Despite the Supreme Court ruling in Harris V Quinn Service Employees International Union is attempting to organize 26,000 home care workers in Minnesota. This could be one of the largest union elections in the state's history.
A majority of union members today now have ties to a government entity, at the federal, state or local levels. Roughly 1-in-3 public-sector workers is a union member, compared with about 1-in-15 for the private-sector workforce. The typical union worker now is more likely to be an educator, office worker or food or service industry employee rather than a construction worker, autoworker, electrician or mechanic. Far more women than men are in unions.
The staff of Media Matters for America voted overwhelmingly to unionize and join Service Employees International Union. The local they are joining represents other workers in the DC nonprofit world, including Public Citizen, Oxfam America and the United States Student Association.
This is a precedent setting agreement for the Twin City region, Minnesota and even the nation. Many of the workers affected by this new deal with Target represent a segment of the work force that has often been considered “unorganizable.” Language barriers and use of immigration status to threaten workers have all been contributing factors in explaining the difficulty in organizing vast segments of low-wage workers in the United States.
Fast food workers earn 1,200 times less than CEOs, the widest disparity of any U.S. economic sector. McDonald’s employees make about $8.25 per hour on average before taxes, and the corporation tacitly acknowledges it pays poverty wages. The company drew flak last year for a website that advised its employees to budget by spending nothing on keeping their homes warm, finding a place to live that costs less than $600 a month and spending $20 a month on health insurance.
Adjunct professors make $18,000 to $30,000 for the equivalent of full-time work; compared to tenure track professors, who earn $68,000 to $116,000 (plus benefits), according to the American Association of University Professors.
Only three in 10 professors are tenured today, down from six in 10 in the 1970s. Recently, frustrations over the plight of adjuncts have boiled over in congressional hearings, online petitions and a two-day walkout at the University of Illinois.
A decision in favour of Pamela Harris in the Harris v. Quinn case before the U.S. Supreme Court would seriously impact the quality of care provided to tens of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities who use state-supported home care services.
It would do this by ruling the collective agreement covering more than 27,000 workers unconstitutional. More broadly, a ruling that the current system is unconstitutional threatens the future of collective bargaining.
Forming a union is one of the only ways that workers in home-care jobs have been able to have a voice and a pathway out of poverty. Limiting the ability of a state to collaborate directly with home care workers on common sense solutions to meet their own growing workforce needs--which could be the outcome of a right-wing lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court-- sets a terrible precedent for both workers and consumers.
Dissent Magazine (Winter 2014)
The AFL–CIO is a multifaceted institution composed of scores of autonomous unions, so President Richard Trumka’s leadership can hardly turn around this cumbersome vessel all that quickly. But the new emphasis is clear: the unions should ally with progressive partners and devote more energy to make the kind of changes in social policy that can benefit millions of poorly paid and insecure workers.