Organizing based on skill

As "virtual" corporations increasingly dip into the work force for just short-term contracts, unions are responding with a strategy from the Middle Ages: the guild.

Unions are attempting to harness the rise in "free-agent" contractual labor by organizing workers by skill, rather than by a common company or factory floor. They aim to answer the boom in private temp companies with union agencies that seek to provide job stability and top-of-line benefits, say labor experts.

For example, the South Bay AFL-CIO in San Jose, Calif., this year launched a nonprofit employment agency that has placed nearly 100 clerical workers in regional jobs. Working Partnerships USA pays the temps $10 an hour, or $2 more than rival agencies. It also seeks to gain a competitive edge by offering a health plan.

The union agency plans to expand into a full range of professions, including those in high tech, says Amy Dean, executive officer for the South Bay AFL-CIO and founding director of Working Partnerships USA.

"We envision a high-tech hiring hall that would build a sense of stability for people caught in the middle of a very volatile labor market in which companies hand off responsibility for their workers to an intermediary," says Ms. Dean.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
QR Code to Organizing based on skill
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today