In recent years, U.S. labor organizing has turned an exciting corner. National headlines have burst with workers putting pressure on far corners of the economy for fair wages and safe, secure jobs — from employees at major logistics corporations like Amazon and UPS to auto workers and Hollywood writers and actors. The world of higher education is no different, and colleges and universities across the country have seen their own wave of new labor campaigns. Last fall, for example, 48,000 workers at the University of California went on a 40-day strike — the largest higher ed strike in U.S. history.
Right to Work
The scene at the Michigan Capitol in Lansing March 14 was reminiscent of mass protests there in December 2012. At that time union members packed the State House to pressure then-Governor Rick Snyder not to sign a bill making Michigan a “right-to-work” state. But Snyder broke his campaign promise not to sign, making Michigan the 27th state with the union-busting law on the books. While a union in a workplace is legally required to represent members and nonmembers alike, in a right-to-work state the union cannot negotiate a contract that makes union dues or service fees mandatory. This weakens unions and lowers the average wage in what have for decades been nicknamed “right-to-work-for-less” states.