The University of California received state funding of approximately $1.25 million for a UC Labor and Employment Research Fund (L&E Fund). The fund is a component of the Miguel Contreras Labor Institute and is administered by the Multicampus Research Unit (UCMRU) of the Office of the President and overseen by a system-wide faculty Steering Committee which makes all award and policy decisions.
A new crop of worker advocacy organizations has grown up in the last decade, and has coalesced into an organizational form known as the “worker center.” Just as worker centers have tended to shy away from utilizing NLRB processes to protect worker rights, the status of worker centers under the NLRA has remained cloudy and subject to debate. Specifically, the NLRB and the courts have not addressed whether organizations like worker centers, which seek to improve the lot of employees in marginal industries but in most cases do not aspire to negotiate with their employers, are statutory labor organizations. As the ROC-NY example indicates, worker centers that use aggressive tactics that constrain employer prerogatives will inevitably face employer-initiated litigation seeking to restrict their activities, invoking the various restrictions of the NLRA that hinge upon the “labor organization” definition. In this paper, I explain how the Act’s protections can be utilized by worker centers, and suggest a framework that adjudicators can use to address the question of worker centers’ status under the Act.
The NLRA is a mostly unexplored area for worker centers. As discussed throughout this paper, engaging the nation’s labor laws has risks as well as potential opportunities. Although worker centers can assist workers in using the rights the NLRA guarantees to all “employees” under Section 7 of the Act, they must be wary of the negative consequences that may result if they are categorized as NLRA “labor organizations,” which would subject them to various restrictions built into the law. Classification as a “labor organization” could also subject a worker center to the requirements of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) of 1959, which includes financial reports to the U.S. Department of Labor and regulation of internal governance practices. In order to make clear what is at “stake” for worker centers with national labor laws, this paper discusses the positive rights, negative possibilities, and collateral consequences posed by the NLRA, LMRDA, and other laws related to labor.
First, in the following section, I discuss the emerging worker center movement, identifying the key features of worker centers that bear on their treatment under federal labor laws, and profiling four organizations that exhibit different tendencies within the worker center movement. Part III is a systematic over of how worker centers can use the employee protections offered by the NLRA, in particular the right to engage in concerted activity for the purpose of mutual aid or protection. As this section demonstrates, many worker center organizing activities will receive protection under the Act, and the jurisdictional limitations on coverage for the most part will not affect worker centers. However, recent cases suggest that certain types of concerted activity involving charged political speech, such as missing work to participate in mass rallies for immigration reform, may not receive the Act’s protection. Section IV canvasses the negative implications of federal labor law for worker centers, which mostly apply only if the organization in question is deemed a “labor organization.” For example, the NLRA restricts picketing by labor organizations in certain situations where a union election has recently been held, as well as most forms of secondary boycotts. The NLRA also restricts aspects of organizational form and operations, such as by requiring that hiring halls be non-discriminatory, and disallowing labor organizations to receive funds from employers. Potentially more worrisome is the LMRDA, which mandates that financial and other reports be filed with the federal government, and grants members of labor organizations a Union Bill of Rights and more possibilities to bring suit. Lastly, Section IV discusses other consequences of the Act, such as exemption from antitrust liability for the actions of labor groups and assesses whether the exemption applies to worker centers.
The remaining sections pick up on a larger debate about how worker centers should be treated under the Act. I begin in Section V by discussing in broad terms three different schools of statutory interpretation, and how the NLRB approaches questions of statutory interpretation. In Section VI I present three ways in which the question of whether some group is a “labor organization” may be approached. The first, which I dub the “traditional approach,” applies the “labor organization” definition to novel situations without reference to the legal or social context in which the question is raised. However, based on recent case law that has increased the Act’s flexibility to allow some internal employee participation plans for limited purposes, much worker center activity, and even dealings with the employer, will not rise to the level required to make out a statutory labor organization.
The remaining two approaches examine the “labor organization” question contextually, both with regard to the legal setting in which the question is raised and the broader factual scenarios envisaged by the Act’s founders as subjects of regulation. Through analysis of past cases, I attempt to demonstrate that the Board has always been sensitive to such contextual factors and purposive concerns. In fact, different rules seem to apply in different contexts; not only does the definition of “labor organization” seem to apply differently to various manifestations of worker activity, but more surprisingly, the term seems to take on different meaning depending on the statutory context in which it is raised.
Turning towards the nature of worker centers as hybrid social movement organizations that focus on the workplace, I examine how similar organizations have been treated by the Act in the past, and the underlying constitutional concerns that weigh against regulation of such organizations under traditional labor laws. In the background of this analysis are historical realities that should inform how the law develops to meet a new form of worker advocacy organization. The rise of worker centers takes place against an economic and political backdrop very different from that faced by the NLRA’s drafters. While the labor movement in this country has secured a relatively well-off existence for those lucky enough to be union members, the norm of unionization as well as the viability of the NLRA faces considerable doubt as it marches on past its seventieth year in existence. It is not surprising, then, that most worker centers have forgone traditional representation processes in favor of private litigation based on federal and state employment laws concerning wages, hours, and occupational safety. Rather than building a labor aristocracy, worker centers target the poorest workers who have the least stable employment. The immediate goal of such centers is not to build middle-class citizens, but to ensure minimum compliance with the law. As such, the worker center movement shares a common heritage with the 1960s civil rights movement: in the earlier struggle, participants waged a political and legal fight for equal treatment under the law, and a social fight to eliminate a system of second-class citizenship. Today’s marginal and often undocumented foreign workers share this cause and also wage their fight on these levels.
Therefore, it is not surprising that worker centers have made recourse to civil rights rhetoric and tactics to improve the conditions of the workers they support. Each of these tactics, including the publicized making of demands, the holding of rallies, consumer leafleting, and the initiation of lawsuits, have been accorded some degree of First Amendment protection. Looking at both the constitutional norms underlying worker center activities most likely to be challenged, as well as the purpose of the NLRA provisions most likely to be used to restrict those activities, I argue that the NLRB and the courts should be wary in subjecting worker centers to the limitations of the Act. However, in their protests, worker centers can easily be robbed of their cloak of civil rights petitioners to be left simple labor picketers. To the extent that worker centers approximate the functions and purposes of labor unions, this outcome seems appropriate.
Therefore, a principal goal of this paper is to provide guidance to worker centers on how to stay on the permissible side of the labor organization classification, as well as how to make the most of the protective aspects of labor law.
Immigration Policy, Labor Market Regulation and the Welfare State: A Comprehensive Look at Immigrant Labor Market Integration in Germany, Great Britain, the United States and Canada
As of 2005, 5.2% of the native born population in Germany reports a foreign born parent. A majority of “second generation” immigrants are in their early twenties to early forties, and thus represent an increasingly large proportion of the German labor force (Statistiches Bundesamt 2007). The second generation stems disproportionately from lower class backgrounds, and it represents the largest native born “foreign” population in German history. The fate of the second generation is a subject of intense concern amongst policy makers, and the fear that the second generation will develop into a socially marginalized Unterschichtung (underclass) looms large in German politics and the popular media. The question of whether the second generation will experience academic and labor market success provides a test for models of intergenerational mobility and assimilation theories.
The second generation in Germany stems from several different migration streams with diverse socioeconomic backgrounds and legal statuses. The largest group is the children of guest workers recruited from 1955-1973, labor migrants who report very little formal education and remain clustered in unskilled or semi-skilled manual jobs . The second largest group is the children of immigrants of German descent. They are granted German citizenship immediately upon arrival through Germany’s right of return, and their skill distribution is more similar to native Germans than guest workers. Finally, the remaining members of the second generation are the children of newer migrants who come from heterogeneous origins, including refugees mainly from Eastern Europe, as well as a diverse mix of workers and students primarily from the EU.
State of Current Research
Theoretically, the bulk of second generation research in Germany has drawn from the US-centered assimilation models put forth by Richard Alba , Frank Kalter , and Hermut Esser . These scholars argue that in the search for higher wages, nicer houses, and more stable employment, immigrants look beyond the limited opportunities offered through co-ethnic institutions, neighborhoods and markets. The central empirical hypothesis is that, across time and generations, the educational, occupational, and spatial distributions of immigrants and Germans (without a migration history) will converge. More recently, scholars have applied alternative models of immigrant incorporation such as segmented assimilation and “dissimilation” theories to the German case. These theories emphasize the lower class background of second generation youth, and the prejudice that immigrants and their children face from native Germans, which impedes their academic and labor market success . While assimilation theorists expect increased immigrant convergence with natives across generations, segmented assimilation and dissimilation scholars predict increased divergence, at least for a significant proportion of immigrant offspring.
Empirically, the general consensus is that the second generation fares worse than the children of native born Germans in terms of their educational attainment, employment, and occupational status, but they are also more evenly distributed throughout the educational and occupational distribution than their parents . A critical first step in interpreting this finding is identifying the cause of continued second generation disadvantage: does the second generation fare worse than children of native born Germans because they are disproportionately poor or because they are the children of immigrants? I argue that separating the effects of class reproduction experienced by both Germans and immigrants from mobility constraints that are specific to immigrants alone is a critical area of second generation research.
Prior research has not fully addressed this issue. We know that controlling for parental characteristics accounts for some of the differences between the second generation and children of the native born; however, residual disadvantage in educational, occupational and income levels remain, and these disadvantages are different for different origin groups . While common explanations for these differences include discrimination effects , origin differences in social capital and language abilities , or differences in ambition or motivation, at the moment research is not conclusive.
Two critical weaknesses limit the ability of prior research to separate the effect of class background from disadvantages stemming from an immigrant background. The first is related to German data sets—until recently, German custom was to separate immigrants and natives by nationality, rather than place of birth, which makes identifying ethnic German immigrants and their children, who are guaranteed citizenship upon arrival, impossible in governmental datasets. As a result, the majority of migration research in Germany focuses on guest workers and their children, who are unusually uniform in their lower class standing. Studies that focus solely on the children of these migrants are forced to use very general measures of class background , as there is very little variability in education or occupation amongst former guest worker immigrant parents. Without comparing the children of guest workers to children of more advantaged immigrants, it is difficult to disentangle the effect of ethnicity and immigrant background from class background.
A second difficulty is that the origin differences that are observed amongst immigrants and their children are nearly always explained at the individual level. Particularly glaring is the lack of research specifically comparing native and immigrant family environments, as these are a critical determinant of educational performance and subsequent socioeconomic attainment in Germany. Class and culture, particularly as they are transmitted across generations, impacts youth at the household level. Therefore, we need more studies that introduce household level measures of financial and social resources in order to better measure class and immigrant disadvantages.
This project will fill both the gaps outlined above. First, I describe inequality between different immigrant origin groups and natives as it is experienced at the household level, linking individual immigrant disadvantage with the experiences of children in their family environment. Second, I utilize new data sources that allow me to explicitly compare several outcomes for different second generation groups, including ethnic Germans. Below, I outline my dissertation, the contribution of each individual chapter, and my plan and timeline for analysis.