Governor Bruce Rauner (R) of Illinois vetoed a bill that would have allowed graduate research assistants at the state’s public universities to join labor unions. Currently, graduate teaching assistants — but not research assistants — at the University of Illinois are unionized with the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO), an American Federation of Teachers (AFT) affiliate. Though a spokesperson for the University of Illinois said that graduate research assistants’ research activities “are not work,” GEO pointed out that research assistants perform “invaluable and lucrative labor” for Illinois’ public universities.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a proposed initiative to raise income taxes on the rich to fund the state’s public education system could not proceed to the ballot. The initiative was supported by the Arizona Education Association, the state’s teachers’ union, as well as by Arizona Educators United, the teacher activist group that led the #RedForEd teacher walkout last spring. Supporters of the ballot initiative (Proposition 207) blamed Republican Governor Doug Ducey for stacking the court and are urging Arizona residents to vote for pro-education candidates in the November elections.
Alex Press writes in the Washington Post about the dangers of two-tiered union contracts; and, more specifically, why UPS workers must reject a two-tiered contract proposal (previously covered by OnLabor). Since the 1970s, two-tier union contracts, which divide workers into distinct wage and benefit categories based on their hiring dates, “have been central to the attack on workers’ rights,” Press writes. Such contracts undermine worker solidarity by encouraging workers in the lower tier to mistrust and resent the workers in the higher tier. Two-tier contracts also enable companies to squeeze every penny from their workers. The Teamsters and UPS have reached a tentative agreement that allow the company to create a “new class” of drivers who — unlike the old drivers — would be required to work on weekends; would have less of a say in scheduling; and would be paid less than their coworkers. Many UPS workers are deeply unhappy with this proposed arrangement, and Press writes that “thousands of rank-and-file UPS workers . . . are calling for workers to vote the contract down” and insist on renegotiation.
MIT professor Thomas A. Kochan writes in the Boston Review that to address the contemporary challenges facing the labor movement, we should take inspiration from Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor in the FDR Administration. Specifically, we must follow Perkins’ lead in developing and implementing wide-ranging and innovative policies to combat inequality and increase worker power. Kochan writes that we must guarantee living wages and paid family leave for all workers; invest in physical and digital infrastructure; ensure that workers have access to ongoing training; promote collective bargaining as well as “emerging models of worker voice and representation”; and establish “a new integrated system of justice” based in specialized labor courts.