Thursday, July 26, 2012
David Foley over at LaborRelated has a terrific post about self-selecting race in the employment context, (dis)incentives to cheat, and fuzzy definitions of what it means to be Native American, Black, etc. It's well worth a read.
Wednesday, July 25, 2012
ClassCrit V Workshop: From Madison to Zuccotti Park: Confronting Class and Reclaiming the American Dream
I am excited to share with readers of the blog information about the forthcoming ClassCrit V Workshop: From Madison to Zuccotti Park: Confronting Class and Reclaiming the American Dream (hyperlink leads to conference website). The conference is scheduled to take place in Madison, Wisconsin at the University of Wisconsin School of Law on November 16-17, 2012. The audience participation sign-up deadline is October 15th.
More about the theme of the conference from its website:
This workshop, the fifth meeting of ClassCrits, takes on class and the American dream as its theme. The most quintessentially American trait may be our capacity to look past current misfortune and imagine a brighter future. Americans love a “rags to riches” story and have long believed that hard work and determination will pay off in the long run. Two years into a sluggish “recovery” from the Great Recession, however, many Americans have lost some of that earnest optimism. Faced with persistent unemployment, a nationwide foreclosure crisis, deep cuts to state and local budgets, and declining state support for public education, Americans are questioning the promise of upward mobility. Indeed falling backwards is now a recognized phenomenon affecting more and more of the “middle class,” arguably blurring the distinctions between the “middle class,” the “working classes” and “the poor.”
But, roused by economic insecurity and the political assault on workers’ rights, “ordinary” people from Madison to Zuccotti Park have taken to the streets to voice their dissent. Taking on the slogan “we are the 99%,” the protest movement has launched a national dialogue about income, wealth and structural inequality, race, gender and class divisions in society, and, fundamentally, what it will take to reclaim our vision of a good life. From Madison to Zuccotti Park: Confronting Class and Reclaiming the American Dream will therefore bring together scholars, economists, activists, policymakers, and others to critically examine both the relationships between and the complexities of class and inequality.
I am excited to be providing a paper on the Wisconsin Public Sector Labor Dispute of 2011 and its relationship to the demise of the Wagner Act model of labor and to recent, class-based movements like Occupy Wall Street. Other worklaw profs scheduled to present include: Brishen Rogers (Temple), Charlotte Garden (Seattle), Nancy Leong (Denver), Ken Casebeer (Miami), Matt Dimick (Buffalo), Jim Pope (Rutgers-Newark), and Ahmed White (Colorado).
This should really be a great conference, so be sure to attend if you will be in the area, or even if you need to jet-hop in!
Monday, July 23, 2012
Mitchell H. Rubinstein, over at the Adjunct Law Prof Blog, sends along this important development in labor relations law from Alaska:
The Alaska Supreme Court recognized a union-relations privilege in Peterson v. State of Alaska, No. S-14233, ___P.3d___, 2012 WL 2947636 (Alaska, July 20, 2012). The Court held that "[b]ased on the strong interest in confidential union-related communications and statutory protection against unfair labor practices, we hold [the state labor relations act] impliedly provides the State's union employees a union-relations privilege." The reasoning employed by the Court - that "the proper functioning of [a] mandatory grievance and arbitration system . . . requires some protection for confidential communications made for the purpose of facilitating the rendition of grievance-related representative services to the employee" and that recognizing a privilege "harmonizes [the state labor relations act]'s strong public policy in favor of contractual resolution of labor disputes with the civil discovery rules" - should be useful in other states and in other settings where this issue frequently arises.
I agree with Mich that this is a "major decision." And like him, I hope other states soon follow suit. For those interested in this topic, Mitch wrote a law review article on this topic a few years ago: Is a Full Labor Relations Evidentiary Privilege Developing?, 29 Berkeley Journal of Labor and Employment Law 221 (2008).
Finally, Mitch comments: "Though this decision arose in the public sector, there is no reason why this decision would not be applicable to private employers. The policies behind the Alaska statute and the NLRA are virtually identical and the policies and need for the recognition of this privilege are certainly identical."
Steven Greenhouse (NY TImes) has an article today about a recent strike at Caterpillar. The company, never afraid to fight a union, is bringing things up a notch by demanding significant cuts from workers at the same time it's making large profits. The union, not suprisingly, is not willing to go along. From the article:
Despite earning a record $4.9 billion profit last year and projecting even better results for 2012, the company is insisting on a six-year wage freeze and a pension freeze for most of the 780 production workers at its factory here. Caterpillar says it needs to keep its labor costs down to ensure its future competitiveness.
The company’s stance has angered the workers, who went on strike 12 weeks ago. . . . Caterpillar, which has significantly raised its executives’ compensation because of its strong profits, defended its demands, saying many unionized workers were paid well above market rates. To run the factory during the strike, the company is using replacement workers, managers and a few union members who have crossed the picket line.
The showdown, which has no end in sight, is being closely watched by corporations and unions across the country because it involves two often uncompromising antagonists — Caterpillar and the International Association of Machinists — that have figured in many high-stakes labor battles.
As the article states, Caterpillar seems to be trying to establish lower wages as the "new normal." Only time will tell if they suceed.