Union Yes; Union check yesWASHINGTON – Workers across the country have stood up in the past month to fight for better wages and working conditions.

More Americans are backing worker efforts to speak out: According to a new Gallup poll released last week, nearly 6 in 10 Americans stated they approve of labor unions. Efforts by working people to rally around issues ranging from raising wages to improved access to collective bargaining have led to the highest approval rating since 2008. In addition, millennials reported being more pro-union than any other age group, while the number of respondents who want workers to have more influence in public debate has risen 12 points since 2009.

Online newsmakers make news with organizing wins: The last month has seen significant wins for reporters, especially those whose work is primarily focused online. From The Guardian’s United States based staff, to writers for online giants GawkerVice, and Salon, writers have pointed to a greater voice in the workplace, raising wages, and increased benefits as reasons for forming unions.

Hoosier workers win first contract battle: Earlier this month, workers at the Bloomingfoods Co-op, a co-op grocery store chain in Bloomington, IN ratified their first union contract as members of UFCW Local 700. The approximately 250 workers across the co-op’s five stores pointed to raising wages and a fair process for resolving workplace issues as big wins for their first contract.

Department of Energy workers win 2 ½ year contract fight: After nearly three years of negotiations, workers for Battelle, a contractor which operates the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington State, have agreed on a new contract. The members of the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council have cited raising wages and strong benefits as significant victories from the contract.

Sweet home raising wages: Last week, the Birmingham, Alabama City Council passed an ordinance to increase the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 over the next two years. Alabama does not have a state minimum wage, and instead uses the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.  

North Carolina City approves significant raising wages victory: By an overwhelming margin, the Greensboro, NC City Council voted to raise wages for city employees, citing a high percentage of working people living below the poverty line. The council’s decision will raise wages to $15 by 2020 for city employees, and will begin with an initial wage hike to $10 an hour for regular employees and $12 for employees who receive benefits.

Working people score major sick leave win in Pittsburgh: Earlier this month, working people rallied the Pittsburgh City Council to pass sweeping new paid sick leave legislation. The bill, which passed by an overwhelming margin, requires employers with 15 employees or more to provide as much as 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, while smaller companies must provide up to 24 hours per year.

whitehouselogoPresident Obama March 31 vetoed a Republican effort to overturn controversial union voting rules.

Congress passed a resolution of disapproval this month on a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that sped up union elections.

Read the complete story at The Hill.

Union membership still pays…at least in terms of higher wages.

The typical union worker made $970 a week in 2014, compared to $763 for non-union workers, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

That 27 percent spread has remained relatively constant at least since 2000, when the agency started tracking the data.

Read the complete story at CNN Money.


ilinoisGov. Bruce Rauner, the newly elected Republican who has often criticized public sector unions, took his first step toward curbing their power on Monday by announcing an executive order that would bar unions from requiring all state workers to pay the equivalent of dues.

Mr. Rauner, who faces a Democratic-controlled legislature with strong ties to labor, took the unilateral step saying that he believed those fees violate the United States Constitution.

Read the complete story at The New York Times.

Fewer and fewer Americans belong to a union. Membership is down to a historic low of 11.2 percent of the work force, and only 6.7 percent of workers in the private sector.

And if the nation’s confidence in the institution is any measure, not many people are mourning its diminishment. According to a Gallup poll, organized labor inspires less confidence than banks.

Read the complete story at The New York Times.

scales_gavelWASHINGTON — The Supreme Court dealt a blow to public sector unions Monday, ruling that thousands of home health care workers in Illinois cannot be required to pay fees that help cover the union’s costs of collective bargaining.

In a 5-4 split along ideological lines, the justices said the practice violates the First Amendment rights of nonmembers who disagree with the positions that unions take.

Read the complete story at the Associated Press.

LANSING, Mich. – Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group supported by the Koch brothers, has launched an effort to torpedo a proposed settlement in the Detroit bankruptcy case, potentially complicating chances for completing the deal just as its prospects seemed to be improving.

The organization, formed to fight big government and spending, is contacting 90,000 conservatives in Michigan and encouraging them to rally against a plan to provide $195 million in state money to help settle Detroit pension holders’ claims in the case, a key element of the deal.

Read the complete story at the Associated Press.

The United Auto Workers are trying to organize a Volkswagen plant in Tennessee, and opposition is building. But it’s not management fighting the union, it’s Republican politicians.

The Chattanooga factory, which opened in 2011 to build the Passat, employs about 1,550 hourly workers. On Wednesday they begin a three-day vote on whether to join the union.

Read the complete story at CNN Money.

A Volkswagen AG (VOW) plant in Tennessee is poised to become the first foreign-owned car factory in the U.S. with a union after the company agreed to let employees vote on whether to be represented by the United Auto Workers.

Volkswagen has agreed for workers at a Chattanooga assembly plant to vote next week on whether to join the UAW. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board will supervise the Feb. 12-14 vote after a majority of employees there signed authorization cards, the union said yesterday in a statement.

Read the complete story at Bloomberg Businessweek.