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Workplace Issues Today

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In light of Nigeria’s already struggling petrol industry with the Niger Delta Avengers having bombed 12 oil pipelines and with ever-present national fears of a petroleum shortage, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) began striking at the end of last week. While the government has claimed to try to set up various meetings between ministry and union leadership, the union claims that these meetings were inconclusive or never took place and are government tactics to characterize labor as unreasonable. Due to Nigeria’s reliance on joint venture agreements and the government’s inability to uphold their end of the deals, the country is billions of dollars in debt and this has led to loss of jobs and benefits for oil workers, making it a primary reason the PENGASSAN has declared a strike. Because of Nigeria’s already struggling economy and dependence on petroleum product exports, this strike could be detrimental to the country as a whole.

See Michael Nwakalor, Ventures Africa, Jul 11 2016

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has threatened a shutdown of all mail services throughout Canada in its mission to achieve higher wages and better pensions for postal workers. The Canada Post, which previously intended to stage a lockout, has scrapped this tactic in favor of coming to an agreement with the union and having “serious negotiations” in light of public fears regarding the stoppage of all mail and delivery services nationally. Due to the rapid decline in the use of the postal service given the popularity of using internet services, the Canada Post has been hit hard and this effect has trickled down to its employees. While employees demand better working conditions, the Post struggles with the high cost that these demands would incur, which it might not be able to afford in its current state.

See Frederic Tomesco & Michael Yang, Bloomberg, Jul 11 2016

After the Obama administration attempted to alter labor regulations to increase transparency in employers’ anti-union tactics, many employer unions and business groups are alleging that this rule would infringe on their First Amendment rights. The practice of hiring a professional anti-union consultant following a workforce’s declaration of intent to organize is commonplace and, as of yet, has never been a matter that an employer has had to disclose to their employees. While unions must legally furnish records of where they allocate their funding, employers do not have to tell employees when they bring in consultants to train supervisors and higher-ups on how to avoid unionization in the workplace. While union leaders and members assert that this law would only further transparency and level the playing field for labor and management, those representing business state that this regulation would threaten the First Amendment rights of employers and give unions an unfair advantage.

See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Business, Jul 8 2016

The Illinois Labor Relations Board denied Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s request to speed up the determination of whether negotiations with AFSCME Council 31 were at an impasse. Should it be decided that negotiations are truly at a standstill, the governor can take on drastic measures and unilaterally impose conditions of employment on nearly 40,000 workers while the union can decide to go on strike. The governor’s historically anti-union stance has made the Board skeptical of his reasons in requesting an accelerated ruling on the progress of the negotiations as this request is highly unusual and has little to no precedent. AFSCME spokespeople have announced their willingness to go back to the bargaining table while the governor’s general counsel has expressed disappointment with the Board’s decision.

See Sophia Tareen, ABC News, Associated Press, Jul 8 2016

Mexico’s most prominent teachers’ union, the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), is remaining steadfast in its fight against the national government’s proposed education reform. In light of fatal bouts of violence that have taken place in encounters between state and federal police with CNTE protestors and massive CNTE blockades that have led to Mexico’s poorest states facing food shortage crises, the teachers and other professionals within the union refuse to budge on this issue. The proposed reform calls for the administration of a test every three years to every Mexican teacher and the CNTE alleges that this test does not account for the different needs and resources present in rural Mexican schools and that it will unfairly punish teachers in these areas. While Mexico has dire educational needs that the government is seeking to address, the CNTE remains confident that these reforms are not the answer.

See Natalie Schachar, Reuters, Jul 8 2016

A public transport workers strike has commenced today, Wednesday July 6th, in Athens, Greece. Nearly all workers in the city's transport system have walked off the job in a planned 24-hour strike to protest privatizations. The privatizations are one of a number of austerity measures the Greek government has been required to implement in return for receiving rescue loans from Eurozone countries.

See Athens Public Transport Workers Protest Privatization, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jul 6 2016

On Wednesday, thousands of Zimbabwean workers flooded Harare, the nation's capital, protesting a recent Finance Ministry announcement that pay for state workers would be delayed. The Zimbabwean government is currently experiencing an economic collapse that has led to a cash shortage, controls on imports, and most recently, a failure to pay salaries on time. The government has increased police presence around Harare in an effort to keep the protests under control.

See Worsening Economic Conditions Lead to Worker Strike in Zimbabwe, Godfrey Marawanyika and Chengetai Zvauya, Chicago Tribune, Jul 6 2016

A controversial and contested labor bill was pushed through the French Parliament without a vote Tuesday night. This is the second time Prime Minister Manuel Valls has invoked a special constitutional article to approve the reading of the bill. It will now go to the conservative-led Senate and return back to Parliament later this month, where the final say will be had. The bill, if enacted into law will give companies more freedom to fire workers and allow them to enforce extend work hours.

See French PM Pushes Labor Bill Through Parliament without Vote, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Jul 6 2016

Local 54 of Unite-HERE has followed through on its strike threat at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City during one of the busiest and most lucrative times of the year: 4th of July weekend. Local 54 has undertaken bargaining with 5 different Atlantic City casinos and has managed to reach an agreement with every casino except for the Carl Icahn-owned Taj Mahal, which has instated massive cuts to employee health insurance coverage and pensions, enraging its workforce. Over 1,000 employees have walked out and picketed the Taj Mahal in protest of management’s refusal to grant them appropriate wages and benefits. Local 54’s timing of the strike seems promising as the last time they decided to strike, an impressive walkout lasting 34 days and causing a loss of about $60 million took place, meaning that this strike could last an impressive amount of time and cause even more profit loss due to the busy holiday season.

See Associated Press, CBS News, Jul 1 2016

The NLRB has ruled that Graymont PA, Inc. has violated the NLRA in making unilateral contract changes and in withholding information from its employees, who are represented by Local Lodge D92 of the United Cement, Lime, Gypsum and Allied Workers. Graymont PA, Inc. is a lime-mining company that produces lime products in the U.S. and Canada, including its several locations in Pennsylvania, where the NLRA ruled that the company violated Section 8(a)(5) and 8(a)(1) of the NLRA. The Board overruled precedent set forth in Raley's Supermarkets & Drug Centers (2007) to state that a company’s refusal to furnish information regarding unilaterally-changed workplace rules and regulations to its employees constitutes an unfair labor practice.

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

Conflict continues in France as not only national labor unions but also employers take a hostile stance towards President Francois Hollande’s attempt to loosen labor regulations and hopefully decrease the country’s skyrocketing unemployment rate. Unions have recently rejected the government’s attempts to amend the proposed labor law to appease workers, stating that the concessions being made do not sufficiently satisfy their demands. Meanwhile, employers allege that while the reform’s intent to grow business and make employment more flexible is positive, the actual proposal is too complicated to practically fulfill its purpose and will just harm French businesses. President Hollande remains steadfast in getting the reform through the National Assembly regardless of the countless protests and demonstrations taking place around the country against it and against his faction of the Socialist party.

See Brian Love, Reuters, Jul 1 2016

In Nepal, a weak economy has driven workers to look for employment in other countries in order to support their families. Many of the Nepalese people have found work in Afghanistan, but that comes along with its own risks. Nepalese workers guarding the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan were killed last week by a bomb Taliban suicide bomber. These workers were forced to pay immense broker-fees that would take months to pay-off just to acquire these jobs.

See A Weak Economy in Nepal Forces Workers to Take Risky Jobs, KAREEM FAHIM and BHADRA SHARMA, The New York Times, Jun 29 2016

Last Friday, United Airlines and its flight attendants, who are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, announced that they had reached an agreement over a contract for the 25,000 flight attendants employed by the airline. This is the employees' first contract since United and Continental merged back in 2010. Union leaders unanimously approved the contract, and it will now be sent to the flight attendants for approval. The contract includes a healthcare plan specific to flight attendants as well as a new pay scale. If this contract is ratified, the flight attendants will all operate under the same contract for the first time.

See Union Leaders Approve Contract for United Flight Attendants , Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune, Jun 29 2016

On Wednesday in Minnesota, a petition will be delivered to the Minneapolis City Hall in an effort to increase the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. The petition, which has approximately 20,000 signatures, was created by organizers from the group 15 Now Minnesota. The amendment is supposed to appear on the November 8th ballot. Members of the labor group collected over three times the number of signatures required to have wage vote listed on the ballot. If the wage increase is approved, Minneapolis will become one of over 30 cities to greatly increase its minimum wage.

See Petition in Minneapolis to Raise City Minimum Wage to $15 , Michael Moore, Workday Minnesota, Jun 29 2016

Lu Yuyu, a Chinese activist who has been documenting labor protests across China for the last several years, has reportedly been in the custody of Chinese authorities since June 16th. Mr. Lu, along with his girlfriend Li Tingyu, are being accused of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." Due to a slowing economy, the amount of labor protests has been growing rapidly throughout the country. A spokesman for the Chinese Labor Bulletin praised the work of Mr. Lu and Ms. Li and stated "by 'shooting the messenger' in this case rather than dealing with the root causes of social unrest, the authorities have once again simply made matters worse."

See Labor Reporter Arrested by Chinese Authorities, EDWARD WONG, The New York Times, Jun 27 2016

On June 19th, 4,800 members of The Minnesota Nurses Association went on strike over failure to agree upon a new three-year contract for the nurses. These nurses are employees at five hospitals operated by Allina Health. On Sunday, the thousands employees returned to work after seven days on strike. Despite their decision to return to work, a union representative has said that the employees feel even less confident that they will be able to agree on a contract. Allina was forced to hire 1,400 temporary workers in order to maintain normal operations during the strike.

See Nurses End Strike Despite No Contract Agreement , ABC News, The Associated Press, Jun 27 2016

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would not get involved in a dispute between the federal government and the Native American tribal sovereignty. In 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling that made it easier for unions to organize workers employed by tribal casinos. Congress has attempted to pass a new bill that would remove the NLRB's jurisdiction over these casinos, but the bill has yet to make it through the Senate. Until this new bill is passed, the NLRB will be able to regulate labor practices that happen on Indian land.

Following years of hostility between the UAW and Volkswagen over union representation of employees at the Volkswagen Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, a document has surfaced which contains an agreement between the company and the union over the recognition of the UAW. Volkswagen has steadfastly denied UAW representation in Chattanooga, refusing to bargain with exclusively a group of maintenance workers who want union representation and claiming that they will only bargain with a bargaining unit comprised of both maintenance and production workers. An unfair labor practice has been filed against Volkswagen, whose Chattanooga plant is its only existing plant without union representation.

See Michael Rose, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 24 2016

The NLRB overturned a landmark 1978 decision regarding witness statement availability and confidentiality in a recent ruling regarding American Baptist Homes, a senior care facility in California. The NLRB ruled that unions should be given access to witness statements that were previously unavailable to them because they are relevant pieces of evidence and should be on the table to allow for greater transparency in grievance proceedings. The 2015 Piedmont Gardens decision has incensed the employer, but the Board has responded to the care facility’s outrage by asserting that the employer does not have the authority or justification to challenge its order, even as they try to take the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 24 2016

In the midst of a lengthy campaign to better the working conditions of teachers in England, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has voted to strike starting on July 5th. The NUT and its members have expressed immense dissatisfaction with the massive funding cuts to schools which have adversely affected teachers by worsening their pay and working conditions, vastly increasing their workloads, and preventing them from properly attending to and teaching their students. The Department for Education has warned the NUT against taking this action, stating that they are more than willing to formally negotiate and accusing the union of “playing politics with children's futures”.

See Hannah Richardson, BBC, Jun 24 2016

The Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR) reported that 64% of manufacturing auditors found signs of child labor during their site inspections. These auditors were inspecting companies based in China, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. Out of the 557 auditors included in CCR CSR’s poll, 385 of them were looking at Chinese based companies. These auditors found that the two driving factors behind child labor were poverty and children dropping out of school. The International Labour Organization estimates that in the Asia Pacific alone, approximately 122 million children under the age of fifteen are victims of child labor.

See Auditors Find Child Labor in Asia Pacific Manufacturers , The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 22 2016

Recently, grocery workers employed by Ralphs and Albertsons voted in favor of authorizing a strike. Approximately 47,000 workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union participated in the vote. The union will now have 10 meetings with the grocery companies over the next month to see if an agreement can be reached. So far, the workers have only been offered a wage increase of 10 cents per hour, as well as some small additional bonuses. The supermarkets have also refused to contribute more to employees’ healthcare, causing the additional contributions to come from the employees themselves. As a result, employees now have to retire at age 65 rather than 60. Ralph and Albertsons is the parent company of Pavilions, Safeway and Vons stores.

See Employees of Ralphs and Albertsons Authorize Strike , Natalie Kitroeff, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 22 2016

In France, seven labor unions have planned to conduct marches this Thursday and on Tuesday of next week in Paris. In the midst of these strikes, thousands of soccer fans are in France to watch the Euro 2016. Police had initially put a ban on these protests, because they believed that they posed a security threat. Just hours after the ban, the French Interior Ministry overturned the decision, and will be working with the unions to establish a revised itinerary. Leaders of these unions, who had already planned to fight the ban, called this ruling a “’victory for unions and for democracy”. Law enforcement measures will be heighted in anticipation of these protests. These protests are taking place as result of President Hollande's decision to go ahead with labor reforms that will increase workers' hours and make it easier to eliminate jobs.

See French Interior Ministry Authorizes Union March for Thursday , Helene Fouquet , Bloomberg, Jun 22 2016

As the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) struggles against the Mexican government’s proposed education reforms, it finds itself confronted with deadly violence which cost the lives of six civilians in a recent confrontation between Mexican state and federal police and CNTE protestors. Following the arrests of key union leaders within the CNTE for various white collar crimes and the government’s proposal to administer testing for teachers, the CNTE mobilized, taking to the streets to demonstrate on behalf of Mexican teachers. The CNTE has a reputation for its radical approach to protests and its members have upheld this reputation in violent and explosive clashes with the police as demonstrators blockaded key cities in the state of Oaxaca and were met with powerful resistance following weeks of similar activity throughout the country.

See Associated Press, Daily Mail, Jun 20 2016

After massive restructuring of the shipbuilding industry, the top shipbuilding companies in South Korea are experiencing major conflicts between labor and management. The “Big Three” Korean shipbuilding companies (Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, and Samsung Heavy Industries) have all undergone management changes which have led to unstable employment for workers as employers have threatened to reduce their workforces by up to 40% with there already having been nearly 2,000 resignations in Hyundai Heavy Industries alone. While various sources advise the labor unions of Korea’s largest shipbuilders against striking, many workers feel that they have no voice as these major changes take place, leaving them insecure with their employment and unsure of what other options they have.

See Jung Min-hee, Business Korea, Jun 20 2016

Following a seven weeks-long strike after negotiations halted with the rejection of Verizon’s proposal by the IBEW and the CWA in early April, Verizon and its employees have finally come to an agreement. After months of demonstrations and even the intervention of Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) director Allison Beck, a tentative contract was drafted between the unions and Verizon which just requires members’ approval to be effective. CWA District 1 VP Dennis Trainor has lauded the nearly 40,000 employees as heroes for risking their families’ and their own livelihoods to protect their collective rather than their individual interests. This four-year agreement is a major victory for the IBEW and the CWA in its granting of better healthcare, pension plans, wages, and many other benefits to employees who have tirelessly worked to improve their standards of living.

See Zeeshan Athar, Business Finance News, Jun 20 2016

Members of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union are declaring a key victory as they reached an agreement with Macy’s management regarding their new labor contract with several major New York stores. Both representatives of the union and the department store have declared their relief and satisfaction with the parties’ ability to create an agreement suiting their respective needs. Given Macy’s unstable economic position and workers’ insistence on wages and healthcare benefits that would allow them more than mere survival in one of the most expensive cities in the world, representatives of both sides had ample motivation to defend their interests. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, has hailed this contract as setting a new standard for retail workers everywhere.

See Rachel Abrams, New York Times, Jun 17 2016

When employees of Cleveland’s Ace Heating & Air Conditioning Co. began organizing for representation by Local 33 of Sheet Metal Workers International Association, they found themselves threatened with a business closure. The NLRB ruled that this threat, made by Ed Dudek who frequently served as an agent of the employer and was handing out paychecks to employees at the time of the threat, constituted a violation of Section 8(a)(1) in attempting to discourage employees from voting for union representation in the upcoming election. While evidence was presented that Dudek had previously been pro-union, this ruling has established that regardless of a company agent or supervisor’s intent, their position of power outweighs their objectives when considering how their actions may infringe upon employees’ Section 7 rights.

See Elliott T. Dube, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 17 2016

Just 15 days before the Australian federal election to determine all members of the 45th Parliament, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has announced the government’s plan to adopt several recommendations made by the trade union royal commission. The most prominent of these recommendations being the granting of permission to the courts to remove union officials from power when they have been deemed consistent offenders of workplace laws and the banning of “corrupting benefits”, secret payments exchanged between union representatives and employers. Cash has expressed that these measures are purely logical and indicate the government’s alignment with worker interests in ousting corrupt union officials and preventing under-the-table dealings that deprive workers of their full rights. However, Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union construction national secretary Dave Noonan has made it clear that he feels that government officials do not understand that workers elect their officials and courts should have no say in who is in union leadership.

See Paul Karp, The Guardian, Jun 17 2016

As the U.S. coal market continues to decline and mining companies steadily declare bankruptcy, thousands of retired miners and their families are faced with the possibility of losing their pensions and health care benefits from to a lack of funds due to dramatically decreased UAW representation in the mines. A rally was held in Lexington, Kentucky this past Tuesday at which Cecil Roberts, president of the UAW, addressed retired miners, many of which heavily rely on their benefits to cover the high costs of accommodating disabilities and impairments incurred during decades of hard and dangerous labor. The UAW and various senators vehemently support the passing of SB 1714, a bill that would dramatically increase the funds available to address health costs for nearly 89,000 covered individuals.

See Dylan Lovan, ABC News, Associated Press, Jun 15 2016

Following days of stormy negotiations between labor and management, members of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union have threatened a strike against Macy’s at four different New York locations, including Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square if an agreement is not reached before midnight on Thursday. This strike would involve nearly 5,000 workers walking out on their jobs, dealing a deadly blow to Macy’s, which has already been in a downward spiral as competitors such as discounted and online stores steadily replace the once-prominent merchant. The Local’s bargaining unit representatives indicated that they refuse to budge on what they believe are necessary health care coverage and fair wages. Macy’s has already placed ads for temporary workers in major local publications, suggesting the gravity of the strike threat and the company’s willingness to take on this challenge regardless of its precarious position.

See Anne D'Innocenzio, ABC News, Associated Press, Jun 15 2016

In light of the recent passing of the World Day Against Child Labor, Chang Hee Lee, Director of the Vietnamese ILO, discussed specifically the often overlooked roles minors play in supply chains as he addressed the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the ILO. Children are often major contributors to supply chains within Vietnamese industries and because they work at the lowest levels of operation, businesses frequently neglect to address this illegal employment and, at times, are unaware of the sources of their labor. In addition, most child labor comes from the children of economically disadvantaged families who rely on this work to sustain their households, making the problem even more complex and difficult to eradicate. As Vietnam continues to grow its economy and expand in the world market, corporate social responsibility seems to be taking a more prominent role indicating a positive trend in labor conditions.

See Bao Van, Thanh Nien News, Jun 15 2016

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the NLRB in a case regarding the unfair labor practices of two nursing homes in Illinois. Employers were found to be bypassing workplace union representatives in directly dealing with employees and unilaterally imposing various contract changes with the intent of undermining the union. In finding these employers’ conduct in blatant violation of good faith bargaining, the Court ruled that paying bargaining expenses would be included in the remedies owed to the union. This marked the first time the issue of bargaining expenses as remedy was decided upon by the Court. However, the Court also ruled that the NLRB did not have the authority to demand that litigation costs be included in the remedies owed, following a precedent set forth in HTH Corp. v. NLRB.

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

Following extensive periods of labor unrest in the South African mining industry which brought the economy to a standstill, Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) has granted the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) exclusive union rights. This development comes after heated conflict between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), rival unions which have been fighting for domination of the platinum sector, the latter taking on a more militant approach to labor relations than the former. RBPlat and NUM acknowledged that industrial peace is necessary for the preservation of the South African economy, especially in one of its largest sectors, and that this was a main motivation behind this agreement.

See Zandi Shabalala, Reuters, Jun 13 2016

The French General Confederation of Labor (CGT) has mobilized its members in response to President François Hollande’s proposed reforms to loosen France’s labor laws, making the hiring and firing of employees easier and weakening union power. True to its roots in Marxist-Leninist principles, the CGT has organized strikes against this agenda, decrying Hollande and the French leadership as traitors to their leftist allegiance and inspiring smaller unions to lead protests regarding other, unrelated labor issues. It is argued that the CGT’s greatest fear regarding this legislation is the threat of moving bargaining from the sector level to the local level, stripping the union of its national clout. So far, the CGT’s methods have been successful in stripping the proposed law of many of its allegedly detrimental components.

See Celestine Bohlen, New York Times, Jun 13 2016

In Finland, the country is in the process of implementing a new labor reform bill that is meant to improve economic growth. The bill will cut the benefits of workers as well as relax rules in the labor market. On Friday, the Metalworkers Union, which represents 14,000 workers, voted in favor of of the bill. Along with these reforms, the government plans to cut taxes as well as spending. Workers will have to contribute more toward their pensions and increase their hours in return.

See Large Labor Union in Finland Pledges Support For Labor Reforms , The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jun 10 2016

In Sweden, pilots employed by SAS walked off the job after negotiations over job security and wages were not settled. It is estimated that as many as 400 unionized pilots went on strike. The strike has already led to the cancellation of 40 flights leaving the Stockholm airport. The pilots are demanding a 3.5% pay increase as well as better pay for new hires that is more comparable to pilots who have been with the airline for a while.

The National Employment Law Project published a report that claims that sales quotas implemented by banks tend to cause workers to make unethical choices that can harm both themselves and consumers. These quotas force workers to make a choice between their own "well-being", being a strong performer in the company, and the "well-being" of the customers the bank serves. The Committee for Better Banks, a subsidiary of Communications Workers of America labor union, is working toward organizing bank workers to ensure job security, push for higher wages, and bring an end to the sales quota benchmarks.

See Labor Group's Report Claims Sales Quotas Cause Unethical Behavior, James Rufus Koren, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 10 2016

On Tuesday, the mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel E. Bowser, pledged his support for the D.C. council's recent decision to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Washington D.C. will follow in the footsteps of California and New York, which have already implemented laws to raise their minimum wages to $15 an hour over the next several years. Supporters of this increased minimum wage believe that it will help to reduce inequality and the current wage gap. This wage increase is estimated to impact 70,000 workers and put upward wage pressure on an additional 44,000 workers who make just above $15 an hour.

See Washington D.C. to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour, Aaron C. Davis, The Washington Post, Jun 8 2016

On Friday, France is scheduled to host the Euro 2016, a soccer tournament that will run from June 10th until July 10th and will attract millions of fans. Garbage has piled up in the streets of Paris as well as several other major cities as workers continue to strike over labor reforms. The CGT union, which represents many of the striking workers, believes that these reforms will jeopardize the job security of workers. For the eighth day in a row, railway operations were disrupted as a result of the strikes. The railway operator SCNF said that only 10% of its workforce is on strike, a considerably smaller percentage in comparison to last week. In addition to railway strikes, pilots with Air France have planned a four day strike over pay cuts that will begin on June 11th.

See Strikes in France Could Disrupt Fans Traveling to the Euro 2016, The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 8 2016

On June 20th, United Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants are scheduled to have a mediation session in an effort to bring an end to contract negotiations. Last week the two groups failed to come to an agreement over a new contract for the company's flight attendants. The Association of Flight Attendants is estimated to represent 24,000 employees of United Airlines. Flight attendants have not had a joint contract since Continental Airlines and United merged back in 2010. Other major employee groups of the airline ratified contracts in April, some of which included pay increases of up to 30%.

See Flight Attendants to Resume Talks with United Over Contract Negotiations, Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune, Jun 8 2016

In Japan, the number of part-time workers has hit an all-time high and the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shifted his attention toward wage equality. Now that temporary workers make up 40% of the country's labor force, Abe wants to ensure that people who perform the same job earn equal wages. This plan has been met with backlash from employers who will now be forced to pay some of its employees more. In addition to this plan, Abe announced that he would delay a planned sales tax increase for 2.5 years.

See Japan's Prime Minister Announces Plan to Reduce Wage Inequality , The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 6 2016

On Friday, Federal Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that the U.S. Women's Soccer Team is not allowed to strike in order to put pressure on the federation to improve working conditions and increase wages. According to the union, they were seeking the option to strike, but had not definitively decided that they would. In a separate lawsuit, five soccer players had filed a complaint in March claiming that wage discrimination existed. The ruling on Friday does not directly impact the complaint filed by those five players.

In Estonia, in 2015 the country experienced the first year since 1991 that immigration exceeded emigration, thus there was a net inflow of people. The stable labor market and wage growth that has happened over the past several years has helped to bring the number of people leaving the country to a standstill. The other two Baltic economies of Latvia and Lithuania have not seen the same wage growth and are still dealing with the problem of high emigration. However, these Baltic countries are now expanding more quickly than the rest of the EU in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

See Estonia's Wage Growth Slows Emigration and Increases Immigration , Ott Ummelas and Milda Seputyte, Bloomberg, Jun 6 2016

In Qatar, eleven people were killed and twelve others were hospitalized, in a fire that erupted late Wednesday in housing used by a company working on a tourism project in the south of the country in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. Worker’s rights groups have criticized Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and the country has enacted some labor reforms to improve working conditions. The fire will likely increase the scrutiny of conditions that low-wage guest workers are subjected to under the system of employer sponsorship.

See Eleven Killed in Fire at Qatar Migrant Labor Housing Facility, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jun 3 2016

The U.S. economy added just 38,000 new jobs last month, a steep decrease from April’s low 123,000, and well below analysts’ forecasts. Overall, the economy has averaged just 116,000 during the previous three months of this year, compared with about 207,000 last year. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in May, the lowest since 2007, largely because 458,000 workers dropped out of the labor force. One positive of the May report was that wages continued to show solid improvement. May’s meager job growth was completely unexpected and makes it unlikely Federal Reserve policymakers will increase a key interest rate when they meet June 14-15.

See Weak May Job Report Makes Fed Interest Rate Hike Less Likely, Jim Puzzanghera, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 3 2016

An employee of the company Nest, a subsidiary of Google, filed a complaint against the parent company. The complaint was filed by an employee who was terminated after he shared a meme on his Facebook that mocked Nest's CEO Tony Fadell. Fadell has been recently criticized in the news for the company's culture. The complainant was questioned about the incident by the head of Google's security and then was fired.

See Employee Fired from Google's Subsidiary Nest for Facebook Meme, Gina Hall, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Jun 3 2016

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation reported that hundreds of thousands of low-wage jobs would be added in the area over the next four years. Food service workers and office administrators are estimated to account for approximately 93,000 of the jobs added. Economists have voiced complaints that they would much rather see job growth in high-wage sectors. Los Angeles county has already added 469,200 jobs since 2010, and another 346,000 jobs are anticipated to be added between now and 2020.

See Los Angeles to Add Hundred of Thousands of Low-Wage Jobs by 2020, Natalie Kitroeff, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 1 2016

On Tuesday evening, three major unions in France called for a railway strike that would begin at 7pm. This strike, which carried over into Wednesday, caused the railway operator SNCF to suspend service for 4 out of its 10 high-speed trains. In addition to this, the company had to cancel half of its commuter trains. On Tuesday, Hollande reaffirmed that he will continue with his labor reform measures. Tensions are high in France as it will host the Euro 2016 soccer tournament on June 10th.

See Railway Strikes in France Disrupt Service of Commuter Trains, Mark Deen and Francois de Beaupuy, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg News, Jun 1 2016

On Wednesday, Mitsubishi Materials Corp announced that it had agreed to pay owed wages to Chinese workers who were subjects of forced labor in the company's mines during World War Two. It is estimated that 3,765 workers or families of deceased workers will receive a formal apology from the company along with $100,000. In 2015, Mitsubishi was the first company to come out and apologize for using forced labor during World War Two. The Chinese Foreign Ministry hopes that Japan continues to take responsibility for this historical event.

See Mitsubishi Materials To Reimburse Forced Laborers From WWII, The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 1 2016

Tensions continues to rise in France, where protestors have began to block roadways with burning tires after the government confirmed that it would not back down on its labor reforms. 150,000 union members have marched in protest of the government's reforms, 77 of whom have been arrested. François Hollande, the President of France, currently holds an approval rating below 20%, the lowest of any sitting President in the nation's history. In response to Hollande's reforms, which would make it easier for employers to hire and fire employees, union members have gone to extreme lengths to cut off the nation's fuel supply, resulting in large lines at gas pumps and strikes in the public transportation sector. Protestors have planned another day of demonstration, June 14, to coincide with the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.

See James McAuley, The Washington Post, May 27 2016

After almost two months of striking, Verizon has reached a tentative 4-year agreement with its 40,000 protestors. The deal is a direct result of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez's intervention two weeks ago, which restarted negotiations between the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Union members must still ratify the contract, the details of which have not been released as of 2pm today.

See Aaron Pressman, Fortune, May 27 2016

Emails made public by the Mayor of Boston today have uncovered union strong arming in the Boston Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment. The department is run by Kenneth Brissette, who has been arrested after forcing a city music festival to hire union workers. Brissette was also previously involved in a shake down conducted by Teamsters Local 25 of the television show "Top Chef"'s crew. Brissette has pleaded not guilty and has deemed the federal prosector's decision to indite him "factually and legally flawed."

See Joe Dwinell , Boston Herald, May 27 2016