Could workers form a different type of union?

A law professor wonders whether lifting a labor rule could spur the creation of politically focused groups. That doesn't seem likely.

By Kim Peterson Sep 17, 2013 7:19AM
Image: Office workers © Jupiterimages, Brand X Pictures, Getty ImagesLabor unions are dying. They've been weakened significantly by legislation, technological advances, the economy and the changing faces of the American workforce.

Is there any room for unions to exist at all anymore? Harvard law professor Benjamin Sachs, writing in The New York Times, wonders whether we could eventually see the rise of political unions rather than ones focused on collective bargaining.

Right now, it's very difficult for workers unions to represent a collective political voice, Benjamin Sachs wrote earlier this month. That's because unions are legally required to bundle political organizing with collective bargaining. Companies mostly loathe collective bargaining, and workers are less interested in it these days as well.

Sachs wonders whether we can break that requirement:
But what if we unbundle the union and allow workers to organize politically without also organizing for collective bargaining? If we shift our aim away from reviving collective bargaining and toward enabling political organizing by underrepresented groups, we would allow workers to organize "political unions" even when they don't want to organize collective bargaining ones.
Some unions could fight for a higher minimum wage, for example, or others could focus on social issues or foreign policy, Sachs writes. "But whatever issues they chose to pursue, these unions would give a political voice to those in America who currently lack one."

It's an interesting idea, but who, exactly, would be pushing for political unions? Corporate executives will fight the idea tooth and nail. Republicans would also be opposed.

In the end, it comes down to the will of the workers themselves. Do workers have enough incentive to organize and push for their own political interests?

Probably not. For one thing, they would in all likelihood have to use voluntary payroll deductions for any political activities. And political groups already exist for most of the issues affecting the American workforce. Workers can already donate individually to candidates or groups they favor, for example.

If you take collective bargaining away, there's just not much left to organize for.

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95Comments
Sep 17, 2013 9:23AM
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Aren't these called PACs and already exist?

 

Kim, good job inventing something that already exists!

 

Waste of time reading this.  At least it was short. (But I had to read it three times because I couldn't believe how stupid it was.)

Sep 17, 2013 12:40PM
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Unions aren't needed? Then don't work 40 hr week and don't enjoy a weekend - both of which were brought about by unions. Unskilled/lazy workers? Do any of you know carpenters or electricians or pipefitters or coal miners? Lazy is the very LAST word I'd use to describe them. A dozen breaks a day - ha! Our 100% union workforce - working in a steel mill - get 2 30 min breaks a day. They work 10hr days outside - building America.

Some people need to step away from the computer and get out into the world and see there ARE people out there working hard each and every day.

Sep 17, 2013 12:40PM
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One of the main things I see today is many of the younger people against unions but are willing to except lower wages with no benefits to speak of all the while corporations are seeing huge profits from their labor. Where is the reward for the workers helping to make these record profits? Why do all the executives reap millions in bonuses yet the workers are in poverty barely getting by.

 

You can scream all you want that the unions have ruined this country but I think you need to look a corporate America and finance along with the same elected officials that keep getting put back into office that are taking the American People down the path to Third World Wages and Benefits. These very same government people sure haven't gone after all the outright thievery that went on and destroyed many Americans retirement funds Have they?

Sep 17, 2013 12:51PM
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I can tell you that almost no company today offers a pension, gone.  Oh you have YOUR 401 K and the company many divy up a few pennies.

 

Healthcare will continue to rise beyond wages, regardless of Obamacare.  Someone has to pay for the illegals who show up at the ER, your taxes and they jack up your cost to cover Pedros surgery.

 

Rest assured, the CEO who now makes over 600 times what a worker makes will continue to make maybe 1000 times a worker's salary as slowly things wind dow, folks stay home, quit buying and should be saving every nickle for retirement.

 

Younger fols are in for a rude awakening.

Sep 17, 2013 1:12PM
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Unions are a necessary evil.  They're needed to protect workers and prevent employers from taking advantage of their employees.  Without unions the USA would be like a third world banana republic where 99% of the money is in the hands of 1% of the population, in other words the way it used to be in the days of the 1800s "robber barons" before the rise of organised labour.

 

However, historically, unions have been their own worst enemies.  Too many of them have fallen into corruption, Gestapo tactics, unwise political strategies and fattening their own leaders at the expense of the rank and file members.  That's the reason why unions are on the decline - rank and file members are fed up with the corruption and mismanagement, and potential members don't see the appeal of signing up for a lifetime of slavery to corruption and mismanagement from an entity that's supposed to be looking out for them.

Sep 17, 2013 9:24AM
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"Politically focused" unions are something new?  Give me a break!  If you want to be politically active, join the Sierra Club or PETA or the NRA or the Tea Party.  Why does it have to be linked to your employment?

Unions are dying off because they aren't needed as much, and they just aren't providing enough benefits to justify their costs in the eyes of their membership.  We have minimum wage laws now.  We have OSHA now.  We have health benefits and vacation time and disability and workers' comp insurance now.  The fact that government employee unions even exist in the first place is OUTRAGEOUS!

One thing that's never mentioned - when you are in a union, your pay is LIMITED, and has nothing to do with your actual production or value to the company.  Promotions and pay increases are given only based on seniority.  Employees aren't motivated in this environment.  In fact, they become lazy and do just enough to get by.  I know of 4 different companies where unions went on strike.  In each case, the companies quickly realized that they could hire 3 temps to do the same amount of work as it took 5 union employees.  And with 3 temps, the quality and quantity of production increased.  And part of the reason the unions went on strike in the first place is because they said they needed MORE people to get the work done.

BTW, all 4 of these unions are still officially on strike and have been for several years now.  The companies are all doing just fine.  There are no more picket lines.  The union members became dissolutioned with the process.  The older ones waited a couple years to collect social security and their pension.  The younger ones went out and got other jobs.

Sep 17, 2013 12:00PM
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Mirage guy;We don`t need unions.$2 an hour is just fine.It`s patriotic to be poor.So what

if corporate profits are at record levels and they`re sitting on records amounts of cash.Let`s

go back to 1860 and have a war to limit the population.

Sep 17, 2013 1:10PM
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There is no doubt that all of us have benefitted from the unions but unfortunately the unions became greedy and US workers became noncompetitive and the greedy corporations moved the jobs off shore and will continue to do so. The unions are on the decline and have been for many years.  Like It or not it is a global market if US workers aren't competitive the jobs move off shore.  Those are the facts and what the unions have to do is reinvent themselves and learn to work with management as distasteful as that may seem to the dinosaurs at the top.  If not they will eventually disappear. 

Sep 17, 2013 12:45PM
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You still need unions. Because if you are white. Your boss can fire you at will. If you a minority or women. If they sue you. You have to show cause for firing. Worked in a industry that used to fire people. To scare people in working hard. It did not matter if you worked hard. It was to scare the other workers.
Sep 17, 2013 12:36PM
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Employee owned companies are the future, we live in a democracy, but we work in an outdated business structure built to satisfy someone's greed.  Jesus, even the worthless Chineese are kicking our **** lately, ever wonder why?

Sep 17, 2013 12:40PM
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When they are making Bangladesh wages they will wake up, probably too late though.

 

Workers will go back to the days of child labor and being harrassed, blackballed, sexually harrassed, treated like animals again.

 

Useful idiots who are nothing  more than serfs in a feudal economy.  Some like the idea, basically working class Republicans.  They all think that **** kissing is they answer, a yes man, anything for their masters, anything.

 

Unions gave them a higher wage, safer working conditions, pensions, health care and they will throw it all away.

 

Those small business folks will cry as peasant workers quit eating out, taking vacations, buying clothes, except at WalMart who has put so many small business folks out of business

Sep 17, 2013 1:52PM
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LOL, funny how two OLD RICH guys invest millions and millions to stop Obama. That should be a red flag to every poor individual in the US of which side you should be on.  It just kills me that some poor people actually support Republicans.  Even after all of the effort they are now making to stop the vote.  If there are no problems, why are we changing voting laws, procedures, ID's, districts, voting lines, voting times, and no absentee.  Has it ever been any clearer.
Sep 17, 2013 12:32PM
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I just love all the Haters. They have never belonged to a union, or if they paid dues to a union, they didn't go to any meetings, so they have no clue what a Union actually is or does. One of the more Democratic thinking groups, it operates on a 2/3'ds majority not like voting for a public office where 51% is good enough. If you go in to work and have any type of vacation, insurance, retirement, Holidays off with pay, lunch break, a break, lunch room, sick day, any type of a perk, Overtime pay, the list goes on. If you have any of these give thanks to the Unions, NONE of these were corporate ideas to make you feel happier about your job. For the person that say's I've got that and my job place has never had a union, Thank the union that set a bar of competition for the non union jobs, the pay scale is competitive to a union wage so is the benefit package. My favorite Darwin Candidate is a middle manager that believes their paycheck will stay the same if the union goes out, WAKE UP !!! The day the unions disappear from the work place so does going to pee before quitting time, make a mistake or break your machine, Stay after your shift and fix it before you go home, all on your time, no pay to repair or fix something you broke. Think this won't happen, this is why we started unions, we will revert without them. Oh yeah we have OSHA, they can be fooled if you can't speak to them without fear of loosing your job.
Sep 17, 2013 12:57PM
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OBAMA SOLYDRA:Apparently you never worked for a union.I did.I made a living wage to

support my family.Nobody died on the job like many did a 100 years ago.I did a days honest work for

a days` pay.I`m rtired with a pension.In your book that`s communism.Who are going to buy

the houses and cars when unions disappear and wages are down to $2 an hour?

Sep 17, 2013 1:04PM
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The cotton mills are coming back.  50 cents an hour, white lung, sexual harrassment and early deaths.  Oh, any living in company houses.
Sep 17, 2013 1:16PM
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NA47:When there are no unions you can`t negotiate wages.It will be "$2 an hour, take

it or leave it"THINK !

Sep 17, 2013 12:56PM
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Ok, wait and see if workers whose wages are already not keeping up with inflation for the past few decades will not get worse.

 

People like to talk about depressions when 99% of you bozos have no idea what a real depression would be like.

 

Back then folks who lived through a depression hid money in a mattress, walls, fruit jars, no banks.

 

They spent little, shoes once a year.

 

Like I said I can bet none of you bozos have a pension or any savings, yet you talk like you are a country club Republican.  Too funny.

 

Many of you are unside down in your mortgage, making squat at work, probably drive a Mercedes worth more than your house.

Sep 17, 2013 2:33PM
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EX-REPUK
  The last NASCAR event was held in Chicago over the weekend. Prior to the rain delay, the stands were packed.
 I was not aware they were  so many REDNECKS in Chicago.   LOL
Sep 17, 2013 2:06PM
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you want to be free? than be eternally vigilant. be vigilant 25 hours a day.
Sep 17, 2013 1:59PM
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aaron alexis was not a budist. if he were, he would have let in the kind zen energy to defeat his conflicted ego.
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