Archive for July 2016
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By Alex Ding
The National Labor Relations Board on Monday overturned a Bush-era standard that said a union could only organize a bargaining unit of jointly employed and regular employees if both employers consented—even if those employees worked together closely. “Jointly employed” includes temps who are hired through staffing agencies.
The new decision allows jointly employed temps to bargain collectively in the same unit with the solely employed workers they work alongside, ruling that bosses need not consent so long as workers share a “community of interest.”
In a 3-1 decision, the Board overturned a 12-year-old ruling in Oakwood Care Center, where the Board said that a group of temporary workers could not unionize with permanent employees without the approval of their employer and the appropriate staffing agency.
In this new ruling from Miller & Anderson, Inc., the Board returns to a standard set in 2000, during the Clinton administration, in a case called M.B. Sturgis, Inc., which was overruled in Oakwood.
Under Sturgis, and now Miller & Anderson, permanent and jointly employed workers can negotiate in the same unit if they are employed by the same primary employer, and if they share a “community of interest.”
In a statement announcing the ruling, the NLRB said, “requiring employer consent to an otherwise appropriate bargaining unit desired by employees, Oakwood has … allowed employers to shape their ideal bargaining unit, which is precisely the opposite of what Congress intended.”
What the ruling means
The ruling represents a blow to corporations that have moved forcefully, sometimes overwhelmingly, toward using temporary workers in an effort to block worker benefits and collective bargaining.
Pro-corporate entities like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Staffing Association (ASA) weighed in on the case last year, calling for the Board to uphold to the Oakwood standard and leave intact the employer consent requisite.
In an amicus statement, the ASA wrote, “Were the board to revert, [it would] … sow uncertainty and conflict.”
For labor and working people, the ruling represents an exciting precedent from the board. The ruling makes it more challenging for employers to avoid labor contracts by using temporary services and removes some obstacles for workers in negotiating effectively with their bosses.
The AFL-CIO, SEIU and the NLRB general counsel supported a return to Sturgis. Warehouse Workers for Justice, a worker center in Chicago, described the decision as “a win for all warehouse workers.”
NLRB counsel Amy Cocuzza, in her brief for Miller & Anderson, affirmed that in matters of collective bargaining, “The employers’ consent, or lack thereof, should not be a consideration.”
By Brian Finnegan, AFL-CIO
Workers from many countries this week made clear they reject the process in Brazil to remove democratically elected president Dilma Rousseff. Workers from around the world unite every June at the annual International Labor Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, to debate with governments and employers and defend workers’ rights. While this year’s meetings have focused on improving wages and conditions in global supply chains, worker delegations took the opportunity to make their opinions known when the interim government of Brazil’s minister of labor began to address the plenary on Wednesday.
Wearing shirts saying, “We are Brazil. We are against the coup,” worker delegates rose to their feet, holding signs that read, “This minister is illegitimate” and “Solidarity with Brazilian workers and democracy.” Many shouted, “Minister of the coup.”
Those leading the impeachment are themselves charged with corruption and stealing millions of dollars, while Rousseff is not. They have demonstrated their corruption repeatedly since assuming power. After taking office, the interim president named an all-white, all-male cabinet in a country where the majority is of African descent. Since then, revelations of corruption have surfaced regarding seven of the new ministers. Two already have been forced to resign. The minister of planning stepped down less than a week after taking office, when evidence emerged that he and other politicians had organized Rousseff’s impeachment to protect allies in Congress from corruption investigations.
Joao Felicio, former president of Brazil’s largest labor federation, CUT, and current president of the International Trade Union Confederation (of which the AFL-CIO is a part), thanked the AFL-CIO and its allies for joining the action. “There are acts of solidarity that you remember forever,” Felicio said. “Today was one.”
The AFL-CIO has made public its opposition to Rousseff’s removal and was joined in the protest by the United Steelworkers, the New Trade Union Initiative (India), Jobs with Justice and Warehouse Workers for Justice (U.S.), Asia Floor Wage (Indonesia) and the National Guestworker Alliance (U.S. and Mexico).
When 100,000 protesters occupied the Wisconsin State Capitol in early 2011 in an attempt to thwart Governor Scott Walker’s bill revoking the rights of public sector employees, a group of labor researchers and scholars were motivated to coordinate their efforts to better serve the interests of the working class.
“We knew we needed academics with credibility saying that what was happening with Wisconsin’s attack on unions was not right,” says Erin Johansson, who at the time was a researcher for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group American Rights at Work.