Sunday, 17 April 2016

Can musicians organise and get paid for their work

Musicians are often asked to play for free, because this would give them exposure. Sometimes, employers pay less than agreed or nothing at all. Researchers spoke to 70 musicians in London, Paris and Ljubljana and wrote an article in Jabobin Magazine.

Some unions try to support musicians. For example, the British Musicians’ Union has launched a Work Not Play campaign to name and shame employers who ask musicians to play for free. However, organising musicians isn’t easy.

There are significant obstacles to such efforts, due in no small part to many musicians’ skepticism of unions. In France anarchist ideology is also alive and well in the music scene, and we found widespread resistance to the idea of formally regulating labor markets.

Some musicians expose bad employers by word-of-mouth and social media. Some go one step further and organise into collectives that aim to change labour relations. For example, in Ljubjana

we spoke to members of collectives founded on egalitarian principles that had created alternative venues and production and distribution channels. They also built new relationships with venues, asking the venues to commit to pre-agreed pay rates in return for booking them for well-attended cultural events. While these collectives fight to improve material conditions for musicians, they have also projected a radical political message against the privatization and commercialization of venues and distribution channels.

Ian Greer, Barbara Samaluk, & Charles Umney. Work Not Play.

Friday, 8 April 2016

US: How unions transformed the lives of millions of low-wage workers

In an article in the LA Times, labour expert Harold Meyerson analyses the success of Fight for 15 - the campaign to raise the minimum wage:

When SEIU and a band of 200 New York City fast-food workers began the Fight for 15 in 2012, their goal was to unionize the sector, beginning with the industry giant, McDonald’s. That goal is as elusive today as it was then, but the campaign has nonetheless begun to transform the lives of millions of low-wage workers.

Both California and New York have decided to raise the minimum wage. It’s a similar story with the workers who fought unsuccessfully for organising rights at Seattle’s SeaTac airport but ended up winning a higher minimum wage across Seattle:

It proved easier to win a significant raise for 100,000 Seattle workers than to unionize 4,000 workers at the city’s airport — with whom management has yet to sit down at the bargaining table.

Meyerson argues that unions are facing disfunctional labour laws and losing power, but still they manage to win significant improvements for workers. It will take even more of that ingenuity and tenacity to find solutions for today’s disintegrating labour market where regular jobs are replaced by temps, independent contractors, on-call workers and subcontracted workers.

LA Times

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Dutch union wants to ally with environmental organisations

In his New Year speech, chairman Ton Heerts announced that the Dutch union FNV wants to create a movement around social and environmental issues, in collaboration with other organisations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth:

On occasion, we already work with such organisations, for example on the Energy Agreement or in protesting the free trade agreement with the US, TTIP. Or on the Fair Bank Guide and in the Social Alliance. But we should strengthen our collaboration and jointly create a social and sustainable agenda, become a movement.

Further, he criticised the fact that the Netherlands is the European leader in job insecurity. “Flex jobs for all is equal too, but what kind of society will that result in? Back to the day labourers of 1900? We take a stand for real jobs, and we will increase our efforts the coming year.”

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Why American doctors unionise

When an American hospital threatened to outsource medical care, one of the doctors observed: “They can’t fire all of us — there are unions.” The doctors decided to unionise and affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, which already represented nurses at hospital. Noam Scheiber of the New York Times investigated and discoverd it’s not just about outsourcing, but also about bureaucratic efficiency measures:

If you talk to them for long enough, you get the distinct feeling it is not just their jobs that hang in the balance, but the loss of something much less tangible — the ability of doctors everywhere to exercise their professional judgment

“It can’t be all based on production,” one doctor said. “It has to be quality — safety, a good experience. If you’re the patient in the bed, it’s important to you that you’re treated as an individual, that your needs are being met.”

Monday, 4 January 2016

E-mail notifications

Some of you are receiving email notifications of new posts through a service called Feedblitz. Because of the adds Feedblitz includes in its emails, we’ve stopped using their service. Subscribers will therefore no longer receive email notifications. You can still get email notifications through the Blogger service by entering your email in the top-right box. Alternatively, you can follow this blog via Twitter or RSS.

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Power and buzz: Where are trade union headquarters located?

Most trade unions in Europe have their headquarters within walking distance from the centre of political power. Some are in a lively neighbourhood, judging by the convenience store score. Read the details here.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

‘Proud unionist’ leads Labour Party

On Saturday, the British Labour Party overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn as their new party leader. In one of his first public appearances in his new role, Corbyn delivered a speech at the TUC Congress in which he described himself as a ‘proud unionist’ and said: “I am, and always will be, an active trade unionist. That is in my body.”

Meanwhile, the Guardian suggests that Corbyn’s views may play a crucial role in the upcoming referendum on whether Britain should stay in the EU. The Conservative prime minister David Cameron is negotiating a new deal with the EU, and “the prime minister has been under pressure from business to include changes to workers’ rights in his negotiation package” (which would seem consistent with his broader anti-union strategy).

The TUC has indicated it may revoke its support for staying in the EU if this means rolling down social and employment rights. As TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady explained to the FT: “Those who are expecting the trade union movement to bang the drum for Europe should think very hard about whether they can in all good faith make that request and then attack our rights by the back door.”

According to the Guardian, there is ‘deep concern’ in the pro-European camp at the ‘growing Eurosceptic mood’. Corbyn hasn’t taken a stance yet but has said Cameron should not have a ‘blank cheque’ in his negotiations with the EU.

Below are some quotes from Corbyn’s speech at the TUC Congress.

International solidarity
“We need to stand in solidarity with trade unionists all over the world demanding exactly the same things as we have secured for ourselves and trying to defend for ourselves. Trade unionism is a worldwide movement, not just a national movement and we should never be ashamed to say that.”

Democratic labour movement
Referring to the people who participated in his own election: “But all those people coming forward to take part in this process came forward, yes, because they were interested, yes, because they were hopeful but, yes, because they wanted to be part of a democratic process where we make policy together. … I want everybody to bring their views forward, every union branch, every party branch and every union, so we develop organically the strengths we all have, the ideas we all have and the imagination we all have.”

The proposed Trade Union Bill
“They are threatening the right of peaceful protest by looking to criminalise picketing. They are even threatening the right to free speech by seeking to limit what a union member can say on social media during a dispute. Are we really going to have teams of civil servants or lawyers or police or somebody trawling through massive numbers of twitter messages, Facebook messages, to find something somebody said about their employer or about an industrial dispute? What kind of intrusive society are they really trying to bring about.”

“They call us “deficit deniers”, but then they spend billions in cutting taxes for the richest families and for the most profitable businesses. What they are as is “poverty deniers”. … Let’s be clear. Austerity is actually a political choice that this Government has taken and they are imposing it on the most vulnerable and poorest in our society.”