by myddaddict, Fri Mar 24, 2006 at 06:32:14 AM EST
(Part of an ongoing series at my blog, Blog for Cambridge)
Over the last few months, I've taken to tracking developments and strategies in organizing labor unions nationwide. I'm sharing the most important highlights (as I see them) here on a semi-frequent basis. My rationale is that union organizing is as important, if not much more so, to the success of the liberal coalition than the actual electoral ups and downs of the Democratic Party. Democratic success is important, of course; but union organizing increases the long-term capacity of the progressive coalition, both by bringing new people into our movement, and by making those people more wealthy and hence, more able to contribute to the movement. Add to this is the fact that union organizing is one of our best weapons against unequitable distribution of wealth, and I think you'll agree that union organizing is a very important topic for us to focus on.
With all that said, let's roll some of that beautiful organizing footage, shall we?
- Via the Workers Independent News, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that union membership increased tremendously last year. Labor unions organized a net 213,000 new union members last year, holding overall union density steady at 12.5 %.
I can't overstate the importance of these numbers. For the first time in over a decade, we can now say that union membership is not on the decline. All the gloom and doom talk about the inevitable extinction of labor unions (which I'm sure we'll hear plenty more of for a while to come) is a mere corporatist fantasy. Hopefully, when we look back in another decade, we will realize that the year 2005 was a turning point in the US labor movement.
Working Life gives some insight into the strategy behind these numbers. More and more unions are turning to the card check process instead of the NLRB process. With the card check process, employers agree to recognize a union if at least 50% of the eligible employees sign cards indicating their willingness to join. With the NLRB process, the union forces a binding vote on unionization by collecting cards from 30% of the eligible employees. The union is recognized (whether or not the employer agrees) if a majority of workers agree to unionize. In practice, the card check process tends to stifle employer opposition and anti-union tactics much more so than the NLRB process.
Republicans in the House, led by Charlie Norwood (R-GA) are trying to close off the card check route. On the other side, there is legislation pending to make card checks the route to unionization even without the employer's agreement. The latter bill will never see the light of day as long as Bush is President. One thing we can do in Massachusetts is to pass similar legislation. Such legislation would instantly make Massachusetts the most pro-labor state in the country.
By the way, in case anyone's counting, here are some off-the-cuff calculations based on very simplistic assumptions: last year's round of organizing will bring in around 140,000 new Democratic votes and will provide the labor movement with about $77 million more in union dues.
Now what was the margin of victory in Ohio in 2004? I can't seem to remember.
- Change To Win is putting together a "Make Work Pay" campaign scheduled for the last week of April. The campaign is a massive 2,000-organizer, 35-city affair, targeting public awareness as much as it targets corporate policies. The goal is to align the labor movement with the middle class. At its convention in Las Vegas, the labor federation set up "cross-union campaign teams" whose jobs are to coordinate organizing across unions in each of the 35 cities:
Breakout sessions are being held to allow each of the teams to determine what targets they should concentrate on in their individual cities or states. ..."We are creating a new model for cross-union organizing," [CTW Chair Anna] Burger said. The goal of the teams will be to create strong local organizations that include unions as well as community activists that will have the power to let employers know that when they oppose any group of workers that is trying to organize, they will not be confronted by one union, but by seven unions that represent nearly 6 million workers."
It's hard to say how much of this is press release gobbledygook and how much will actually result in new union members. Working Life appears unconvinced so far.
By the way, did you notice the number of organizers involved? 2,000. According to some estimates, that is the number of movement conservatives and apparatchiks employed by the vast array of conservative think tanks, leadership institutes, and politburos, nationwide. I don't think the numbers are directly comparable, but it's an interesting coincidence.
- Following the formation of an AFL-CIO Industry Coordinating Council that focuses on organizing nurses, the United American Nurses have announced the creation of an $8 million fund dedicated to organizing.
- The Center for Union Facts, a virulently anti-union corporatist website, was launched a few weeks ago. The AFL-CIO posts a hilarious take on this inaccurate slam site.