Monday, October 26, 2009

Research: immigrants and unions (this post will be updated regularly)

From Labor Movement and Social Welfare (United States). Michael Polzin. Encyclopedia of Social Welfare History in North America.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938. The creation of the 5-day 40-hour work week. This was nationally instituted but came about by union-led collective action. Was any population excluded from the offset? Who?

Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932. denied the federal courts the right to forbid strikes, peaceful picketing, and other actions not illegal in themselves that unions employed in their dealings with employers. From the early 1800s, courts had impeded collective union activity by ruling that such activity, though legal if it involved only one person, constituted a "conspiracy" if it involved more than one and was therefore illegal.

Wagner or National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) of 1935. Gave to employees the "right to self-organization, to form, join or assist labor organizations to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection."

Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 dealt a blow.

Numerous other workplace benefits, now widely available to nonunion workers as well, can be traced to gains first achieved through collective bargaining. Paid leave time—as vacation days, personal days, holidays, bereavement days, and sick leave—are critically important to the well-being of individuals and families, not just to be able to respond appropriately in times of crisis but also to strengthen and celebrate the family ties that are essential for solid communities. Employer-paid insurances—health, dental, vision, life, disability, and legal—help to moderate the effects of situations that could have profoundly negative effects on workers and their families. Pensions, profit sharing, stock ownership, and other retirement funds allow working people to retire with dignity without becoming a financial burden on their families or their communities. Apprenticeship, training and upgrading, tuition assistance, and other educational programs strengthen the capabilities that people can apply to their workplace as well as to the vitality of their communities and the economy at large. Workplace health and safety programs save lives in the short run and in the long term. Federal occupational safety and health programs, underfunded as they currently might be, owe their very existence to union-led initiatives. Employee assistance programs offer a lifeline to workers whose employment, family life, and health are threatened by addictions or other disabling conditions. For a number of reasons that include deterring unionization as well as rewarding, motivating, or retaining employees, many nonunion workplaces provide some or all of these benefits, extending the gains to far more than households with union members.

- Parallel: the development of the American welfare state as mitigator to decrease the allure of socialism; so the development of myriad benefits to decrease the allure of unionization. With the fall of socialism, so the fall of the welfare state (Mishra); similarly, with the fall of unions, so the fall of non-union benefits provision.

Union leaders' reluctance to bring industrial workers into their fold—workers who were often female, recent immigrants, or members of minority groups—created unnecessary divisions within the labor movement, such as the creation of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the 1930s, and diverted energy from the task of advancing a common agenda. Fortunately for workers, the labor movement, and U.S. social welfare, the AFL and CIO resolved their differences and merged in 1955. The loss of manufacturing jobs to low-wage, developing countries has contributed greatly to the decline in union membership that has also weakened unions' political influence. Today, the continuing decline in membership presents perhaps the greatest challenge to unions and their ability to enhance U.S. social welfare. Nonetheless, the mere presence of unions contributes significantly to higher quality of life for union and nonunion workers alike and serves as a check to a corporate-employer-driven social policy agenda.

From Migration Policy:


NPR: Labor Unions now recruiting immigrant...

Britannic Online: Unions and New Immigrants

Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kind of Work Do Immigrants Do? (MPI)
- A greater proportion of immigrant workers from central America are employed in the service occupations and as fabricators, laborers, and operators than native-born workers. These sectors are some of the "stickiest" jobs, meaning the least-susceptible to globalization (offshoring) and therefore the most amenable to unionizing.

"Sticky Jobs"

Overall unemployment in Seattle-Tacoma area hit 8.8% from 4.7% last year (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Percentage of population involved in production, transportation, and material-moving occupations: 19.7% of men, 6.6% of women. Info on union affiliation also in statistical tables here.

Krugman on income disparity (on youtube), incl. the fall of the unions. Full length here, incl. race.

"Organizing Immigrants"

BLS Foreign-born workers labor force characteristics 2008 "rates for foreign-born blacks
(73.2 percent)"? are higher than any other foreign-born population and higher than most or all native-born populations. Go to table 3. Table 4 is broken down by occupation but not race. Shows disproportionate representation of foreign-born in service. Table 5 shows weekly earnings, including that foreign-born blacks make more than native-born blacks, though substantially less than foreign-born whites and asians.

THESIS: Argument for unionization of immigrants as they hold many of the "stickiest" jobs, retail, services, construction, and others that can't be offsourced.

HISTORY COMPONENT: Examine tensions between unions and immigrants in the past in light of better relations in the present.

ROLE OF SOCIAL WORKERS: Facilitating processes to harmonize unions and immigrants to achieve success for both. On micro level, helping immigrants with wage, job security, and benefits, as well as a sense of inclusion and belonging, and on a macro level strengthening unions around "sticky" jobs to resist the capital drain of globalization.

Go to "Foreign-Born Workers" section at this CPS link for these News releases:
- Labor force characteristics of foreign-born workers
- Charts: Foreign-born workforce, 2004: a visual essay (PDF)
- Labor force characteristics of second-generation Americans (September 2006)
- The role of foreign-born workers in the US economy (May 2002)

Labor Force Statistics for the Community Population Survey

Refugee Act 1980, links here and here.

Read this whole thing: Journal of Community Practice, Volume 17 Issue 1 & 2 2009: Economic Justice, Labor and Community Practice In the Social Work periodical stacks.

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