The Ideas section of April 6th’s Boston Globe took on the challenges and opportunities presented by our 21st century workforce — a landscape where traditional employer-employee relationships have become more exception than norm. Author Leon Neyfakh details a host of new initiatives that aim to organize workers in this new reality, including those of healthcare professionals, adjunct professors and service industry subcontractors.
From the Neyfakh’s ‘Not your grandpa’s labor union’:
Unionization efforts have also been successful among some graduate students and medical residents, who have had to convince the institutions they work for to recognize them as employees, rather than categorize their teaching or hospital work as merely educational. Adjunct professors, who have been able to find only low-paying freelance teaching jobs after finishing degrees, have also formed unions recently. Meanwhile, the large number of doctors who in recent years have effectively gone from business-owners to employees after selling or leasing once-independent practices to hospitals are being targeted for recruitment by the Union of American Physicians and Dentists…
…In all these cases, labor experts say, what we’re seeing is evidence of a struggle to establish clarity about what constitutes employment, and an effort to reduce the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between workers and the entities that wield power over them. That is what’s happening with fast-food workers, who have been striking for higher wages since last December, and who have been told by industry executives to address their grievances to the owners of the individual franchises that employ them. Organizers counter that franchise workers should be recognized as employees of the parent companies, instead; if they were, they could potentially organize on a much larger scale.