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Union organizing in the U.S. - the challenges

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stop raiding
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Joined: Mar 2 2009

I posted it for discussion purposes in the event that it is true. I am quite accustomed to journalists stating "reportedly' or 'sources have suggested" or even "rumours are circulating" and I am able to take that for what it is. As stated in the Indy Bay piece - Cohen was also mentioned as agreeing to this. Perhaps these leaders were mentioned because the democrats/the administration reached out to the supposed head and collective voice of the US labour movment (Sweeney) and to two of the single biggest union contributors to the Obama campaign (Stern and Cohen). Regardless, i don't perceive this conjecture as beyond the the pale. Here's a mainstream source (CBS) you may be more comfortable with. Call me a fool but it looks like a bit of backpeddling is happening.

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/07/17/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry...

 

As one A.F.L.-C.I.O. official told the Times: "This bill will bring about dramatic changes, even if card check has fallen away."

"...it appears likely that labor groups would accept a bill without the provision so long as the watering down doesn't go too much further.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

When I re-read Stern's enigmatic statement in Friday's NYT, it seems quite plausible that he has been party to some secret deal.

 


stop raiding
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Joined: Mar 2 2009

Perhaps they see the binding arbitration provision as being a major victory and hope to try and reinsert cardcheck at a later legislative stage.


KenS
Online
Joined: Aug 6 2001

I don't remember in the last while a single reliable pusher of card check- someone with clout, not critics- saying in a way you thought they meant it that card check was still doable. Given that card check seemed to be dead, I don't know about calling people sell outs who agree to trade it away... as much as we may not like them for other reasons.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

The Night They Drove Old Labour Down

Quote:

Scott Brown’s defeat of Martha Coakley in the race to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat has been greeted as a “game changer” for Barack Obama and his political backers. This GOP victory has deprived Democrats of their “filibuster-proof” super-majority in the Senate, making Obama’s health care plan—at least, in its current form--the most high-profile casualty of Coakley’s loss.

But, for trade unionists already disappointed with Obama, the collateral damage is far worse. Now, the White House staffers and Congressional leaders who’ve been re-assuring them that labor law reform was next on Obama's agenda don’t even have 60 votes to prevent Republican filibustering of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)--in any form.


aka Mycroft
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Joined: Aug 8 2004

The turning point in US labour history was the failure of "Operation Dixie" (the effort to unionize the US South) in the 1940s and 1950s. This defeat allowed southern states to become a low wage magnet for factories fleeing unionized industrialized states and, in turn, resluted unions in these states to become more timid for fear that management would just pick up stakes and move. In turn, the continuance of the South as an anti-labour bastion made it more difficult to overturn Taft Hartley or pass pro-worker legislation and, in turn, made it easier for the right to pass free trade agreements that allowed Mexico and other countries to become low wage magnets for US manufacturing in their own right.

And why did Operation Dixie fail? A combination of McCarthyism and the legacy of southern racism and the inability of the white working class in the South to find common cause with Blacks. This allowed management to continue to pit black workers against white workers.


Unionist
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Joined: Dec 11 2005

Very interesting, Mycroft. But I always thought (without data to back me up ready to hand) that rates of unionization in the States kept close to Canada through the 1970s - in the 30+% range - and then, precipitously, U.S. began dropping to where they are now (around 12%) while Canada fell a few percentage points and is still close to 30%. Do the factors you cited, all of which would seem to have been operative during the first 30 postwar years, explain the subsequent divergence? Or is there more?


KenS
Online
Joined: Aug 6 2001

Geez Unionist, simple question, eh.

I don't really remember the timing of the US drop, but I wouldn't say it was holding though the 70s- there was already a very substantial divergence between US and Canada rates in the early 80s.

At any rate, I think that Mycroft hit on all the major factors. I don't know type of things you were thinking of as possibilities for 'are there [maybe] more factors?' ...but I think the drasticaly different regulatory climate in the US arrested what would otherwise have been continued post-war momentum in organizing, as happened in Canada.

Ironic, because US workers got collective bargaining rights much earlier... and had really strong post-war growth in all the industrial sectors where unionization took off first.

The way I look at is that US unions missed out on the salad years of organizing- through the mid-70s- so that they were in a much weaker position when the economic changes made it harder for unions everywhere.


welder
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Joined: Dec 2 2009

Ken,you're probably right.There is another historic factor not being discussed and that is the influence of the NAM on the RTW movement.There work took hold in the South and Mid-West which are traditionally Conservative/Libertarian and have a natural inclination to avoid anything tarred with the "Communist" label.

Ironically,for their dutiful following of the anti-Labour preaching of the NAM,those states now,on average:

 

1.Earn at least $5,000 less per year as their unionized counterparts in the same industry.

2.Have weaker benefit plans,if any at all.

3.Are 51% more likely to be seriously injured and/or killed on the job.

Check out Right to Work for less at the AFL-CIO website.If that's the "freedom" those folks want,namely the freedom to be poorer,pay for health benefits out of pocket,and,possibly be dismembered and/or killed on the job...Well,they can have that "freedom".

http://www.aflcio.org/issues/legislativealert/stateissues/work

When armed with those facts,I cannot understand why anyone would think that "Right to Work" was a good idea for labour people?


George Victor
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Joined: Oct 28 2007

Unionist wrote:

Very interesting, Mycroft. But I always thought (without data to back me up ready to hand) that rates of unionization in the States kept close to Canada through the 1970s - in the 30+% range - and then, precipitously, U.S. began dropping to where they are now (around 12%) while Canada fell a few percentage points and is still close to 30%. Do the factors you cited, all of which would seem to have been operative during the first 30 postwar years, explain the subsequent divergence? Or is there more?

See Robert B.Reich's Supercapitalism, pp.80-86, and the graph on p. 81. The decline in private sector union membership began at the end of the 50s, more precipitously in the 70s, flattenint a bit by the 80s, but continuing."In 1955, more than a third of American workers in the private sector belonged to a labor union. By 2006, fewer than 8 per cent did." In Europe and Japan the decline began in the 80s, and has been much more gradual, less severe.  Canada is saved by public service union membership, eh?

Reich explains the economic and political reasons for this, but of course, with the mobility afforded to the corporation by the thinking of the Chicago School (and everyone's increasing dependence on corporate health for our "golden years"...although Reich does not go this farin his political analysis. He says, simply, that "power shifted to consumers and investors. Supercapitalism replaced democratic capitalism."


Slumberjack
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Joined: Aug 8 2005

The US Labour Movement and China

Quote:
Meanwhile, the fascinating fact we discussed about China is the unprecedented strike and protest wave occurring throughout that country and being led by workers - 90,000 of such "mass incidents" taking place last year alone. And, as the labor professors from China explained, much to our surprise, these strikes are being led by workers with no unions at all, are indeed uncoordinated (leading our MC to candidly compare these strikes to those in the U.S. which were led by the Wobblies in the 1920's), and are being tolerated by both the Chinese government and the ACFTU. The result of this is an increase in wages for workers in China. We also discussed, quite ironically, that if, as the labor professors do in fact desire, China adopts some type of U.S.-style labor law, it will be done for the very reason that the U.S. government and employers acquiesced to our labor law in the first place - because it will lead to "industrial peace" and quell the strike wave now impacting China.

In other words, China needs a U.S.-style labor law, the argument goes, in order to control its workers better and to obtain the type of compliant and acquiescent work force we see in this country - a workforce which continues to see its standard of living drop further and further with barely a peep in response.


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