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Workplace Issues Today

The Labor Department has been asked by eight US senators to investigate Wells Fargo following a civil suit that ended in the bank paying $190 million. Employees of Wells Fargo had opened over 2 million credit card accounts that may not have been authorized. The senators want the Labor Department to investigate if the bank violated wage and working hour laws when it neglected to pay overtime to employees who would stay after hours in order to meet their sales quotas. This comes as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a complaint that Wells Fargo’s system financially rewarded employees opening new accounts. Federal investigators are also launching a criminal investigation against the US Bank.

See Sarah N. Lynch , Reuters, Sep 23 2016

Dublin Bus services shut down Thursday night, marking the third work stoppage this week. The strikes began because bus drivers have not received a wage increases in eight years. Four hundred thousand commuters were forced to find alternative methods of transportation, resulting in long lines for taxis.

See Rachel Flaherty, The Irish Times, Sep 23 2016

In a 3-0 ruling, the US Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 ruling that racial discrimination must be based on characteristics that cannot change. This decision disqualifies hairstyles as an area of racial discrimination. The case centered around Chastity Jones, a woman whose job offer was rescinded after she refused to get rid of her dreadlocks. She claims that a human resource representative told her that her hairstyle “tended to get messy”. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan specifically noted that discrimination on the basis of black hair texture is still covered by Title VII, but that classic black hairstyles, because they are changeable, are not.

See Taryn Finley , Huffington Post, Sep 23 2016

On September 19th, a court dismissed the case Divney v. Penske, determining that Penske Automotive Group could not be held liable for discrimination. Divney, an employee at an Ohio based car dealership that is a subsidiary of the Penske group, sued the parent organization, not the car dealership, as the sole defendant. A federal court determined that a parent company is only responsible for subsidiaries based on the daily interrelation of operations, significantly shared management and control of labor relations, as well as total financial control and ownership. The evidence Divney brought did not indicate that those conditions had been met.

See Kevin McGowan, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 22 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to adjust labor laws to increase the number of jobs available in India. The bills will mostly address increasing hiring flexibility by decreasing the severity of legislation that prohibits mass lay-offs. Currently, the law has resulted in a decrease in permanent hiring. Although Modi has been pushing for these changes since his election, legislation has stalled over the past two years due to opposition from unions. Laws concerning working conditions and employee benefits are still under discussion.

See Tommy Wilkes and Manoj Kumar, Reuters, Sep 22 2016

Chicago teachers held a second vote on September 21 to determine whether or not they will strike. The worker’s contract originally expired over a year ago, in June 2015. That December, teachers voted on a possible strike, and then participated in a one-day walkout in April. As of now, the union has not given Illinois any preliminary notice about an upcoming strike. Depending on the outcome of the vote, the earliest an open-ended strike could occur would be October.

See CBS Chicago, Sep 22 2016

After 6 straight years of decline, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results improved by 3%. The DHS includes 22 federal agencies and was formed after the 9/11 attacks of 2001. The DHS proudly announced their increase in score, which is significant versus the overall government-wide increase of 1%. The FEVS polled approximately 408,000 employees across 80 agencies (a participation rate of ~46%). According to Beth Cobert, acting Office of Personnel Management Director, more employees in the DHS were happier with their jobs, wages, and organizations than in 2015. The Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, attributed the department’s positive results to both his and Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ personal involvement with employees, who they spoke to 45 times across 22 cities. Notably, in March, Johnson worked alongside TSA employees at BWI airport to understand his personnel’s needs and work-life balance.

See Joe Davidson , The Washington Post, Sep 21 2016

According to the New York Department of Labor, employers must now receive written consent to pay their employees via direct deposit and cannot charge them for this service. Both wage payment via payroll debit cards and direct deposits will now require greater obligations for employers, who will also need to take internal measures to stay in compliance. Employers using these means of payment must now provide employees with a written explanation of the worker's choices for wage delivery, a statement that they are not required to receive wages via payroll deposit and/or direct deposit, and inform them that they will not incur any fees to receive wage via payroll debit cards. Consent must be received in the employee's’ primary language and electronic notice is allowed if all regulatory requirements are met. The new regulation will go into effect on March 7, 2017.

See Richard Greenberg, Daniel J. Jacobs, Daisy A. Tomaselli, The National Law Review, Sep 21 2016

Twenty-one states are currently suing the United States Government over the Labor Department’s new overtime rule that is being rolled out this December. The new rule would make employees who make up to $47,000 eligible for overtime pay. The lawsuit argues that by almost doubling the floor that employers are required to pay overtime, the government is forcing employers to either 1) increase salary costs significantly, or 2) cut employee’s hours and organize them as hourly workers instead of salaried. For example, Iowa has estimated that the overtime law will amount to over $19 million in additional spending. Many of the states involved in the lawsuit, including Texas and Oklahoma, have participated in other legal disputes aimed at blocking the Obama administration’s initiatives, which have included the Clean Water Rule and giving illegal immigrants semi-permanent residency status.

See Daniel Fisher, Forbes, Sep 21 2016

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune decided on the NewsGuild CWA to act as their collective bargaining representative. This action came after the newspaper’s September 9th motion against the newspaper, citing unfair labor practices that were in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Journalists spoke out against stagnant wages and significant layoffs. Newspaper Publisher Patrick Dorsey, responsible for the Sarastota Herald-Tribune, has in the past expressed disappointment over employees moving to unionize.

See Tyrone Richardson, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 20 2016

Andy Hall, a British labor activist, was found guilty of defamation in a Thai court. Hall was convicted of violated Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act while researching labor abuses in the Natural Fruit plant. The defamation charges are especially concerning considering the two dozen witnesses who testified that the abuse allegations were legitimate. The conviction is being called “a real blow to human rights in Thailand”, with Hall as a “scapegoat” for those looking to exercise free speech.

See Felize Solomon, TIME, Sep 20 2016

Late Monday night, General Motors and their union reached an agreement on an expiring contract that threatened to cause a strike. Ultimately, the parties agreed to close one assembly line at the Ontario plant, but build another line with the capability to produce both cars and trucks. This change will actually increase the number of workers employed by general motors. The union representative stated his main goal was to keep jobs in Canada, because the auto-industry is dwindling there.

See Ian Austen, The New York Times, Sep 20 2016

Unifor, the Canadian autoworkers’ union, and General Motors are reportedly still far from resolving their contract disagreements. 3,900 of GM’s unionized workers have the legal right to strike at midnight tomorrow, a deadline that the union’s president has said he will not extend. The 4 year contract covers worker at GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford in Ontario and expires today. The major area of contention is Unifor’s demand that the automaker invest in building new vehicle models in the Oshawa, Ontario factory. The new contract could either salvage 2,500 jobs at the Oshawa plant or bring it closer to closing its doors.

See Allison Martell , Reuters, Sep 19 2016

After an Associated Press investigation found that hundreds of foreign fishermen laboring on Hawaii’s commercial fleet, state and federal lawmakers are promising to take action. The AP found that the Southeast Asian and Pacific Island men had been confined to the ships for many years without being granted their basic labor rights. The report found that the men were forced to defecate in buckets and lived with bed bugs. Some also suffered from tuberculosis and food shortages, while sometimes being paid only 70 cents per hour and working 22 hours per day. The foreign workers were able to work on U.S. ships without proper visas because they never actually set foot on American soil. Whole Foods has stopped purchasing fish from the commercial fleet and the Hawaii Seafood Council has announced that beginning on October 1, the Honolulu Fish Auction will only let boats who have accepted new standardized contracts to sell their fish. The goal of the new contracts is to specifically prevent forced labor. If lawmakers decided to include boat owners in Hawaiian regulations, there will most likely be an injunction to stop labor on the fleets. Another possible course of action proposed by Rep. Kaniela Ing of Honolulu, would be introducing specific legislation to protect the fishermen.

See Fox Business, Associated Press, Sep 19 2016

On Friday, coaches at 14 of Pennsylvania's state colleges approved a strike. The decision links them with APSCUF, who represents 95% of tenured/tenure-track professors and 75% of adjunct employees across the 14 state colleges. Contract negotiations have been underway for over two years, with professors and coaches working under expired contracts for over 450 days. The union is opposed to the State’s proposal to increase the number of temporary employees, increasing costs for less medical benefits, and increased workloads for adjunct professors.

See Lydia Nuzum, Pittsburgh Business Times, Sep 19 2016

Sixty-two protesters were arrested across France and 15 police officers were injured after fights erupted Thursday during labor protests against the country’s new labor law. The law, which was passed in parliament in July, makes protective labor laws less strict by allowing employers to adjust wages and terms to fit their needs. The law would also allow employers to reduce overtime pay from a 25% markup to 10%. Between 12,500 and 13,500 protesters marched in Paris, and riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protestors. After six months of protest, this was many unions’ last push to overturn the law.

See Brian Love, Business Insider, Reuters, Sep 16 2016

Due to the United States unemployment rate falling to 4.9% last month, the tightened labor market is posing a serious obstacle for retailers looking for seasonal workers to employ this holiday season. Preliminary government data shows that slightly more retail jobs were unfilled versus last July. Retailers are now beginning to hire more temporary workers and recruit more aggressively, with Target holding a nationwide hiring event for the first time. Retailers are anticipated to employ approximately 738,800 seasonal employees for this upcoming holiday season, a statistic which is flat from last year. Additionally, with online sales continuing to increase, retailers have expressed difficulties in filling warehouse and other back-office positions.

See Krystina Gustafson, CNBC, Sep 16 2016

After 12 days, professors at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus have regained access to their buildings. Yesterday, the Long Island University Faculty Federation and the University reached an agreement that has extended the faculty members’ contracts until May 31, 2017. On September 7, approximately 400 faculty members were locked out of the campus after they rejected the university’s proposed contract. Professors rejected the contract because of the salary cuts that new adjunct professors would have to take, while existing professors would receive an average raise of 13% over the course of 5 years. This was the first time that higher education teachers have been locked out of their facilities. The two parties will continue to bargain, but the contract extension allows professors to continue teaching in their classrooms without being locked out.

See Emily Marks , University Herald, Sep 16 2016

Recently, approximately 180 million disgruntled Indian workers participated in what unions are definitively calling the “biggest work stoppage in human history”. The mostly unskilled laborers are asking for a $270 per month minimum wage, as well as health and social security benefits. Last year, the Indian finance minister offered a $180 per month minimum wage, but the proposal was rejected because it did not address many of the other union’s demands. There is currently no enforced minimum wage in India, although about 90% of the workforce are engaged in the informal positions that would benefit. Strikers blame the government for favoring the business sector over the working class.

See Shashank Bengali, The Los Angeles Times, Sep 15 2016

After seeing a Facebook post detailing tuna plant workers from $1 million dollars in compensation, chicken farmer Tun Tun Win realized he and his coworkers could sue for exploitation. Up until recently, migrant workers at a chicken farm in central Thailand were used to working appalling hours: 20 hour shifts for as long as 40 days in a row, followed by three weeks of 10 hour shifts. For this labor, they were given three days off, and $7 per day. After reading the social media posting, Tun Tun Win and several of his coworkers have filed a lawsuit against their employer asking for $1.3 million in compensation.

See Alisa Tang, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Sep 15 2016

Postal workers around the United Kingdom are beginning a 24 hour walk-out today. The employees are protesting the pension losses, privatization and closures of branches, and layoffs outlined in a new cost-cutting proposal. Half of the postal workers are slated to have had their final salary pension schemes cut. Many workers also mentioned unhappiness with the new organizational structure, and the loss of job security. The Communication Workers Union has joined forces with Unite, the union for post office managers, to protest 4,700 workers strong.

See Sarah Butler, The Guardian, Sep 15 2016

After the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback, Cam Newton, took a significant hit to the head in Thursday night’s season opener, the National Football League and its players’ union have both opened investigations regarding the team’s compliance with concussion protocol. Newton suffered from a helmet-to-helmet collision with Darian Stewart, safety of the Denver Broncos. If the Panthers are found to be in-compliant with the policies they could face disciplinary actions from the NFL. Both the NFL and players’ union will recommend a disciplinary response, which will go to a third-party arbitrator if the two sides cannot come together, a procedure that is outlined in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, both the NFL and the players’ union will receive access to game footage, documents, and ability to formally interview parties involved, such as the Independent certified athletic trainers (ATC spotters) and the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant that was present during the blow.

See Tom Pelissero, USA Today, Sep 14 2016

ITT Technical Institutes announced last week it will be shutting its doors as a result of the Education Department’s decision to no longer give financial aid to students at the school. This has prompted over 100 former ITT Technical students to actively refuse to pay back their federal student loans. It is a strike against the government’s lack of policing for for-profit colleges. The students argue that the credentials that they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for are essentially worthless and the US Department of Education failed to protect them. This movement is not new, it began last year after the Education Department bailed out Corinthian Colleges Inc. Both Corinthian and ITT Tech students are demanding their federal student loans be forgiven.

See Shahien Nasiripour , Bloomberg, Sep 14 2016

Despite the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union, the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9% until July. Surprisingly, today the Office of National Statistics reported that July’s unemployment rate actually fell to 4.7%. Wage growth declined .2% since last quarter. The Bank of England does expect unemployment to eventually creep to 5.6% by the middle of 2018, which could hurt the nation’s economy. Chief economist at PriceWaterHouseCoopers, John Hawksworth, confirmed that the Brexit did not have an immediate impact, and believes that if a delayed impact does occur, the labor market won’t be the first to react. The news resulted in the pound rallying to versus both the dollar and the euro.

See BBC, Sep 14 2016

On Sunday, New York Governor Cuomo officially extended the opportunity for Ground Zero Workers to apply for government compensation until 2018. The decision came two days after a news release by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene clarified that the physical toll for workers who cleaned Ground Zero remains widely felt. The E.P.A. has recently apologized for stating that the air around Ground Zero was harmless; higher rates of cancer have been found in rescue workers who breathed the contaminated air.

See Marc Santora, The Guardian, Sep 13 2016

Recently, almost 10,000 Chipotle workers have filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging wage theft. Both current and former employees claim that supervisors would clock workers out when their shifts ended, while in many cases the employees were still cleaning up their stations. In other cases, workers were automatically clocked out by the computer system. The popular food chain plans to fight the accusations in the upcoming lawsuit Turner v. Chipotle.

See Heather Long, CNN Money, Sep 13 2016

On September 12th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to allow agricultural workers overtime pay after eight hours. The previous law necessitated overtime pay for employees working over 10 hours per day. The United Farm Workers Union hopes that this new precedent set by California will push other states to do the same. Opponents to the legislation have voiced concern that employers will hire more workers for fewer hours in order to avoid the new expense.

See by Jazmine Ulloa and John Myers, The Los Angeles Times, Sep 13 2016

In his closing speech Bob Martinez, President of the International Association of Machinists, ended the union’s convention by highlighting plans to adjust the group’s goals to modern realities, especially stressing the need to increase union membership and to update the IAM’s outdated organizing playbook. Martinez has already released plans to bolster worker organization in the South, and to significantly cut IAM’s expenses. The convention focused on the need to explore global partnerships and the impact of 3D printing technology, as well as their desire to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

See Tyrone Richardson, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 12 2016

In a vote by employees at Pennsylvania Visual Charter School, workers responded in favor of representation by the Pennsylvania State Education Association. By contrast, workers at Hyde Leadership Charter School voted in opposition of representation from their respective union, the United Federation of Teachers. These results demonstrate the increased desire for representation under federal labor law. In response, AFT President Randi Weingarten stated that either under state or federal law, the union would continue organizing teachers at charter schools.

See Michael Rose, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 12 2016

Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which hires foreign workers from temporary positions working on farms, has recently faced accusations that the program is exploitative. A group representing foreign migrant workers in Canada called Justicia for Migrant Workers claims that because employees’ work permits are entirely dependent on a single employer, they face immediate repatriation upon losing their jobs. The collective has launched a campaign to highlight working conditions for migrants and push the government to grant permanent immigration status to workers, including a month-long caravan tour of the country.

See Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, Al Jazeera, Sep 12 2016

Inmates across the United States began striking today to protest the slave-like conditions they endure working in their prisons. 45 years ago today, prisoners in New York’s Attica Correctional Facility rioted for better conditions. Today’s strike could potentially be the largest prison strike in history, and one riot has already been reported in Florida. Inmates are hoping to put an end to the forced labor they are victim to, an issue they have attempted to draw attention to in the past through nonviolent protests and work stoppages. Prisoners can earn as low as 15 cents per hour doing tasks that keep their facilities running. Lucky prisoners land coveted positions working for companies such as Victoria’s Secret, who sometimes outsource their labor to U.S. jails. The strike is expected to last multiple days and many facilities may order a lockdown to prevent rioting.

See Aimee Picchi, CBS News, Sep 9 2016

Associated Justice Douglas Wilkins ruled against Boston’s Police Union’s injunction on the body camera program on Friday. Judge Wilkins cited that it was “surprising that no officers voluntarily submitted an application to participate” in the program and supported BDP Commissioner Evan’s order that 100 of his men participate in the pilot program. The program is now set to start on Monday. Although Union President Patrick Rose is “disappointed’ by the ruling, he is confident that the body cameras will highlight the good work his members do on a daily basis.

See Zuri Berry , Boston Herald, Sep 9 2016

Musicians in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra put down their instruments in protest at 12:30pm on Thursday, after 15 months of failed contract negotiations. The musicians are members of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 72-147, and decided to strike after management gave them its “last, best and final offer”, which the musicians claim was identical to one they had rejected 4 days ago. The Symphony was forced to cancel the 2016-2017 season opener this weekend and may have to cancel performances on September 16-18th. The rejected contract included pay cuts over the next three years and a pay increase of 3.5% in the fourth year, which would have boosted principal players’ salaries to over $70,000. Management cites a projected deficit of $700,000 this year as the driver of the pay cuts, but the musicians argue that they have taken large pay cuts for far too long and that ticket sales have been on the rise. The musicians took a 13.5% pay reduction in 2010 because of the recession.

See Michael Granberry , Dallas Morning News, Sep 9 2016

In an unprecedented move, Long Island University locked out 400 faculty members just days after their contract expired, and just as the school semester was to begin. The lockout, located on LIU's Brooklyn campus, came after the union and the university clashed over salaries. Representatives from LIU claim the lockout is a pre-emptive move to avoid the faculty strikes which have occurred in each of the last several contract negotiations, and hope to cut adjunct faculty pay as part of a broader effort to cut costs university-wide. In response to the lockout, faculty voted overwhelmingly to reject the university's latest contract offer, as well as for a vote of no-confidence in LIU's president, Kimberly Cline. Labor historians observe that employer lockouts are rarely effective tactically, and often prove to be damaging from a public relations standpoint.

See Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, Sep 8 2016

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Labor Center suffered a blow as its director, Eve Weinbaum left amidst declining enrollment and decreased revenue. The prestigious program, founded in 1964, saw some of its funding cut last year, including cuts to part-time faculty and graduate student funding. In additions, the Labor Center's director was decreased from a 12-month to a 9-month position. While the administration claims that the cuts are only temporary and will be reversed when the program is revived, Labor leaders and faculty nationwide are concerned the fate of the Labor Center are signs of a possible larger trend in which similar labor programs are targeted for cuts for ideological reasons.

See Laura Krantz, Boston Globe, Sep 8 2016

Both teachers and students in Chicago’s public school system returned for the start of the new school year yesterday, but the threat of a teachers’ strike still looms. The Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public School System has been without a contract for over one year and the union is considering striking in October if negotiations continue to not progress. The main area of controversy is the 7% pension pick up that the district hopes to remove from the teachers’ contracts. The pension provision has been in place since 1981 and requires the school system to pay 7% of the 9% of salaries teachers must contribute to their pension. Additionally, the CPS’s budget currently relies on $215 of new state funding, which is not guaranteed. The CTU will be meeting tonight and could potentially set a formal strike deadline.

See CBS Chicago, Sep 7 2016

In Boston, a pilot program for officers to wear body cameras was scheduled to begin last week, but was delayed after not a single officer volunteered. This prompted Police Commissioner William Evans to force 100 of his men to participate and wear the body cameras. The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association fired back, asking Judge Douglas Wilkins to issue an injunction on the program. Patrick Rose, president of the Patrolmen’s Association, had instructed his members to abstain from the program until an agreement was reached with the city, an order that has led Kay Hodge, the city’s lawyer, to deem the union’s hands “unclean”. The hearing will continue through this afternoon.

See Boston Herald, Associated Press, Sep 7 2016

After 3 months of unsuccessful contract negotiations, over 600 employees in Harvard’s Dining halls are preparing to strike. The dining hall workers’ contracts expire on September 17th, as well as the “no-strike” clause that lies within them. Harvard’s dining hall workers are pushing for a minimum of $35,000 a year and for the university to continue their current health care program. Currently only 30% of dining hall workers earn $35,000, excluding overtime. Harvard University’s spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga issued a statement arguing that the university’s wages are “highly competitive”, with dining hall employees earning almost $22 an hour. Additionally, the university’s new health care plan has been accepted by over 5,000 employees thus far.

See Lauren Fox, Boston Globe, Sep 7 2016

Unifor National, Canada's main autoworkers' union, picked General Motors as its strike target on Tuesday. The union is currently negotiating with GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler, but has chosen GM as its target. The union chooses one company during each negotiation period to set the tone for the other major manufacturer's contract negotiations, who typically agree to similar deals. Jerry Dias, Unifor's president, set the strike deadline for September 19th, which is when GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford's contracts all expire. The strike could potentially disrupt GM's North American production and supply chain.

See Allison Martell, Yahoo Finance, Sep 6 2016

The British Medical Association's junior doctors announced a five-day strike that will take place later this month after 58% of doctors rejected a contract backed by the junior doctor's leader, Johann Malawana. The junior doctors fear that a new contract will stretch resources even further and decrease morale for the already understaffed professionals. Additionally, they argue that the contract negatively impacts and disincentives workers who work part-time, particularly women and those who typically work on weekends.

See Rebecca Ratcliffe, The Guardian, Sep 6 2016

4,800 nurses employed by 5 of Allina Health's Minneapolis hospitals (Abbott Northwestern, Phillips Eye Institute, United, Unity, and Mercy) began an open ended strike on Labor Day. The nurses, who are represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, are fighting for health insurance, workplace safety and staffing levels. The strike erupted after meetings between the two parties and federal mediators lasted 22 hours on Friday and ended in a stalemate. This is the second time this year that the nurses have gone on strike, with the first taking place for an entire week in June after their contracts originally expired. Allina Health claims that the strike will not effect patient care and the business, but the union's June strike cost the company $20.4 million, primarily driven by the high cost of employing replacement nurses.

See Steve Karnowski , ABC News, Associated Press, Sep 6 2016

After two months of straight growth, the US Labor Department announced that employment numbers slowed more than expected in August. Nonfarm employment, which rose by 275,000 in July, decreased to 151,000 in August. Economists had forecasted payrolls increasing by 180,000 and a .1% drop in the unemployment rate to 4.8%. The US Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9%. The slowdown is cited to potentially be caused by difficulties in adjusting data based on seasonality and changes due to school calendars. On Thursday it was announced that the manufacturing sector tightened, which coupled with today’s Labor Department numbers, makes a Federal Reserve interest rate hike in September less likely.

See Lucia Mutikani , Reuters, Sep 2 2016

After the NLRB ordered Volkswagen to bargain and recognize the Local 42 United Auto Workers union on August 26th, the car manufacturer announced it would file an appeal with the United States Federal Appeals Court. Despite VW’s reluctance to comply with the NLRB’s order , yesterday, the UAW publically encouraged the company to comply and meet them at the bargaining table. Last year’s unionization of the Chattanooga plant was significant, as it marked a victory despite the deeply anti-union sentiment found in the southern United States.

See Gaurika Juneja and Aurindom Mukherjee, Reuters, Sep 2 2016

Approximately 180 million workers across India began striking on Friday in protest of the government’s lackluster minimum wage increase for unskilled workers. Protesters included state bank employees, school teachers, postal workers, miners, and construction workers. Many of the country’s unions are calling on the government to guarantee social security and healthcare for all workers, as well as increasing the minimum wage to meet inflation. Some states, however, have boosted their minimum wage levels in excess of monthly targets of 9,100 rupees ot 13,598 rupees (a change from approximately $136 to $204 USD). The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, says that the reforms are necessary to increase growth in the country.

See ABC News, Associated Press, Sep 2 2016

Since their inception 25 years ago, charter schools have been greatly debated and oftentimes fall into a grey areas in terms of state law. After unionization efforts in both New York and Pennsylvania’s charter schools, the National Labor Relations Board was thrown into the debate in regards to whether charter schools should be treated as public or private entities. Because of charter schools’ use of tax dollars, as well as their tuition-free and open-enrollment nature, many supporters have dubbed them public institutions. Opponents, which include union leaders, argue that charter schools are private companies and are comparable to government contractors. The NLRB agreed, stating that charter schools are not directly established by state governments and their administrators are not controlled by voters or public officials. The decision is significant because charter school employees must now organize under the NLRA instead of other state laws that apply to public-sector employees.

See Emma Brown, Washington Post, Aug 31 2016

After numerous deadline extensions and the appointment of a special mediator, Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers have reached a tentative contract. Details of the agreement have not been made public, but the President of the Postal Workers union announced that he was pleased that his members were not forced to resort to a strike. Notably, the negotiated contract is a two-year deal, compared to the four-year deals the postal workers and Canada Post have historically agreed to. Additionally, it is unknown if the inequality between rural and urban mail carriers, which has been identified as the forefront of these negotiations, has been resolved as part of the tentative contract. The agreement must be ratified by more than 50,000 Canadian Postal Workers union members before going into effect.

See Huffington Post Canada, Aug 31 2016

According to the Automatic Data Processing Payroll Service, private sector employers added 177,000 new jobs in August, versus 194,000 in July. Despite the drop, August’s numbers met analyst expectations and therefore send a positive signal to the Fed, who may choose to hike interest rates when they meet on September 20-21. Chief economist at Moodys, Mark Zandi, believes that the “US economy will soon be at full employment.” By increasing payrolls by 53,000, the business and professional services sector was highlighted as the main force behind the private-sector growth. Contrastingly, with 2,000 less jobs in August, construction companies marked their third-straight monthly decline. The ADA’s report also bolster’s analysts predictions for a strong Labor Department report on Friday, which would also increase the likelihood of an interest rate hike.

See Jim Puzzanghera, Los Angeles Times, Aug 31 2016

Over 20,000 members of Unifor, a Canadian auto workers union, voted in favor of a strike mandate in their contract negotiations with General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford. Almost unanimously, workers voted in favor of walking off the job if the Big Three automakers and union cannot reach an agreement before the their contracts expire on September 19th. Unifor is pushing the Big Three automakers to further invest in Ontario, the home of Canada’s auto industry. This cause is primarily motivated by the 14,300 Canadian auto jobs that were lost between 2001 and 2013 due to cheaper labor options in Mexico and the southern United States. GM’s 2015 agreement to boost investment in the United States by $1.9M serves as a beacon of hope for Canadian negotiators, who are seeking a similar deal.

See Ethan Lou, Reuters, Aug 29 2016

In an effort to promote a work environment that is “tailored to a reduced schedule and still fosters success and career growth”, Amazon is testing out a 30 hour work week with some of its employees. The employees will be paid 25% less than their 40-hour per week equivalents, but will still receive the same benefits. Amazon hopes this will influence other companies to offer reduced schedules, which could greatly benefit women who are balancing work and childcare.

See David Z. Morris, Fortune, Aug 29 2016

Data released by Bank of America Merrill Lynch confirms that wages are rising in low-pay sectors. While the majority of the labor market is exhibiting wage growth of 2.4% year-on-year, the bottom 20% of industries is seeing growth of 3.4%. Analysts believe that there are two main drivers of this phenomenon: the increase of many state’s minimum wages and a very tight labor market for younger, less educated workers. Both California and New York boosted their minimum wages this year, impacting approximately 50% of the outperformance in the low-pay sector.

See Bob Bryan , Business Insider, Aug 29 2016

Over 1,200 union members protested in front of the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas this morning. Now that the Culinary Workers Union successfully unionized 500+ full, part-time, and on-call employees at Trump International, the union is hoping to bring attention to their fight to begin negotiations with Trump International. Union members are seeking wage and job security as well as better benefits. The hotel’s current employees earn $3 less than other Las Vegas hotel workers.

See Jessica Terrones, Las Vegas Review Journal, Aug 26 2016

After last Tuesday’s NLRB decision that ruled in favor of Columbia's graduate students unionizing, debate surrounding the Northwestern student athlete case has reemerged. The decision could lead to the NLRB ruling in favor of student athletes seeking to collectively bargain in the future, although it will have no direct impact on reversing the Northwestern case. Originally concerned with maintaining the “symbiotic relationship” between football teams and and players, the NLRB never ruled on if the players were in fact employees. This is significant because going forward, a different group of student athletes may be able to organize if they were able to argue that the “symbiotic relationship” would not be tainted. One proposed option would be to unionize the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is composed of entirely private universities. The “symbiotic relationship” argument would be disputed because the bargaining unit could theoretically create a sub-conference within itself and compete.

See Marc Edelman, Forbes, Aug 26 2016

Contract negotiations between Canadian Union of Postal Workers and Canada Post reached a stalemate yesterday, resulting in the union filing a 72-hour job action notice. Canada Post, the country's government owned postal service, is allegedly attempting to fire 1,200 employees and increase pension contribution rates. Canada Post argues that the union has refused to engage in binding arbitration and has ignored the company’s wish to address major threats to the postal service’s future. These threats include the fact that online communications such as email have lead to deliveries per address decreasing 39% since 2006. Additionally, the expansion of suburban neighborhoods has stretched delivery routes.

See Greg Quinn , Bloomberg, Aug 26 2016

On Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board ruled in favor of Columbia graduate students in their fight to become recognized employees of their universities and have the right to unionize. This 3-1 decision will now force private universities to collectively bargain with graduate students, but prestigious institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia have condemned the board’s decision. The universities are concerned about the lengthy and expensive bargaining as well as the disruption of academic freedoms that will result from this decision. Additionally, Peter McDonough, VP and general counsel at the American Council on Education, argues that the ruling could result in less federal work study positions on campus that benefit students from low and middle income households.

See Danielle Douglas-Gabriel , Washington Post, Aug 24 2016

G&M Realty, an apartment developer who is currently building on a famous graffiti site in Long Island City, has come under scrutiny after breaking its promise to employ 1,000 union workers for its project. The news has prompted union leaders to protest around the construction site. G&M made the promise when the company was petitioning for the project to get approved in 2013. The company has responded saying it does not legally need to follow through on its promise and that completely employing union workers would be too expensive. G&M Realty plans to employ as many workers as possible, but has denied requests to release how many it has actually hired thus far.

See Jeanmarie Evelly , DNAinfo, Aug 24 2016

Singapore’s workplace fatality rate is expected to be 2.5% per 100,000 workers, primarily due to the country’s dangerous construction industry. 18 out of the 42 workplace deaths that have occurred this year stem from the construction sector. Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say has announced that safety will become a main focus in upcoming public construction projects, which will help reduce the fatality rate to 1.8 per 100,000 by 2018. Lim warns however, that many private companies are doing little to prevent these accidents and are even specifically allocating for anticipated fines in their budgets.

See Iliyas Juanda, Today Online, Aug 24 2016

The National Labor Relations Board ruled against the Mexican fast-food chain in a decision last week that determined that the company’s social media policy violated federal labor law. The policy had prohibited employees from using social media to circulate “inaccurate information”. The policy was used to justify the firing of James Kennedy, an employee who tweeted his frustration with wages and circulated a petition demanding mandated breaks on Twitter. Chipotle has been ordered to stop enforcing the policy and can no longer fire employees for circulating petitions on social media.

See Michael Rose, Bloomberg BNA, Daily Labor Report, Aug 22 2016

The District of Columbia’s Metro system is countersuing a union who is fighting to reinstate a subway inspector after he allegedly falsified an inspection report that resulted in the smoke disaster at the L’Enfant Plaza station. The tragedy resulted in one death and over a dozen injuries. The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 argues that the mechanic was wrongfully fired and blamed the company for taking responsibility away from inspectors who verified the falsified inspection report. Metro is now countersuing because it believes that terminating the employee was well within their rights, as well as rejecting an arbitrator’s decision to suspend the employee for 180 days without pay.

See Martine Powers, The Washington Post, Aug 22 2016

Uber and Lyft are facing a new competitor, Juno, a taxi service that is dedicated to fostering human capital in order to keep employees happy and loyal. Uber and Lyft have been fighting to keep their drivers as independent contractors since their inception, but with Juno promising drivers stock, full employee status, paid vacation and sick leave they may have to reconsider. The tradeoff, however, is that the drivers will receive less commission than if they were to work for Uber or Lyft, receiving 10% vs. the competitor’s 20-25%. Juno currently only operates in New York City with approximately 13,000 drivers.

See Aarti Shahani, NPR, Aug 22 2016

US Judge Edward Chen ruled against the $100 million proposed settlement between Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts. Judge Chen believes that $100 million is not enough to adequately compensate the company's drivers, especially the $1 million allocated for claims under California's Private Attorneys General Act. Previously, if it was ruled that Uber drivers were in fact employees (not independent contractors), the California Labor and Workplace Development Agency had estimated the claims to be ~$1 billion. With Uber's court date rapidly approaching, the settlement's rejection pressures the company to offer a higher payout if they want to avoid a verdict that could cost them billions in additional wages.

See Daniel Fisher, Forbes, Aug 19 2016

The United States Supreme Court upheld the National Labor Relations Board's ruling in the Ozburb-Hessey case earlier today. Ozburb-Hessey, a Tennessee based transportation, warehouse, and supply chain management company, had been found guilty of committing multiple unfair labor practices in the period preceding its 2011 union election. The company disciplined two employees because of their pro-union opinions, threatened and surveilled its workers, and encouraged union supporters to quit. The Supreme Court agreed with the NLRB's findings and dismissed Ozburb-Hessey's petition for review.

See Lydia Wheeler, The Hill, Aug 19 2016

According to government data released on Friday, the District of Columbia's suburbs are rapidly becoming the country's largest growing employment areas. DC's employment growth rate was a whopping 2.98% vs. the national rate of 1.8% for the period ending in July. The District has seen jumps in local government jobs, hospitality, and leisure, but especially in the health-case and professional services sectors. Such a wide range of improving sectors suggests that the regional job market is diversifying. Additionally, large companies such as CACI, Carahsoft, and Pentagon Federal Credit Union have been adding large amounts of jobs in Northern Virginia, which most likely contributed to the high growth rate.

See Aaron Gregg, The Washington Post, Aug 19 2016

The Labor Department will be granting $1.1 million to six states and municipalities to research the costs of setting up programs that provide at least partial income when employees take time off for family care. The funds will be given to Denver; Franklin, Ohio; Madison, Wis.; and Hawaii, Indiana and Pennsylvania, so that they may follow the lead of California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, all of which offer public programs to assist workers whose employers don't provide family care leave. The three states currently offer at least four weeks of paid family leave, paying at least 55 percent of employees' full income, through employee-funded temporary disability insurance programs. The grants are part of the Paid Leave Analysis Grant Program, which has given more than $3 million to 17 states and municipalities in order to fund research on how to create local paid leave programs.

See Labor Department encouraging states to start own paid family leave programs, Danielle Paquette, The Washington Post, Aug 17 2016

Paid maternity leave is a benefit that currently doesn't exist at the major airlines, nor are accommodations for lactation common, as the Affordable Care Act exempts pilots from the requirement that employers accommodate new mothers. In a male-dominated industry - only four percent of the 159,000 certified airline pilots are female - there has been slow progress in making lactation arrangements and other accommodations for new mothers. Part of the difficulty lies in an unusual work environment - having to pump breast milk in a cockpit, or take a 20 minute break to do so, brings up both privacy issues and aircraft safety. Female pilots at Delta are banding together via Facebook groups to approach their airline unions with formal proposals for paid and unpaid maternity leave, while other pilots at Frontier Airlines are suing their employers on the basis of discrimination, seeking transfer to ground assignments while pregnant or in order to breastfeed.

See Maternity accommodations, paid leave have yet to take off for female pilots, Annalyn Kurtz, The New York Times, Aug 17 2016

U-Pick farms in California encourage consumers to bring their families for fun while self-harvesting fruits and vegetables, offering entertainment, games, picnic tables and party options. At nearby commercial produce farms, however, the reality of reaping produce is not so idyllic. While some employees work at farms that are unionized, resulting in better pay and working conditions, others labor for up to 13 hours in harsh conditions at $10 an hour. Workers who harvest raspberries, for example, work in plastic tunnels where temperatures can be as hot as 100F. Those who harvest strawberries have a different problem; strawberries top the list of produce with the heaviest pesticide usage, sometimes using as many 39 chemicals. Other occupational hazards include dust, bee stings, flash floods, and unremitting physical labor that involves many hours of squatting for low-hung fruit such as strawberries. Many of the workers are immigrants who also report unpaid wages, unpaid “apprenticeships” in order to land the job, and lack of protective equipment; they are reluctant to protest due to their undocumented status.

Like their white-collar counterparts, many blue-collar workers are seeking ways to continue working as they get older, either because they can't afford to retire or don't want to. Yet blue-collar work can be increasingly exhausting as bodies age and wear out. Employees also find that companies are reluctant to hire or retain their older workers as the number of such jobs decrease. Trying to find jobs that will use their wealth of knowledge and experience without the demands of taxing labor, older workers are looking at options that will keep them employed, even if the pay is less. One option is mentoring the younger generation in apprenticeship programs. Others enter retraining and education programs offered by the federal government targeting displaced workers, especially those without college degrees. Still others begin self-employment in order to gain flexibility while working on projects that provide personal satisfaction.

See Mentoring, retraining are options as older blue-collar workers seek retirement jobs, Christopher Farrell, The New York Times, Aug 15 2016

An appeal by a Colorado beef-processing plant to deny former employees unemployment benefits was denied by the state's Department of Labor and Employment Thursday. The employees, all of them Muslims, quit or were fired after management at the Cargill plant instituted a new policy denying them prayer breaks. The state held that there was no operational basis or justification for Cargill's change in policy, and that the policy change met the standard for the former workers to receive benefits.In addition, a number of the former employees have filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

See Rhonda Smith, Bloomberg BNA, Aug 12 2016

A British Parliament report finds Muslim women face multiple levels of discrimination in the workplace. The report finds many Muslim women feel compelled not to wear their Islamic dress during the hiring process, and face often illegal interview questions regarding their personal and home lives under assumptions about their submissive place in Islamic society. In addition, the report found an unspoken acceptance of discrimination towards Muslim women across industries in Great Britain, worsened by anti-extremist policies by the government that create an air of tension and hostility in the workplace. The report made a number of recommendations regarding these issues, including mandating "name blind" applications for employment, in an effort to reduce unemployment among Muslim women.

See British report finds institutional workplace discrimination against Muslim women, John Bingham, The Daily Telegraph (UK), Aug 12 2016

A lawsuit brought by the US Chamber of Commerce against a recent Seattle ordinance allowing Uber and taxi drivers to unionize was thrown out by a federal court Tuesday. Seattle's city council passed the ordinance in December, giving app-based drivers along with taxi and limo drivers the right to organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. The Chamber sued this past spring, claiming the ordinance was unlawful and violated antitrust laws. The court ruled that the Chamber's complaint was premature, as the city was still in the process of putting the ordinance into effect, and it was too early for businesses to determine they had been harmed by it.

See Daniel Beekman, The Seattle Times, Aug 10 2016

The strike by conductors on England's Southern train lines continues, as talks between the union and the line's operator Govia Thameslink Railway broke down. GTR executive Charles Horton blasted the union in a guest column in the Guardian, claiming RMT was misleading conductors, operating out of self-interest instead of in the interest of workers. RMT has countered it has offered to meet with management, but that the Railway has been unwilling to remove preconditions on what topics can be discussed. The strike has resulted in a drastic reduction in services, to the point that many are asking for the government to step in and help the two sides broker a deal and bring the conductors back to work.

See Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, Aug 10 2016

Southwest Airlines’ board of directors firmly rebutted suggestions from the company’s four largest unions that their top executives be ousted for poor performance. The labor groups - representing the airline’s flight attendants, pilots, mechanics and ground staff - had spent the prior week calling for the exit of CEO Gary Kelly and COO Mike Van De Ven for actions which led the company to stock buybacks, cost-cutting measures, and aging reservation systems that had suffered flight disruptions over the years, including several days of cancelled and delayed flights this past July. The board of directors denied any merit in the unions’ vote of no-confidence, and noted that such accusations at a time of labor negotiations were a bargaining ploy. In its letter on Friday, the board expressed that their company has never been stronger, with increased salaries, benefits and service expansion at a time when other airlines had closed or gone bankrupt. The president for the Transport Workers Union Local 556 noted on Saturday that union negotiations have remained protracted due to the company’s increasing emphasis on figures rather than its long-standing culture based on employee morale.

While unemployment, underemployment and wage stagnation has been particularly difficult for workers without high school or college degrees, a new study indicates that there may be improved demand for this segment of employees. Employees who enter the workforce with at least a college degree or higher have more than doubled since 1989, and make up almost 36% current labor market – its largest segment. However, the labor force participation rate still remains over three percent lower than before the recession, with the decline being most noticeable amongst those who don’t have a college degree. The study notes that while educated employees have contributed to economic growth in recent decades, this growth will hit a plateau. Further growth and recovery from the recession in upcoming decades will depend on increasing labor force participation rates, with the impact highest for those who suffered the most during the recession. While it's unlikely that employment levels for this group will reach the highs seen in the late 90s, with 65% of U.S. jobs requiring a college degree, there is some optimism that this group will see job opportunities return to pre-recessionary levels.

A charter management company in Detroit been charged by the NLRB with violating workers right to organize by firing eight teachers without cause last February. The teachers were dismissed from a K-12 charter school by Hamadeh Educational Services allegedly because they had spoken up in a board meeting regarding issues with the school organization. The NLRB complaint aims to get Hamadeh to offer the fired teachers their old jobs and reimburse them for their lost wages. Hamadeh has until August 10 to respond to the complaint.

See NLRB claim charter teachers fired illegally, Allie Gross, Detroit Metro-Times, Aug 5 2016

A large number of UNITE HERE union members picketed yesterday outside Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, protesting the racial disparity in pay and opportunity for ballpark workers under the employment of Aramark. The union charges that the lowest-paying jobs, such as dishwashers and concourse concession workers, at the ballpark are held predominately by African Americans, while workers in the ballpark's luxury suite, who can earn nearly four times more, are almost all white. Also at issue are Aramark's policy of not allowing part-time workers at Citizens Bank Park to supplement their hours by working at Lincoln Financial Field or the Wells Fargo Center, both of which are also catered by Aramark.

See Union marchers protest Philly ballpark caterer Aramark, Jane M. Von Bergen, Philly.com, Aug 5 2016

A new Massachusetts law aims to prevent pay discrimination by preventing employers from asking for salary history during job searches. The bill will also encourage pay transparency by making it illegal for employers to prevent employees from discussing salaries, encouraging employers to eliminate wage discrimination based on gender, and emphasizing that job titles and descriptions do not decide whether work can be treated as comparable. The bill may help improve pay for women whose previous salaries, if lower than males doing comparable work, had served as a measure during job applications which required salary disclosures. Employers would need to determine an equitable salary based on the job’s value rather than basing it on previous salary history.

See A Step Toward Equal Pay for Men and Women , Clare Foran, The Atlantic, Aug 3 2016

Some workers in California’s garment industry, where underpayment of wages has been a long-standing issue, are told to use check chasing services to receive their wages – a ploy that some Los Angeles garment makers use to cloak wages that don’t meet minimum wage requirements. Squeezed by competition from China, Bangladesh, and other Southeast Asian countries, and facing minimum wage increases in the future, many garment factories have closed, while others are escaping wage-theft accountability by forming relationships with check cashing companies. The unofficial payroll checks misrepresent true hourly wages by decreasing the number of hours actually worked; they also often don’t have the required deductions for taxes, disability, or unemployment insurance, which is illegal. In some cases, wage payments are made via vouchers, cashable only at check cashing storefronts or vans parked outside factories. Labor Department investigations in the southern California region over the last five years have uncovered $11.7 million in unpaid wages.

Food and housecleaning employees at the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas won an important victory last week in their effort to unionize as the NLRB denied a petition by the hotel to review the vote that took place late last year. The NLRB's decision paves the way for contract negotiations between the hotel and the Culinary Workers Union, which is representing the workers. The hotel had charged that the union had intimidated and threatened employees during the run-up to the vote to organize, skewing election results. The fight between the hotel and workers highlights a number of key issues in the ongoing national elections, including income inequality, labor rights and immigration, not to mention the presidential candidacy of the hotel's owner, Donald Drump.

See Jack Healy, The New York Times, Aug 1 2016

The US Court of Appeals upheld a NLRB ruling that Quicken Loans Inc. had obstructed employees' ability to discuss working conditions thru various company policies. Quicken employed a confidentiality rule which restricted workers from sharing personnel information, as well as a non-disparagement rule prohibiting employees from speaking out against company policies or management. Quicken had appealed the NLRB decision on grounds that there was no proof that the policies had resulted in disciplinary action or that employees had actually been intimidated. Upon review, however, the court ruled Quicken's policies were unlawful even without enforcement, as employees could objectionably view the policies as "limits on their freedom".

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Aug 1 2016

Shurat HaDin, an Israeli legal rights institute, brought forth a complaint against the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE) for their official endorsement of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to boycott Israeli goods and services in response to Israel’s alleged human rights abuses against Palestine. While Shurat HaDin claimed that the UE was endorsing a secondary strike, which is illegal under U.S. labor law, the NLRB found that the union’s support of BDS did not constitute a secondary strike and that the UE and, consequently, all American unions have the right to support or not support BDS. Many supporters of BDS claim that Israeli legal centers are attempting to scare unions away from boycotting Israeli businesses through making insubstantial legal claims such as the one brought forth by Shurat HaDin to drain unions of resources in litigation and discourage other unions from doing the same. Many unions, especially graduate student unions, throughout the country have officially endorsed the BDS movement and this decision by the NLRB may encourage other unions to do the same.

See Alex Kane, In These Times, Jul 29 2016

Unionized public bank workers across India decided to take a stand against the government’s proposed reforms which could have disastrous consequences for India’s banks. Nearly 1 million bank employees throughout the country participated in a one day strike today closing almost all of the country’s national banks and sending a clear message to the central government. The federal government’s plans to merge many of India’s banks and privatize the banking sector in order to increase the country’s competitiveness on global scale have led to massive backlash from banking unions, whose members largely believe that this course of action would lead to financial disaster and the collapse of many banks.

See Indo-Asian News Service, Business Standard, Jul 29 2016

Workers organized under UNITE and RMT on Shell’s North Sea platforms are staging a 48-hour strike set to start on Thursday, August 4th at 6:30 AM following their 24-hour strike this past week. Workers have been in contentious talks with Wood Group, their employer, for months regarding the drastic pay cuts that over a third of the workforce has experienced and the new scheduling procedures that keep employees away from their families for longer and that ask workers to do more for less. Wood Group claims that they have done their best to negotiate with the unions’ bargaining units and that in order to retain jobs they were forced to make pay cuts as the oil industry has been suffering significantly over the past year. However, workers feel that their employer has not shown a willingness to negotiate and remain steadfast in their demands.

See Scotland business, BBC, Jul 29 2016

This past weekend, two unfair labor practice charges against Trump International Hotel Las Vegas were settled in favor of the employees who filed the complaints. For the past several months, workers at the Trump hotel in Las Vegas have made efforts to organize under UNITE HERE affiliates Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 when Juan Cruz, a labor consultant for the business, warned employees that their efforts to unionize were futile and made promises of greater mobility within the company should workers remain unaffiliated. These general threats and promises as well as management’s discharge of a union organizer and overlooking of another union supporter for a promotion culminated in allegations that the hotel had violated the NLRA. The settlement grants relevant employees reinstatement and back pay and obligates the hotel to post notices for 60 days in its facilities about the settlement and about workers’ rights to organize.

See Rhonda Smith, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 25 2016

Argentinian teachers’ unions have united to put classes to a standstill until they receive what they feel are proper wage increases. With Argentina’s inflation rate having skyrocketed to 42% from 25% in recent months, teachers feel that their contracts must be flexible in accommodating the worsening domestic economy and their wages should be increased in accordance with inflation. A representative of La Unión de Docentes de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (Udocba) emphasized that teachers in the province of Buenos Aires are only “3,000 pesos away from dropping below the poverty line”, highlighting the necessity of the teachers’ strike. In addition to demanding higher wages, unions are protesting corruption within the educational system and fighting for better social security benefits.

See Herald staff, Buenos Aires Herald, Jul 25 2016

Casino Pauma, a casino operating on native land in California, is now adding another NLRA violation to its list of transgressions against employees attempting to organize. In a recent NLRB decision by administrative law judge Robert A. Giannasi, the Casino was charged with overly-broad restrictions on employee conduct in its manuals as employees were not allowed to carry out any “personal business” while at work. Giannasi found that this rule infringed on employees’ Section 7 rights and constituted an unfair labor practice under Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA as the rule could be used to prevent workers from discussing unionizing and engaging in protected activities at their workplace during non-working hours. This decision comes in light of the Casino’s past charges of banning the use of union paraphernalia at work and interfering with union organizing.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 25 2016

In light of a renewed push for graduate student union rights and the NLRB’s upcoming decision on the matter, Columbia University has announced new graduate student benefits, including drastic pay and stipend increases for teaching and research assistants. John H. Coatsworth, Columbia’s provost, claims that these improved benefits are a result of collaboration with the Graduate Student Advisory Council and other student groups on campus. Columbia has been steadily improving its graduate students’ working conditions and wages over time, seemingly responding to heightened demands for collective bargaining rights while maintaining its firm position against graduate student union rights. Regardless of the university’s pushes to appease graduate students, the push for union rights continues on Columbia’s campus.

See Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Jul 22 2016

Following months of violent clashes between trade unions, workers, and Socialist Party members with the French government, Prime Minister Manuel Valls used Article 49 Part 3 of the French Constitution to push hotly contested labor law reform through parliament without a vote. The adoption of these reforms marks the third time Valls has bypassed parliament to enact legislation and comes in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Nice which have, for obvious reasons, substantially overshadowed conflicts over the labor bill. While President Francois Hollande has made the reduction of France’s skyrocketing unemployment a tenet of his government, many members of his own party and French workers and union members feel that the loosening of labor regulations will drastically damage workers’ rights and will not, in effect, create jobs. Regardless, the reforms have become law and while major French unions are refraining from taking action due to the recent national tragedy, they have vowed to take up their cause again in the fall.

See Our Foreign Staff, Telegraph, Jul 22 2016

The Chilean government is remaining steadfast in pushing a labor law through congress that will aid unions through strengthening their collective bargaining rights. However, various opponents of the bill have called attention to how giving unions the power to decide who can and cannot participate in negotiations and share their benefits could deeply damage non-union workers’ bargaining rights. While in the U.S., unions have exclusive bargaining rights with the employer on behalf of their members, in Chile, workers can independently bargain with employers in unionized workplaces. The legislation’s expansion of unions’ leverage in collective bargaining could greatly empower unionized workers but could lead to legal conflict over independent workers’ ability to control their working conditions.

See Tom Azzopardi, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 22 2016

For the first time in two decades, South Korean Hyundai Motor Company and Hyundai Heavy Industries unions initiated a strike together against their respective employers. Hyundai Motor Company employees are fighting for better wages in the wake of industry reform while Hyundai Heavy Industries employees are striking in protest of their employers’ perceived insincerity during negotiations and to deter company restructuring that would cost thousands of jobs. The consistent hostility between South Korean automobile and shipbuilding employers and their workers has played a massive role in the decline of both of these industries, with South Korea experiencing a steady fall in automobile exports and constant conflict in the shipbuilding industry. While the strike led to substantial production losses for employers, the effectiveness of these efforts is doubtful as only one quarter of employees at HHI, for example, are unionized, meaning that the facility can operate while the strike takes place.

See Jung Suk-yee, Business Korea, Jul 20 2016

Following the NLRB’s recent historic ruling that “mixed bargaining units” are permissible, there has been much debate over how this decision will be practically implemented and whether it will have the positive effects the majority of the Board claims it will. While the Board aimed to strengthen unions by making it impossible for employers to claim that jointly-employed and temporary workers should not be included in bargaining units with other employees, this ruling could actually further complicate and harm relations between unions and management. The participation of workers who can have radically different relationships with the employer in the same bargaining unit could lead to conflict, with Philip A. Miscimarra, a member of the NLRB, writing in his dissent that this ruling will lead to “greater uncertainty and instability” in negotiations.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 20 2016

In a rare international collaborative effort, OUR Walmart and the Wal-Mart Chinese Workers Association (WCWA) have united to fight for better wages and working conditions for Chinese Wal-Mart workers as they have tirelessly and unsuccessfully campaigned against their employer’s wage cuts and unreasonable schedule changes. While Wal-Mart employees in both countries face roadblocks to achieving their ends, with OUR Wal-Mart not having collective bargaining rights and the WCWA having waged a recent fruitless strike, they have, with the help of a translator, held video conferences in which both parties exchange strategies, ideas, and tactics to better their working conditions and employment relationships. Few international union collaborations like this have taken place, this being one of the first times a Chinese union and an American union have worked together to fight unfair labor conditions, illustrating a broadening solidarity between workers and a possible threat to Wal-Mart.

See Nandita Bose, Reuters, Jul 20 2016

The decade-long debate about the employment status or lack thereof of university graduate students may be coming to a close with the NLRB preparing to rule on a petition started by Columbia University graduate students claiming that they should have the right to unionize. Graduate students have made a claim to the same rights and opportunities traditionally-defined employees covered under the NLRA have in terms of union organization, stating that they provide essential services in the interest of their employers, in this case the educational institutions where they study and work. Meanwhile, universities have vehemently denied that graduate students are their employees, claiming that the work these students do pertains exclusively to their studies and serves as an educational experience, not employment. The liberal-leaning NLRB is expected to weigh more in favor of students pushing for the right to organize than in favor of private universities.

See Melanie Trottman & Douglas Belkin, The Wall Street Journal, Jul 18 2016

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has been accused of engaging in unlawful industrial action on the Gorgon gas project owned by Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil. According to a chain of correspondence between union leaders, the MUA alleged that they had safety concerns with the project to justify industrial action when in reality the union purely wanted to prevent the use of a foreign crew. The work stoppage, which took place in 2012, took place under the claim that work conditions were too hazardous and needed to be attended to while in reality the MUA has purely been campaigning against foreign workers. The union is now facing a $10 million damages claim over this alleged unlawful industrial action.

See Ewin Hannan, Financial Review, Jul 18 2016

Weeks after declaring a strike at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, members of Unite Here Local 54 are still going strong in light of little to no concessions on the employer’s end. Nearly 1,000 workers have been picketing outside the casino for almost a month with union leaders emphasizing that they would not be taking such drastic measures if management had not forced them to through refusing to provide a contract that adequately compensates workers and gives them the health insurance coverage they need. While Carl Icahn, owner of the Taj Mahal Casino, claims to have offered employees a contract with improved terms and conditions, workers rejected this offer, stating that this proposal had no substance in comparison to the contracts covering employees at competing casinos. Workers have been given until 5 PM this Monday to accept or reject a new contract offer.

See Nicholas Huba & Jack Tomczuk, Press of Atlantic City, Jul 18 2016

Following a week of protest and a meeting with the Nigerian National Executive Committee, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have called off their strike. The main reasons cited for the halting of the workers’ demonstrations are government and petroleum industry leaders’ promises that wrongly laid-off employees would be reinstated and that workers would be guaranteed some level of job security in the face of industry restructuring efforts. The proposals drafted at the aforementioned meeting between the striking unions and national leadership have been agreed to by a number of major oil companies which have previously curtailed employees’ rights by firing them without due process.

See Collins Olayinka and Roseline Okere, All Africa, Jul 15 2016

Nearly 40,000 state school teachers in the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) have announced that they will be sending out ballots to all union members to determine whether or not to strike should the Labor administration fail to provide them with adequate salary increases. The QTU is asking for a 4.5% annual salary increase over three years and the organization has made it clear that they feel public educators should be paid as much as private educators working in Queensland’s Catholic schools. However, the current government is in poor economic shape and can barely afford 2.5% annual salary increases for public sector workers, meaning that it may be impossible for state and private teachers’ salaries to be matched up. While the QTU is calling for the strike vote for the first time in seven years, the process of collecting votes can take up to 8 weeks, meaning that the threat of a strike is not yet immediate.

See Sarah Elks, The Australian, Jul 15 2016

Oil workers employed by Wood Group at Shell’s North Sea Brent oilfield platforms have poured out support for strike action against their employer in the face of dramatic wage cuts coupled with unreasonably long and demanding shifts. Unite regional manager John Boland has emphasized that the 99% pro-strike vote by 200 oil workers demonstrates an overwhelming fervor regarding changing terms and conditions of employment and that Wood Group would be wise to listen to the grievances of their employees given that they have remained loyal to the company through a tumultuous time in the oil industry. Meanwhile, Wood Group representatives have alleged that they have had many meetings with union officials in attempts to appease workers and claim that the crippled state of the oil industry does not enable them to inflate employees’ salaries and give them better benefits, characterizing its drastic cuts as necessary to the preservation of jobs.

See Jillian Ambrose, Telegraph, Jul 15 2016

In a landmark ruling, the NLRB has overturned over a decade of precedent in allowing labor unions to represent bargaining units consisting of both employees employed by a single organization and employees employed by that same organization through another company. The decision in Miller & Anderson, Inc. overturns the 2004 decision in Oakwood Care Center, which disallowed inclusion of solely employed employees and jointly employed employees in the same unit absent consent of the employers. Members of the Board in favor of this ruling cited the shifting American workforce as a main reason for their reconsideration of NLRA Section 9(b)’s definition of an appropriate bargaining unit as staffing, temporary work, and outsourcing have skyrocketed in popularity. This ruling aims to strengthen jointly-employed employees’ bargaining power and prevent the occurrence of “’parallel organizing drives’”.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 13 2016

National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S., has called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to crack down on violence faced by healthcare workers around the country. Requests in the NNU’s petition to OSHA include a requirement for violence prevention programs in the workplace, employee input in the creation and execution of these programs, anti-retaliation measures for employees who seek out law enforcement following acts of violence, and more, with the NNU asking for OSHA’s new regulations to be as inclusive of all healthcare workers as possible. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has reported that the number of healthcare and social-assistance workers who sustain injuries from workplace violence constitutes 2/3 of all workers and makes healthcare “more dangerous than construction”.

See Stephen Lee, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 13 2016

Nearly 50,000 workers employed by Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), unionized under the two largest Korean trade unions, have announced plans to vote on a general strike following an impasse in negotiations with their respective employers over wages and work conditions. Should the two massive unions approve the strike, which seems highly likely, this would be the largest strike of its kind in South Korea in over two decades. While local businesspeople warn union members against staging a walkout in the wake of the restructuring of the shipbuilding industry given the dramatically detrimental effects this could have on the economy, both the HHI and Hyundai Motor workers are steadfast in their demands for higher wages and the reinstatement of workers fired during the course of meeting with company officials.

See Jhoo Dong-chan, The Korea Times, Jul 13 2016

Conflict between Southern California supermarkets and traditional grocery stores and their respective employees’ representative unions is ongoing as members of various locals of the UFCW announce their intent to strike in early August should negotiations over new contracts for nearly 50,000 workers reach an impasse. As the cost of living in Southern California skyrockets, these employees’ wages have remained the same, prompting the UFCW to demand a living wage for workers on top of better health benefits and more flexibility and advanced notice in terms of scheduling. On the other end, supermarkets and grocery stores are facing unprecedented competition with supercenters, warehouse sellers, and others while union density is decreasing, leading to doubts about the efficacy of a strike in getting the union’s demands met. Both employer and union representatives have made clear their intent to bargain in good faith and hopefully avoid a strike.

See Rhonda Smith, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 11 2016