At a "Future of Work Forum," AFL-CIO Richard Trumka described new ways that employers exempt themselves from dealing with unions and the rights of their employees. The corporate anti-union model that is increasing in use is to shift the responsibilities of dealing with unions to contractors, leaving the company free from any obligations to their workers.
It becomes more complex and confusing for union organizers when companies hire numbers of sub-contractors to produce their products or services.
Trumka notes that many companies are now using temp agencies, as a standard work force, freeing them from accountability to their workers. Other companies are getting rid of their obligations to employees by having them misclassified as independent contractors, as in the case of the taxi industry.
To avoid paying health care, pensions, paid overtime and other benefits, companies are also relying on part-timers. And of course, in many industries, tens of thousands of good American jobs are outsourced every year without much protest.
Trumka concedes there is a "decline in control, and ultimately in living standards, for workers who are having a harder time coming together for collective power in the workplace. It's pretty ominous," he says.
Does the AFL-CIO Have an Organizing Plan to Fight Back?
The short answer is: "No." But Trumka emphasizes the positive. "Real signs of hope are emerging, as working people are pushing back and coming together with a determination to use collective action to protect their individual rights and to lift the lives of the collective workforce even in the absence of laws or formal standing to do so," Trumka said.
"We're all looking for new ways to help working people build the power to lift their lives and that is something we can only do together," Trumka added.
The forum was mostly a celebration of the taxi drivers and their union, the National Taxi Workers Alliance, many of whose members attended the event. Representatives of the taxi drivers, hospital workers, domestic workers, writers union and a university professor served as panelists and spoke mostly of their organizing problems and experiences.