On Activity Day, the “Clean Slate for Reform,” a activity law activity based at the Harvard Law School, arise a address on advance on its “tasks ahead.” The Clean Slate effort, led by two Harvard academics and including eighty participants, believes that Americans acquire a “shared civic understanding” that bread-and-er and political adeptness are out of bash in the country. Like the Activity Law Ameliorate Act of 1977 and efforts afore and afterwards it, the abstraction is to activity asperity and arrest the abatement in artisan alignment through a reasonable set of acknowledged reforms that fit with avant-garde times.
Previous efforts acquire failed, alike during Democratic administrations, but the academics acquire that this time it can be different. Of course, any ablaze acknowledged theories which arise from the Clean Slate activity will acquire to be accustomed by a perennially anti-worker Congress or accustomed by federal courts arranged with accumulated judges, a boxy advertise to say the least.
Having represented every abutment alive in the South during my acknowledged career, which has coincided acutely with the long, apathetic abatement of the abutment movement, I was afflicted by the address on the antecedent tasks of the Clean Slate project. The authors, while well-intentioned, absence the capital assignment in combatting inequality: apropos and architecture artisan adeptness and agency, to which aggression and capitalism are central.
The catechism in advanced of the activity movement is not one of accomplished acknowledged drafting, but of power. Like with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, absolute movement in law comes from power, not the added way around.
The Clean Slate project’s aboriginal declared assignment in its contempo amend is to “reimagine aggregate bargaining.” Certainly aggregate bargaining, like all alive chic struggle, charge fit with accepted altitude to acquisition success. Account such as sectoral bargaining, and the acknowledged structures all-important for its flowering, deserve consideration.
How sectoral acceding could arise to pass, however, accustomed the fissuring of the abridgement and the accepted accompaniment of adeptness relationships, is adamantine to fathom, no amount how cleverly acknowledged structures are drafted. Like a cardinal of the account in the Clean Slate report, sectoral acceding is in no way inherently bad, but it misses the key catechism of how artisan adeptness is built.
The focus actuality should be on reaffirming the adherence to the collective. The affirmation byword “in accord there is strength” is around-the-clock for workers and has been the way advanced aback the time of Spartacus. Yet some participants in the Clean Slate project, like above SEIU Local 775 Admiral David Rolf, appearance activity law changes through the Aspen Institute’s “Future of Work” lens.
Rolf and others acquire fabricated accepted account with men at Aspen like Mitch Daniels, the above Indiana governor who led the accomplishment to accomplish Indiana a “right-to-work” state. This institute, financed partially by Koch brothers’ money, appearance a acceptance in a “new capitalism” which glorifies absolute work. “Independent” is aloof a adorned name for part-time, and part-time assignment has consistently been around, abnormally for workers disturbing to survive.
But these antecedent letters assume to say that the activity believes that instead of angry the fissuring of the assignment force, we charge acquire the afterlife of full-time jobs. Instead of angry this trend, the activity argues that we should ameliorate anti-trust laws so that anniversary American can be a little business who can affiliate with added little businesses.
And basement this allotment of the accomplishment is the apocryphal affirmation of an access of absolute assignment and the gig abridgement which has been breathlessly accepted by “progressive” academics and altruistic activity leaders. Gig abridgement advocates were afresh ashamed aback a US Bureau of Activity Statistics address on absolute assignment showed no discernable access in such work. Undeterred, those who are adjoin for the gig abridgement anecdotal are badly aggravating to deflate this data.
But the adverse brainy angled of the activity is best acutely arise in the assignment of advocating for carriageable allowances — allowance and paid time off not angry to any one employer. Today, the abstraction of carriageable allowances is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The Carriageable Allowances movement had its advancing out affair in 2015, in a letter alleged “Common Ground.” In it, a accumulating of SEIU-affiliated activity leaders, alive of philanthropically financed “worker” organizations, left- and bourgeois anticipate tanks, gig abridgement companies, and anti-union advancement groups alleged for an end to allowance and hour activity adjoin gig abridgement companies and the advance of a abstract eyes of “independent” work.
This accomplishment was cautiously engineered by above Obama staffers and championed by David Rolf and Andy Stern. To accord with the actuality that Uber and Lyft drivers about acquire no bloom care, pensions, workers advantage or unemployment insurance, this letter offered an baggy abstraction of carriageable allowances as a sop to adversity workers.
Yet carriageable allowances already exist. Amusing Security and Medicare are carriageable benefits. And multi-employer account funds are abnormally alive in the amalgamated architecture industry.
The Ubers and Lyfts of the apple are spending tens of millions on lobbyists, lawyers, celebrities to defeat any abstraction that their workers are employees. For these gig abridgement companies, the carriageable account movement is a adored fig blade to awning the accuracy that their profits, if they acquire any, arise from not providing health care, pensions, or minimum accomplishment and not advantageous workers compensation, Amusing Security, or Medicare taxes on their workers.
The best awkward moments in the activity movement in the aftermost several years acquire not been the casual affairs of abutment presidents with Trump but the continuing alertness of these “new activity leaders” to aboveboard hug and smooch gig abridgement companies who are one of the capital armament of precarity in our country. Rolf, for example, afresh affiliated with the Uber CEO in a collective letter for carriageable allowances at the aforementioned time an catching of suicides was occurring amid auto drivers in New York whose livelihoods had been ashamed by Uber’s broad greed.
Further, amid the Accepted Ground letter signers was Handy, a charwoman aggregation that is arch a civic movement to abide agent cachet for its workers. Leaders of the well-respected Civic Domestic Workers Association who affiliated with Handy on the Accepted Ground letter acquire had to activity the aggregation in several states.
Yet alike today, the NDWA about lauds Door Dash, a gig abridgement aliment commitment company, as a “Good Assignment Code” employer. Door Dash is aggressively administration binding abode adjudication adjoin its workers. Leaders of the #MeToo movement acquire accurately argued that binding adjudication takes abroad the acknowledged adeptness of those who are ually addled at assignment to finer activity back. And Door Dash, forth with added gig abridgement companies, is spending millions to annul or annul a contempo California Supreme Court assessment which begin that its drivers are workers not absolute contractors.
For the Clean Slate activity to assurance on this with this appearance of the authoritativeness of the end of jobs is a austere absurdity that can taint all its work.
The activity additionally accustomed the added contemporary abstraction of allowance boards. Allowance boards acquire been about for abounding years with little success. The abstraction is that workers’ accomplishment and allowances would be about set by “independent experts” in abounding areas of work. Advocates for activity and administration would present evidence, as is sometimes done in “interest arbitration,” and anniversary would be affected to acquire what these experts found.
Fifty years ago, I was arrested in Louisiana forth with two added organizers for abomination breach while attempting to accumulate advice to present to a allowance lath for amoroso pikestaff workers. This federal allowance lath was accustomed as the government was accouterment ample subsidies to amoroso companies while the workers lived in houses on plantations which were congenital for slaves. Yet workers in this industry are still advised poorly.
Maybe allowance boards will be accessible in Seattle and New York City, with their added developed accelerating communities. But allowance boards that are not backed up by shop-floor adeptness can end up abacus a apocryphal account of workers’ accord to bad deals.
An added assignment looks at the accumulation of altered types of artisan organizations. The activity argues that new forms will, amid added things, ample the gap of “language instruction, clearing services, and abilities training” bare by workers. Yet architecture abutment locals throughout the South are accomplishing this every week. The best workers centers acquire amazing programs accoutrement these casework as well.
Further, the AFL-CIO has approved these “union-lite” efforts with alloyed success, and abounding workers centers today, unfortunately, acquire little artisan bureau broiled in. An honest assay of why absolute “new forms” are not afterwards is bare afore new forms are fetishized.
It is air-conditioned to allocution about new things and to affirmation the allowances of “disruption” and “innovation.” But if these new forms chase a mantra of alms and amusing entrepreneurship and led by association who about allege of unions actuality as advantageous as the telegraph, as David Rolf contempo did to his “innovation hub,” Oakland’s Workers Lab, the accomplishment will ultimately be adverse not accessible in acceptable artisan power.
Further, all of these new forms will crave altruistic money. Getting circuitous in the altruistic automated circuitous agency that artisan advocates absorb abundant of their artistic activity aggravating to amount out how to get money from groups like the Ford Foundation, which is headed by a PepsiCo lath member.
Ironically, the Clean Slate activity is “made accessible by the acceptable abutment of the Ford Foundation.” Executive admiral of non-profits address to foundation staff, not workers, admitting they affirmation otherwise.
Increasingly, the curve amid alms and the altruistic activity movement are blurring. Several arresting associates of the altruistic activity movement sit on foundation boards. They are appropriately in a position to administer as able-bodied as accept foundation largesse.
Let’s be frank. Abounding of the participants in new activity appetite a movement with acceptable jobs for association like them. And, as Upton Sinclair wrote, “It is difficult to get a man to accept article aback his bacon depends aloft his not compassionate it.”
Between the amusing entrepreneurship mantra which about teaches that “the anarchy will be monetized,” to the pre-Janus access of abutment advisers with Ivy League degrees, to above activity leaders who run clandestine disinterestedness firms today “leveraging” their abutment contacts, abounding of those circuitous are afraid about their paychecks. Sashaying about the apple on Open Society or Rockefeller or Ford money is fun!
Of course, all bodies anticipate about this and authoritative a active is an existential concern, abnormally amid workers. Candidly, I acquire fabricated my active off the activity movement. Workers’ ante paid for my acknowledged casework to unions and I accustomed a allotment of what I won for workers who had been discriminated against, cheated on their paychecks, ually harassed, or aching at work. And none of this is to say that the present abutment movement does not charge above changes.
First, we acquire to be honest about and apprentice from our defeats. For example, the crushing bounce of the UAW at Nissan in Mississippi in 2017, one accompaniment I assignment in, should accord all pause.
The workforce at this ability is primarily African American, and the vote came afore the abounding acknowledgment of the advancing UAW aspersion in which officers, application money which should acquire gone to workers, bought bling like Christian Louboutin shoes. Red-bottomed stilettos will arise on abounding anti-union leaflets for years to come.
Major important questions accost us. What do unions absolutely activity a artisan today, and why should one pay dues? Why should one accompany with others if there is a adventitious you will be accursed for it? How are we activity to accord with questions of gender and chase in a way that strengthens the movement? How should backroom and economics be prioritized in organizations in which members’ lives are acceptable added and added precarious? How can absolute capitalism be alternate to abutment organizations?
How can we body accord amid workers of all colors and identities? In this time of Trump and bourgeois populism, today has a affinity to the 1960s and 1970s aback acknowledging activity swept southern workplaces and George Wallace’s racist populism tempted abounding white workers.
During that time, I was circuitous in endless discussions with workers and unions as to why accord is the alone band-aid to a bigger activity of all — alike if white workers acquire to lose some of what they counted on, such as their abode in a advantage line. It is a adamantine advertise but accord can be achieved, if a believable eyes of a advantageous approaching is presented, and if all workers are advised with amends and compassion.
Importantly, Clean Slate is appropriate of a growing breach in the activity movement, amid those who accent artisan administration and militancy, and those who altercate workers’ alone achievement is to affiliate with the “progressive” accumulated elite. This altruistic activity movement is agnate to the New Democrats which ascended in the 1980s. The New Democrats, with Bill Clinton as their accessible face, gave the country NAFTA, abundance reform, a globalization of precarity, and more.
As the advocate for the Arkansas AFL-CIO during that time, I bethink the problems we had with “worker-friendly” Governor Bill Clinton. Bill Becker, a meat cutter from Chicago who confused to assignment in the Southern activity movement, was the admiral of the accompaniment AFL-CIO.
After Clinton had reneged yet afresh on a affiance to advance Arkansas’ abject workers advantage and unemployment allowance benefits, a balked Becker told a civic anchorman that Clinton was the affectionate of guy who “smiles in your face, while he is pissing on your leg.” The accumulated aristocratic today, in alms and the gig abridgement especially, will do the same.
We may be seeing an advance in activity militancy. Aback it comes it will acquaint us all. Workers’ adventures accord the best compassionate of the way forward. Proposals from well-meaning bodies at Harvard are fine, abnormally as to abstruse acknowledged points, but I achievement that the association alive on Clean Slate accomplish a advance correction. If they do not, all their acceptable efforts are acceptable to be in arrogant and may, as Anand Giridharadas, columnist of Winners Take All: The Aristocratic Charade of Changing the World, wrote, become “an abettor to alike greater, if added invisible, harm.”
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