Labor Day 2011

Organized labor has had a series of setbacks since the midterm elections of 2010. In Wisconsin, legislation rolled back public employee collective-bargaining rights. Ohio passed a similar measure, although it faces a public referendum in November. The summer saw high unemployment, attacks on public employee unions and federal policymakers focused on austerity not job creation.

This summer the NLRB made a series of pro-union decisions. In July, it ruled in Mas-Tech, Inc. and Joseph Guest and Direct TV, Inc. and Joseph Guest (Westlaw password required), Cases 12-CA-24979 and 12-CA-25055, that the employer violated the NLRA when it terminated employees who appeared on a television newscast wearing their uniforms and made disparaging statements about MasTec. The board ruled that employers committed unfair labor practices when they (1) fired nonunionized employees who appeared on a television newscast in their work uniforms and made disparaging comments about their employer; (2) disciplined an employee for using the company’s email system to solicit employees for union activity at work; and (3) fired employees for discussing terms and conditions of their employment through social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The NLRB also denied a motion to dismiss unfair labor practice charges against Boeing, in The Boeing Company and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751, Affiliated With the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (Westlaw password required), Case 19-CA-32431, accused of retaliating against workers in its Washington state plant by adding a second jetliner assembly line to its nonunion South Carolina facility.

In rule making news, the NLRB just published a final rule requiring employers to post notices informing their employees of their rights as employees under the NLRA.

In advance of Labor Day 2011, the 2nd annual CUNY-sponsored study of unionization trends in New York City and State, The State of the Unions 2011, reports on the strength of organized labor in New York showing unionization rates among immigrants and by industry in the City and State. NYC has higher union density (23% of the workforce in 2010-11) than any ther major US city, and New York State (with24%) ranks first among the 50 states. Over the past decade, erosion of union membership has been far more limited in NY than nationally. Key findings include:

Private-sector unionism in New York is twice the national average.

Unionized employees in NY are older, better paid, and more educated than their non-union counterparts in NY and the US.

A majority of New York City’s union members are female, reflecting high union density in the education and health care fields, which employ women in higher numbers than men.

NYC differs from the nation in that non-college educated, blue-collar workers are highly unionized in industries like construction, telecommunications, building services, hotels, urban transit, and home health care.

Women, African Americans, and workers born in Puerto Rico are overrepresented in the highly unionized public sector, and thus have higher unionization rates than other groups.

For more, see the Brooklyn Law School Library catalog record for the 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research entitled The Unions of the States.