By Steven Singer in Gadfly On The Wall. Unions are facing hard times. We are under attack by the new fascist wing of the Republican party. So-called “right to work” laws are being drafted at the national level to strip us of our rights and transform us into the factory slaves of The Gilded Age. New court challenges at the state and federal level could make it next to impossible to collect dues without allowing countless free riders. And in the mass media criticism of teacher tenure is mounting despite widespread ignorance of what it even means. More than ever we need to be united in our efforts to fight the forces of regression and tyranny. We need each other to protect our public schools and our students from those who would do them harm. But the biggest obstacle to doing that isn’t Donald Trump. Nor is it Mike Pence, Steve Bannon or even Betsy DeVos. It is you. Both of you.
By Joe Uehlein and Jeremy Brecher for US Labor Against The War – Step by step the American labor movement is increasingly recognizing and responding to the threat of climate change. While the AFL-CIO never supported the Kyoto or Copenhagen climate agreements on the grounds that they were bad for jobs and the American economy, it “applauded” the Paris climate agreement as a “landmark achievement in international cooperation” and called on America to “make the promises real.”
By Associated Press. A tie vote from the Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a win to labor unions in a high-profile dispute over their ability to collect fees. The justices divided 4-4 in a case that considered whether public employees represented by a union can be required to pay “fair share” fees covering collective bargaining costs even if they are not members. The split vote leaves in place an appeals court ruling that upheld the practice. The one-sentence opinion does not set a national precedent and does not identify how each justice voted. It simply upholds a decision from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that applies to California and eight other Western states.
By Michael Hiltzik for the Los Angeles Times. Washington, DC – Explanations abound for the consistent decline of organized labor in the United States, especially in the private sector. But one important factor is the ability of employers to engage in union-busting almost without restriction. Limitations on employers’ activities exist, theoretically, but they’ve been enforced only spottily and are rife with loopholes. The Dept. of Labor finally has moved to close one loophole, created way back in 1959. This is the ability to hire anti-union consultants, familiarly known as “persuaders,” without reporting the arrangements. The Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959, otherwise known as the Landrum-Griffin Act, required these deals to be reported only if the consultants were speaking directly with employees, but not if their influence reached the workplace floor indirectly, via intermediaries.
By Steven Greenouse for The Guardian. Seattle, WA – For several months, Shawna Murphy, a home-based childcare provider in Seattle, had received a stream of emails, letters and robocalls – some two dozen of them – telling her she had the right to stop paying union dues. Then early one afternoon, while the six children in her charge were napping, a man with a briefcase knocked on her door. At first Murphy thought he was a lawyer, but then she realized he might be a state inspector of childcare providers. So she opened the door. “He said there’s this supreme court case that will impact me, and he pulled out this leaflet and told me that I don’t have to be part of the union and don’t have to pay union dues,” said Murphy, a member of the Service Employees International Union. “I told him, ‘I’m a proud supporter of the union, and you can leave now.’”
By Anna Merlan in Jezebel – While those numbers show in depressing relief how fast and far union membership in America has fallen, the good news is that unions are still surviving, becoming more diverse (black workers are now the most likely to be unionized, according to the BLS), and moving into new fields. Fight for $15 is making real gains in the fast food industry and new media organizations are unionizing one right after the other these days (ahem). Latino workers still have the lowest rates of union membership, a gap that labor organizations are trying hard to close. At NBC, Kimberly Freeman Brown points out the other labor organizations led by black women: the National Domestic Workers Alliance, North Carolina’s Forward Together Moral Movement, and Wisconsin Jobs Now, among others. They’re among the women profiled in Freeman Brown’s And Still I Rise, a report and “love letter” to black women in labor released this year.
By Haaretz – One of the more prominent industrial unions in the U.S. voted to endorse the goals of the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) movement against Israel, citing “its long history of violating the human rights of the Palestinians,” thus purportedly becoming the first nationwide union to do so. The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers’ national convention met in Baltimore last week and voted on a string of foreign and as well as domestic policy issues, including the call to boycott Israel and support the nuclear deal with Iran. According to a statement on the UE’s website, the union voted in favor of the “Justice and Peace for the Peoples of Palestine and Israel”, and cited Israel’s sordid human rights record: “starting with the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1947-48 that turned most of Palestine into the State of Israel.”
By Dave Jamieson in The Huffington Post – McDonald’s, Burger King and every other company that relies on a franchise business model just suffered the legal setback they’ve been fearing for years. The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Thursday that Browning Ferris Industries, a waste management company, qualifies as a “joint employer” alongside one of its subcontractors. The decision effectively loosens the standards for who can be considered a worker’s boss under labor law, and its impact will be felt in any industry that relies on franchising or outsourcing work. McDonald’s, for instance, could now find itself forced to sit at the bargaining table with workers employed by a franchisee managing one of its restaurants.
By Sarah Jaffee in Truth Out – The rise of the Movement for Black Lives got Brandon Buchanan and some of his fellow graduate student employees in the University of California system thinking. Many of them had taken part in the protests rippling across the country, and the movement had also inspired them to think about what they could do within their own union, United Auto Workers Local 2865, to deal with questions of racism and anti-Blackness close to home. “To get our voices heard we realized that we needed to come together to form a committee that specifically addressed the needs of Black workers in the union,” Buchanan, a graduate student in sociology at UC Davis, told Truthout.
By Patrick Sheehan for In These Times – A National Labor Relations Board hearing officer has ruled that Teach for America teachers should be included in the union at a Detroit charter school chain. (Full disclosure: The author of this piece was a Teach for America teacher at the chain and testified at the NLRB hearing.) Teachers at University Prep charter schools voted May 14 on whether to unionize. The charter chain, UPrep, relies on TFA teachers to fill about 10 percent of its classrooms, a figure that’s similar to urban charter schools in other cities. But when some TFA teachers emerged as leaders in the union drive, Detroit 90/90, the company that manages UPrep, challenged their right to vote. In a June hearing, the company argued that TFA teachers’ minimum two-year commitment to the school made us “temporary service workers” rather than “professional employees”—more like long-term substitutes than permanent teachers.
By Geoff Gilbert for Waging Nonviolence – With the 2016 presidential campaigns underway, economic populism has taken center stage. Bernie Sanders, calling for a $1 trillion investment in a sustainable infrastructure jobs program along with publically funded health care and college education, has forced Hillary Clinton to offer vague support for similar measures, while even some Republican candidates, like Marco Rubio, have asserted the need to stop the “fall of the [American] worker.” Not content to wait for national politicians to follow through on non-binding proposals, 1worker1vote — a joint venture launched in 2009 by the United Steelworkers, or USW, and Mondragon USA — has been pursing a grassroots agenda to move populist discontent beyond protest and toward the building of new institutions.
By Mario Vasquez for In These Times – United Auto Workers Local 2865, the union representing 13,000 teaching assistants and other student workers throughout the University of California, called on the AFL-CIO to end its affiliation with the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) in a resolution passed by its governing body on July 25. The resolution came in the wake of a letter written by the UAW’s Black Interests Coordinating Committee (BICC). The group formed in December 2014 in response to the acquittals of police officers in the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner and is largely inspired by recent actions in the Black Lives Matter movement.
By Teamsters – Today, the Teamsters Union posted the first of several roadside billboards about the Toyota Corporation [NYSE: TM] in order to educate the American public about the economic and safety dangers posed by the company. The first billboard is located along I-95 in Baltimore and reads, “Toyota: A Danger to American Families.” “Toyota spent years trying to regain consumer confidence after mass recalls in 2009-2011 due to sticking gas pedals and faulty floor mats. Millions more Toyotas are being recalled due to dangerous faulty airbags. Now, on top of these very public issues, Toyota is bidding out much of its automobile transport work to small, unproven operators who undercut the health care protections and retirement security of their drivers,” said Kevin Moore, Teamsters International Trustee and Director of the Teamsters Carhaul Division.