Talk:worker concerns

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references and discussion of worker and union issues[edit]

NB worker issues[edit]

  • inconsistent union representation of skilled labourers in the province e.g. construction and skilled trades, call centres, forestry, fisheries, small industry
  • inconsistent union representation of skilled labourers working out of the province e.g. skilled trades workers in western Canada
  • lack of union representation of unskilled labourers in the province e.g. hospitality industry, call centres, fish processing, retail etc.

References for further study[edit]

What Works: Boosting Clothing Workers By Bruce Herman and Linda Dworak[edit]

America's unions are taking the lead in launching a host of what are called High Road Partnerships that build alliances with employers and their communities. One of the most successful and oldest is the New York-based Garment Industry Development Corporation (GIDC).

Excerpts: "GIDC was created to strengthen New York's clothes makers with the slogan "keep jobs in fashion." Now in its sixteenth year of operation, GIDC's sectoral strategy is designed to contribute value-added programs and services that maximize the competitiveness of New York City apparel manufacturers and simultaneously retain, grow, and improve jobs. This strategy combines education and training with technology diffusion and market development, providing comprehensive support to the city's fashion industry.

GIDC's major accomplishments include:

  • training approximately 1,000 garment workers and management personnel annually;
  • creating the Garment Industry Training Center with state-of-the-art industrial sewing equipment located at the High School of Fashion Industries;
  • establishing a Training and Technology Extension Service;
  • creating JobNet, a job identification and referral service;
  • acting as a conduit to existing government assistance programs to upgrade technology and improve productivity;
  • generating over $35 million in new international business through the Fashion Exports/New York and New York Fashion International programs;
  • completing an extensive study of the child care needs of apparel industry workers;
  • launching domestic market development initiatives - Quick Response, the Sourcing Center, and the Made-in-New-York program;
  • opening the Fashion Industry Modern-ization Center, a technology and training center located in the heart of Chinatown."

AFL-CIO created the Working for America Institute in 1998, to document and foster the High Road Partnerships. Contact information: 815 16th St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20006 (tel. 202-638-3912, fax 202-783-6536)

Reinventing Unions By Stephen A. Herzenberg, John A. Alic, and Howard Wial[edit]

Labor unions have an important role in the New Economy. In the industrial era, unions negotiated work rules, while managers did the thinking. New union leaders are equipping workers with relevant skills and more flexible organizations.


"To many Americans, the word "union" brings to mind a pot-bellied, cigar-smoking, aging, male labor leader... There's more than a grain of truth in the belief that unions are out of step with the times... productivity improvement today depends more than ever on what we call "economies of depth" - the ability of employees to solve problems, customize services, and improvise - and on "economies of coordination" - the ability to work cooperatively so that the conference runs smoothly, the insurance policy gets issued in days instead of weeks, and hospital patients get the care they need when they need it."

"The bad news is that the New Economy is largely failing to generate the worker skills it needs to function at peak efficiency. One reason is that firms no longer expect to employ workers indefinitely (in the extreme, until retirement). This exacerbates an old problem: Firms have no incentive to train workers who may soon be "downsized" or quit."

"In theory, workers themselves could pay the bills for acquiring the skills employers desire. But many young and low-wage workers cannot do so. Besides, if they have no assurance of a better job when they finish their training, why should they risk a substantial investment?"

"If unions are able to adapt, they could help solve the "free rider" problem that makes firms reluctant to invest in training. They can do so by drawing on the rich legacy of craft unions. Like the guilds from which unions first arose, craft unions have always defined themselves as defenders of quality. In the construction industry, unions negotiate arrangements under which contractors share the costs of jointly managed apprenticeships. These programs integrate classroom training with on-the-job mentoring to consolidate workers' practical knowledge. They develop the skills essential to wire a home properly or weld a cross- county pipe."

"Construction also illustrates what happens when unions weaken and decline. Starting around 1970, non-union construction firms expanded by undercutting union contractors. They pushed down wages, driving experienced workers from the industry, but hardly ever contributed to apprentice training programs. Today, the industry is starved for skilled workers. What homeowners and other construction customers have gained from cheaper labor, they lost in lower productivity and shoddy quality.

As in construction, unions rooted in New Economy occupations and industries, rather than in individual firms, could promote training and peer learning. They could make occupations the new locus of job security. Unions that cut across employers could help provide portable pensions and health care."

"There will always be demand for what are now low-paying, labor-intensive services: in nursing homes, hotels, trucking lines, theme parks, and child care centers. There is no escaping it: Policies that raise the quality and status of what are now low-paying service jobs must be part of any strategy for expanding the middle class (just as industrial unions lifted auto workers into the middle class). We cannot create enough good jobs without more collective bargaining at the bottom of the labor market and without a major increase in the minimum wage... Is Labor Up To the Challenge?"

Still, despite public gestures and habits that New Democrats view as pointing to the past, the House of Labor is beginning to innovate. Across the country, unions are laying the foundation for a labor movement that meshes with the New Economy:

  • Manufacturing unions spurred the creation of the Wisconsin Regional Training Partnership, which now includes 56 firms and 60,000 workers. The partnership addresses skill shortages and work reorganization that help local firms compete, thereby creating new high-wage jobs in the Milwaukee area.
  • In Las Vegas, the hotel workers' union and major hotels joined to form the Culinary Training Institute. The Institute has trained 14,000 new employees for the area's worker-hungry hotel and restaurant industry.
  • In Philadelphia, the United Child Care Union has launched a multi-faceted organizing campaign designed to improve the quality of care as well as jobs, in part by creating an area-wide occupational association for child care workers.
  • In Pennsylvania, two major health care unions have joined with industry and professional associations and advocates for the elderly to promote "culture change" in elder care - loving care instead of the life-draining care delivered by low-wage, higher turnover Medicaid mills. The unions recognize that simply locking horns with providers cannot give workers dignity and job satisfaction.

Uranium and nuclear workers: the "new asbestos" of the workplace[edit]

Union plan to starve industry of labour STEVE GRAY June 1, 2010


A major union expects others to join its campaign to "starve" Australia's uranium industry of workers.

The Electrical Trades Union has banned its members from working on uranium mines, nuclear power stations or any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The ETU says other unions have expressed strong support for the campaign against uranium, which it has labelled the "new asbestos" of the workplace.

"We're sick of hearing about nuclear power as the panacea of global warming, we're sick of people sweeping safety issues under the carpet," ETU secretary Peter Simpson said on Tuesday.

"Our view is there's enough ETU labour in the place ... that we'll be able to starve the industry out."

He was speaking at the launch in Brisbane of an anti-uranium DVD, When the Dust Settles, alongside pediatrician and activist Dr Helen Caldicott.

The DVD, to be sent to ETU members in Queensland and the Northern Territory, is a warning about the health risks the union says come with working with uranium.

Mr Simpson said Australian workers had already faced decades of exposure, and uranium was the new asbestos of the workplace.

"Over the next 10 or 15 years we're going to see the downside of (uranium)," he said.

"They've had 30 years to pretty much do what they like and we believe now's the time to put the line in the sand.

"... we want to get all unions and all community groups on board and start taking the fight back up to the uranium industry."

He declined to name the two unions he said were supporting the ETU's campaign.

Dr Caldicott said Australia's uranium export industry meant the nation was "selling cancer and we're selling nuclear weapons".

She said Muckaty Station, near Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, would likely become a nuclear waste dump and eventually the waste would leak into the environment and food chain.

"It's random compulsory genetic engineering for the rest of time," she said.

The Australian Uranium Association has rejected claims that radiation exposure poses a significant risk to workers.

It also said the ETU's threat to expel members who contravene its work ban could breach the Fair Work Act.

"Uranium mines are safe workplaces," the association's CEO Michael Angwin said.

"Mine operators and mine employees work together, using the right equipment and designated procedures, to ensure that radiation exposure is kept to the minimum."

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--Nbreferata 13:07, April 22, 2010 (UTC)