Friday, 15 August 2014

How SIPTU organised 12,000 care workers

In an article that will appear in Industrial Relations Journal, Caroline Murphy and Thomas Turner analyse how Irish trade union SIPTU used a combination of grassroots organising, court cases and political lobbying to organise (home) care workers and oppose cutbacks.

The campaign started in 2004 when the economy was buoyant. As a result of the 2008 fiscal crisis, the care sector faced cutbacks and outsourcing. The union responded with intensified organising aimed at creating solidarity among all workers in the care sector.

A crucial element in the campaign was the support of recipients of care and their family members, who participated in public demonstrations. Another element was a series of ‘road shows’ on the restructuring of home care, organised in collaboration with the government. Care workers were entitled to paid time off to attend. The meetings provided the union with an opportunity to mobilise more workers.

Up till now, SIPTU has concentrated on preventing further privatisation of care. An important challenge lies in organising care workers already employed by private sector companies, Murphy and Turner argue.

Article (gated)

Friday, 1 August 2014

Union organizing should be a civil right

US lawmakers have presented a plan for a bill that would make union organizing a civil right. Partly, the bill is about making a statement: “We have a fundamental right to stand up and speak out about injustice in this country”. But the issue is not just symbolic: the bill would give workers the possibility to take meaningful legal action if they’re discriminated against as a result of their union activities.

The Nation, Working in these times

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Ruling: ‘McDonald’s accountable for labour violations of franchises’

In a ruling called ‘outrageous’ by business groups, the American National Labor Relations Board asserts that McDonald’s may be held jointly accountable for labour and wage violations at its franchises. Experts quoted by the New York Times suggest the ruling, if upheld, may have far-reaching consequences, “making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations”.

The labour board ‘found merit in 43 of the 181 claims, accusing McDonald’s restaurants of illegally firing, threatening or otherwise penalizing workers for their pro-labor activities’. Another 64 are still being investigated.

Via. Background on fastfood campaign

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

New phase in fastfood campaign may involve direct action

The past months have seen an amazing spread of fastfood workers’ protests over the US and even across the world (last May, see map above). Workers are demanding $15 per hour and the right organize. Last weekend, over 1,300 fastfood workers attended a convention in Illinois to discuss the next stage of their campaign, vowing to do ‘whatever it takes’. This may include direct actions such as occupying restaurants and sit-down strikes.

Inspired by Martin Luther King and by the Justice for Janitors campaign, workers ‘voted unanimously to conduct a wave of civil disobedience actions’. The campaign is growing into a broad social movement:
A video shown at the convention on Saturday morning drew an explicit line between the civil rights era, organized labor, feminism, the immigrant justice movement, the push for marriage equality, and the fast food workers. Speakers repeatedly emphasized the inclusiveness of the fast food workers’ movement, and its commitment to immigrant rights, racial justice, gender parity, and LGBT equality. (MSNBC)
The campaign is already paying off, explained president Mary Kay Henry of service workers’ union SEIU. The union has just signed a contract for 20,000 cafetaria and other service workers in the LA school district that will raise their wages, now often $8 or $9 per hour, to $15 by 2016. The campaign has also put income inequality on the political agenda. Seattle introduced a local minimum wage of $15 per hour and similar measures are considered in San Francisco and Chicago. In the midterm elections in November, there will be efforts to raise the minimum wage in many states.

Meanwhile, fastfood ceo’s earn about 1,200 times as much as they pay their workers. Since 2000, their pay has increased by over 300% while their workers’ wages have risen only 0.3%.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Domestic workers participate in action research

A network of researchers, trade unionists and domestic workers has done a study on the position of domestic workers in the Netherlands and South Africa. Domestic workers had an active role in the research. The researchers explain:
In doing so, we wanted to redress the frequent experiences of domestic workers who have been “studied” by researchers who often demand time, ask difficult and intimate questions, and rarely return their results or give back to the domestic workers and their organizations. At the same time, we focused on assuring that this research would be relevant to domestic work- ers themselves, accessible to organizations and applicable to the active national contexts that are developing policy changes to increase workers’ rights.
In a manual, they describe how the research was done. The researchers took responsibility for the research methodology, while workers had a role as co-researcher. Any worker who is interested in participating as a co-researcher should be allowed to do so, the authors suggest, although there are some practical considerations (language, literacy, time). The co-researchers were trained and carried out interviews. The manual discusses issues like deciding on the research question, finding respondents, interview skills, transcribing and coding the interviews and analysing the results.


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

The Netherlands: More industrial action, better outcomes

During the first five months of this year, the number of collective actions has doubled relative to the same period last year, the Dutch union federation FNV has announced.

Those actions were often a necessary response to employer proposals to deteriorate employment conditions. In sectors that saw industrial action, better collective bargaining agreements have been reached. The average wage increase, 1.73%, is better than last year.

Mariëtte Patijn, collective bargaining co-ordinator at the FNV:
We want employers to treat people in a sustainable manner. We want them to provide honest jobs for everybody, paying living wages, without exploitation and underpayment. This requires that workers mobilise. This will not happen overnight. We expect this to take a couple of years.

The graph shows the average number of actions and ultimatums per month over the first five months of each year.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Labour conflicts: Unions trusted more than bosses

The Radboud University has done a survey among union members to gain a better undertsanding of the role of identification and trust in decisions to join a strike:
In the strike literature, identification with the trade union is considered an important predictor of strike participation. Social identification is a person’s connection with a group. In social psychology, it’s an important concept to explain the choices people make. The stronger the connection with the union, the more likely the person is to join the strike. But an employee can also identify strongly with a company. Many people are proud of their jobs and the organisation they’re working for. It’s not unlikely for employees to identify both with their employer and the trade union.
The survey shows that during an emerging collective bargaining conflict, workers identify much more strongly with the union (3.5 on a 1-5 scale) than with management (2.4). Also, they trust the union far more than management (3.8 vs 2.9).

Source (pdf, in Dutch)