January 18, 2008
New Book on Union Global Campaigns
January 11, 2008
Starbucks Anti-Union Campaign Revealed in E-Mails
From the Wall Street Journal
A series of emails by Starbucks Corp. managers sheds light on the company's efforts to thwart union organizing among its baristas.
The emails, which are part of a labor-dispute proceeding in New York and were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, open a rare window onto the company's labor relations practices. Labor experts not involved with the case said the activity is not illegal. But the emails could prove embarrassing because they show managers using various methods to identify pro-union employees.
In other emails, managers discuss employee relationships to discern their union preferences. In one case, managers sought information about a Halloween party employees attended, and noted that a discussion about the union between two employees ended in part because they "were attracted to each other and this became the focus of their evening."
September 05, 2007
United Auto Workers vs Toyota Round 16
There are two troubling facts about the U.S. auto industry.
1. US Auto employers' US operations have been in decline for the past 20 years resulting in plant closings and layoffs.
2. Foreign Automakers have been opening plants up in the United States at a fast pace, but the US autoworkers union has been unable to organize any of them.
As time goes on more than half of all automobiles made in the USA will be made at foreign owned auto plants by non-union workers. For the current and retired members of the UAW it is important that the union establish a presence and foothold within these foreign plants. Yesterday's NY Times featured an article suggesting that the UAW's luck may be changing for the better.
Hardly a Union Hotbed (NY Times Login Required)
October 03, 2005
Victory for CINTAS Workers
Workers at CINTAS have won a major class action lawsuit against the company. The labor union UNITE-HERE has been waging a campaign to unionize the company's workers.
Low-wage laundry workers in San Leandro won a landmark lawsuit when an Alameda County judge upheld their living wage claim against Cintas Corp.
The Sept. 23 decision was the first class action living wage case decided by a U.S. court. It requires Cintas, the uniform rental giant, to pay more than $1 million in back wages and interest to 219 workers who washed and sorted uniforms, towels and mats between 1999 and 2003 at the Cincinnati-based company's San Leandro and Union City plants. (click link above for full article)
September 30, 2005
New Strategy for Organizing Wal-Mart
TAMPA, Fla. -- It's not a union, but some Wal-Mart workers say it might be the next best thing.Searching for a voice in their work lives, employees of some central Florida Wal-Mart stores have formed a workers group to collectively air complaints about what they claim is shoddy treatment by the retail giant. About 250 employees and former employees from 40 central Florida stores have joined the fledgling Wal-Mart Workers Association, spurred by what they say is a reduction of hours and schedule changes recently that may jeopardize health care benefits for some. Organizers say the word-of-mouth campaign is attracting 15 to 20 new members every week. (click above for full article)
September 27, 2005
White Collar Unionism
Here are some excerpts from the first article mentioned above:
Mr. Davis represents one of the few bright spots for the struggling U.S. labor movement: Despite a blue-collar image, many of the fastest growing unions in the U.S. represent white-collar professionals, including physicians, nuclear engineers, psychologists and judges.
The growth of white-collar unions says much about the precarious nature of jobs of all types in the current economy. Decaying job security and benefits and the effects of global trade on labor costs all have begun to reach into the ranks of professional workers.
"Professionals join unions because they feel that their work is being devalued. Many of these workers had good pensions and good benefits, and they don't anymore," says Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Professionals, she adds, may fear being replaced by independent contractors or seeing their jobs outsourced.
September 08, 2005
NY Times Article Chronicles Difficulty in Pultry Plant Organizing
Union Organizers at Pultry Plants in the South Find Newly Sympathetic Ears (NY Times Free Registration Required) (by Steven Greenhouse)
Hour after hour, Antonia Lopez Paz said, her supervisor at the Koch Foods poultry plant here told women on the deboning line that production demands were so great that they could not go to the bathroom.
"We believe there is a need for a union to come in and help these workers," said Joe Hansen, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which is organizing workers at the two Koch Foods plants here. "The conditions in some of these places are criminal, especially in the way they treat undocumented workers, and it's criminal that they often get away with it."
The 700 poultry workers here, most of them Mexicans, might seem ripe for organizing, but labor's efforts at resurgence face daunting obstacles. Companies often fight back tooth and nail, and many immigrants who are initially sympathetic to unions ultimately shy away, fearing that their employers might grow angry and fire them or have them deported.
August 31, 2005
Change or Die for Steel Unions
A Union-Firms-Markets reader, Rob D, sends the following story.
CLEVELAND - When steelmaking was king in this city and others across the nation, labor unions were as strong as the metal their members made.
With hundreds of thousands of members, the United Steelworkers of America and Independent Steelworkers Union held their own against multimillion-dollar companies.
Today, when organized labor is shrinking with the steel industry, union workers are trying to figure out how they can remain influential in the United States and become a force internationally. The steel industry has emerged from tough times by consolidating, and businesses that survived are increasingly tied to foreign firms.
"This is a global steel world whether we like it or not," said Thomas Conway, vice president and a globalization strategist of the Pittsburgh-based USWA. "We believe labor needs a global solution."
Exactly how globalization will redefine unions is a work in progress.
Experts say declining membership has hurt unions' clout with companies and in politics. The USWA is down to 90,000 members who make steel. Ten years ago, it had 140,000.
Workers have made concessions to keep plants open, such as agreeing to cut jobs and retiree benefits at International Steel Group Inc., based in Cleveland, before it merged this year with Mittal Steel Co., based in the Netherlands.
(click above link for full article)
August 15, 2005
Organized Labor's Problems
Today's Wall Street Journal features two articles on the problems faced by organized labor.
Labor's PR Problem (Subscription Required)
Unions' New Foe: Consultants (Subscription Required)
Keeping in line with both mainstream and many academic accounts of the causes of labor's decline both articles give multiple and seemingly contradictory causes. On one hand the article points to unions as being weak and irrelevant while in another paragraph they are seen as too strong in terms of being rigid and inflexible in accomodating employers in the new economy. Likewise, one article highlights a Wal-Mart worker who along with 18 other workers in her department unanimously rejected unionization because "She (and her co-workers) don't need a union to protect me" and then a few pargraphs down a janitor, who is trying to unionize coworkers claims that his fellow workers would like a union but are too scared (due to management resistance) to join.
It is difficult to get a read on specific reasons for labor's lack of success in organizing drives and based on what we see among different sectors of workers labor may not be able to be all things for all workers. Divergent, sometimes mutually exclusive, opinions on work and unions pose a serious threat for unions going forward.
August 11, 2005
Cintas Campaign: A Hard Test for Change to Win Unions
The campaign by UNITE-HERE against Cintas has been one of the defining organizing drives for the union. It also typifies the type of campaign the unions in the Change to Win campaign want to focus on - large companies, lots of workers, and the potential for inter-union cooperation (Teamsters are also involved in this campaign). Thus far however the campaign has been largely unsuccesful and is the subject of an article in the NY Times today.
Where Neatness Truly Counts (registration required)
But now, bumping up against three other big players with a combined 40 percent market share, growth at Cintas has slowed, prompting the company to offer business services like document storage and to sell washroom and safety supplies and uniforms. At the same time, the company faces a renewed challenge from union organizers.
A lawsuit seeking class-action status, filed in 2003 in federal court in Oakland, Calif., asserts that Cintas's drivers work overtime without pay.
About 2,400 drivers, seeking back pay and other damages, have signed up to be represented in the lawsuit, a lawyer for the drivers, Michael Rubin, said. Cintas calls its drivers service sales representatives and pays them largely on commission, but it acknowledges that the drivers are not exempt from state overtime laws. Cintas would not comment on the lawsuit.
The lawsuit is one of a group of actions against the company in a major organizing drive by Unite Here, a union representing laundry and hotel workers, and the Teamsters, which represents truck drivers. So far, the campaign has not succeeded.
Cintas hired lawyers to sue Unite Here in federal court in Philadelphia last year on behalf of company employees who were contacted, the company says, after organizers obtained their home addresses from vehicle registration records. Unite Here denied any wrongdoing.