Earlier this month, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed H.B. 4246, a bill that will prevent graduate research and teaching assistants at the state’s public universities from forming unions and bargaining collectively. We asked Alix Gould-Werth (pictured), one of the graduate student research assistants (GSRA) involved in an organizing drive at the University of Michigan, to shed some light on this latest attack on workers. Read more »
As a former student organizer, I’ve been keeping a close eye on the University of Virginia, where 12 students (including a UVA football player) were on hunger strike to advocate for a living wage for campus workers—who all too often face bottom-of-the-barrel wages and benefits. The hunger-striking students received an outpouring of solidarity across the country and after 13 days of fasting, the university finally agreed to take steps toward a living wage for its employees. Read more »
Earlier this month, Los Angeles workers got some long-awaited good news: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board of Directors unanimously approved a project labor agreement (PLA) for upcoming projects that will create an estimated 270,000 good, family-supporting jobs over the next 30 years. What’s even better? Forty percent of work hours will go to disadvantaged communities, and at least half of those hours will go to apprentices—meaning a career path for workers who might otherwise be stuck in dead-end, low-wage jobs. Read more »
Last week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its annual report on union membership rates in the United States. In stark contrast to the decline in union membership we’ve seen in recent years, union membership levels held relatively steady at 11.8 percent in 2011.
Though cash-strapped state and local governments cut jobs, the percentage of public sector workers in unions increased from 36.2 percent to 37.0 percent. Job loss in the public sector was offset by gains in the private sector, where union membership stayed at 6.9 percent with an increase of 110,000 union members. The construction industry, which experienced one of the greatest drops in unionization in 2010, saw 73,000 union members added in 2011—the largest net gain for any industry. Read more »
Today, voters will head to the polls in Ohio and determine the political fate of Senate Bill 5, a bill that would severely limit collective bargaining for the state’s public workers. The referendum on the controversial bill comes just a few months after similar legislation passed in Wisconsin, which was greeted with massive public outcry and protests, culminating in efforts to recall both Democratic and Republican state legislators.
Meanwhile, in California, an initiative has been proposed that would re-introduce so-called ‘paycheck protection,’ which would limit unions’ ability to represent their members’ interests in the political realm. All of these bills are supported almost exclusively by Republicans, who argue that stripping away rights for public servants will somehow generate private sector growth while simultaneously erasing government debt.
There’s an often overlooked motivation for this anti-union legislation: Each bill would significantly limit the workers’ ability, through their unions, to effectively participate in the political process. This is particularly important when one considers that unions represent one of the only counterweights to corporate influence in politics, and offer one of the few avenues through which the 99 percent are given an opportunity to shape the policy choices of our country. Read more »
I’m a big fan of IKEA. They sell cool, affordable furniture and teach me a few Swedish words whenever I go to their stores. They’ve also made it their mission to be a responsible, innovative company that takes care of its workers. In Sweden, where almost all of IKEA’s workers are in unions, we’ve seen that mission fulfilled. The workers there earn about $19 an hour minimum and get five weeks of paid vacation.
So it’s incredibly disappointing to find out that those high standards aren’t true for their U.S. employees too.
At an IKEA subsidiary factory in Danville, Virginia, workers report they are facing pay cuts, mandatory overtime, racial discrimination, and dangerous conditions on the job.
It’s completely outrageous — and it needs to stop. Fortunately there is something you can do today. Write a letter to IKEA’s CEO and tell him to stop the intimidation and to let the U.S. workers have a fair shot to join a union! While we appreciate Ikea’s mission of corporate social responsibility, IKEA’s actions in its U.S. factory speak louder than words.
Guest Post by author and MacArthur Foundation Chair in History at UC Santa Barbara, Nelson Lichtenstein.
As our consumer-driven economy struggles to regain lost ground, Walmart—the big-box retailer notorious for driving down wages and labor standards wherever it goes—is moving forward with plans to open stores in urban centers nationwide. What could the company’s expanded presence mean for workers and our communities?
Currently, Walmart uses its position in the economy to push low-road work that offers its associates no hope of a career. With such low pay and meager benefits, many Walmart employees who enjoy their job simply can’t afford to stay at the company. Career advancement is limited because only a few managerial positions exist at each store. Read more »
Today workers and their families gather across the country to remember and honor colleagues who were injured or killed on the job site last year. While we have made many improvements since workplace tragedies like the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, research tells us more still needs to be done in order to protect the health and safety of America’s workers.
As the economy struggles to rebound and local, state, and federal legislators seek to address cash-strapped budgets, the buzzword has been “shared sacrifice.” But the AFL-CIO’s annual Executive Pay Watch report shows that CEOs of major companies, unlike their employees, haven’t made too many sacrifices. In fact, CEOs from S&P 500 companies received, on average, $11.4 million in total compensation in 2010— a 23 percent increase from the previous year!
Shared sacrifice? Not so much. We sure don’t know any workers who got 23 percent raises last year. Read more »