Posts tagged ‘Hourly Wage’

‘Nonsense fact’ about union workers used in Super Bowl ad


Posted February 8, 2012 at 10:55 am by Lawrence Mishel

That’s how the Washington Post fact checker, Glenn Kessler, put it in his review of the following assertion used in the Super Bowl ad (watch below) by the Center for Union Facts*: “Only ten percent of people in unions today actually voted to join the union.”

Kessler dug in to see where that came from and apparently it is an “estimate [of the] the proportion of employees who both would have voted for the establishment of a union at their companies and were still in their jobs.” As Kessler points out, this has no bearing on the extent to which workers currently covered by collective bargaining would vote to maintain collective bargaining. It is as relevant, as Jared Bernstein points out, as “saying Virginia isn’t a state because none of its current residents voted for statehood.”

What are the facts? Richard Freeman (Harvard University) and Joel Rogers (University of Wisconsin) report on page 69 in their book, What Workers Want, that 90 percent of union workers wanted to keep their union based on their answer to the question, “If a new election were held today to decide whether to keep the union at your company, would you vote to keep the union or get rid of it?”

Union workers have many special legal rights and protections. For instance, union workers by law have the right to vote for union officers and any dues increase, initiation fee or
assessment. The laws protecting internal union democracy are far stricter than those for corporate governance and shareholder rights. Plus, workers also have clear rights to decertify unions. This ad and this “fact” do not capture what union worker rights are nor even attempt to reflect what union workers’ views are of collective bargaining.

In fact, a much larger share of the non-managerial workforce wants a union than has a union. Freeman wrote in 2007:

“Given that nearly all union workers (90%) desire union representation, the mid-1990s analysis suggested that if all the workers who wanted union representation could achieve it, then 44% of the workforce would have union representation.”

So, if workers could freely have a union when they wanted one, union representation in the United States would be on par with that of Germany.


*By the way, the CUF is just a small part of an array of misleading public relations efforts conducted by Richard Berman on behalf of special interests.

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Union Benefits and Right to Organize


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Graduate Assistants Speak Out On Union


Posted on February 10, 2012 by Richard A. Levins

 One of the most annoying things about being a professor is the day you realize that your graduate students are smarter and more articulate than you are. At first, it bothers you terribly. Then, as time goes on, you come to accept it more gracefully. At least that’s how it’s been for me.

Perhaps you’ve noticed a few comments on my last posting on unions for graduate research assistants at the University of Minnesota. Some were in favor, some objected, but all were thoughtful and worthy of our attention.

I sent out a call for help in putting together my response. Sara Nelson, a graduate assistant and doctoral student at the University of Minnesota, offered something that I can’t improve upon.  So, I will simply quote verbatim:

“The bargaining unit is defined in Minnesota law – the only way to have a union is to have a union for all teaching and research assistants and graduate instructors.

“It is true that, as grad assistants, our work across the university varies greatly – but we are all grad assistant employees, and we are all affected by terms and conditions of our employment determined at the level of the upper administration (though the specifics of our employment are – and would continue to be with a union – determined at the department level). A union would give us the opportunity to negotiate on equal footing with the administration over these basic terms and conditions; a contract would be able to establish base pay, benefits, and job protections for all workers, but this does not mean a flattening of wages across the bargaining unit – above these minimums, diversity among departments is maintained and the functions of individual departments in setting competitive compensation is not curtailed. The fundamental point is that all graduate assistants across campus have the opportunity to provide their input on an initial contract and to vote on this contract, and grad assistants will not approve a contract that is not beneficial to them.

“Further, regardless of differences in pay and benefits, the union is able to give all graduate assistants democratic control in setting the terms and conditions of their employment, which are enforceable in a legally-binding contract.  Regardless of whether we feel satisfied with the status quo, the fact is that it can be (and has been) changed at the whim of the administration. My biggest concern, personally, is less increasing my compensation (though a cost of living increase every few years would be nice) than gaining this democratic control.

“Regarding strikes: strikes are extremely rare (more than 98% of contract negotiations are settled without a strike), and involve a sacrifice for any worker – they are a serious decision that no one takes lightly. Those of us in the social sciences and humanities who may not be funded on external research grants are still required to make progress in order to maintain our positions, and take our work as research and teaching assistants seriously enough not to abandon it except under the most dire of circumstances. A strike requires a 2/3 majority vote, in order to make sure that a super majority of members feel that a strike is absolutely necessary. Further, in the extremely rare case that grad assistants decide they need to strike, no one can be forced to participate in a strike or to discontinue work. The 2/3 majority is designed to ensure that a strike would have strong enough support to succeed.”

I thank Ms. Nelson for her help with this posting. More than that, I thank her and all of you graduate students who are working to find ways that a union can give each and every one of you a stronger voice in administrative decisions. You need it now and, believe me, you will need it much more when you take the next step in your careers.

shareshareshareshareshare

This entry was posted in Economic Policy, Labor Unions and tagged graduate student assistants, graduate student union, Richard Levins, UAW by Richard A. Levins. Bookmark the permalink.

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