You are on page 1of 13

Running head: UNIONISM JUSTICE 1

Social Justice Unionism

Ross J. Daman

Siena Heights University

MGT 450: Labor Relations


To understand how to create a better economy one has to understand unions and social

justice principles. The idea of creating social justice unionism is the attempt to bring workers, the

labor movement and the trade unions into a broader collaboration for social justice in the

economic world. This is done by creating higher wages, better benefits, increased time off, a

greater voice in the workplace, and a grasp of political and legal rights possessed by workers in

the workplace. There are many theories in existence of how to improve social justice unionism

and labor relations management in the United States’ (U.S.) current environment. If the U.S.

plans to keep the economy healthy and the masses employed, they need to take notice of some

successful foreign union labor models and adapt them to fit in our own country. Author Thomas

Geoghegan’s book, Only One Thing Can Save Us: Why America Needs a New Kind of Labor

Movement, goes into detail explaining how our economy and social classes are failing because of

improper legal reforms and union practices here in the U.S. Geoghegan’s theory of adapting

German union practices is the best way the U.S. could rebuild our broken system.

Guy Standing’s book, The Precariat, really puts into perspective why these changes are

necessary. In his book, the concept of precariat workers is explained; he is referring to the

exploited working class. These are employees working in low level positions for low wages. The

author goes on to describe how this undesirable working status is growing in the U.S. as a way of

conducting business through the exploitation of the employees. The precariat comes from the

two words of precarious and proletariat. This word, precariat, used to describe this new working

group or class, does a great job of illustrating the effects the capitalist greed on employees. Life

for the precariat working class is unstable, lacks job security and income stability. This has also

encouraged a lot of drifting from job to job for the precariat class workers. This drifting occurs as

a result of the U.S. economic views of seeing employees as disposable through the practice of

layoffs, then expecting them to be readily available when the demands for workers returns.

“Firms frequently attempt to increase profits by replacing some existing workers with new lower

wage workers. However, this strategy may be ineffective in an incomplete-contract environment

because the new workers may provide lower effort in response to their lower wages, and hiring

new lower wage workers may damage the remaining original workers’ reciprocal relationship

with the firm” (Brown). This idea of purchasing part-time or contract workers can be more

detrimental than beneficial.

This precariat work force continues to grow as the power of labor unions are being

diminished and restricted by legislations which allows the rich to achieve more income at the

cost of the employee’s wellbeing. This has caused an increased economic gap between the top

one percent of wealthy individuals and the bottom precariat working employees. With this trend,

the core group of middle class workers has diminished and has slid down to the precariat group

of workers which has continued to grow over the past few decades. “the precariat lack self-

esteem and social worth in their work, and thus do not have the same positive work-based

identity that engendered a robust pride and dignity that helped make [the industrial working

class] a political force with a class agenda” (Paret). While more middle class workers are pushed

into this lower class of workforce, another reason for this stems from the pursuit of labor

relations. “As the wealth gap widens, the middle-class becomes more precarious” (Kaplan).

Some corporations find that hiring workers that can be easily fired is a way of boosting jobs

since it is known that corporations will hire more workers if it is not costly to get rid of them

when their services are no longer required. This has created a large number of corporations

hiring part-time workers rather than full-time workers. The corporations find this beneficial as

these part-time workers are not given the same rights as full-time workers and do not generate

the expenses that go along with full-time workers’ benefits. “Standing is convinced that work

will never be made decent unless all people enjoy basic security. To Standing, insecure people

make bad choices, can't plan and prepare for the future, relate badly to each other, and suffer

poor physical and mental health” (Bensman). This part-time hiring has become another loop hole

for corporations to avoid the unions and to help diminish them here in the U.S. This is not just an

issue in the U.S. but in many other large corporation led countries like Japan. “Arguably the most

significant trend in the Japanese labour market over the past two decades is the doubling of the

percentage of the workforce hired as 'non-regular' employees, who do not enjoy job security or

many other benefits routinely accorded regular full-time workers. This 'precariat' (workers in

precarious employment) now constitutes 35% of the entire workforce, and is often employed

under disadvantageous terms involving low pay, dead-end jobs and easy termination. This belies

Japan's reputation as a nation of secure jobs and paternalistic employers. It also correlates with a

rise in poverty and inequality” (Bensman).

Standing makes the argument that the precariat working class need to find a voice to

represent them for fair treatment. The issue with this idea is the fact that the precariat group is

comprised of so many different types of individuals like men, women, illegal works and legal

workers, migrants and nationalist. There really is no set standard in this group to defend, which

creates the issue of lack of identity when representing and defending their rights. Standing also

proposes a basic income payment for citizens to get by on. The idea is to give all non-criminally

charged citizens enough income to afford food and housing. It has been made difficult for many

working individuals to support themselves because of the trend in part-time employment over

full-time employment. The issue with this type proposal is it would be abused and misused like

many forms of government aid that already exist, such as food stamps.

The existing unions in our country try and represent the workers to the best of their

allowed abilities. With certain legislative actions being taken by political parties that are

supposed to be representing the unions, the unions suffer as they are diminished by such acts and

the Right to Work state act enacted by Michigan governor Rick Snider. In Michael Yates’s book,

Why Unions Matter, he makes it very clear as to why there is such discrepancy towards unions

involved with large corporations. Corporate America pushes to diminish the aid that unions

provide for workers, siting that these are costly practices which interfere with the corporation’s

responsibility for paying fair wages, benefits, and collective bargaining resolutions that unions

fight for. By diminishing these workers’ rights, they are helping to create a larger precariat group

of workers that they can continue to exploit in the workplace for many years to come. These

policies are part of the wider neoliberal project, which is not simply about expanding capitalist

accumulation and dismantling unions, but is also a racial containment strategy, the objective of

which is to control what is viewed by political and economic elites as a disposable surplus

population” (Brogan). Yates goes on to explain how non-union states in the U.S. are where most

manufactured items are made as non-union states without union representation have lower wages

creating lower cost for production. Also, with the advancement of technology, the number of jobs

needed for the precariat working class is becoming lower and lower as robotic systems take over

these once needed jobs. Yates’s book covers all the reasons why we need to find the importance

in union representation and be in support of unions. This cannot be done effectively when these

jobs are being replaced with technological advancement and others are being relocated to non-

union areas for cheap labor. If Geoghegan’s theory of adopting the Germans’ model were

implemented here in the states, these issues would become much less detrimental to the lower

working class.

The German union labor models work very well for the employers and employees in

Germany. To implement this model into other counties, existing models and economies would be

hard to adapt to right away. The work relationship between the German government and their

unions is what makes this system work. In times of hardship, the government will aid companies

in paying employees to keep workers employed. This, in turn, maintains economic stability for

the government. In the U.S. this is not how business is normally conducted in relation to the

government’s interest. In the U.S., businesses are forced to make cuts to its workforce to

downsize production to adjust to current economic demands. Businesses have been bailed out by

the U.S. government to avoid large economic disasters. This includes large corporations that

employee very high numbers of people. This is not the normal procedure as the union to

government relations are nothing like that of the Germans. If a program was started to join the

government with the unions it would help aid businesses in times of economic decline; the

economy would benefit through unionism social justice as a result of the merge. This model

would take some work to perfect as any new model would. Those implementing this change

would need to consider many factors when creating a more government/union representative

friendly program. “Several of the key elements of a successful union-management relationship

were identified as: goals, communication, negotiations, internal organization, grievance

handling, evaluation of the relationship, participation, and administration” (Huszczo). Over time,

it would create a more self-sufficient government where workers wouldn’t have to be laid off at

every economic slump.


Over the course the past eight weeks, I have learned a lot about unions and labor relation

management in the workplace. My current place of employment is a non-union shop. Having

worked at the same place since graduating from high school, I was unaware of many aspects of

unions. While I had a relatively good idea of how unions worked and why they existed I was

interested in most of our readings. One thing I found intriguing was the lack of support our

government seems to show towards unions here in the U.S. I would have assumed that the

support of unions promoting fair wages and benefits would do nothing but create a stronger

economy for the government. This obviously is not the case as most elected representatives do

not push to support unions. As Yates stated in his book, he was actually afraid while he was

running for office to join any union, for fear of being fired or terminated from his position. This

explains why so many states seem to be, or are becoming, right to work states without union



Analytica, Oxford. JAPAN: Growing 'precariat' compounds policy problems. (2013, Jan 25).

OxResearch Daily Brief Service Retrieved from https://search-proquest-

In this article published on January 25, 2013 in Oxford, United Kingdom by the publisher

Oxford Analytical group focuses in on the doubling amount of part time non-regular workers in

the Japanese labor market. The article goes into the disadvantages these workers face and how

the staggering percentage of these workers continues to rise. These workers do not experience

job security or benefits associated with full time employment. This creates an economy of

poverty and inequality. These low paying jobs with easy termination and dead end goals

assimilate with my claim in my paper on this type of working conditions. This article is well

established and pertains to my papers content.

Bensman, David. (2015, Fall). Security for a precarious workforce. The American Prospect, 26,

95-97. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-

This article by David Bensman published in the fall of 2015 in Princeton, United States shows

how the recent campaigns involving labor unions have been successful. This idea supports my

claim with evidence that the claim when applied correctly has been creating positive effects on

the labor workforce. The article brings in a couple campaigns such as the justice for janitors

campaign to drive this idea to the point. Which is, that union uprising is on the uprising. The

article also shows that this has nothing to do with the current economy but more so with the

affects the workers have when they form a constructive union push for social justice and

equality. The author is well versed on the history of campaigns involving unions and has done

his research to make his claims.

Brogan, Peter. "Education Deform and Social Justice Unionism." Labour. The Journal of



This article by Peter Brogan, published in the spring of 2016 Edmonton, Canada. It is taking

three books into review on how emerging scholars are teaching unions and portraying their

struggles in the modern workplace. The article focuses in on teachers and the changes they are

going through from the past three decades. These changes the article goes over are the

elimination of job security, basing teacher performance off of students test scores, and instituting

merit pay. The article then goes into how people can jump start their own unions and create

stronger existing unions. The author is well known and has many peer reviewers for this article

of research that he had conducted. The research fits in with my work in the paper as he is

assessing union ties with political agendas in the modern day workforce.

Brown, J. L., Martin, P. R., Moser, D. V., & Weber, R. A. (2015). The consequences of hiring

lower-wage workers in an incomplete-contract environment. The Accounting Review, 90(3),

941. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-

This article by Brown, Martin, Moser, and Weber was published on May 2015 in Sarasota,

United States. The article is about the practice of firms hiring part time workers and contract

workers over full time workers to save cost. However, the authors feel that this is not the case as

part time workers are not as devoted to the company and do not put forth the effort of what a

happily employed full time employee would. The article is valid and has been peer reviewed by

other scholars. This article plays into the paper by showing how part time employment is not a

good option for solving the social justice problems associated with the modern workforce.

Geoghegan, Thomas. "Only One Thing Can Save Us." The New Press. December 2.2014.

Thomas Geoghegan’s book, Only One Thing Can Save Us, was published on December 2, 2014

by The New Press. Geoghegan’s book is about how he feels that labor needs to transform itself to

adapt to the new times and economic ways. He offers some ways that the U.S. could transform

its union models to make this transformation. Geoghegan is a practicing attorney and has

published a few books that all focus on his works findings as an attorney. His findings are what

the paper’s resolution to the U.S’s union issues are based off of.

Huszczo, G. E., & Hoyer, D. T. (1994). Factors involved in constructive union-management

relationships. Human Relations, 47(7), 847-866. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-


In this article by Huszczo and Hoyer published in July 1994 in Thousand Oaks, United States.

The authors go into detail of how to measure the quality of a union management relationship.

They state how that legalistic, the adversarial approach, and the cooperative approach are not

good practices by themselves to construct good quality union management relations. They

suggest that by using data gathered using the union management relationship instrument will

create a constructive management plan. This plays into my paper by supporting the correct way

to form a union in today’s LMR environment.

Kaplan, R. S. (2016). Luxury and the precariat: An unusual pairing? IUP Journal of Brand

Management, 13(4), 34-45. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-

Rachel Kaplan’s article was published in December 2016 Hyderabad, India. Her article is about

the precariat class of workers being compared to the higher class luxurious life style. She takes

into consideration how the luxury brand items are being marketed to the precariat class workers

as there is a large number of them in the economic marketplace. The author is an adjunct

instructor at the Point Park University of Pittsburg. Her article helps tie In the difference of the

upper and lower class workforce and how there is no middle class in the modern economic


Paret, M. (2016). Precarious class formations in the united states and south africa. International

Labor and Working Class History, 89, 84-106.

Marcel Paret’s article was published in 2016 Cambridge, United Kingdom. The article

underlines the rise of the precarious, or precariat, class of workers in the modern economy.

Stating how the destruction of the middle class is enabling the rich to become richer but in

doing so they are creating a different need for economic growth without a healthy middle class

workforce. The author is a respected writer to few different news journals. His article plays into

the paper as to how the destruction of the middle class and rise of the precariat or precarious

workforce is doing no justice for the United States’ social justice unionism.

Standing, Guy. The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class. New York, NY: Bloomsbury

Academic, 2011.

In Guy Standing’s book, the Precariat: the New Dangerous Class, published on July 24, 2011 in

Croatia. The author goes into depth on how our economy could fail based of the idea of precariat

working groups of todays modern poor working class. He goes into detail of how job security,

and income stability is almost nonexistent for the poor working class in today’s modern

workforce. This creates an unstable economy and creates the need more than ever for a strong

labor union structure to protect them from this instability. This book is about a new group in the

world, a class-in-the-making. It sets out to answer five questions: What is it? Why should we

care about its growth? Why is it growing? The author is well established and versed in the

content being covered in my paper. His information from the book Is the foundation from which

I wrote my paper.

Yates, Michael. "Why Unions Matter." Monthly Review Press. New York, NY. May 1, 2009.

Michael Yates’ book, Why Unions Matter, published on May 1st, 2009 in New York, NY. In his

book, he writes about why unions are important in our modern day economy. He writes about the

importance of better pay, benefits, and working conditions for union members that choose to be a

part of unions as opposed to not. He writes about how legislation and the government is pushing

to dismantle union representation and how this is hurting the U.S. economy. Yates is a well-

established union lawyer that has first-hand experienced the push to dismantle unions and what

they represent for workers. His book’s writings are a large part of this papers key ideas or points.