News & Commentary

September 15, 2015

Hannah Belitz

Hannah Belitz is a student at Harvard Law School.

On Monday, Governor Scott Walker called for anti-union measures that, if implemented, would greatly weaken organized labor’s influence in the workplace.  The New York Times and Politico report that Mr. Walker wants to expand right-to-work policies, eliminate the NLRB, and make it illegal for federal employees to join unions.  Mr. Walker has already ended most collective bargaining rights of teachers and other public employees in Wisconsin.  In addition, he signed a bill this year making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th right-to-work state, thereby preventing private-sector unions from requiring workers to pay union dues.

According the the Associated Press, union leaders are “livid” over Mr. Walker’s proposals.  Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said that Mr. Walker is “declaring a war on middle-class workers,” and other union leaders referred to Mr. Walker’s attacks on unions as a “desperate” move by a “floundering” campaign.  Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have also criticized Mr. Walker, and he faces pushback from some Republicans, too.  “Instead of treating all union members like they are the enemy,” said former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, “it’s time we [the GOP] invite them to give some of us in our party a try.”

At the Washington Post, Lydia DePillis covers the places where workers “can make decent money without a college degree.”  The Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Cleveland conducted research to identify the best metro areas for workers without a college degree, and found them to be Louisville, Kentucky; Birmingham, Alabama; Toledo, Ohio; Springfield, Massachusetts; and St. Louis, Missouri.  Some of these cities tend to demonstrate more “economic stagnation than dynamism,” whereas places like New York, D.C., Los Angeles, and Miami, which “we typically regard as healthy,” offer the lowest percentage of relatively well-paying jobs accessible to people without college degrees. 

The United Automobile Workers (U.A.W.) Union and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles are negotiating a new national labor agreement, the New York Times reports.  The U.A.W. has been in negotiations with Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors since July, but chose to reach the first settlement with Fiat Chrysler.  This decision surprised many industry observers, since Fiat Chrysler is the least profitable of the three, and is therefore expected to present the toughest negotiation.  Arthur Schwartz, an industry consultant and retired G.M. labor negotiator, said the union chose to negotiate with Fiat Chrysler first because it in the worst financial shape.  If the union had negotiated with G.M. or Ford first, it would have been difficult for Fiat Chrysler to match their agreements.  The union’s strategy is thus to reach a deal that Fiat Chrysler can afford, and then attempt to negotiate better terms with Ford and G.M. Dennis Williams, the U.A.W. president, said his main priority is to negotiate wage increases for veteran workers and entry-level employees. The union also hopes to reduce the pay gap between the tiers of workers, and potentially reduce the number of lower-paid employees.

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