Monday, January 10, 2011
Given the charge of reflexive moral exhibitionism by James Young on Rick's post this past Friday on the picketing by law professors and others at the San Francisco Hilton during the recent annual meeting of the Assocation of American Law Schools (AALS), I thought rather than answer James directlty, I would try to show some of the emotion and heart on display in solidarity with the Hilton HERE Local 2 hotel workers for obtaining a better contract this past Friday at a rally and on the line.
I thought long and hard about whether to post my AALS Sonnet which I read publicly at the Law and Humanities Section panel on Saturday morning in San Francisco and whether to post Professor Rachel Arnow-Richman's inspiring speech at the rally, but with Rachel's permission, I publish both here. Sure, some like James, will jeer at some ivory-towered-types like us engaging in what they might believe is facile righteous indignation. But I believe all human beings must work hard to develop a space or a place between righteous indignation and shame over not saying anything, and that is what I seek to do in this post. In addition to being real to myself, my hope is that this post also provides a good example for students and others who have read this blog over the years.
An AALS Sonnet
by Professor Paul M. Secunda
I was filled with rage,
Workers' rights a mess,
Professional Progressives against us.
Prager, Hanson, and Olivas
Why is there so little trust?
Lawprofs are human beings too,
Concerned with worker dignity through and through.
Will union rights live to fight another day?
Labor profs ready to walk away.
Full of frustration and distrust,
Thinking of not coming next year, better off.
I am today filled with rage,
But future tomorrows light my way.
Remarks at Local HERE 2 San Francisco Hilton Hotel Rally
by Professor Rachel Arnow-Richman
Friends and Colleagues, Organizers and Workers, I am so honored to stand before you today.
My awe and appreciation for everything you have done has deepened (as has my faith in your ultimate success) each day that I myself have worked to try to relocate this conference.
And let me tell you why.
First the good news – through the hard work of the people like Karl Klare, Gary Peller, Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer, and David Harlan, over 2/3 of the AALS conference has been relocated out of the Hilton!
Next the bad news – In the course of trying to achieve this result, we have seen AALS engage in depressingly familiar tactics: Beginning with stonewalling, delay, replacing principled faculty who refused to appear in the Hilton with other speakers. Do you recognize any of these moves?
These tactics – straight out of the anti-union management playbook – culminated last night in a refusal to adopt a non-binding resolution asking AALS to do more next time to avoid siting a hotel in the midst of an active labor dispute. What was their rationale? That it would impair their “organizational flexibility” and cost millions of dollars that would ultimately come out of our pockets as dues-paying members.
This response has been the cause of tremendous frustration and indignation for principled faculty. But luckily for us AALS is not our employer.
Imagine for just a moment that these games were being played not by a professional society with whom we voluntarily affiliate, but by the company who paid our salaries, a company that had the right to set the terms and conditions of our employment, to terminate us at will.
If you can imagine that and imagine the courage it would take to be as outspoken as we have been in those circumstances, then you begin to imagine the circumstances under which Local 2 is waging its battle.
And you might also come to appreciate the importance of our role as faculty in that struggle.
You the professors have a special duty to stand up for these brave workers. Not only are we as faculty committed professionally (through our research and teaching) to the cause of justice, but we enjoy a freedom of speech, a security in our employment, and a voice in the governance of our workplaces that is unheard of in the contemporary economy. If those of us who enjoy the privileges and security of academic employment don’t speak out on behalf of these workers who will?
So I call on all of the law professors to honor this boycott and to stand in solidarity with these incredibly brave women and men of Unite/HERE! Local 2.
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Across the nation, a rising irritation with public employee unions is palpable, as a wounded economy has blown gaping holes in state, city and town budgets, and revealed that some public pension funds dangle perilously close to bankruptcy. In California, New York, Michigan and New Jersey, states where public unions wield much power and the culture historically tends to be pro-labor, even longtime liberal political leaders have demanded concessions — wage freezes, benefit cuts and tougher work rules.
It is an angry conversation. Union chiefs, who sometimes persuaded members to take pension sweeteners in lieu of raises, are loath to surrender ground. Taxpayers are split between those who want cuts and those who hope that rising tax receipts might bring easier choices.
And a growing cadre of political leaders and municipal finance experts argue that much of the edifice of municipal and state finance is jury-rigged and, without new revenue, perhaps unsustainable. Too many political leaders, they argue, acted too irresponsibly, failing to either raise taxes or cut spending.
A brutal reckoning awaits, they say.
This is bad news, and it's only going to get worse. It's terribly unfortunate that unions are being scapegoated for politicians' past and present underfunding of pension and benefit accounts.
For the entire article, see Public Workers Facing Outrage as Budget Crises Grow.
Monday, April 12, 2010
BeyondChron writer Randy Shaw, via Jottings by an Employer's Lawyer, reports on the apparently hollow $750k victory of the SEIU in its San Francisco lawsuit against breakaway union National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). Shaw reports that
The first three [goals] were to deplete NUHW resources by forcing its leaders to spend time and money defending themselves, send a message to hospital and home care workers facing elections that NUHW cannot not be trusted, and turn the Rosselli leadership team into a cautionary example for other SEIU locals that are considering publicly questioning President Stern’s agenda. None of these goals were achieved by the verdict.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
5th Cir.: Janitor Union Wins on Claim That Houston's Parade Ordinances Constitutionally Interferes with Ability to Strike
The case is SEIU v. City of Houston (5th Cir 01/29/2010) and Ross Runkel provides a nice run down on the case:
A union representing over 5000 Houston janitors staged a strike, and applied for permits to conduct parades, marches, and rallies in support of that strike. The city of Houston denied several of the requests, so the union sued - alleging that the city ordinances under which the permit applications were processed violated the First Amendment . . . .
The [Fifth Circuit] noted, "[w]e proceed slightly further in invalidating the City's rules than did the district court but leave most of the City's scheme intact." With respect to reversal, the court concluded that 1) the city's sound ordinance was unconstitutional, to the extent it imposed "[t]he limit of two permits per location per thirty-day period[;]" 2) limitations in the city's parade ordinance, which severely limited the hours of the day when parades could be held, was unconstitutional; and 3) the city's park permitting ordinance requirements were unconstitutional in total.
So an interesting case where constitutional law comes to the aid of a union in vindicating its rights to march on public property to support their strike. Of course, this occurs with the backdrop of not too friendly locale for unions in the first place.
Friday, January 22, 2010
DOL Secretary Hilda Solis had the following statement today on the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on Union Members in 2009:
Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that, in 2009, the unionization rate of employed wage and salary workers was 12.3 percent, in essence unchanged from the 12.4 percent rate in 2008. Among private sector employees, the rate dropped to 7.2 percent from 7.6 percent in 2008.
The data also show the median usual weekly earnings of full-time wage and salary union members were $908 per week, compared to $710 for workers not represented by unions. Union members earn 28 percent more than their non-union counterparts.
When coupled with data showing that union members have access to better health care, retirement and leave benefits, these numbers make it clear that union jobs are good jobs.
As workers across the country have seen their real and nominal wages decline as a result of the recession, these numbers show a need for Congress to pass legislation to level the playing field to enable more American workers to access the benefits of union membership. This report makes clear why the administration supports the Employee Free Choice Act.
Just laughing to myself and thinking how former Bush Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao would have heralded these figures. Certainly, EFCA would not have been mentioned.
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?