Labor Center

In this issue

Latest Reports

Upcoming Events

Katie Quan in China and Vietnam

Ken Jacobs in South Africa: The Walmart/ Massmart Merger

Past Event Videos

Newsletter Archive

Fall 2008 Spring 07

Spring 2008 Spring 07

Fall 2007 Spring 07

Spring 2007 Spring 07

Fall 2006

Fall 2005

Spring 2005

Fall 2004

Spring 2004

Fall 2003

Spring 2003

On the Move
Summer 2011
The Labor Center HEADLINES


New Data: NLRB Process Fails to Ensure a Fair Vote
June 2011 by John Logan, Erin Johansson, and Ryan Lamare
Full report

More than 60 speakers from the business, labor, academic, and advocacy communities made presentations in Washington last week at the NLRB’s open meeting on its recently-proposed election rule amendments. The proposed amendments are intended to reduce unnecessary litigation, streamline pre- and post-election procedures, and require employers to include additional contact information in the employee lists they provide organizers. The Labor Center’s new report documents problems and examines issues currently being debated by the board.

For more on the debate, the American Rights at Work website contains links to our report and others, a summary of the rules changes, and the latest developments.


Trying to understand how the new federal health care law will affect your union and upcoming negotiations? We have recently updated and created several tools to help unions decipher the Affordable Care Act and hone in on the most important sections of the law.

Calculator: How Much Will a Family Spend Under the New Federal Health Law?
“What Information Do Unions Need to Make Informed Health Care Bargaining Decisions?” pdf
“Guide for Union Negotiators” pdf
“Affordable Care Act: Summary of Provisions Affecting Employer-Sponsored Insurance” pdf
“Health Care Summary of Health Care Reform Legislation Provisions Affecting Children, Non-Elderly Adults and Employers” pdf



The Labor Center’s Monthly Black Worker Report—highlighting the level of employment and unemployment in the Black community—has been referenced in debates and discourse throughout the country.

Attack On Chicago’s Public Employees Hits Minorities Hardest
Progress Illinois, July 26th, 2011

Traumatic Effects of High Unemployment Rate for Black, Latino Communities
BBN, July 12, 2011

The next Monthly Black Workers Report will be released on Friday, August 5. Subscribe here.

To find out more, visit the Labor Center Black Worker Project webpage.


An Evening with the All-Stars
Date: September 22, 2011
Location: UC Berkeley Art Museum

The Labor Center is again hosting “An Evening with the All-Stars—Celebrating the Spirit and Strength of Working People.” This year’s festivities will be held in the gardens and terrace of the UC Berkeley Art Museum. We are pleased to announce that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will be the featured speaker and will be honored at the event. For a full list of honorees, more event information, and to purchase your tickets, please visit us online.




Book Talk
Date: August 18, 2011, 7:00 PM
Location: Barnes & Noble, Bay Street Emeryville

California Workers’ Rights co-author David Rosenfeld will be signing books and answering your questions at the Emeryville Barnes & Noble. This event is free. Please tell your friends! For more information about this event or if you would like to place a bulk order of the book for your office or union, please visit us online.




The Labor Center FROM THE ROAD

Katie Quan in China and Vietnam
In a five-week visit to China and Vietnam, Katie co-sponsored a conference on strikes and collective bargaining in China, carried out trainings on collective bargaining in Vietnam, and visited worksites in both countries.

Unions in China and Vietnam are very different from their counterparts in the U.S.: they are vestiges of the socialist era when the interests of workers, employers, and the government were seen as the same. Therefore the union has not played an adversarial role against employers, nor carried out collective bargaining. In both countries employers fund unions with contributions of 2 percent of payroll, and only the official Communist Party union is allowed.

But recently there have been changes—wildcat strikes have broken out in both Vietnam and China involving thousands of workers, because the cost of living has risen dramatically while wages have stayed the same. In 2010 workers at a Toyota parts plant in China’s Guangdong province went out on a wildcat strike, during which they practiced the “three refusals:” for three days they stopped work, would not elect a leadership committee, and refused to submit demands. They recognized that this would cripple the supply chain, and without named representatives the employers could not pick off the strike leadership. Union officials knew nothing of the strike in advance, but now they are seeing the writing on the wall. In this case, instead of trying to mediate between the workers and the employer during the strike, the union organized a representative committee and trained the workers to bargain collectively. As a result, the workers won a 68 percent wage increase. This method of resolving labor disputes through collective bargaining was repeated throughout Guangdong province, and has become known as the “Guangdong Model.”

At the conference on Strikes and Collective Bargaining, besides a strike leader from the Toyota parts plant mentioned above, there were ten union and academic participants from the United States, six from Germany, and thirty from China. The Guangdong Model was studied intensively, and was compared to other emerging models of labor relations in various parts of China. The focus on real cases with both academics and practitioners provided the basis for rich, analytical conversation.

In Vietnam there have been hundreds of strikes each year since 2007, involving thousands of workers fighting for higher wages. Vietnamese union representatives have usually tried to act as mediators between the workers and employers, but increasingly the government, union, and employer groups have become interested in collective bargaining as a way of resolving disputes. In a series of consultations and trainings last fall and this spring, Katie found among the participants an eagerness to learn about international models of collective bargaining, especially sectoral bargaining. In 2010 the Vietnamese textile employers association and the Vietnamese textile union signed the first sectoral bargaining agreement in Vietnam. The Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and the Vietnamese Cooperative Association have sponsored special trainings for their members on collective bargaining.

To promote exchange of information about labor relations in the U.S. and China, in fall 2010 Katie established the International Center for Joint Labor Research at Sun Yat-sen University with Prof. He Gaochao. Besides sponsoring the conference on Strikes and Collective Bargaining this past spring, the Joint Center has already trained union activists in collective bargaining and hosted exchanges with labor academics and practitioners. Plans are underway for a Masters in Public Administration for union leaders that will begin next year, an international conference on the IT sector, as well as other classes, trainings, exchanges, and research projects.

See Katie’s photos on Facebook. 


Ken Jacobs in South Africa: The Walmart/Massmart Merger
Ken Jacobs was invited to South Africa to participate in a Competition Tribunal about a proposed merger of Walmart and South African chain Massmart.

I was invited to South Africa to testify at a Competition Tribunal about a proposed merger of Walmart and South African chain Massmart. Facing falling sales in the U.S., Walmart seeks a stake in emerging African markets, and last September offered $4 billion to purchase a controlling portion of Massmart.

South Africa has the world’s greatest gap between rich and poor, and about 25 percent unemployment. Under the country’s Competition Act, the social and economic welfare effects on its citizens must be considered, along with traditional trade and economic factors, when approving a merger.

Local unions and communities formed an Anti-Walmart Coalition to fight the Massmart-Walmart merger. One of the protesters, Mabel Mofokeng, told me she had worked for Game, an affiliate of Massmart, for 27 years. Ms. Mofokeng was one of 503 workers laid off by Massmart leading up to its proposed acquisition. On July 25, 2010, she was escorted into the business office at her job, told that she was being laid off, and then escorted out by a security guard.

The layoffs were part of a move to a centralized distribution center like those used to secure famously low prices at Walmart. “What you do when you hear that Walmart is coming into your market,” said Massmart CEO Grant Pattison, “is to adapt similar practices.” Pattison denied that the layoffs had anything directly to do with the acquisition, arguing instead that this was the culmination of a process that began before Walmart’s purchase offer.

The Tribunal decided on May 27, 2011 that the merger would go through, with the following provisions: No [further] jobs are to be cut for two years, existing labor agreements must be honored for three years after the purchase, and the 503 laid-off workers are recommended for preferential rehire. Rehire, rather than reinstatement, means that workers will have to apply as new employees, accepting lower pay, and a high percentage of the new positions are classified as “casual labor,” i.e., part-time jobs without a regular schedule.

Walmart and Massmart were also asked to establish a 100 million-rand supplier-development fund, the final provision of the merger’s approval.

However, on July 20, 2011 the South African Economic Development Department, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Agriculture Department submitted papers to the Competition Tribunal saying its decision was not in the public’s interest. In addition the union has appealed the decision and Parliament has begun hearings into the matter.

Updated July 26, 2011

See Ken’s photos on Facebook. 
A version of this story was posted on the Berkeley Blog on May 23.


The Labor Center PLAYBACK

Congratulations to the NFL Players Association, which signed a new collective bargaining agreement this week. Learn about the issues in this footage from a panel discussion the Labor Center hosted in May, during the NFL lockout. View the videos.


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