Friday, January 15, 2010
Thanks to Daniel Mitchell, Professor-Emeritus at the UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management, who brought to my attention this article by Steve Kolowich entitled: A Historic Union? (January 15, 2010, Inside Higher Ed).
Here's a taste:
A month after completing its first foray into online higher education by acquiring the distance education provider Penn Foster, the Princeton Review has set its next goal: to help create the largest online college ever. And it thinks it can do it in five years.
The company announced yesterday that it is entering into a joint venture with the National Labor College -- an accredited institution that offers blended-learning programs to 200 students, most of whom are adults -- to establish what would be called the College for Working Families. The college would offer courses tailored to the needs of union members and their families, beginning this fall.The curriculum would be broadened from the National Labor College’s current offerings, which are largely made up of courses in labor studies . . . . The new institution would start off awarding associate degrees, with aspirations to running bachelor's and master's programs down the line. Tuition would be similar to that at most community colleges.
Now independent, the National Labor College was originally established as a training center for the AFL-CIO, with which it still retains a close relationship. That’s where the growth potential comes from; the AFL-CIO has 11.5 million members.
I think the article is right that from the union perspective, they could have never hoped to build such a potentially massive re-training operation on their own. I also think that with the need to retrain workers for the new realities of our economy, the timing could not be better.
Friday, December 4, 2009
The National Labor Relations Board released its Fiscal Year 2009 Performance and Accountability Report this week. According to the report, although the Board's caseload remained steady, unfair labor practice (ULP) charges increased slightly and representation election petitions decreased by 14.4%. Some other highlights:
- the Board recovered $77,611,322 on behalf of employees as backpay or reimbursement of fees, dues, and fines, with 1,549 employees offered reinstatement; and
- Regional Offices won 89.8% of Board and Administrative Law Judge ULP and compliance decisions in whole or in part.
What remains unclear is whether the decline in the number of R cases results from a diminished need for union representation, the hope that EFCA (in one form or another) will be signed into law, or something else.
Monday, September 14, 2009
From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
A union official backed away Friday from an analogy in an e-mail in which he had linked Volkswagen's Nazi past to the use of Hispanic workers building the automaker's Chattanooga plant . . . . Tom Owens, director of communications for the AFL-CIO's Building and Construction Trades Department in Washington, D.C., [wrote in an email this week that VW under the Nazis was responsible for the mass deportation and exploitation of workers. Now VW is replicating its past by] building the plant while Tennessee is in a recession and "they resort back to their dark past by making use, and exploiting, a predominantly foreign work force that some eyewitnesses say is 80 percent non-English-speaking Latino."
Owens now says that the analogy he made about VW was a bad one, and that he regrets making it.
Hat tip: Dennis Nolan.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Have to admit that I was a little taken aback when I saw this post (and chart) from Nate Silver at 538.com:
Gallup recently found sympathy toward labor unions is at an all-time low, at 48 percent. but then again, unemployment is close to its post-WWII highs. Gallup did not happen to ask this question in late 1982 or early 1983, when unemployment exceeded 10 percent. They did ask in August 1981, when unemployment was up to 7.4 percent and rising rapidly, and at that point support for labor was at 55 percent, which was the lowest figure it had achieved before this year's survey.
The regression line finds that, for every point's worth of increase in the unemployment rate, approval of labor unions goes down by 2.6 points. Alternatively, we can add a time trend to the regression model, to account for the fact that participation in labor unions has been declining over time. This softens the relationship slightly, but still implies a decrease in approval of 2.1 points for unions for every point increase in unemployment. Both relationships are highly statistically significant.
So why does support for labor unions go down when unemployment rates rise? Here are some possibility, but would love to hear other thoughts from the reader:
1. The Blame Game: "It is because of unions and their unreasonable demands for higher wages and benefits that American companies are losing jobs to global competition."
2. We Need More Unions: "The decrease is union support has actually caused higher unemployment rates, not vice versa. If there were more supports for union, we would have a large middle class, greater consumer spending, and more jobs for everyone."
3. Need More Safety Nets: "Unions have shot themselves in the foot. Rather than working for saftey net legislation like their European peers, unemployment means that those unemployed blame the unions for not helping them negotiate this difficult economic climate."
4. Resentment of Unions: "When unemployment is high, the non-unionized working class resent unions for giving their members greater job security while they're left out in the cold."
There are many more explanations/theories obviously, so please provide your own in the comments.
Friday, September 4, 2009
The US Airline Pilots Association (USAPA) has filed a lawsuit against the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) seeking the removal of the PBGC as trustee of US Airways pilots’ pension plan.
The lawsuit also requests the immediate appointment of a temporary trustee to perform the investigatory functions - a role it alleges the PBGC has refused to perform on behalf of pension plan beneficiaries since 2003.
USAPA president captain Mike Cleary said: "The PBGC has not fulfilled its obligation as trustee of our pilots' retirement fund. Our own investigation has uncovered a number of questionable circumstances surrounding activities and investments of our retirement fund prior to its termination.
"Our request to the PBGC for a thorough investigation has fallen on deaf ears, so we are asking the court to appoint a trustee who will do its due diligence in this matter and investigate the management, or perhaps the mismanagement, of our pilots' retirement fund." . . . .
The PBGC assumed control of the pilots' pension on March 31, 2003, when US Airways terminated the plan during its bankruptcy proceedings over the objections of the pilots.
The suit will be in the nature of a breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA by the USAPA, which represents more than 5,000 US Airways pilots.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Reports are coming out that the Labor Department is investing the NFLPA for colluding with the NFL owners in secret over future labor discussions. The information came out of a retaliation suit by an NFLPA employee (incidentally the daughter of the scandal magnet, Rep. Jim Moran). According to the AP:
The NFL Players Association has confirmed it is the target of a federal investigation into whether union leaders attempted to collude with NFL officials by holding secret meetings to discuss labor talks. NFLPA official George Atallah said Tuesday the union has been cooperating with the Department of Labor probe, which came to light in a lawsuit filed against the union last week by NFLPA employee Mary Moran. Moran claims she was wrongfully removed from her job as director of human resources and placed on administrative leave with pay on Aug. 3 because of her role as a confidential informant in the investigation.
In court documents filed in District of Columbia Superior Court on Thursday, Moran said she provided investigators evidence that former NFLPA president Troy Vincent(notes) and other union members met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Houston Texans owner Bob McNair, allegedly to provide the league access to confidential union information.
She alleged that NFLPA executive committee member Mark Bruener(notes) and Texans player representative Kris Brown(notes) also attended the meetings, which she claims were not authorized by or reported to the union. She alleged the meetings were a bid by union members to gain influence with the NFL while providing “owners a toehold in the NFLPA.”
It's unclear what's really going on here. For instance, it seems odd that the union is being investigated--if the allegations are true, the owners and a rogue union official are the perpetrators and the union is the victim. We'll none doubt hear more later.
[Alex Long also points out that Pro Football Talk--which knows more about this than me--has confirmed that the headache is more the owners' than the union's.]
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) brings to our attention a report, Labor Confronting the Gloves-Off Economy: America's Broken Labor Standards and How to Fix Them, published jointly by the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, the Center for Economic Policy Research, the Center on Wisconsin Strategy, and the NELP.
Here's a taste:
Across the United States, growing numbers of employers are breaking, bending, or evading long-established laws and standards designed to protect workers, from the minimum wage to job safety rules to the right to organize. This "gloves-off economy," no longer confined to a marginal set of sweatshops and fly-by-night small businesses, is sending shock waves into every corner of the low-wage -- and sometimes not so low-wage -- labor market. What can be done to reverse this dangerous trend?You can purchase a hard copy of the report for $10 by contacting Joanna Lukowicz, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This report, based on the book The Gloves-Off Economy: Labor Standards at the Bottom of America's Labor Market (a Labor and Employment Relations Association volume published by Cornell University Press), provides a comprehensive yet compact summary of gloves-off practices, the workers who are affected by them, and strategies for enforcing workplace standards. The editors, four prominent labor scholars, have brought together economists, sociologists, labor attorneys, union strategists, and other experts to offer varying perspectives on both the problem and the creative, practical solutions currently being developed in a wide range of communities and industries.
Hat Tip: Dan Idzikowski
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Steven Greenhouse (New York Times) has an article on a disturbing agreement that a company in Montana is "urging" all workers to sign. Regis, the country's largest hair salon company, wants workers at salons in Montana to sign a document stating: “In order to preserve my right to a secret-ballot election, and for my own protection, I knowingly and without restraint and free from coercion sign this agreement revoking and nullifying any union authorization card I may execute in the future.” As the CEO admitted, this document is intended to prospectively take away the ability of employees to get voluntary recognition for a union or, should a card-check provision pass, take advantage of that. He also says signing the card is "totally voluntary," but the idea that an employee would really feel free not to sign, especially in this economy, defies belief.
As Bill Gould (Stanford) was quoted as saying, this is illegal (and, in his words, a "modernized version of the old yellow dog contract"). Not only does it run contrary to the NLRA's statement that workers have the right to designate a representative of their own choosing--note the lack of the word "elect"--but it looks like a blatant 8(a)(1) violation.
Of course, Regis may have gotten more than they asked for. Although the salons at issue had never garnered any union activity in the past, labor leaders are now threatening to picket and distribute fliers at the salons.
Reminder: This and other stories of interests, covered and not covered on the blog, can be found on psecundawrkprof Twitter feed here.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Mary Anne Moffa, Executive Director of the Peggy Browning Fund, has brought to our attention that this year's National Law Students Workers' Rights Conference will be held October 16-17, 2009, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Each year this conference brings together law students, experts, and practitioners from all over the nation to discuss workers' rights laws in a thought-provoking, stimulating, educational environment. Here's a conference Brochure and Registration Form. More information about the conference is available at The Peggy Browning Fund website.
Many of my labor and employment students have attended over the past years, and they have raved about the experience. Please let your students know about this opportunity. Some funding assistance is available.
Friday, March 6, 2009
Twenty-five years ago today, UK miners struck en masse after Margaret Thatcher's government announced the closure of a South Yorkshire mine. Labour correctly assumed that this would be the first of many mine closures in the heavily subsidized industry. At the strike's peak, 90,000 miners put down their tools, but the government had stockpiled coal and a year later, the strike was broken.
The miners' strike was a pivotal event in UK political and labor history, much as PATCO was in the U.S. -- except that the miners' strike was broader, much more violent, and had the potential to bring down the government.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
My labor and employment law colleague, Phoebe Williams, who also teaches business associations, brings to my attention the roles unions, as shareholderes, are seeking to play in the current government bailout scheme.
The Laborers’ International Union of North America and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters are filing new proposals that seek compensation reforms at companies that participate in the U.S. Treasury Department’s bailout program.
In the supporting statement for these 2009 resolutions, the labor funds argue that the pay restrictions in the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) “fail to adequately address the serious shortcomings of many executive compensation plans.” Instead, the unions urge directors to adopt “more rigorous executive compensation reforms that we believe will significantly improve the pay-for-performance features of the Company’s plan and help restore investor confidence.”
According to the Associated Press, more than 110 financial firms have indicated that they likely will participate in the TARP’s Capital Purchase Program, under which the government has so far committed up to $250 billion to buy preferred stock. The labor funds have filed this resolution at JPMorgan Chase, KeyCorp, Bank of America, American Express, and SunTrust Banks, and plan to submit the proposal at more than 45 other firms.
The proposal calls for directors to adopt the following reforms:
* Limit annual incentive compensation to an amount not exceeding one times the senior executive’s annual salary;
* Require that a majority of long-term compensation be awarded in the form of performance-vested equity instruments;
* Freeze new stock option awards to senior executives, unless the options are indexed to peer group performance so that relative, not absolute, future stock price improvements are rewarded;
* Require senior executives to hold for the full term of their employment at least 75 percent of the shares of stock obtained through equity awards;
* Prohibit accelerated vesting for all unvested equity awards held by senior executives;
* Limit all senior executive severance payments to an amount no greater than one times the executive’s annual salary; and
* Freeze the accrual of retirement benefits under any supplemental executive retirement plan (SERP) for senior executives.
The labor unions urge directors to adopt all of these reforms unless barred by existing executive employment agreements.
In short, the bailout has presented an opportunity for unions to actively challenge excessive executive compensation. This is an example of how unions through their roles as shareholders are seeking to influence executive pay, voting for boards of directors, and other corporate governance issues.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
From the Consumerist blog (via my colleague Jessica Slavin):
Emails are shooting around to Geek Squad employees, encouraging them to join the Communications Workers of America union, so Best Buy retorts with emails of its own to voice its concerns. In an email sent by corporate management, Best Buy spoke of its concerns about unions, that unions would hinder its ability to speak with and negotiate with each Geek Squad employee individually. For, there's nothing like the closeness created when one employee negotiates with a hydra. That's just one fun piece of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) in the email, posted inside...
[A taste of the email below]:
Each of you may have been receiving emails from anonymous individuals identifying his/herself as Wilt Chamberlain, Double Agent, Geek Squad, Agent Agent or Magic Johnson. These emails from an anonymous sender(s) are asking you to ‘unite’, directing you to the Communication Workers of America (CWA), directing you to a Forum and soliciting signatures on a petition for legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) . . . .
Modifications are needed to get through this difficult time. This is happening in every company in America. Today, we are in a lot stronger position than most companies.. Economic times fluctuate. Decisions have to be made in both good times and in tough times. We always want your input. We want to hear your voice, your concerns and want to make changes in a respectful manner. We want to continue to work with you directly so that questions can be answered and so that misunderstandings can be addressed without filters. And we also recognize that as a management team we sometimes fail to follow the best processes – never intentionally - but your direct feedback and input helps all of us learn to be better in the future in service of our employee and customer.
One email suggested that Best Buy is afraid of Unions.
We are not afraid – We are concerned.
We are concerned about being able to talk with you directly.
We are concerned about being able to continue to get your feedback, input and suggestions in an open forum.
We are concerned that a union could result in a lack of flexibility to address market conditions, customer desires and your own desires and needs.
To whoever is using the name of the great Wilt Chamberlain.
Over the last thirty years, union membership has dropped from 35% of total workers to just over 7% of the private sector. Did you ever ask yourself why any business loses market share? In one email the CWA is mentioned. To find out more about the CWA, take the time to search around the links at http://unionfacts.com/unions/unionProfile.cfm?id=188 . . . .
Let me say that we are not afraid of unions at Best Buy. We truly believe that union representation is not in the best interests of the company, our customers or our employees. If you have any issues, concerns or ideas please do not hesitate to talk to your immediate supervisor or reach out to me.
In closing, let me say that we are betting the farm on our employees. What we are concerned about is putting something or someone between our employees and their supervisors that eliminates transparency, honesty and our ability to win with our customers by creating a world class experience for each of our employees. Feel free to reach out share your thoughts, ideas or concerns to me at anytime . . . .
The face of the modern anti-union campaign? Does Best Buy have troubles with the coming Obama administration and its embrace of labor concerns?
At the very least, corporate America, there is a new sheriff coming to town . . . .
Friday, October 10, 2008
NPR's Morning Edition this morning ran a story about Richard Trumka, UMW President and secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, who for the last several months has been giving speeches on the issue of race and the presidential election. It's a reaction, he says, to racist comments he has personally encountered; he says he feels compelled to personally challenge anyone in the labor movement who may not vote for Obama because he is black. An excerpt from a speech at the United Steelworkers convention:
Our kids are moving away because there's no future here. And here's a man, Barack Obama, who's going to fight for people like us, and you won't vote for him because of the color of his skin? Are you out of your ever-loving mind?
Here's the NPR story. Hat tip: Danielle Lorenz.
Monday, September 15, 2008
Johninnit, blogging from the TUC congress in Brighton (UK), makes four predictions about how the web will affect unions in 2010:
- The web will empower the grass roots, while simultaneously encouraging unions to form connections internationally. An example is a General Motors Workers’ blog where GM car plants across the world connect with each other.
- The web will enable more creative on-line campaigning. Unions and activists can nowadays produce near professional quality campaign material. Quality may be mixed – there may be some loose cannons – but even so, if unions can line up 1,000 loose cannons pointed in half-way the same direction ....
- The web will improve union democracy and accountability.
- Unions will use the internet to reach out to young workers who would otherwise never consider joining.
Hat tip: John's Labour Blog.
Work-related Blog points us to Tigmoo, a blog aggregator for UK trades unions, which permits a subscriber to access lots of union perspectives by monitoring just one feed. Tigmoo carries about 90 union blogs. Is anyone aware of a similar aggregator for U.S. union blogs?
Friday, September 5, 2008
Buoyed by a rising tide in California in general and Southern California in particular, U.S. unionization levels rose substantially this year, defying a decades-long trend of decline, according to a report by UCLA's Institute for Research on Labor and Employment.
"The State of the Unions in 2008: A Profile of Union Membership in Los Angeles, California and the Nation" shows unionization rates nationwide rising half a percentage point over the 2007 level, to 12.6 percent of all U.S. civilian workers in 2008. The rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point between 2006 and 2007. Prior to that, the last time U.S. unionization rates registered an increase was in 1979.
"This is good news for organized labor," said Ruth Milkman, lead author of the report and outgoing director of the UCLA labor institute. "It shows that despite an extremely hostile environment, unions can grow."
Milkman and UCLA sociology graduate student Bongoh Kye analyzed U.S. Current Population Survey data on union membership for California, Los Angeles and the nation. They report unionization rates by race, immigration status, gender, age and education for the first six months of 2008. This year's report and earlier such studies of unionization data going back to 1996 are available at www.irle.ucla.edu/research/unionmembership.html.
According to the report, in the first half of 2008, the number of U.S. workers on the membership rolls of labor unions increased by 583,300 over the 2007 average.
Fueling the nationwide increase was the recent growth in unionization in California, which currently accounts for 16 percent of all the nation's union members, more than any other state. California's unionization rate in 2008 is 17.8 percent, up from 16.7 percent in 2007 and 15.7 percent in 2006.
I wonder if this increase might be in anticipation of new labor law reform with a new administration and Congress? Or it is more likely that this a regional phenomenon with most of the growth coming in states where unions are already strong?
Time will tell is this is a blip or the start of a trend.
Hat Tip: Ravi Malhotra
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
The election of a Los Angeles union leader under fire for his labor group's spending practices is the subject of a government review that could force a new vote because of complaints that the contest was unfair to challengers.
The U.S. Labor Department is investigating allegations that Tyrone Freeman's union local made it nearly impossible for candidates not on his slate to qualify for the ballot, according to people familiar with the probe.
Freeman's local, a chapter of the giant Service Employees International Union, has denied that the election rules were tilted against challengers. Freeman and his slate won by default because no challenger gathered enough signatures to make the ballot . . . .
A source close to the union said Trossman was informed six years ago of allegations involving Freeman's finances and personal relationships. It is unclear whether a review was undertaken at that time; Trossman said that the SEIU might have performed an audit of the local because of the allegations, but that he couldn't be sure.
I do not know enough about these allegations to have an opinion, but let me say that to the extent that the allegations are true, I hope the labor movement would move swiftly to remove a bad apple to make it clear to the public that union abuses will not be tolerated.
Hat Tip: Dana Nguyen
Thursday, August 14, 2008
[p]rominent labor groups are seeking an investigation into whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc. violated federal election laws by telling employees that electing Democrats would lead to passage of legislation making it easier to unionize companies.
In a letter to be delivered as early as Thursday, the labor groups are asking the Federal Election Commission to determine whether the company "made prohibited corporate expenditures" by organizing meetings across the country to warn employees that a Democratic president would back legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, which the company opposes. The groups say such statements amount to advocating the defeat of Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, in the November election.
For the complete story, see Unions Seek Probe of Wal-Mart Over Election Law (subscription required).
Friday, June 13, 2008
The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting (subscription required):
After former President Bill Clinton canceled his scheduled appearance as the commencement speaker at the University of California at Los Angeles this week, to show his support for workers mired in contract negotiations with the university, other prominent national Democrats have followed suit . . . .
Mr. Clinton was to have spoken today to graduates of UCLA's College of Letters and Science, the university's main undergraduate division, but the former president said through a spokesman this week that he would not cross the workers' picket line (The Chronicle, June 11).
On Thursday, two Democratic members of Congress—Reps. Henry A. Waxman and Hilda L. Solis, both from the Los Angeles area—called off planned speeches at other UCLA commencement ceremonies.
Mr. Waxman was to have spoken to graduates of the university's School of Public Health today, and Ms. Solis had been scheduled to address graduates of the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies on Saturday.
In addition, Wesley K. Clark, the retired U.S. Army general who sought the Democratic Party's nomination in the presidential race of 2004, canceled his planned speech to graduates of the political-science department on Sunday. (More than 30 academic departments of the College of Letters and Science hold individual events in addition to the college's main graduation ceremony.)
"Until the University of California and the 20,000 patient-care and service workers resolve their dispute, I won't be able to speak at the commencement ceremony for the UCLA School of Public Health," Mr. Waxman said in a written statement. "I will not cross the picket line and hope this is resolved as quickly as possible."
The contract negotiations affect medical technicians, custodians, and cafeteria workers on campuses throughout the University of California system. Their union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has asked all scheduled speakers at university commencement ceremonies to cancel their engagements.
Well, thankfully for UCLA, I don't hear of any Republican politicians not willing to cross a picket line.
Tim Miller of the Labor Pains blog tells us that The Center for Union Facts and the Employee Freedom Action Committee has been very active this week raising the issue of card check.
"Right now there is an insidious bill being pushed on lawmakers. If passed, it will upend America’s political landscape and have a long-lasting effect on the economy. And you’ve never heard of it."
Let the debate begin because I think this may be a priority in the coming Obama administration.