Posts Tagged ‘unions’

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It took two and a half years but, on the basis of yesterday’s ruling by the National Labor Relations Board (pdf), research and teaching assistants at Columbia University now have the right to form a union (as GWC-UAW Local 2110).

It comes as no surprise that Columbia’s administration opposed the ruling:

The university said in a statement Tuesday that it’s reviewing the ruling, but that it “disagrees with this outcome because we believe the academic relationship students have with faculty members and departments as part of their studies is not the same as between employer and employee.”

First and foremost, Columbia said, “students serving as research or teaching assistants come to Columbia to gain knowledge and expertise, and we believe there are legitimate concerns about the impact of involving a nonacademic third party in this scholarly training.”

And the consequences of the NLRB ruling extend far beyond Columbia:

NPR’s Yuki Noguchi reports that “only a small fraction of graduate students at public universities are currently represented by unions — but the decision governing private university students is expected to lead to unionization efforts that could organize tens of thousands more.”

The NLRB had long held that students who teach or research at a private university were not employees covered under the National Labor Relations Act, Yuki reports. That changed in 2000, when the board decided a case in favor of students, and changed again with another ruling four years later. Now the NLRB has reversed itself yet again.

In Tuesday’s decision, the board majority wrote that the 2004 ruling “deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the Act, without a convincing justification in either the statutory language or the policies of the Act.”

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Not surprisingly, Yale (where graduate-student employees have been attempting to organize their own union for 25 years) echoed Columbia’s response:

Peter Salovey, president of Yale, said in a separate statement that the “mentorship and training that Yale professors provide to graduate students is essential to educating the next generation of leading scholars” and that he’d “long been concerned that this relationship would become less productive and rewarding under a formal collective bargaining regime, in which professors would be ‘supervisors’ of their graduate student ‘employees.’”

But the American Association of University Professors, which argued in an amicus brief in the Columbia case that collective bargaining can improve graduate students’ academic freedom, applauded the NLRB decision.

“This is a tremendous victory for student workers, and the AAUP stands ready to work with graduate employees to defend their rights, including rights to academic freedom and shared governance participation,” Howard Bunsis, chair of the association’s Collective Bargaining Congress and a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University, said in a statement. “Graduate employees deserve a seat at the table and a voice in higher education.”

Protest of the day

Posted: 26 May 2016 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

[ht: bn]*

Meanwhile, unions (led by the CGT, the Confédération générale du travailare leading strike actions across France at oil refineries, nuclear power stations, ports, and transportation hubs to protest the labor reform bill the government pushed through the National Assembly without a vote.

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*Here is a link to the lyrics of the famous Italian partisan song “Bella Ciao.” And another link to the Nuit Debout orchestra’s performance of Verdi’s “Nabucco.”

 

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Throughout American history, whenever workers try to organize, they’re opposed by their employers.

That was true in the period of manufacturing, and then with the growth of the service sector. Now, it’s true in the so-called sharing economy.

Seattle [ht: sm] was the first city in the nation to allow drivers for companies such as Uber and Lyft, as well as taxi and for-hire drivers, the right to collectively negotiate on pay and working conditions.

Back in January, Uber tried to stop workers from organizing by having their customer service representatives engage in union-busting by reading anti-union statements to drivers.

“Drivers choose Lyft to earn extra money when, where and for however long they can work,” a company spokeswoman told PCMag. “We continue to share concerns raised by city officials that the ordinance threatens the privacy of drivers, conflicts with longstanding federal labor and antitrust law, and may undermine the flexibility that makes Lyft so attractive both to drivers and passengers.”

Now, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is suing Seattle over the new ride-sharing ordinance.

“This ordinance threatens the ability not just of Seattle, but of every community across the country, to grow with and benefit from our evolving economy,” Amanda Eversole, president of the Chamber’s Center for Advanced Technology and Innovation, said in a statement.

“Technology companies are leading the charge when it comes to empowering people with the flexibility and choice that comes with being your own boss, and that is something to be championed, not stifled,” she added.

Seattle’s ordinance—approved unanimously by the city council but opposed by Mayor Ed Murray—threatens the viability of that economy, the Chamber said.

The U.S. economy today is radically different from what it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. And, yet, some things have not changed: Workers are exploited and they try to organize unions to bargain over their wages and working conditions. Meanwhile, their employers do everything they can to try to stop them.

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Apparently, physicians are not going gently into that good night.

Doctors are being increasingly treated like assembly-line workers—forced to see more patients, in order to boost nonprofit hospitals’ profits, or replaced by contractor doctors or outsourced as “hospitalists,” who are employed by multistate management companies.

As recently as the mid-1990s, there was no one called a hospitalist. Most doctors would simply scramble from their offices to the hospital when they had to tend to patients there. But the discipline grew rapidly thereafter — to roughly 50,000 hospitalists nationwide in 2015 from about 11,000 in 2003, according to industry estimates. . .

Hospitalists could also increase hospital profits. They were on hand to discharge people throughout the day, emptying beds that could generate revenue again. And while paying the doctors was a new cost, hospitals at first found the efficiencies so advantageous that hospitalists were afforded the rare privilege of spending more time with patients. The doctors spent the time diagnosing and treating what were often highly complicated conditions — chronic health problems stacked on top of one another, or multiple organ failures.

This reprieve from the economic forces bearing down on the medical profession didn’t last long, however. “A consequence of how much the health care market has changed is that everybody has to be more efficient,” said Adam Higman, who specializes in hospital operations at Soyring Consulting in St. Petersburg, Fla. He noted that the increasing focus on metrics like readmission rates and hospital-acquired infections had created more work for hospitalists, who are responsible for a lot of documentation. “In some sense that comes to the detriment of the patient, there’s not as much quality time,” he said. “In some sense, that’s to their benefit — there’s a system to manage them.”

But now, some of the doctors are fighting back, by forming unions and then affiliating with larger union confederations, which in some cases already represent the nurses at those hospitals.

That’s a start—but probably not enough.

We’ve spent a lot of time in recent years debating health insurance. Clearly, it’s time to take up the debate about how healthcare itself is provided, and how nurses, doctors, and other healthcare providers participate in making the decisions about how their patients are cared for.

And we need to do this while we can still see with blinding sight.

I missed this protest by Air France workers when it first happened. But apparently, in the days and weeks since, after five of the protesting workers were arrested, the tide in France has turned in their favor.

Many are baffled by the treatment being meted out to the five, who are all members of the CGT labour union.

They were protesting last week, along with hundreds of others, against imminent job cuts, before two bosses had their shirts ripped off, and were sent running for dear life.

Seven people were hurt in the attack, including a security guard who was knocked unconscious and required hospital treatment.

Although 38% of French people condemn the violence, 54% say they understand the workers’ anger.

According to the BBC,

Only France’s far left, and the CGT union behind the demonstration, came out in strong support of the shirt-rippers, with the union reiterating their “total support” for those arrested in the aftermath of the violence.

But then something interesting happened, says Gil Mihaely, deputy editor at current affairs magazine Causeur.

“The wind changed,” he says. “At first people were shocked by the images, but after the emotion died down, something changed. . .

Unions may also be an occasional lightening rod for a working class that feels increasingly powerless and invisible, but when it comes to violent revolt like that at Air France, says Mr Mihaely, the ruling class also bears some responsibility.

“The story here is not just the unions, it’s the French elites,” he says.

“That’s why we have the same re-enactment of the French Revolution – the aristocracy, the legitimacy of violence, the small humiliating the big.

“There are too many officers who were never soldiers,” he explains.

“When you have to announce bad news, every ounce of credibility and legitimacy counts. The future is less job security; it’s work more and earn less; it’s a smaller pension taken later.

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