to say, this is going to make the nurse shortage in this country much worse, and it's going to damage our health care system dramatically.  When nurses can't organize and speak out, it means that errors and corruption by hospital management will probably multiply and worsen since there will be a strong disincentive towards speaking up.  

Politically, this is going to be bad for Democrats because labor is a huge funder of the party, and provides reliable volunteers and muscle for GOTV efforts.  There is nothing good in this decision at all"

Politically this is going to be great for Democrats. There are millions of loyal union workers who vote Republican because they never really believed that the Rethug Party would simply dare  take down unions root and branch, and vote for it as the party of Guns and God.

If you extend this ruling then every teacher's union in the country just vanished, as does every government worker's union, as does every trade union. Ever been a lead on a job? Ever told an apprenctice what to do? Ever had a teacher's aid work for you? Ever direct a Department Secretary to please renew a journal descrption? Using this logic you are no longer eligible to join a union. This will not stand, this will be a gift to those sections of the Democratic Party that believe the Progressive and Labor wings of the Democratic Party need to reestablish the New Deal.

All hail Max Sawicky and Nathan Newman. Using this ruling as some long term case for despair is kind of to miss the whole point of the pushback over the last five years.

The Republicans overreached on unions at exactly the wrong time. Millions of guys who vote Republican because they love to hunt and go to Mass on Sunday are going to be pretty outraged when you tell them to hand back that Machinist Union jacket. Just because you know enough from 20 years on the job to tell a newbie what to do doesn't make you a white hat.

I live in a socially conservative town that is strongly Democratic. That is largely because Boeing workers and craft workers understand and value the power of unions. That the NRLB thinks they can simply take union jackets away from millions of experienced workers just because they told someone what to do on a regular basis is going to create something of a shitstorm. And the blowback is all going towards the Rs.

by Bruce Webb 2006-10-03 03:17PM | 0 recs
Re: With some extra defeatism please:

So do you see some sort of reversal on the NLRB's part after mass protests and what-not? Or do we just have to wait until a new president appoints new NLRB board members.

by adamterando 2006-10-03 03:30PM | 0 recs
That should be right, but...

So far as I can see, this definition problem was inherent in the Wagner Act in 1935, was only made more complex by the changes made by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 and has been struggled with ever since.

In the recent SCOTUS cases bearing on the issue (the HCRA case and the Kentucky River case), pro-employee rulings of the NRLB (narrowly construing the exclusion of supervisory employees from Wagner Act protection) were overturned. (HCRA was specifically looking at the status of nurses.)

No doubt, the Bush-era NRLB has been providing pro-employer rulings; but the standards set, so far as I can see, have been laid down by a SCOTUS without any Bush appointees.

I'd just wonder what efforts the unions have made to get the issue placed on the Dem agenda - I note that there are no labor law issues (apart from the minimum wage) mentioned in the New Direction document.

Ballyhooing the Oakwood case (PDF is here, by the way) should be good for union GOTV - as long as members have no reason to enquire why they only see action now.

by skeptic06 2006-10-03 04:42PM | 0 recs
Uh oh...

Both HCRA and Kentucky River deal with nurses...

by skeptic06 2006-10-03 04:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

A few thoughts...

First, the NRLB should be completely non-partisan with terms long enough to combat even the appearance of bias. Certainly there should not be ANY political appointees on the board.

Second, agree with skeptic06 that Dems could make a lot of hay by making a complete re-write of the labor laws part of their agenda. The laws written in the 1930s and 40s are dated now for the kind of workforce we have in America. The Wagner and Taft-
Hartley laws create as many, if not more, roadblocks than they remove to union membership and organizing.

Third, this case involves the Fair Labor Stds Act
(FSLA). This is another case where jobs have evolved beyond the definitions in the original act. The FSLA did truly need a revision to its
definitions, but it would NOT have happened if
labor lawyers had not started winning cases of
back pay for employees who were wrongly labled
"FLSA exempt", meaning the employers were calling
too many employees non-bargaining unit members.
What this did was allow employers either to not
have to pay O/T after 40 hours of work or to pay
less than time and half. THAT is where the nurses
came in. Hospitals have been short-staffing themselves and requiring nurses to work mandatory
overtime. By defining more nurses as supervisors,
hospitals can make them work extra hours and not have to pay them. Of course the answer to this will be a class action lawsuit from families of patients who have died or been injured because hospitals were too cheap to hire more nurses and/or overworked the nurses they did have.

by phillydem 2006-10-04 01:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

Hate to say it, but anybody going into nursing ought to have their head examined.

It was bad enough before--long hours, no support from management, poor pay--now it's just crazy.

As I say, I really hate to say it. The country needs nurses like never before.

But, man, it's just really turning into a shit job, given the responsibility nurses have.

(BTW: I think all surveys show that nurses already hate their jobs. This won't help.)

by Bush Bites 2006-10-04 04:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

Of course it depends on the place. We have nurses at my place of work. They seem to be pretty happy. That's reflected in our lowest-in-the-region turnover rate.

Nonetheless, there is a critical shortage of nurses. This ruling will not help. Sigh.

by KB 2006-10-04 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Labor News: NLRB and Andy Stern

I disagree. While it's certainly true that many nurses are not happy with their job (who would like a job where you work long hours and can then get hit with MANDATORY OVERTIME? Is there a more repellant concept?), they say in many polls I've read that if they were able to practice nursing as they were trained, they'd stay--in fact many would come back.

And while pay is low in many non-union settings (and SEIU helped launch lawsuits against price collusion this past year, which I hope Stern mentions in his book), nursing still pays better than most other "women's work"--though the most talented women now can become docs instead. And nursing could pay even better if the collusion stopped and actual "market forces" were allowed to work on a key sector that's been in shortage for a decade.

I agree that this is a blow to unions, but especially in very necessary jobs like nursing, this could a great opening for nurses willing to step up and save their professions, with union help.

by Lefty Minion 2006-10-04 08:24AM | 0 recs
by estebban 2006-12-22 04:28AM | 0 recs

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