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Worker Rights

The Institute sponsors seminars, discussions and publications that focus on free trade unions as the expression of the fundamental right of freedom of association--a right guaranteed in all major international human rights conventions and essential to the health and well being of democracy as well as the stability and equitable growth of the economy.

These rights have been eroded in every region of the world, partly as a result of economic changes flowing from globalization, most prominently the emergence over the past four decades of globalized finance capital that has weakened business ties to local and national economies. This development has greatly diminished the leverage that workers and their organizations have with relation to employers. One of the results has been a massive redistribution of wealth to the top tiers of society, and the deep weakening of independent, free labor movements. The Institute's programs explore this phenomenon in research, publications and sponsored events, from three-person panel discussions to international conferences.

  • The Future of American Labor: Initiatives for a New Era

    February 8, 2019

    Sponsored by the ALBERT SHANKER INSTITUTE,THE CENTURY FOUNDATION & THE HARRISON INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC LAW. Co-Sponsored by The American Prospect, Dissent, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor Georgetown University, the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations. Union activists and leaders, labor scholars and elected officials discussed the strategic lessons of the ‘Teacher Insurgency,’ the post-Janus work of public sector unions, the potential of sectoral bargaining, organizing among millennials and federal government legislative and policy initiatives on behalf of labor organizing. For more information and to watch the video, go here.

  • The Challenge for Business and Society Book Discussion and Reception with Stanley Litow

    October 2, 2018

    October 2, 2018, 4:30 to 6:30 pm, 555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. Discussant: Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teacher and the Albert Shanker Institute. More information and Registration.
  • "TEACHER STRIKE!" Book Discussion & Reception

    June 27, 2017

    A wave of teacher strikes in the 1960s and 1970s roiled urban communities. Jon Shelton illuminates how this tumultuous era helped shatter the liberal-labor coalition and opened the door to the neoliberal challenge at the heart of urban education today. Join us for a book discussion and reception on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, 4:30 -6:30 pm. 555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. Register Here.

  • AFT: One Hundred Years of Social Justice Teacher Unionism

    January 11, 2017

    Wednesday, January 11, 2017, 555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001. Watch the Conversation.

     

  • The Challenge of Precarious Labor

    December 5, 2016

    December 5, 2016, 8:30 am to 5:30 pm, Washington Court Hotel, 525 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001.  Co-sponsored by AFL-CIO | American Federation of Teachers | The American Prospect  |  DISSENT | Center for Innovation in Worker Organization, Rutgers University Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University | New Labor Forum |  United Association for Labor Education    More information and to view the conference sessions, go here.

  • New Visions of Collective Bargaining in American Education

    May 11, 2016

    May 11, 2016. When the first collective bargaining agreements in American education were negotiated a half century ago, they were largely focused on wages, working conditions and due process. School district officials resisted the inclusion of educational issues as encroachments on “management prerogatives.” Meanwhile, the fledging teacher unions modelled themselves after progressive unions, such as the United Auto Workers and the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, using industrial-style contracts as a template for their own collective bargaining. But the democratic idea that teachers should have a collective voice in their educational workplace could not be contained within such limited parameters. For a generation, teacher unions have struggled, with increasing success, to expand collective bargaining into the professional sphere. Our panel will investigate some of the most promising efforts on that front around the country, as teacher unions find new ways to negotiate contracts for educational innovation and improvement and build new partnerships with community around that work. Watch the video.

  • Teaching Voting Rights

    July 14, 2015

    Using the C3 framework developed for teaching social studies and civics with the Common Core, this workshop will investigate the use of inquiry lessons to teach the theme of voting rights. This panel is part of the AFT's TEACH conference. Watch the panel.

  • Organizing the Workers of Walmart: From Bentonville to Beijing

    June 15, 2015

    Speakers will discuss campaigns to organize the workers of Walmart, in the United States and in China. They include: Han Dongfang, Nelson Lichtenstein, Ph.D., Yi Duan, and Emily Stewart.
  • Strategies for African-American Economic Emancipation

    May 29, 2015

    A panel sponsored by the Albert Shanker Institute at the Fighting Inequality Conference at Georgetown University.

  • In Defense of the Public Square

    May 1, 2015

    A robust and vibrant public square is an essential foundation of democracy. It is the place where the important public issues of the day are subject to free and open debate, and our ideas of what is in the public interest take shape. Watch the sessions.

  • Is There A Pension Crisis?

    March 11, 2015

    Elected officials seeking to diminish the pensions of public sector employees have argued that they are responding to a fiscal crisis. Is this crisis real or contrived? March 11, noon-2.
  • American Labor Movement at a Crossroads: New Thinking, New Organizing, New Strategies

    January 15, 2015

    This conference examines new thinking and new initiatives in labor organizing, viewing them critically in the light of ongoing union imperatives of cultivating member activism and involvement, fostering democratic self-governance and building the collective power of working people.

  • Chinese Labor Movement: Which Way Forward?

    June 25, 2014

    In April, approximately 40,000 workers struck the footwear manufacturing facilities operated by Yue Yuen Industrial, a global supplier of shoes for brands such as Adidas and Nike.

  • The Finanical Crisis and Worker Rights in China: What Has The Recession Done to Prospects for True Worker Representation?

    June 2, 2009

    In June 2009 the Institute sponsored a two-day conference on The Financial Crisis and Worker Rights in China: What Has The Recession Done to Prospects for True Worker Representation? See the agenda and the bios.

  • Assisting Independent Trade Unions in Cuba

    April 1, 2009

    In cooperation with the Committee for Free Trade Unionism (CFTU) headed by AFL-CIO President Emeritus Tom Donahue, Freeodm House, the National Endowment for Democracy and the 21st Century ILGWU Heritage Fund, the Institute sponsored a conference in April 2009 which examined current conditions on workers in Cuba and the prospects for change on the island nation suffering under political repression. The keynote address was delivered by Pedro Alvarez Ramos, one of the leading voices in the exile of Cuban workers and their struggle to create representative unions free of State or Party control. The conference brought together a diverse and broad group of labor leaders, journalists, activists, and human rights groups.

  • Creating Jobs: Delivering Education and Skills; Expanding Labor’s Role

    May 2, 2008

    This June 2008 meeting focused on three priorities: (1) the need for a seamless web of providers from high schools to community colleges and universities to unions and employers; (2) technology and how teaching is delivered; and (3) access to learning in multiple settings.

  • Labor Law Reform in China: What Are The Implications for Worker Rights? For Political Liberalization?

    January 2, 2008

    In January 2008 the Institute sponsored a second conference entitled Labor Law Reform in China: What Are The Implications for Worker Rights? For Political Liberalization?

  • Democracy and Worker Rights: A Discussion of Labor's Approach to China

    April 6, 2006

    On April 6-7, 2006, the Institute sponsored a lively discussion among representatives from nine AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions on the U.S.labor movement’s differing approaches to the increasing economic dominance of an ongoing worker rights repression in mainland China. After opening remarks by AFT and Shanker Institute President McElroy, participants heard from two prominent China experts, Andrew Nathan (Columbia University) and James Mann (School for Advanced International Studies).

  • Unionism and Democracy: The Experience, the Legacy, The Future

    April 2, 2005

    The Institute received a grant from the ILGWU Heritage Fund in April 2005 to help sponsor this three-day seminar aimed at educating new AFT leaders on the rationale and history behind labor’s support for democracy and worker rights in the world.

  • Unions and Workforce Development (a discussion with John Monks)

    January 4, 2003

    This is the transcript of a 2003 luncheon discussion on the revitalization of the labor movement with John Monks, general secretary of Britain's Trades Union Congress (TUC).

  • 'Shanker Lecture' Given By Hong Kong Democracy Leader

    May 15, 2002

    The late Szeto Wah, founder of Hong Kong's teachers' union, was the featured speaker at the Institute's Albert Shanker Lecture on May 15, 2002.

  • Seminar on Workforce Development

    May 12, 2001

    Research has shown that most corporations would be better off if they stopped raiding one another for superstar staff and concentrated on identifying and developing the talents of their current workforce. For their part, unions have a vested interest in helping members increase both the value and the quality of their work. This discussion explored the convergence of these interests.

  • Eugenia Kemble Research Grants

    In honor of its founding executive director, the Albert Shanker Institute announces the creation of the “Eugenia Kemble Research Grants Program.” Tax-deductible donations to this program are welcome. Please make donations through PayPal or by check to the Albert Shanker Institute (555 New Jersey Ave, NW, Washington, DC 20001). More information. Watch the Memorial Service.

  • Al Shanker Remembered on the 20th Anniversary of His Death: Special Blog Series

    Twenty years ago, the legendary president of the American Federation of Teachers, Al Shanker, died.

  • Democracy's Champion

    This report chronicles Al Shanker’s contributions in the international arena. It documents Shanker's many international endeavors to support democracy and workers’ rights and records the living memories of those who worked with him.

  • Cooperation between the AFL-CIO and NSZZ Solidarnosc, 1980-89

    The Institute has supported research for a forthcoming book about the American labor movement's support for the Solidarność underground by Polish historian Pawel Zyzak, the author of an award-winning biography of former Polish President Lech Walesa.

  • The Global State of Workers Rights: Free Labor in a Hostile World

    The Shanker Institute conceived of and supported the creation of a first-of-its-kind map of labor freedom in the world, by Freedom House and a report entitled: “The Global State of Workers’ Rights: Free Labor in a Hostile World” which examined the conditions in 165 countries.

  • American Labor in U.S. History Textbooks

    The study conducted by the Institute in cooperation with the American Labor Studies Center (ALSC) makes the argument that labor history is central to an accurate depiction of U.S. history and argues that a fuller, more balanced depiction of U.S.

  • Lane Kirkland: Champion of American Labor

    The Institute provided support for this biography by Arch Puddington, which tells the story of Lane Kirkland, a major force in America’s labor movement, but also the era and and political context in which he lived.

  • Why We Need New Workplace Partnerships for Skills Development

    This report, signed by a diverse group of labor, business and policy experts, calls for far-reaching changes in the way our country manages its work-force skills and training efforts.

  • Finding Their Voices/Professionals and Workforce Representation

    A significant percentage of unorganized professionals would like to be represented in their workplaces by a union or some other type of “employee organization.” This conclusion, drawn from two Shanker Institute-sponsored studies, comes in spite of the fact that many professionals hold a stereotypical view of unions as overly confrontational.

  • Professional Workers, Unions, and Associations: Affinities and Antipathies

    This paper, by Richard Hurd, director of labor studies at Cornell University, explores the changing nature of professional work, examines the attitudes of professionals toward work and unionization, and analyzes the possibility of convergence between the roles and operations of unions and profess

  • Keeping Public Education Together

    In the essay, Al talks about his lifelong dedication to "gaining collective bargaining rights for teachers and using the collective bargaining process to improve teachers’ salaries and working conditions." He also makes it clear that the teacher union movement always had an equally important aim: making schools work better for kids. His tireless efforts, during the past 15 years or so, on behalf of high standards of conduct and achievement and against the fads and follies that threaten to destroy public education were not an "about face" but a logical extension of his trade unionism.
     
    The essay closes with Al’s reflections on the reasons for his long fight to preserve and strengthen public education.
  • Adding Rooms to the 'House of Labor '

    The AFL-CIO is often called the House of Labor. As with all houses, it was built by the skilled handiwork of plasterers, carpenters, bricklayers, cement masons—and one very great teacher.
  • Building a Broader Union

    Albert Shanker could see common threads among professional workers of every stripe.