Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘bargaining power’

No, NFL Owners Didn’t ‘Lose’ The Lockout Battle With Referees

Friday, September 28th, 2012

There’s an idea floating around the internet today that the National Football League owners “lost” their labor dispute with the NFL Referees Association after the two sides reached a deal last night. The Big Lead’s Jason Lisk said as much in a post today, and others have made similar arguments.

That might be an easy belief to hold, given negotiations got serious as a result of the public relations nightmare that was this week’s Monday Night Football game, when a blown call cost the Green Bay Packers a game. From where I’m sitting, though, that view couldn’t be more wrong.

When the lockout began, the owners had three major asks: they wanted to eliminate the pension benefits current officials receive, add full-time officials, and add a back-up pool of officials. More details will come out, but the deal they reached last night added a group of full-time officials and a back-up pool of officials and grandfathered in pension changes that will eliminate the current defined-benefit retirement program for all officials by 2016. The owners got basically everything they wanted, and somehow they lost?

I’m not seeing it.

If anything, this deal is more evidence of the power corporate interests hold in labor disputes. Laden with cash and able to wait, the NFL spent the offseason moving the NFLRA’s thin red line closer to what the owners wanted, to the point where the reasonable compromise was one that gave the league everything it wanted, if on a slightly slower timeline. That ensured that when fans firmly took a side, the league would still get its way. That power is shared by corporations in lower-profile battles, where companies are locking out workers to pay them less and eliminate pensions and benefits just because they can.

There’s only one loser in this, and it’s the American worker. Another pension is gone, and because the real refs are back on the football field, we’ll all forget about the nonsense and go back to watching the game as if none of this never happened. For a measly $60 million, the owners could have shored up the pensions of employees who make a $9 billion league work. Instead, they ruined three weeks of football to save less than a penny on the dollar, and their reward was to get everything they asked for. And this will keep happening, in sports leagues and factories and workshops across America.

If that’s a “loss,” I’d hate to see what it looks like when they win.

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on September 27, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Decline of Good Jobs Tied to Workers’ Decreased Bargaining Power

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Credit: Joe Kekeris

Many U.S. workers don’t have jobs—nearly 13 million. Less known, however, is that many more don’t have good jobs—fewer than one-quarter of America’s workforce, according to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). The center defines a good job as one that pays at least $18.50 an hour, or $37,000 per year, equal to the inflation-adjusted earnings of the typical male worker in 1979. A good job also includes employer-provided health insurance and a retirement plan (click on chart at left to expand).

The lack of available good jobs is not new. As CEPR finds, compared with 1979, the U.S. economy has lost about one-third (28 percent to 38 percent) of its capacity to generate good jobs.

But why?

The report, “Where Have All the Good Jobs Gone?” outlines how the decline in the economy’s ability to produce good jobs is directly related workers’ declining bargaining power. The study points to the fall in the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage, the decline in union representation, trade deals, high unemployment and other factors that reduce the bargaining power of workers relative to their employers.

“The standard explanation for this loss of the economy’s ability to create good jobs is that most workers skills have not kept up with the pace of technological change,” says John Schmitt, senior economist at CEPR and one of the report’s co-authors.

But it is hard to reconcile that view with the fact that even workers with a college degree are less likely to have a good job now than at the end of the 1970s.

Further, according to the report, more than one-third of U.S. workers had a four-year college degree or more, up from just one-fifth in 1979.

Given that older and better-educated workers generally receive higher pay and better benefits, we would have expected the share of “good jobs” in the economy to have increased in line with improvements in the quality of workforce. Instead, the share of “good jobs” in the U.S. economy has actually fallen.

Get the full report here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on August 1, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

Electrical Workers Use Traditional and Online Organizing in Illinois Sears Win

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Laura ClawsonOrganizing a union is tough enough, given the power employers have over workers and the myriad ways they typically use it to intimidate workers who want to join a union. But organizing workers who don’t spend most of their working hours together building community and trust, but are out in separate locations working on their own, is even more difficult. That makes this successful drive to organize Sears technicians in Illinois all the more impressive.

Workers reached out to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) after being pushed to the breaking point by a new district manager. Sears ran the usual anti-union playbook, holding captive audience meetings and spreading misinformation about the union while simultaneously improving working conditions slightly in hopes of making some workers think a union wasn’t necessary. The workers and IBEW fought back with a campaign that blended traditional tactics—in-person conversations and meetings—with online organizing:

Local 134 Organizer Abe Rodriguez says the Illinois campaign “blended old and new technologies.” Postcards were sent out to prospective members, but the Web site, www.unitedtechsgreatlakes. webs.com was there for younger techs who “live off their laptops and cell phones.” […]

As a symbol of the volunteers’ commitment, Rodriguez remembers an organizing meeting that was called during a snowstorm when techs might have preferred to stay home to watch a big football game between the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. Fifty technicians showed up.

In-person organizing is hugely important, especially when the stakes are as high as they are during a union organizing campaign, with people’s jobs on the line. But increasingly unions are finding ways to spread information and connect with workers online to supplement in-person organizing, especially in cases like this where workers are geographically dispersed.

This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on December 1, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Outsourced: No Laughing Matter

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Sarita GuptaLast week, NBC launched a new show that tries to find comedy in the all-too-real conditions of outsourcing. While the first episode was witty—making light of age-old cultural clashes and stereotypes, there is nothing funny about the reality of outsourcing and the impact it has both on the American worker and their counterparts around the world.

For decades, big companies like the one portrayed in “Outsourced” have been engaged in a global race to the bottom, constantly seeking to maximize their profits by cutting wages, benefits and working conditions.  Corporations have learned to avoid local worker bargaining power by organizing themselves globally and exerting a downward pressure on wages along the supply chain that brings goods from manufacturing to consumers.

Meanwhile, there are currently 15 million unemployed workers in the United States. And the situation is not much better overseas, where many scrape by on substandard conditions and wages that have been outlawed for centuries in the United States.

Going back to the first episode, the angry, American workers who have just been laid off are portrayed only by a stack of bricks thrown through the boss’s window. This is then juxtaposed against the hapless, comedic and cheaper Indian workers who have taken over the call center.

But the bosses are all smiles because by pitting laid-off U.S. workers against workers overseas (and immigrant workers forced to look for work in the United States), companies like the novelty business portrayed in the show get rich while workers around the world, our nation included, struggle to feed their families, access health care and stay in their homes.

Still laughing?

It is hard to find humor in the need for good jobs, fair wages and humane living and working conditions.

So, as not to leave NBC hanging (we at Jobs with Justice are solution oriented, after all), how about another idea for a new NBC sitcom called “Good Jobs, Fair Pay.”  In this innovative new show, U.S. workers would have full and fair employment—all paid for courtesy of a small sales tax on Wall Street, otherwise known as a financial speculation tax.

Workers in other parts of the globe would join U.S. workers in having a standard minimum wage with equal purchasing power.  Multinational corporations would have no incentive of moving from country to country, forcing workers into increasingly lower wages and conditions. And for comedic relief, CEOs would actually pay taxes like the rest of us and share their annual bonus with the workers in the plant.

And the Emmy goes to?

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About The Author: Sarita Gupta is executive director of Jobs With Justice, a national network of more than 40 local coalitions of labor, community, student, and faith organizations, working together to built a broader global movement for economic and social justice.

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