Why They (And You) Need A Union

Yesterday I wrote about the security guards who are striking at Kaiser Permanente because their contractor-employer is engaging in illegal tactics while trying to block them from forming a union.  The guards work for Inter-Con Security Inc., which is contracted by Kaiser to provide security services.


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Security Guards Striking for the Right to Have Our Laws Enforced

There is a three-day strike starting today at Kaiser Permanente hospitals in California.  1800 security guards are striking for three days in an "unfair labor practice" action.  This strike is not against Kaiser and is not to ask for money or benefits; it is not even to form a union in the first place.  This strike is just to ask that our laws please be enforced. This may be a lot to ask for in today's corporate-dominated system, but they're asking for it anyway.

Here is some background:

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John Sweeney: "We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act"

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, said 2 years ago:
"Today, the Employee Free Choice Act has 208 co-sponsors in the House, including 10 Republicans, and 42 in the Senate -- and we will pass it while George Bush is in office."John Sweeney at National Press Club 1/18/2006

Since then the EFCA, which adds penalties for labor violations, has passed the House, but has stalled in the Senate over a Republican blockade over a small change in "card check" organizing campaigns and has been abandoned by Democrats and Unions until 2009.

Currently employees can optionally organize or decertify a union using signature cards instead of secret ballots. Business groups only want to be able to decertify unions using card check, calling organization by signature cards "undemocratic" and condemning the entire EFCA as "Orwellian named." If the Republican position sounds like a double standard, thats because it is.

Sweeney and his Democrat allies in the Senate could easily shift the debate to just enforcing current labor law. Instead, they are letting the Republicans have a free ride this November by keeping the general public confused about technical aspects of forming a union.

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Labor links roundup

Last week's labor news roundup went pretty well, so I thought I'd follow up with a slight twist this week.  The labor-o-sphere has been lighting up this week, partially due to an odious NLRB ruling.  Here are a few interesting tidbits I found.  Check them out, and add any interesting essays you might have found in the comments:

  • Prof. Ellen Dannin, Professor of Law at Pennsylvania State University, posted a long and thought-provoking piece about unions and their stance towards the Wagner Act (which, together with the Taft-Hartley Act, forms the bulwark of US law related to labor organizing) and the NLRB, titled Unasked Questions and Unasked for Answers on the State of Labor Today.  The post encourages labor leaders and union activists to challenge privatization and globalization.  Drawing on her 2005 book Taking back the worker's law, Dannin also argues for a concerted litigational effort to roll back two key anti-union interpretations of labor law - striker replacement and the employer's right to impose terms if an impasse occurs during contract negotiations (called implementation-upon-impasse).  This is a fascinating post and highly recommended.  Anyone who's interested in follow-up reading should check out Taking back the worker's law.

  • Also at Workling Life, Jonathan Tasini posted about NLRB's recent decision to entertain a union-decertification petition filed shortly after the original union certification law.  This decision overthrows NLRB's longstanding precedent to allow a union certification election result to stand for a reasonable amount of time, in order to allow a union a chance to succeed in its collective bargaining efforts.  The decision, which is hard to square with the Wagner Act's unequivocal demand that the government favor collective bargaaining arrangements, could potentially make union busting even easier, and unionization yet more difficult.

  • An alert reader pointed me to CWA Votes, a website which allows members of Communications Workers of America to sound off on the presidential election and, presumably, sway the union's endorsement decision.  This reminds me of SEIU's decision to allow the membership to vote on the 2004 endorsement take a straw poll of some of its activists in order to gather input on the 2004 endorsement (resulting in the surprising Dean endorsement), and I think it's a great step. (For more on the SEIU process and general info on unions soliciting members' opinions in endorsement decisions, see this comment by user Skipster.)

  • A few tidbits of high-profile union news: UAW will negotiate its next contract with Chrysler.  I can't really say whether this is a good decision or not, but it seems to me that it might be interesting to gather opinions on this decision through some kind of web-based crowdsourcing system, like an electronic market or broad-based voting system.  Such an experiment might yield some very interesting collective wisdom (or, it could get spiked by paid company shills; hard to say.)  In other news and UNITE-HERE Tama workers have voted to end a 15-week strike and authorized a 3-year contract.

Any other tidbits?  Drop 'em in the comments!

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Labor law from Wagner to Taft-Hartley - Part Two

A couple of weeks ago, I looked at this critical period of labor history as told in the first half of Christopher Tomlins' The State and the Unions: Labor Relations, Law and the Organized Labor Movement in America, 1880-1960.

I've now got to the end (more or less!) of the book.

And two things in Tomlins' treatment of his subject are new to me (how well his views hold up will depend on further research, natch!):

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