Unions: More Relevant than Ever

I'm pleased to announce that a representative from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will be posting every Monday on MyDD until the election. We've noted on MyDD that on a practical level, unions are possibly the most critical piece of the progressive movement, and we're hoping that over the next few years the netroots and the union movement can work together to learn from each other and become stronger. The Teamsters will also be sponsoring Breaking Blue until the election, which will help keep MyDD running as traffic goes up. The Teamsters are going to try to give you a sense of the basics of unions and their political activity, which is something I wasn't aware of until a few years ago. This is a great opportunity to learn more about this critical piece of the Democratic party. Welcome, and enjoy. -- Matt

When FDR launched the New Deal and pulled millions of families out of poverty, labor unions were there to aid his cause.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the fight for Civil Rights, union men and women were by his side.

When Robert F. Kennedy went on his crusade to help the plight of migrant farm workers in the Central California valley, he found inspiration in a union man: Cesar Chavez.

There's more...

Labor Unions on the defensive in upcoming NLRB "Kentucky River" rulings

*Cross-posted on Politics with a Pulse*

As the NewStandard (a great independent, non profit newspaper) reports, 8 million workers could lose their union-protected collective-bargaining rights as a result of several impending National Labor Relations Board rulings in what is collectively known as the "Kentucky River" cases.

The NLRB, which is stacked with pro-business Bush appointees, could shift the definition of a "supervisor" in the workplace which, as a result of the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, would bar those with that designation from being a part of a union. Barring supervisors from unions has worked to splinter solidarity in the workplace against employers. Historically though the definition of a "supervisor" under US Labor Law has been defined as the power to hire or fire other employees. But employers are trying to change that and broaden the definition of a "supervisor" into someone who delegates responsibilities to other employees.

This is just part of a larger trend of employers in this country actively and systematically working to undermine workers' rights in tandem with weak labor laws. In 2000, Human Rights Watch published a critical report of the state of labor rights, especially the right to join and form a labor union:
"Many workers who try to form and join trade unions to bargain with their employers are spied on, harassed, pressured, threatened, suspended, fired, deported or otherwise victimized in reprisal for their exercise of the right to freedom of association."

"Millions of workers are expressly barred from the law's protection of the right to organize. U.S. legal doctrine allowing employers to permanently replace workers who exercise the right to strike effectively nullifies the right."

These NLRB rulings, if they occur as expected will deprive even more workers in this country of their basic human right under the UN to take part in a labor union. Labor unions are the only institution in this country that actively fights for workers' rights. They provide workers with leverage against employers not only for better pay and benefits but also arbritary decisions such as firings. An EPI report comparing unionized and non-unionized workers in terms of salaries and benefits illustrate the importance of labor unions. It concludes that " unions reduce wage inequality because they raise wages more for low- and middle-wage workers than for higher-wage workers, more for blue-collar than for white-collar workers, and more for workers who do not have a college degree."

This comes at a time when real wages are on the decline in the US. Only those at the top of the income spectrum are receiving raises that are outpacing wages. This quote from the New York Times article sums it up best:
" wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of the nation's gross domestic product since the government began recording the data in 1947, while corporate profits have climbed to their highest share since the 1960's."

Its no surprise that this is happening at a time where trade unions power has been increasingly diminished. The article even mentions that but doesn't point out the forces in the federal government (the Bush administration) that are making things worse for trade unions like these "Kentucky Rivers" cases or, as the Human Rights Watch report points out, Labor laws  [that] have failed to keep pace with changes in the economy and new forms of employment relationships," and weak enforcement of current  labor laws.

There's more...


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