Today’s News & Commentary — March 16

Published March 16th, 2015 -  - 03.16.15


The National Labor Relations Board granted graduate student unions at Columbia University and The New School a review of the decision to dismiss their petitions for union recognition, Capital New York reports.  The union petitions, backed by the United Auto Workers, had previously been dismissed by the NLRB’s New York City regional director.  The regional director and the universities had relied on precedent that established graduate students as students precluded from worker status, but the student unions argue that they are workers entitled to statutory bargaining rights.

Illinois unions are preparing to fight “right-to-work” legislation in the wake of Wisconsin’s recently passed law, according to The Chicago Tribune.  Unions have been “reaching out to politicians, community groups, small businesses, nonprofits and local chambers of commerce to explain how workers in right-to-work states earn lower wages and are less likely to have health insurance and pensions.”  25 states, including many of Illinois’ neighbors, have adopted such laws and they are connected with drops in unionization.

The New York Times published a profile on Modesta Toribio, a senior labor organizer for the Make The Road Action Fund in Brooklyn who has challenged gender stereotypes about organizing immigrant labor.  Mr. Toribio has “helped win contracts for eight of what are now the 10 unionized carwashes in the city, achieving higher wages, back pay and better conditions for workers.”  She next plans to organize Chinese restaurant deliverymen paid only in tips.

In The Wall Street Journal, Paul Moreno argues that the present proliferation of right-to-work legislation can be attributed to unions’ failure to respond to the Taft-Hartley Act in the 1960s, when he alleges labor was left behind other liberal priorities.  He writes that “unions were simply left behind amid other liberal priorities, and their failure helped put unions on the defensive—where they still are, at least in the private economy.”

Writing in a New York Times letter, North America’s Building Trade Unions, A.F.L.-C.I.O. President Sean McGarvey takes issue with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s claim that the state’s recently-passed “right to work” law will make it a better place for business.  McGarvey notes that unions “spend billions of dollars training the next generation of skilled tradespeople” and that there is a dearth of skilled labor in Southern right-to-work states despite the construction boom.

The Wall Street Journal reports that employee unions at Air France-KLM, one of the world’s largest airlines, have called off a planned meeting with management to discuss the company’s “five-year plan to cut costs and boost competitiveness, the latest sign of the company’s tense labor relations.”  The cancelled meeting is the latest sign of troubled labor relations at the airline.

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