About 35 union organizers, labor researchers and academics attended a forum to discuss “Labor Law Reform: Which Way Forward?” on Nov. 13. The forum was held at SEIU Local 888 and was organized by a regional committee of the Labor Research and Action Network.*
Participants heard four presentations on new legislative and organizing approaches to address the serious obstacles to recruiting new union members and help rebirth the labor movement. The meeting was chaired by Elvis Mendez of the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative. The panelists were:
• “Extending New Rights to Excluded Workers,” with Natalicia Tracy, Executive Director, Brazilian Immigrant Center / Massachusetts Domestic Workers Alliance
• “Holding Primary Employers to a Higher Standard of Accountability,” with Diana Bell, Senior Organizer, Community Labor United & Audrey Richardson, Greater Boston Legal Services
• “Expanding Pre-majority Bargaining Rights for Workers,” David Cohen, retired International Rep., U.E.
• “Just Cause: Job Security for All,” with Robert Schwartz, Author and publisher, Work Rights Press and Rand Wilson, Policy and Communications Director, SEIU Local 888.
MIT Professor Thomas Kochan wrapped up the panel presentations with a few observations based on his years of experience and research. “Our labor laws are seriously antiquated and must be reformed,” said Kochan. “These are good ideas that don’t require waiting for action at the federal level. Now we’ve got to get our message out to a wider audience and begin organizing for real change at the local level. I’m really encouraged by these presentations and the level of interest.”
“Since the defeat of the Employee Free Choice Act, a serious conversation about labor law reform is long overdue,” said Just Cause reform proponent Rand Wilson, who was among the presenters. “The forum showcased some great opportunities at the state and municipal level to improve workers’ rights and help workers build power.”
The LRAN forum was co-sponsored by Mass AFL-CIO, Mass Jobs with Justice, Justice at Work, Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative, Labor Resource Center at UMass Boston and The Labor Guild.
Members of the regional LRAN planning committee included: Gillian Mason, Jobs with Justice; Lindsay McClusky, Mass AFL-CIO; Elvis Mendez, Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative; Karen Narefsky, Somerville Community Corp.; Robert Schwartz, Work Rights Press; Rachael Smit, Greater Boston Legal Services; Tom Smith, Justice at Work; Rand Wilson, SEIU Local 888; John Womack, Harvard University; and Ian Woolverton, SEIU Local 888.
Pictures from the LRAN forum are at: https://plus.google.com/photos/103408626541358869123/albums/5947367221672553537
For more info contact: Rand Wilson by email rand.wilson at gmail.com or Elvis Mendez atiwcc.coordinator at gmail.com
* The Labor Research and Action Network (LRAN) is a collaborative effort to connect workers’ rights organizations, academics and students to build workplace and economic power for working people in this country. http://lranetwork.org