Workplace Issues Today
The Washington Post has settled labor disputes with newsroom employees over their social media policies related to the disciplining of a reporter who criticized owner Jeff Bezos. The resolution is part of long-running contract negotiations for reporters and some commercial staff. A tentative two-year agreement that includes a $15 per week raise has been reached. The agreement offers closure on two complaints filed by the Washington Post Guild and stipulates that reporters can now be held responsible for false or defamatory social media posts by reporters. The Washington Post did, however, agree to remove a written warning from employee Fredrick Kunkle, who wrote a piece for the Huffington Post that criticized Jeff Bezos’ treatment of his employees. According to the union, contract negotiations lasted over a year.
See Hassan A. Kanu and Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg BNA, Aug 17 2018
On Tuesday, Korean prosecutors told Yonhap News they are seeking an arrest warrant for former Samsung vice president over allegations of his involvement in a scheme to interfere with union organizing at one of the company’s subsidiaries. The former VP was only identified by his last name, Kang, is being prosecuted for events dating back to 2013. At the time, Kang was the head of Samsung Group's Future Strategy Office, the decision making body for labor issues. According to Yonhap, the tech giant is Korea’s wealthiest conglomerate and has a reputation for having a “no labor union” policy.
See Yonhap staff, Yonhap, Aug 17 2018
A union representing Air France workers warned the carrier’s incoming CEO Ben Smith they will go on strike unless pay demands are satisfied. Smith will leave his current position as Air Canada’s chief of operations in the next month, succeeding Jean-Marc Janaillac who quit after failing to end a series of strikes that crippled the French airline. In addition to the strike threat, Smith faces competitive challenges after Air France shares recently fell two percent.
See Phil Serafino and Frederic Tomesco, Bloomberg Business, Aug 17 2018
A union representing Air France workers warned the carrier’s incoming CEO Ben Smith they will go on strike unless pay demands are satisfied. Smith will leave his current position as Air Canada’s chief of operations in the next month, succeeding Jean-Marc Janaillac who quit after failing to end a series of strikes that crippled the French airline. In addition to the strike threat, Smith faces competitive challenges after Air France shares recently fell two percent.
See Phil Serafino and Frederic Tomesco, Bloomberg Business, Aug 17 2018
Several factory workers at an H&M plant in Cambodia were fired for attempting to form a union. One of the women, Neth, told Swedish news reporters from SVT that she and her colleagues work on short-term contracts and earn less than $217 US dollars a month. Cambodian law stipulates that seamstresses who work for two years must have permanent employment and paid vacation and sick leave, but according to a report done by the organization Fair Action, the vast majority of Cambodia’s 700,000 textile workers are employed on short-term contracts lasting between two and six months. While permanent employees cannot be dismissed without notification and severance pay, short-term workers do not have the same protection and often work overtime without compensation. When Neth and her colleges tried to redress the gap, their boss told them they would not win the fight and refused to extend their contracts. Swedish-owned H&M is the largest buyer of clothing sewn in Cambodian textile factories and generates an annual revenue of more than $20 billion USD. H&M’s Sustainability Manager for Social Affairs, Cecilia Tiblad Berntsson, said that Neth and her colleges did not have their contracts extended because of work shortages, and not because of their organizing activities.
See Claes JB Löfgren, SVT Nyheter, Aug 15 2018
Activists aligned with the Service Employees International Union are calling for Trump NLRB appointees John Ring and William Emanuel to recuse themselves from a dispute over whether McDonald’s employees were fired for supporting “Fight for $15”. Ring (R) and Emanuel (R) have both previously worked as attorneys at the management-side labor law firm that is representing McDonald’s in the case. Conflict of interest issues already led the labor board to throw out a major ruling in February, after the inspector general found Emmanuel failed to recuse himself in a separate case. The Board did not comment on the recuesal request. On Tuesday, General Counsel Peter Rob issued a filing for the Board to approve the McDonald’s settlement, saying that the judge who ruled against it had overstepped her role.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Aug 15 2018
Five-thousand protestors plan to stage a rally Wednesday afternoon to support families who have been separated at the border. The event is a collaboration between several immigrant advocacy groups and labor unions including AFSCME and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. “Labor United to Free the Children” is expected to be the largest demonstration in the Philadelphia area since Trump took office. Although the Trump administration publically rescinded its policy of separating immigrant families in June, it is expanding the number of beds and holding facilities, as it’s done at the Berks County detention center in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has been a loud advocate against Trump’s policy of separating families, and says that all children deserve the right to public education. PFT President Jerry Jordan has supported the Hernandez family, who have so far avoided deportation. On Tuesday, Hernandez’s daughter, who is scheduled to speak at the rally, told the press “the problems of my family are also labor issues, and we are stronger when we fight together.”
See Jeff Gammage, The Philly Inquirer, Aug 15 2018
Two Wisconsin Democrats closely affiliated with labor unions are competing for the congressional seat left by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R). The primary race closely reflects major election themes across the country. There’s discussion of unions’ role in wage increases, and debate over right-to-work legislation as Missouri voters shot down a similar law last week. In a statement to Bloomberg Law, ILR’s director of labor education research Kate Bronfenbrenner said: “It’s like everything that’s been happening in Wisconsin and in the country is right there.” Democrats are hoping to turn the area around after the retirement of Paul Ryan. The two Democratic candidates are Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers, and five Republicans are also running in the August 14th primary.
See Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg BNA, Aug 13 2018
Prisoner advocacy groups Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee have called for a 20-day prison labor strike to push for better conditions. The announcement comes two years after a national prison strike upended US correctional facilities. A series of demands have been presented, including better conditions, fair pay for prison labor, opening the possibility of parole to all prisoners, and increasing access to rehabilitation programs. Protesters are planning a rally outside of South Carolina’s Lee Correctional Institution at the end of this month.
See EMILY BOHATCH, The State, Aug 13 2018
Teamsters at the sanitation company Republic Services walked off the job Friday, claiming the company is violating labor law. The union members held a midnight picket where they voiced concerns about outsourcing and unaffordable healthcare coverage. The strike comes after a recent $190 million dollar corporate tax-cut Republic received. Teamsters Local 728 says that the company is violating federal labor law by hiring subcontractors for mechanic work. One-hundred and twenty drivers, mechanics, and dispatchers went on strike to protest the outsourcing.
See WGCL Digital Team, CBS 46, WGCL-TV, Aug 13 2018
The United Nurses and Allied Professionals (UNAP) and the Rhode Island Hospital filed separate unfair labor practice complaints amid contract negotiations. Earlier this month, the workers staged a three-day strike and the hospital responded with a lockout. The UNAP is accusing the hospital of retaliating against workers for participating in a three-day strike by unilaterally changing their terms and conditions of employment. The hospital is accusing the union of bargaining in bad-faith and striking over issues unrelated to current negotiations. A hospital spokesperson said that UNAP made proposals after giving notification of the strike, rather than focusing on resolving the established issues. Both sides returned to the bargaining table on August eighth, but no agreement has been reached yet.
See Kelly Gooch, Beckers Hospital Review, Aug 10 2018
Teamsters union locals approved new contracts with UPS for some 250,000 members on Thursday. The proposed five-year contracts still need to be ratified by voters next month. The agreements cover drivers, package sorters, loaders, operations and dock workers across the country. The negotiations have been controversial among some employees, who fear the creation of a new category of “hybrid drivers” would undermine demand for full-time drivers, who make a higher hourly wage. Teamsters package division director Denis Taylor told the press that there is strong support for the tentative agreement among local union leaders, and that the contracts provide members with large wage gains and great opportunities for part-time workers to gain full-time employment.
See Kelly Yamanouchi, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Aug 10 2018
Coca-Cola Bottling Company workers are striking after the company’s major recent consolidation. The distributor took over a production facility in Mobile, Alabama and several sales and distribution territories in Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida. The strike began after management failed to negotiate a new labor contract with Teamsters Local 991. Major sticking points are low-pay for new employees and rising insurance costs. Despite efforts by a federal mediator, an agreement could not be reached. The company recently struck a deal with the University of Alabama that secured their right as the only beverage provider on campus for the next ten years.
See Lawrence Specker, Alabama.com, Aug 10 2018
The Trump Administration recently selected former National Right to Work Foundation attorney Geoffrey MacLeay to serve as policy adviser for the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS). Prior to his new appointment, MacLeay most recently worked as a professional staff for Republicans on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. There, he called for stricter OLMS oversight of labor organizing centers. The office is responsible for overseeing annual reports filed by labor unions detailing how their membership dues are spent. MacLeay’s appointment may signal the administration’s response to pressure from conservatives to take a tougher stance on the labor movement. The National Right to Work Foundation and White House labor policy adviser James Sherk reportedly called for an OMLS leader who would impose stricter standards for the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act by requiring worker centers to file more detailed spending disclosures.
See Ben Penn and Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Law, Aug 8 2018
Missouri voters shot down a legislative proposal that would have significantly suppressed union power on Tuesday. The proposal would have barred private-sector unions from collecting mandatory fair-share dues to cover bargaining expenses, similar to what the Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME did for public sector unions. A number of states have passed right-to-work laws, but Missouri voters had a rare opportunity to weigh in directly on the matter, and rejected the proposal by a 2-1 margin. The bill was introduced by former Governor Eric Greitens, although he left office amid a scandal before his bill was approved by the legislature in early 2017.
See Noam Scheiber, New York Times, Aug 8 2018
More than 400,000 tea farm workers in east India staged a three-day strike on Tuesday, demanding a 50-cent pay raise. The current minimum wage for these workers is approximately $2.46. Two-dozen labor unions are supporting the strike which spans hundreds of tea gardens in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. The workers harvest eponymous tea for export around the world. The unions are hoping to disrupt production around the ongoing monsoon, which is peak production season for the tea gardens.
See Thousands of Indian tea workers strike for 50 cent pay rise, Channel News Asia, AFP/aa, Aug 8 2018
A 3-0 NLRB ruling found that the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and it’s affiliate hospitals interfered with a union drive by prohibiting workers from discussing unionization with SEIU representatives. According to the decision, the medical center overstepped their right to ban union solicitation in areas where patients are being treated, by preventing union representatives from speaking with off-duty employees in any part of the hospital. The board didn’t weigh in on a related dispute over whether the medical center and it’s affiliated hospitals is considered a single employer under federal labor law.
See Chris Opfer, Bloomberg, Aug 7 2018
Last week, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) challenged three executive orders issued by the Trump administration designed to weaken federal labor unions. The AFGE also challenged a contract that was unilaterally imposed by the Department of Education. The FLRA found reason to believe the Education Department was engaged in bad-faith bargaining, and a Regional Director said there is probable cause to bring unfair labor charges against the department. These developments are a good sign for federal labor unions, who have been grappling with significant setbacks in recent months.
See Charles Tiefer, Forbes, Aug 7 2018
New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood is contesting a Federal Labor Department program that she claims gives employers who violate labor law a way to avoid punishment. Underwood is pursuing the case in Manhattan federal court. On Monday, she petitioned the court to enforce her request for information on the Payroll Audit Independent Determination Program. Federal Lawyers working on the case did not make a statement to the press, but Underwood says that her requests made to the department under the Freedom of Information Act have yet to go answered.
See Times Union, Associated Press, Aug 7 2018
Nurses union reaches contract agreement with Westchester County for dozens of nurses working in public health
The New York State Nurses Association reached an agreement with Westchester County for forty-three nurses working in the local community college, county jail, public health, and social services. The six-year contract is set to run between 2016-2021, and grants the nurses a 2.5 percent raise in 2018,2018, and 2021, and a 3 percent raise in 2020. The county contends with eight nurses unions, one of which has been working without a contract for seven years. County Executive George Latimer says that he is hoping to finalize an agreement in September with the Civil Service Employees Association in order to close the gap after years of drawn-out offers and counteroffers.
See Mark Lungariello, loud.com, Rockland/Westchester Journal News, Aug 3 2018
An NLRB attorney reported that Fuyao Glass America is impeding their investigations into how the Chinese glass company treated union-supporting employees at its plant in Moraine, Ohio. The investigation concerns a number of unfair labor practice complaints against Fuyao. After an 18-month attempt to organize the plant, the UAW won representation in an 886 to 441 election. Attorney Joseph Tansino has filed a request ordering the enforcement of s subpoena.
See Thomas Gnau, Dayton Daily News, Aug 3 2018
The SEIU reached an agreement with an Oregon state employee who sued the union in April, seeking back pay for obligatory union dues. The employee, Debora Nearman, is a systems analyst with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and opposed paying dues on political and religious grounds. Her settlement is the first of its’ kind to be reached after the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which ruled unions cannot require all employees in a given bargaining unit to pay fair-share dues. Nearman will receive about $3,000 in collective bargaining fees that she paid to the SEIU over the last two years. The National Right to Work Foundation is handling some 200 similar cases across the country.
See Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, Aug 1 2018
Around 30,000 nurses in New Zealand went on strike last month to protest stagnant wages for the first time in nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, tax department workers and primary school teachers are also on strike. New Zealand’s center-left Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern does not condone these labor actions, but she says that under-investment into the public sector over the last nine years has led to deterioration in areas like hospitals and schools. Over that same period, the country’s economy has steadily expanded while wages have remained relatively subdued. Ardern introduced labor reforms that strengthen the bargaining power of unions to help reconcile the spread.
See Tracy Withers, Bloomberg, Aug 1 2018
The Swedish Air Pilots’ Association has given notice to Ryanair that they will go on strike August 10. A Belgium union has advised their pilots to do the same, after years of tension between Ryanair management and its’ members. The discount airline has only recognized pilot unions since December of 2017, after a series of work stoppages highlighted tensions in their workforce. In late July, Ryanair’s Spanish and Portuguese pilots went on strike, leading to the cancellation of six-hundred flights. Pilots in Ireland are preparing to stage their fourth strike in the last month. Yesterday, the airline announced that it had agreed to 9 out of the 11 demands, and invited the union for talks on August 4.
See Helen Massy-Beresford, Air Transport World, Aug 1 2018
Six years ago, Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was one of three judges who voted unanimously to set aside an NLRB order that would have required the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City to bargain with the UAW. Kavanaugh is due to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy when he retires this Tuesday July 31st. Many critics point to his decision in that case, along with similarly anti-worker rulings including a case where he backed management at Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Venetian hotel at Sea World after an employee was killed by an orca, as reasons to be concerned about Kavanaugh’s upcoming seat on the Supreme Court. Former NLRB chair Wilma Liebman says that Kavanaugh’s track record suggests that he is disinclined to grant traditional deference to agencies like the labor board.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Politics, Jul 30 2018
The powerful union representing Hyundai Motor workers in South Korea is beginning to show signs of weakening. Last year, workers went on strike for twenty four days, only to be stuck in negotiations for months following to secure the workers’ smallest raise in nearly a decade. This week, after just a two-day strike the union reached an agreement with management that secured an even smaller wage increase than last year. The relatively small gains may be a sign that the union is losing power due to falling profits, growing criticism, the near bankruptcy of GM Korea, and potential U.S. tariffs. The deal was ratified by union members last Thursday, right before the company released its second-worst quarterly net profit report since 2012.
See Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters, Jul 30 2018
A video created by UPS employee Tyler Binder criticizing the tentative agreement between the Teamsters and UPS has gone viral. In the twelve minuet video, Binder explains in plain language why he opposes the tentative contract, which would cover 270,000 UPS workers. Teamster activists oppose the contract because it encourages UPS to undercut full-time delivery drivers by creating a second tier for part-time drivers at a discounted wage. UPS employs many part-time workers, but mostly in their warehouses sorting, loading, and unloading packages. The proposed contract would create a new category for “hybrid” workers who work both in warehouses and as drivers. These employees would make $30 an hour compared to the $36 wage of a full-time UPS driver. The contract also stipulates that UPS has the right to impose a 70-hour work week during peak delivery season.
See Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, Jul 30 2018
Betsy DeVos’ Education Department has been accused of engaging in bad faith bargaining by federal labor mediators, according to a statement from the American Federation of Government Employees on Tuesday. The conflict stems from a new set of work rules that the Education Department allegedly imposed on its employees illegally, curtailing their protections and fair access to union representation. Union officials say that the anti-union work rules are reflective of wide-reaching executive orders and that other federal agencies including the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration have had similar rules imposed on them. According to the FLRA, the Education Department imposed a “collective bargaining agreement” in February that they said was reflective of both sides’ final offers, after nearly a year of negotiations came to an impasse.
See Erica L. Green, The New York Times, Jul 25 2018
On Monday, Disneyland Resort and four unions announced they have reached a tentative bargaining agreement. The announcement comes after weeks of employee protests, whose plight has drawn national attention as several park workers shared their stories about struggling with homelessness and food insecurity. A Disneyland spokeswoman said that the details of the contract will be announced upon its ratification, which is expected to happen sometime this week.
See NBC Los Angeles, Jul 25 2018
The NLRB has announced that it plans to seek $2.2 million from Wendy McCraw, owner of the Santa Barbra News-Press, for grievances against her employees over a 12-year period. The multi-millionaire illegally hired nonunion temporary workers and freelancers, illegally fired two employees, and illegally suspended employees’ merit-based pay. McCraw was also ordered to pay the Teamsters $183,000 in expenses incurred during fruitless contract negotiations between 2007 and 2012.
See Melinda Burns and Dawn Hobbs, edhat Santa Barbara, Jul 25 2018
In a new court filing, the National Right to Work Foundation is demanding that SEIU Local 1000 reimburse some 40,000 current and former state employees because of the union’s allegedly overburdensome “opt-out” procedures that the organization claims caused employees to pay more than necessary in fees. The SEIU could be facing a penalty to the tune of more $100 million if the Right to Work Foundation’s request is approved by the courts. The recent filing was prompted by the recent Janus vs. SEIU supreme court decision, which ruled that public-sector unions cannot collect fair-share dues from employees who do not wish to be members of the union.
See ADAM ASHTON, Sacramento Bee, Jul 23 2018
Lifetime Brands, the parent corporation of brands including KitchenAid and Mikasa, was ordered by a New Jersey District Court judge to reinstate two employees that it allegedly fired for union organizing activities. The temporary injunction was issued last Tuesday by Judge Brian Martinotti. The company was ordered to stop firing or discriminating against employees who support unionization, stop interrogating employees over their views on unionization, and to stop incentivizing employees with promotions to half their union activities.
See Samantha Marcus, New Jersey.com, Jul 23 2018
According to a sworn declaration from May 16th, United Airlines President J. Scott Kirby told an employee that workers could lose flight benefits if they decide to be represented by Unite Here. Kirby’s comments could fuel the ongoing organizing effort by United employees, and potentially undermine the company’s attempts to block unionization. In February, the company filed a fraud claim with the National Mediation Board, claiming that Unite Here coerced workers into supporting the union. The Board initiated a rare field investigation into the union’s organizing tactics, which Unite Here says was recently completed.
See Fatima Hussein and Jaclyn Diaz, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 20 2018
Verizon has agreed to extend a 2016 contract for some 34,000 employees for another four years. The Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers agreed to pay raises totaling 11% over the four year contract extension. The original contract was settled in 2016 following a seven-week strike. Both sides were able to avoid the possibility of similarly contentious negotiations next year by extending the contract.
See Aaron Pressman, Fortune, Jul 20 2018
The NLRB rejected a request from Las Vegas-based Station Casinos to stop the unionization of its Green Valley Ranch resort. Workers voted in favor of representation by Culinary Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 in November 2017, but management fought the election. The same company is challenging the April 2018 election at another one of its resorts called Palms. The casino chain did not tell Las Vegas Review-Journal reporters on what basis they are challenging the elections.
See Todd Prince, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Jul 20 2018
On Tuesday, administrative law judge Lauren Esposito rejected a proposed settlement that would have allowed McDonalds to avoid being labeled a “joint employer”, and therefore absolved of all responsibility in labor-law violations at it’s franchises. Esposito wrote in her opinion that the scope of the grievances involved in the case, which has been ongoing since 2012, would not be remedied by the proposed settlement. McDonalds said that they feel it is fair and reasonable, and the company may appeal the decision to the republican-controlled NLRB. In the proposed settlement, the company agreed to pay between $20 and $50,000 to every employee who claimed they were fired for participating in the national “fight-for-fifteen” movement. This case is an important test of how a 2015 NLRB ruling that made it easier to find a company liable for labor law violations by contractors would apply to franchises.
See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Jul 18 2018
Amid ongoing conflict, Ryanair said that it has to cancel 24 flights on July 20 as pilots prepare for their second of three one-day strikes on July 12, 20, and 24. The Irish Airline Pilots’ association said that it found some common ground with airline management during their July 11 negotiations regarding a proposal for a joint working group which could help both sides agree on a fair method to govern base transfer arrangement and related issues. However, the union called a strike when they failed to reach an agreement on the terms of reference for the proposed group.
See Rob Finlayson , Air Transport World, Jul 18 2018
The Teamsters and UPS have reached a tentative agreement on a five-year contract for workers in the Fright trucking division. Some 11,000 employees will be covered under the new contract. Details of the contract have not been released, but they must be ratified by the union’s membership before it can take effect. Last month, the company reached a separate agreement on a contract for 260,000 employees in the UPS small-package operation. That contract is one of the largest collective bargaining agreements in the country, and includes pay raises for existing workers as well as a provision that UPS must review any technology changes like the use of drones with the union.
See Jennifer Smith, The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal, Jul 18 2018
Washington D.C.’s largest Metro Union has overwhelmingly authorized a potential strike that would affect the city’s entire transit system, just in time for the thousands of tourists who will be visiting this week to watch the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The Union is technically prohibited from striking under their current contract with the Metro, but even a slight interruption or slowdown would have a big impact this week. The strike authorization was made on Sunday, but Union leaders are waiting for management’s response before calling the walkout. The Amalgamated Transit Union represents some 8,000 Metro workers in D.C., or 64% of the city’s transit workforce, and contract negotiations have been ongoing since July 2016. Workers are concerned about the stalled negotiations, as well as privatization, duty reassignments and job cuts.
See Washington Post, Associated Press, Jul 16 2018
Late last Wednesday, the House Committee on Appropriations approved legislation to restrict discretionary spending by the Labor Department and the NLRB. In a 30-22 decision, the House Committee voted to approve legislation for the Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services departments in fiscal year 2019. The proposal would decrease the discretionary spending by the DOL by $88 million. NLRB funding would be reduced by $12.8 million. The Full House will be the next to vote on the proposal. Both House and Senate leaders are seeking to pass multiple appropriations bills this summer, and on June 28, Senate lawmakers approved a version of the Labor-HHS bill. The Senate’s bill differs in agency funding levels and policy riders. If both bills are passed, the House and the Senate will need to find a middle ground before the August recess in order for the legislation to take effect in the fiscal year 2019.
See Tyrone Richardson, Bloomberg Business, Jul 16 2018
Thousands of Amazon workers in Germany will participate in a walkout tomorrow, joining their counterparts in Spain and Poland who are disrupting one of the company’s most important days of the year: Amazon Prime Day. The workers are represented by Verdi services union, who is calling for contracts that guarantee safe working conditions for employees at fulfillment centers. Amazon says they only expect a fraction of their German workers to participate, about 12,000, and that the strike will not affect Prime Day deliveries. Germany is one of Amazon’s largest markets, second only to the U.S.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Jul 16 2018
The NLRB recently made a new development in the ongoing workplace safety investigation at Tesla. The Board discovered new evidence in a July 4 filing that alleges CEO Elon Musk held a meeting in mid-2017 to solicit employee feedback about workplace safety. According to the revised complaint, Musk implicitly promised employees that he would remedy their safety complaints if they halted union organizing activity. Tesla workers reportedly work 12-hour shifts regularly and there have been multiple publicized accounts of employees collapsing on the factory floor while their co-workers continue to toil as they are carried out on a stretcher. Meanwhile, billionaire Elon Musk made history this year after launching several private space missions through his program SpaceX.
See Luke Stangel, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Jul 13 2018
Walmart recently patented a sound sensor system designed boost efficiency by collecting a range of audio data that can determine their employees’ performance based on sounds. Earlier this year one of Walmart’s largest competitors, Amazon, patented a smart wristband to ensure that their warehouse employees’ hands are always moving. As technology evolves, employers are finding innovative ways to track employee performance, and it’s not just Walmart and Amazon. UPS uses sensors to check whether their drivers are wearing seat belts, and according to Brian Kropp, vice president of Gartner’s human resources practice, some companies are using technology that allows them to track how quickly employees are typing, as well as chair-sensors that can track how much time they spend away from their desks. Kropp says that many companies are quickly adopting these “nontraditional” management practices as new technologies allow them to collect data in unconventional ways. While Walmart did not comment on whether they plan to implement their new patent in retail stores, the company did allude to the technology's potential as an efficiency hack.
See Jena McGregor, The Washington Post, Jul 13 2018
Some 1,000 Amazon employees at the San Fernando warehouse in Spain will take part in a three-day walkout next week on July 16, 17, and 18. The strike is scheduled to disrupt Amazon Prime Day, one of the company’s most important days of the year. More than 60% of the country’s Amazon workforce will be participating in the walkout. They are protesting recent wage cuts and restrictions on time off, as well as poor working conditions.
See Telesur, Reuters, Jul 13 2018
Workers at Shell’s Knarr oil field operation off the coast of Norway went on strike Tuesday, forcing the company to close it's 23,000 barrel per-day operation. It’s the first time since 2012 that Norwegian oil workers have staged a walk-out. Back then, the government stepped in to end the strike after sixteen days, citing strategic national interests. Oil and natural gas are the country’s largest source of income, second only to Russia in Europe's oil production. Some 669 drilling workers stead a walk-out amid a negotiation impasse. The union is prepared to take further action, and has warned that another 901 workers at four different oil fields are to strike this Sunday if an agreement cannot be reached. Employers say they want a deal but have limited leeway. So far, however, no additional talks have been scheduled.
See Mikael Holter, Bloomberg Business, Jul 11 2018
Workers at Exxon Mobil’s research facility in Hunterdon County, New Jersey have voted 57-14 to stage a walkout against the oil giant. The workers are represented by the Independent Laboratory Employees’ Union, who filed two unfair labor practice complaints in April and June amid contract negotiations. The union accuses Exxon of bargaining in bad faith and retaliating against union workers after an arbitrator ordered the company to stop hiring contract workers to fill union positions. There are roughly 150 unionized workers at the facility, including research technicians, mechanics, and others.
See Anthony Salamone, The Morning Call, Jul 11 2018
Last week, the Office of Personnel Management delivered guidance to federal agencies on how they should implement three executive orders that were issued by the President on May 25th. The executive orders are designed to completely upend the way that agencies and unions have cooperated for decades. Agencies have been instructed to (1) seek collective bargaining agreements that weaken unions as soon as possible, (2) rush civil service procedures, and (3) curtail official time, which allows union leaders to be paid by the government for representing all employees within a bargaining unit for certain management dealings, regardless of whether or not they pay dues. The guidance, which was issued by OPM Director Jeff Pon on July 5, also sets Monday as the day that agencies must stop allowing unions free use of office or meeting spaces, reserved parking spaces, phones, computers, and computer systems. Federal agencies have been instructed to move quickly and forcibly to implement the workforce orders, and any failure to do so must be explained to the OPM. The orders will affect around 1.2 million federal workers, more than half of the government’s nonpostal, nonmilitary unionized workforce. Opposition to the orders is growing, however, and a federal judge is scheduled to hear arguments against Trump’s anti-union drive later this month.
See Joe Davidson, The Washington Post, Jul 9 2018
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld an NLRB ruling that said In-N-Out Burger was not allowed to ban employees from wearing small pins that read “Fight for $15”. The California-based burger chain requires its employees to follow a detailed dress code that prohibits any kind of pins and stickers. The NLRB’s general counsel found this rule to be in violation of federal labor law. On appeal, an administrative law judge rejected the company’s argument that their interest in maintaining a unique brand image and concern for food and safety qualified as “special circumstances”.
See John Council, Law.com, Jul 9 2018
In a memo to the New Yorker’s editorial staff on Monday, Editor in Chief David Remnick announced that the magazine has agreed to voluntary recognize a union after a series of constructive meetings with the NewsGuild of New York. According to the union, more than ninety percent of eligible staff have signed union cards. A card check will be held next week to verify that a majority of the newsroom employees want to be represented by the NewsGuild.
See Austen Hufford, The Wall Street Journal, Jul 9 2018
New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) introduced legislation this week in response to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME, which stripped public sector labor unions of the right to collect fair-share dues to cover collective bargaining costs. The proposed legislation would allow unions to include collective bargaining costs in contracts with government agencies to replace fair share dues that last week’s SCOUTS decision banned. Under the plan, public employees would forgo pay raises to subsidize collective bargaining fees. The Albany-based conservative think tank Empire Center obtained a copy of Gottfried’s proposal that was reportedly distributed it to state lawmakers across New York. Writing for the center’s blog, Ken Girardin denounced the proposal, calling it a “terrible policy” that would inevitably lead to tax payer’s getting stuck with union bargaining costs. Gottfried responded to the criticism by refuting the underlying assumption that Unions have close allies in state government who are easily influenced, citing the fact that Unions often go for years without a contract because they cannot reach an agreement with the public employer.
See Libby Torres, The Gothamist, Jul 6 2018
In recent decades, working-class residents of Queens are slowly being displaced by professionals from Manhattan seeking lower rents. Business owner Ali Ahmed lived in Astoria for twenty years before the neighborhood’s trendy appeal eventually priced him out, forcing his family to move to the Bronx. Now, Ahmed commutes an hour both ways to get to his store, which he runs himself while driving for Uber part-time to make extra cash on the side. It’s a struggle that resonates strongly with many New Yorkers, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who won the Democratic primary last week against ten-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley who outspent her ten to one. The twenty-eight-year-old Latina will most likely become one of the youngest Congresswomen ever in 2019. When her father passed away from cancer during the recession, she took on three jobs to help her family stave off foreclosure. Ocasio-Cortez’s intimate understanding of the uphill battle facing working-class New Yorkers no doubt helped propel her into victory on a platform which includes Medicare for all, fully funded public schools and universities, $15 minimum wage, and housing as a human right.
See Jonnelle Marte, The Washington Post, Jul 6 2018
On July 5, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act into law, establishing collective bargaining for private-sector employees. The following decade, opponents of the Act introduced hundreds of bills to repeal or amend the law. Every single attempt failed until the Taft-Hartley Act was passed in 1947 by a Republican-controlled Congress, restricting the activities and power of unions. The Republican Party fervently opposed FLSA from its inception, and conservative groups like the American Liberty League were very vocal about their efforts to repeal these so-called socialist efforts. In addition to encouraging employers not to comply with the Act, opponents supported the widespread filing of injunctions in order to keep the NLRB from functioning effectively. These efforts were eventually put to an end in 1937 when the Supreme Court upheld the act’s constitutionality in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. Some labor groups, notably the American Federation of Labor (AFL), also opposed the NLRB for different reasons. The AFL alleged that the Board favored the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) when it chose plant-wide elections to be the standard rather than electing by individual craft units, which the AFL favored. The NLRB eventually compromised several years later under pressure from Congress, allowing craft unions to seek separate representation of specialized worker groups while another union campaigned to certify an inclusive unit at the same place of employment. This year’s anniversary arrived at a dubious time for organized labor, just a week following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which dealt a massive blow to public-sector unions, and just months after the ban on so-called “micro-unit” organizing, which is exactly what the CIO fought so hard to secure more than a half-century ago.
See Andrew Glass, Politico, Jul 6 2018
The NLRB found that former UFC fighter Leslie Smith’s complaint, which argues that fighters under contract with the promotion are workers protected under the NLRA, has merit. The board agrees with Smith’s claim that she was retaliated against for attempting to unionize fighters when the UFC pulled back their offer to promote her. The ruling could significantly change things for MMA fighters since they are all currently treated as independent contractors. The UFC will likely challenge the ruling, although no official statement has yet to be released by the promotion.
See Rob Tatum, Combat Press, Jul 2 2018
On June 29, the NLRB ruled that Harley-Davidson Motor Co. broke the law when it failed to notify the International Association of Machinists (IAM) before offering employees’ incentives to resign their jobs. Although a collective bargaining agreement grants the company authority to lay off employees on the basis of seniority without negotiating with the union, the IAM never agreed to give up its right to bargain over the company’s decision to offer employees $15,000 severance packages. The current contract between the IAM Lodge 175 and Harley Davidson is locked in until 2022 and allows the company to make layoffs without consulting the union if it’s on the basis of seniority. In 2016, the company decided to reduce its unionized production and maintained employees by 102 workers at it’s York, PA plant. The board found that in August 2016, the company had illegally announced that they could reduce the number of workers laid off if some employees accepted a $15,000 offer to leave. While an administrative law judge initially sided with Harley Davidson on the issue, the NLRB disagreed, saying that the incentive payments were a mandatory subject of bargaining under the NLRA because they encompass wages and terms and conditions of employment. Harley Davidson has been ordered to bargain with Lodge 175 before implementing any changes relating to the aforementioned conditions.
See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg, Jul 2 2018
After months of heated contract negotiations, University of Vermont Medical Center nurses will deliver a ten-day strike notice to hospital officials. The hospital’s administration has been advised to expect a strike on Monday, and management officials say that they have been working with an outside organization to bring in temporary nurses if a strike does happen. Issues of concern for the nurses include unsafe working conditions that put both patients and nurses at risk.
See Dom Amato, WCAX-3, Jul 2 2018
Former Trump Taj Mahal employees received settlement checks on Thursday for a labor dispute dating back to 2014. The one million dollar settlement was reached between UNITE HERE Local 54 and the hotel casino’s former owner, Trump Entertainment Group. The settlement was divided equally among 944 employees, who received $850 each. The workers went on strike for 102 days in 2014, and the casino filed for bankruptcy in September of that year. In October, a motion was filed by Trump Taj Mahal seeking to reject the former employees’ contract terms, which the bankruptcy court agreed to. That prompted members of Local 54 to file numerous unfair labor practice charges against the casino, which the NLRB found to have merit. Keith Fullmer, former bartender of 16 years for the establishment, said that the settlement was especially satisfying because it came directly out of billionaire owner Carl Icahn’s pocket.
See David Danzis , Press of Atlantic City, Jun 29 2018
Seattle is reviewing the possibility of implementing protections for domestic workers to combat rampant labor rights violations among some of the most isolated and vulnerable groups of workers including caretakers and housekeepers. The proposed legislation, called a domestic workers bill of rights, would establish basic protections against minimum wage violations and guarantee workers’ the right to take breaks as well as the right to protect their private property while on the job regardless of employment status or type of contract. The legislation would also establish a local standards board, made up of workers, employers, government employees, and other stakeholders who would come together to enforce the bill of rights. According to a survey conducted by the Seattle Domestic Workers Alliance, more than half of domestic workers do not have written contracts. Unfortunately, domestic workers are not covered under the National Labor Relations Act, so it is the responsibility of every state to ensure there is legislation in place to protect these workers. Legislators will vote on the bill at the end of the summer.
See Roselyn Miller, Slate, Jun 29 2018
Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A filed an election petition with the NLRB on Wednesday after Marty Needleman and other management refused to respond to a request for voluntary recognition. The nonprofit provides legal services has provided bankruptcy, housing, foreclosure, and community economic development since 1968. Some areas of concern driving the unionization effort include insufficient training resources, overwhelming workloads, and a lack of transparency in managerial decisions. If successful, the nonprofit will become the second legal services provider in Brooklyn.
See Rob Abruzzese, The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Jun 29 2018
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court dealt a massive blow to public sector workers by overturning a more than forty year old decision which allowed public sector unions to collect fair share fees in order fund collective bargaining activities. This landmark ruling in Janus v. AFSCME passed today with a 5-4 vote and really exemplifies how the blocking of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee has drastically changed the political landscape of the high court. The decision seriously jeopardizes unions’ funding since, while non-members have no obligation to pay fair share fees, unions are still required to represent the so-called freeloaders in grievance arbitration and provide them with other collective bargaining services. The paradigm puts a massive strain on unions’ resources, and will more than likely have a devastating impact on the political and economic power of a huge number of American workers.
See Ariane de Vogue and Clare Foran, CNN, Jun 27 2018
The Argentine General Confederation of Labor (CGT), which represents roughly three million workers, called for another nation-wide strike on Monday to protest President Mauricio Macri’s economic policies and speak out against an agreement with the International Monetary Fund. Several other labor unions including the Central Union joined the CGT in the strike, which completely halted transportation across the country as well as closed banks, public schools, and gas stations. The strike was a response to an agreement that secured a $50 billion line of credit from the IMF in exchange for implementing market-friendly reforms that incentivize agribusiness while imposing austerity measures which disproportionately hurt the working class. Argentine workers have been grappling with high inflation and the resulting reductions in real wages, in combination with massive public sector layoffs as part of the austerity measures. This is the third general strike that’s been held since the IMF agreement was reached.
See Telesur, Jun 27 2018
Workers at the Chuquicamata copper mine in Chile threatened to go on strike in response to a plan to change the century-old open-pit operation to an underground mine. Four of the six unions representing Chuquicamata workers approved the strike. About 5,664 workers are employed there, and labor relations are at an all-time low according to Liliana Ugarte, one of the union’s presidents. The plan to revamp the mine’s aging deposits includes a massive $39 billion budget and a ten-year time frame. Management has already threatened to lay off as many as1,700 workers. While no strike date has been set yet, preparations are taking place.
See Dave Sherwood and Antonio De la Jara, Reuters, Jun 27 2018
The UAW’s ongoing corruption investigation involving embezzlement by its former president of Local 3 in Detroit has led to a strong divide within the union’s leadership and its rank and file members. Current president Gary Jones will have to act quickly if he is to bridge the divide before the start of 2019 contract talks. Members are demanding transparency from their leaders, and union officials need to make serious reform to regain trust quickly. The UAW members’ skepticism can quickly turn into cynicism, which makes ratification of any agreement more difficult and strips bargaining power away from negotiators.
See Automotive News, Jun 25 2018
CEO Russell Judd of Mercy hospitals in Bakersfield, California was blocked from attempting to cut off his employees from public employee pensions and replace them with 401(k)-like retirement plans. A provision of the state budget bill that is currently pending approval by Governor Jerry Brown and that was backed by SEIU Local 521, barred Judd from shifting Mercy hospital employees and other Kern County Hospital Authority workers onto private retirement plans. Unions lobbied to get several other pro-labor provisions included in the bill. Governor Brown received the bill on June 20 and has until July 2 to sign or veto it.
See Adam Ashton, The Sacramento Bee, Jun 25 2018
Johns Hopkins Hospital has been accused of illegally impeding unionization efforts by a group of nurses. National Nurses United has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB on the nurses’ behalf. The complaint alleges that management propagated an anti-union agenda, specifically by preventing nurses from visiting other units on their days off to discuss organizing efforts during their co-workers’ breaks. A spokeswoman for the hospital, Kim Hoppe, said on Monday that the administration is taking the allegations seriously and that they value all their nurses very highly. However, according to surgical nurse and union organizer Alex Laslett, she and other Johns Hopkins nurses are fighting to unionize in order to address issues including safe staffing, pay, benefits, and working conditions, which affect the quality of care that they are able to deliver.
See Morgan Eichensehr, Baltimore Business Journal, Jun 25 2018
The American Federation of Teachers and Brown University signed an agreement on Thursday saying that if at least 30 percent of the university’s graduate students sign union cards and a successful election is subsequently held, then Brown will recognize the union and negotiate with them in good faith. However, other Ivy League schools, like Columbia, continue to all-out reject the possibility of bargaining with a graduate student union. Brown’s decision to commit to recognizing an elected union is significant under the current hyper-conservative NLRB, which is currently graduate student unions’ only resource for taking on an administration who refuses to recognize them. The seven Ivies were initially uniformly against the idea of bargaining with graduate student unions when the decision which granted graduate student workers collective bargaining rights in 2016. However, that has apparently changed. The president of the American Federation of Teachers praised the Brown University administration for avoiding the “Trumpian low road”.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Jun 22 2018
Multiple unions representing more than 3,000 Rochester police and firefighters are speaking out against the city for what they say was a forced resignation of their labor relations manager, Amorette Miller. Union representatives say that they were able to make important changes during the course of Miller’s year-long term, attributing their success to her background in labor unions and sympathy to workers. Miller was trusted by union representatives and was able to work with them to reportedly settle a significant amount of grievances, cutting the number in half. The city says the decision to fire her was made with the taxpayers’ best interests in mind, and that they are currently working to fill the position. President Mike Mazzeo of the Rochester Police Locust club says the loss of Miller is only going to hurt citizens of Rochester and their families.
See Madison Marquardt , Spectrum News Rochester, Jun 22 2018
The Trump Administrated issued a plan on Thursday proposing a merger of the Education and Labor departments. While the proposal is likely to be shut down by Congress, it reflects a deeply rooted Republican opposition to the existence of the Education Department. Betsy DeVos praised the merger plan, saying that it would increase efficiency by “reducing the federal footprint in education.” Leaders of teacher unions and Democrats in Congress say that the proposal is outlandish, and may be an attempt to distract the American public from the humanitarian crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association.
See Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post, Jun 22 2018
Over the last 26 years, Australia has been enjoying a period of economic growth. The country’s workers, however, have been grappling with lagging wages and growing job insecurity. Many policymakers cite disruptive technology, a lack of productivity growth, and a growing number of part-time workers as a few reasons. Some labor experts, however, like employment attorney Josh Bornstein, say a plunge in union membership is the main cause of Australia’s labor woes. Unlike Europe and the U.S., Australia was on the upswing during the devastating 08/09 crisis. An influx of commodity demands from China helped Australian workers fair much better than their counterparts in Europe and the U.S. a decade ago, but today the country’s manufacturing is declining, and union membership is at an all-time low. The decline of labor unions in Australia happened much more quickly than in the rest of the developed world. Today, less than fifteen percent of Australia’s workforce is unionized, compared to 40% in 1991. Meanwhile, in Britain, the rate has only dropped from thirty-seven to twenty-three percent in the same time period. While corporations are benefiting from stagnant wages, Australian families find it increasingly difficult to find economic stability.
See Swati Pandey, Reuters, Jun 21 2018
On June 19, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed an NLRB decision that ordered the reinstatement of an employee who was fired by Verizon Wireless for engaging in union activity. Judge Laurence H. Silberman concluded that the labor board’s evidence was inadequate and that the company’s decision to fire employee Bianca Cunningham was wholly legitimate. Cunningham was charged with lying to the company after an incident involving another employee, Victory Eshareturi, who walked off the job after talking with Cunningham following a scolding from one of Verizon’s managers. While Cunningham denies encouraging Eshareturi to leave, she did admit telling her co-worker that she would leave if confronted with the same situation. After the NLRB found evidence of retaliation, the appeals court eventually took Verizon’s side on the matter and reversed their ruling for reinstatement with backpay.
See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 21 2018
Since flight-line workers at a Boeing plant in South Carolina elected the International Association of Machinists in May, the corporation has refused to recognize the union. The election was certified by the NLRB last week, but the corporation is now appealing a decision that allowed the workers to vote in the first place. Boeing is arguing that the representation election was held for a small sub-section of workers at the plant, otherwise known as a micro unit. Micro-unit organizing was made illegal on the federal level in late 2017. However, the IAM contends that because the labor board certified the election, the company is breaking the law by refusing to start contract talks. A hearing on the issue was already held on March 21, and the NLRB concluded that the flight-line workers have distinct work rules, salaries, licensing requirements, and other unique characteristics that distinguish them from the rest of Boeing’s employees. After the labor board already certified the flight-line workers as a reasonable bargaining unit, Boeing tried unsuccessfully to delay the May 31st election.
See David Wren, The Post and Courier, Jun 18 2018
Last week, local lawmakers and construction workers rallied outside a Long Island City building site in protest of the Durst Organization’s decision to hire nonunionized workers through a concrete contractor. Multiple unions were represented at the rally outside of the Queens Plaza Park construction site after Durst announced they had hired RNC Industries for the project. The protesters have garnered an online following of union supporters with the hashtag #CountMeln. A day after the Queens Plaza Park protest, union members staged a second rally at six am to protest against Related Companies for hiring nonunion labor for the second phase of their Hudson Yards project. Councilman Fransico Moya of Queens’ 21st Council District joined the union workers at the protests.
See Jenna Bagcal, QNS, Jun 18 2018
On the first day of the FIFA World Cup, Prime Minister of Russia Dimitry Medvedev announced that the retirement age will start a gradual rise starting next year, growing from 55 to 63 for women and from 60 to 65 for men. The pension reform proposal was officially submitted on June 16th to the State Duma’s Labor, Social Policy and Veterans’ Affairs Committee for consideration as legislation. After review, the initiative will be distributed to regional officials across the country. Lawmakers will have until fall to make a decision on whether or not to adopt the legislation. If a decision is failed to be made, that would result in a de facto reduction in pension benefits. Vladamir Putin has decidedly distanced himself from the discussion of pension reform, but Russia’s two largest labor unions have viciously criticized the government’s proposal to raise the retirement age.
See Alexander Filimonov, Meduza, Jun 18 2018
The International Cocoa Initiative reported on Tuesday, World Day on Child Labor, that at least 14,986 child labor cases have been recorded in Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire since 2012 – approximately 125,000 children representing 17% of 91,000 households. The cases have been tracked using its child labor monitoring and remediation system (CLMRS), but the system depends on farmers being honest, and many farmers are too poor to not put children to work. When ICI find families via on-site interviews, the farmers are not immediately punished, but are educated about the dangers of child labor. If the family’s circumstances are extreme – only one parent supporting several children leading to extreme poverty – ICI tries to help by enrolling the parent in an income generating activity such as farming or food processing, as well as enlisting young men to do the hard physical tasks that might be given to children. While many large chocolate companies have certified their products as meeting Fairtrade or Rainforest Alliance standards, this does not mean farmers will live above the poverty line or guarantee that child labor will decrease.
See Child labor remains struggle in cocoa countries as farmers avoid reporting, Douglas Yu, Confectionery News, Jun 15 2018
The Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have heeded President Trump’s call to oppose federal unions, with the HUD acting to evict union offices from agency facilities and the SSA planning to revise 21 points in the union contract. The Trump administration has proposed to freeze the pay of federal employees next year and cut retirement benefits by $143.5 billion over 10 years. His three recent executive orders have also proposed to slash “official time” used by union leaders to engage in activities for an entire bargaining unit, finds issue with collective bargaining agreements that make it difficult to hold low performers to a higher standard, and proposes being able to fire employees more quickly. The primary target has been the largest federal union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), although the National Treasury Employees Union was recently told it would need to begin paying rent for using department facilities in the Department of Health and Human Services. On Thursday, the AFGE requested a U.S. District Court preliminary injunction against the executive order cited by HUD.
See HUD, SSA follow Trump's lead in opposing federal union power, Joe Davidson, The Washington Post, Jun 15 2018
Automation isn’t only transforming physical labor jobs at Amazon’s warehouses, it’s replacing white collar employees whose jobs are to predict shopper wants and prices. Amazon has fine-tuned algorithms based on years of customer monitoring to be able to more accurately predict inventory needs via software rather than via employees, who may order too much or too little. The algorithms can forecast demand, order inventory and negotiate prices. Initially, humans could override the machine’s decisions if increased demand was something the algorithm didn’t expect. But as the software became more precise, any overrides by humans had to be justified. The initiative came about several years ago as Amazon realized that too many “expensive employees” were spending a lot of time on areas that should have been automated.
See Amazon’s automation initiatives extend past warehouse jobs into forecasting supply and demand, Spencer Soper, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 13 2018
French state-owned railway company SNCF workers and CGT labour union members began striking in early April to protest French President Emmanuel Macron’s rail reforms; now, despite a continuing strike meant to derail rail traffic on 36 days over three months, Macron appears to be winning based on decreasing public support for the strike. Another poll shows that two-thirds of the public support Macron’s proposals to remove some employee benefits and cut the SNCF’s debt. Fewer employees are taking part in the strike, and many commuters have found other options to get to work or are working from home. While French union membership has held steady since the 1990s, union clout has declined and is no longer ideologically rigid. In addition to reducing some benefits, Macron’s reforms would convert the SNCF into a joint-stock company and reduce its monopoly on passenger traffic.
See Macron looks to prevail over striking rail workers in France, Luke Baker, Reuters, Jun 13 2018
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in South Africa plans to ask the country's top gold producers to consider a $950 monthly minimum wage for miners in upcoming negotiations - an increase that can put that "can put the worker in a better place", said the president of the second largest union for producers AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., Sibanye Gold Ltd. and Harmony Gold Mining Co. Ltd. The union will also ask for increased benefits that include severance pay and longer maternity leaves, as well as replacing the shift system with a five-day work week. Gold mines in South Africa involve the most labor intensive work in the world, due to the mines' depth and age. With an unemployment rate of 27%, jobs cuts create political pressure even as mine owners struggle to cut costs.
See South Africa labor group seeks $950 monthly minimum wage for gold miners , Paul Burkhardt, Ntando Thukwana, and Odwa Mjo , Bloomberg Business, Jun 11 2018
Watchdog group China Labor Watch released a report critical of Amazon's working conditions at a Foxconn factory in Hengyang, China, accusing the retail giant of excessive overtime, inadequate safety training, excessive use of temporary staff, and uncompensated time. The nine month investigation found that workers had low wages, and worked long hours in order to maintain an adequate standard of living, with up to 100 hours in monthly overtime - in excess of China's 36 hour monthly limit. Workers were also required to be at work 10 minutes before they start, for which they are not compensated. Amazon responded by stating that they had completed an audit in March which found overtime and temporary worker violations, and had asked the Foxconn factory to rectify. Foxconn has faced heavy criticism in the past for worse working conditions in factories where Apple products were made, with the company having to install netting in order to prevent employee suicides.
See Report criticizes Amazon's working conditions at Foxconn factory in China, Spencer Soper, Bloomberg Business, Jun 11 2018
A national home improvement chain called Menards is suing in response to and complaint issued by the NLRB on behalf of the owner of K&S Delivery Services, who had previously contracted with Menards. The initial complaint was filed in December 2016 and alleged that owner of K&S Delivery services Kevin Fisher and other truck drivers were misclassified as contractors by the company, when they should have had full employee rights. After Fisher testified at trial in August 2017, he received a letter from Menards saying that his services were no longer needed. Fisher filed another complaint with the NLRB, claiming the company had retaliated against him and the other delivery drivers. A U.S. District Court judge in Wisconsin ruled in favor of Menards for the initial misclassification complaint, but the NLRB still decided to move forward with the retaliation case. Menards is now suing the NLRB for pursuing the retaliation complaint despite “clear statutory exemption” of independent contractors from coverage under national labor law.
See Clarissa Hawes, Trucks.com, May 30 2018
On Tuesday, the Culinary Union released a survey of more than ten thousand Las Vegas casino workers that revealed a striking fifty-nine percent of cocktail servers and twenty-seven percent of hotel housekeepers have been sexually harassed by guests on the job. The union represents fifty thousand workers across thirty-four hotel-casinos, and their contracts are due to expire on Thursday. Representatives say the results of the survey call for stronger protections against inappropriate guest behavior in the in the hotel workers’ next contract. Union members recently voted for the right to call a citywide strike, possibly as early as Friday.
See Eli Segall, Las Vegas Review-Journal, May 30 2018
As the way people work is changing faster than ever, workplace design is becoming a big focus for a growing number of companies. Office spaces are adapting to fit the needs of multiple generations of employees, and the change is being driven partially by millennials, who tend to be more likely to voice opinions than their predecessors. Technology has also increased mobility in the workforce, so companies are spending more to draw people in by creating offices that are both environmentally friendly and “human-centric”. While a lot of millennials would choose to work from home if given the choice, and many do, workplaces are changing to fit the needs of employees as a way to encourage people to work in the office.
See Jenna Lippin, Interiors and Sources, May 30 2018
On Friday, Trump signed a number of executive orders directive federal agencies to fire low-performing workers and negotiate better agreements with labor unions. Moreover, he wants to significantly reduce the amount of time that federal employees can spend on union activities while working. Federal labor unions say that the move was politically motivated and meant to be an attack on the merit system. President of the American Federation of Government Employees, J. David Cox, said that the plan is meant to get rid of Federal employees who may hold political views that diverge from Trump's.
See Gregory Korte, USA Today, May 25 2018
A recent study released by Price Water House on Tuesday revealed that 25% of U.S. workers report health problems related to financial stress. Moreover, 40% said that their finances are a distraction for them at work, and 15% said that they have missed work because of issues dealing with financial insecurity. An increasing number of companies are providing voluntary financial wellness benefits to address these issues. Programs include cash incentives, discounts, and debt management seminars to help employees balance the budget. A top priority for employers is getting their employees to defer more of their income to retirement savings, according to one Fidelity financial advisor.
See Beth Pinsker, Reuters, May 25 2018
Teacher unions in Tunisia have won a number of labor disputes recently, signaling an increase in bargaining power for teachers across a range of education levels. On May eighth, the Tunisian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research signed an agreement granting elementary school substitute teachers the same wage increase as their counterparts in secondary education. After the signing of the agreement, teachers canceled their plans to hold a nationwide two-day strike may ninth to tenth. On May fifth, the Syndicate of University Teachers and Researchers, a labor organization affiliated with the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT), decided to not start work on drafting college exams despite reaching an agreement on March 12th with the Ministry of Higher Education and Science research. The university professors have been on strike since January, demanding salary increases. Some believe that the weak state of the economy has allowed unions to overpower state officials. Assistant secretary-general of the UGTT, Sami al-Tahiri, says that the accusations are unfounded.
See Hanen Jebli, Al-Monitor, May 25 2018
Thirty years after the Drug-Free Workplace Act was passed, a recent study done by Quest Diagnostics revealed that more employees are testing positive for drugs in their system. The company has been conducting the same study every year since 1988, that year yielded the highest rate ever recorded at 13.6 percent. In 2017, 4.2 percent of employees tested positive for illegal drug use, the highest rate since 2008. Fortunately, positive results for prescription opiates have decreased dramatically since 2016, although the study showed that the number of people using cocaine in certain parts of the country has increased significantly every year for the last five years. Double digit-increases in the percentage of employees who tested positive for cocaine have been seen in Nebraska (91 percent), Nevada (25 percent), Maryland (22 percent), and Wisconsin (13 percent) for the year 2016-2017. Moreover, increases in the use of Methamphetamine were found among employees across the country. A researcher for Quest Diagnostics said that geographical variations and changing trends pose a challenge for employers to anticipate the “drug of choice” for their workforce, making it difficult for them to focus their drug prevention programs in the most appropriate way.
See Gene Marks, The Washington Post, May 23 2018
This week, McDonald’s employees in eight states filed ten sexual harassment, assault, and retaliation complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A recent analysis of government data done by the Center for American Progress revealed that food service workers are three times more likely to file a harassment complaint as higher paid workers are. A different survey done by Hart Research Associates in 2016 showed that 40 percent of women fast-food workers said that they have had unwanted sexual encounters at the workplace, including groping and lewd comments. A charity called Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund was launched in January to help low-income workers report sexual harassment in the workplace. The fund has raised $21 million dollars from roughly 20,000 donors. Employees at independently owned franchises could be more at-risk of abuse, according to some employment lawyers. A large majority of some 14,000 U.S. McDonalds outlets are independently operated by franchisees.
See Danielle Paquette, The Washington Post, May 23 2018
A recent tweet sent by Elon Musk could put Tesla in trouble with federal labor regulators. Musk wrote on Tuesday that unions caused the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009, compromising over 200,000 workers. Specifically, the CEO blamed the United Auto Workers for “destroying a once great US auto industry”. The UAW responded with tweets of their own, but the bigger concern for Musk is that the union may file unfair labor practice complaints with the NLRB, according to the agency’s former Chair Wilma Liebman who led the NLRB during the Obama Administration. The UAW has been actively trying to organize workers at the Tesla plant for more than a year.
See Josh Eidelson and Dana Hull, Bloomberg, May 23 2018
On Monday, the Supreme Court said that companies are allowed to use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to keep workers from coming together and filing a law suit against a shared employer. Class action law suits have historically been an effective way for workers to exercise their rights and seek justice. Employers can now mandate that any grievance must be settled through arbitration. This decision comes at a time when the number of American workers who are unionized is at an 80-year low.
See Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block, New York Times, May 21 2018
A growing number of people are surviving cancer thanks to advances in medicine, but unfortunately, many survivors are grappling with losing their jobs and their health insurance because of their illness. The side effects of sugary and chemotherapy leave many people needing more time off than their employers are willing to give, and advocates say that workplace laws have not made the same advances as treatments for cancer. While it’s unclear how many people lose their jobs because of cancer, studies show that only 40% of patients are back to work within six months.
See Glenn Howatt, Star Tribune, May 21 2018
The U.S. Department of Labor penalized 11 McDonald’s franchises in New Jersey, costing the franchisee S&P Enterprises, Inc. nearly nine thousand dollars for child labor violations. After an investigation conducted earlier this year, the Wage and Hour Division found violations in the number of hours employees under the age of 16 were allowed to work. The string of franchises employed sixteen minors during the time of the violations.
See Owen Proctor, NorthJersey.com, May 21 2018
An arbitrator has ruled that Cornell violated the NLRA by abusing official mass communication channels to propagate an anti-unionization campaign. Senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth sent out mass emails to graduate students to discourage them from voting in favor of unionizing. The American Federation of Teachers lost the March 2017 election by a narrow margin, with 856 votes in favor, and 919 against. A petition circulating prior to the election, however, showed that a majority of Cornell graduate employees supported unionization. Despite finding that the administration interfered with the free choice of voters, arbitrator Howard Edelman upheld the election results. Edelman also noted that in order for the graduate union’s request for re-election to be granted, they would need a substantial showing that without the university’s interference, the results would have been different.
See Matt Steecker, Ithaca Journal, May 18 2018
On Monday, the Supreme Court denied Chastity Jones a chance to argue that the company she worked for who told her to get rid of her dreadlocks infringed on her rights. Jones, an African American woman, has been trying for nearly a decade to have her case heard and says that there is racial bias at play in such corporate grooming policies. In 2010 Catastrophe Management Solutions offered Jones a job, on the condition that she get rid of her dreadlocks. She filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission, who filed a lawsuit against the company in 2013. In 2014, an Alabama federal judge ruled that civil rights laws only apply to unalterable traits like race and sex. The decision was upheld in 2016 by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Jones says that if the Supreme Court was able to recognize the role stereotypes play in sex discrimination cases like Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the same reasoning should apply in racial discrimination cases as well.
See Nadra Nittle, Racked, May 18 2018
After a contracted worker broke his jaw while working at a Tesla factory, the company denied any responsibility for dangerous workplace practices. Instead, they blamed the company who contracted him out to Tesla. They are not the only ones pointing the finger at someone else, large corporations have been pushing for the creation of increasingly complex employment arrangements in order to distance themselves and avoid being held accountable for workplace injuries and labor relations disputes. The Supreme Court has signaled a willingness to consider the issues of workplace safety and workers rights in the era of contract work. In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court defined an “independent contractor” as someone in business for himself or herself, not under the company’s control, or working in a job that is outside the usual work of the company. Recent data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an increase in work-related deaths involving contract employees.
See Rebecca Smith, San Francisco Chronicle, May 18 2018
According to research conducted by Human Rights Watch in 2017, tobacco farms in Zimbabwe regularly employ children between the ages of 12-17 during their harvest and processing seasons. Moreover, the organization reported that farm workers are often made to work long shifts with no overtime and sometimes forced to go months without pay. A boom in tobacco sales in the Global South and Asia is fueling the exploitation, and the Zimbabwe government is looking the other way as farmers do everything in their power to take advantage of the growing demand. Last November, Robert Mugabe was ousted as president and replaced with more business-friendly Emmerson Mnangagwa, who vowed to reform agricultural policy by relaxing the regulatory environment and returning control to local farmers. Pricing inequities in the marketplace which stem from non-transparent trading practices often leave tobacco farmers severely underpaid, compounding other factors that exacerbate the exploitation of child labor.
See Michelle Chen, The Nation, May 16 2018
Dozens of farmworkers rallied on the steps of the New York State Capitol on Tuesday, urging the Senate’s Agricultural Committee to pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. Politicians and representatives from a number of unions including the Hispanic Federation and the New York Civil Liberties Union delivered speeches at the rally. The Act would guarantee agricultural workers one day a week off and overtime pay. If passed into law, the Act will also require that supervisors report injuries to employers and provide employees with workers’ compensation forms. In January, New York Supreme Court Justice Richard McNally dismissed a lawsuit brought by the NYCLU and two other advocacy groups seeking to secure collective bargaining rights for farm workers. Similar attempts to extend protections to agricultural workers in the past have routinely been denied.
See Madison Iszler, Times Union, May 16 2018
In a complaint filed on behalf of 14,000 AT&T employees, the Communications Workers of America accused the company of withholding information about how they are spending its windfall from Trump’s tax overhaul. The union is currently in contract negotiations with AT&T and filed the complaint last Friday alleging that the company has put the Communications Workers at a disadvantage in contract talks by illegally withholding data. The telecom giant is one of roughly a dozen companies who have formal disclosure requests against them concerning their corporate gains from this year’s tax cuts and how much of that money is being dealt out to workers.
See Josh Eidelson, Dallas News, Bloomberg, May 16 2018
As the population of German nationals continues to age, the government is executing a plan to leverage their large refugee population as a way to fill gaps in the workforce. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are arriving in the country every year, most of whom are young men coming from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The government plans to spend 3.2 billion euros a year to first teach the refugees German language and culture, and the practical skills necessary to start working in factories and hospitals. Germany is the first country to integrate workers into the labor force on such a large scale, and they could be setting an example for other EU countries to follow in the future. According to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research, the country’s future depends on successful integration. Failure could result in prolonged government transfer payments to the refugee population, who would at best provide a supply of low-skilled labor. The hope is that Germany’s large investment will pay off in seven to ten years when the net tax revenue from immigrants will exceed the costs of integration and transfer payments.
See Paul Hockenos, New York Times, May 14 2018
The Israeli National Labor Court ordered striking dockworkers to return to work after a three-day strike. An unusual court order was issued instructing police to round up union officials who failed to show up to court last Thursday. The striking workers were members of labor groups at state-owned ports in Haifa and Ashdod. Only 104 of the 116 employees at the Haifa port returned to work on Sunday, and according to management at the Ashdod Port, productivity there was between 15-20% lower than usual. The workers are protesting the introduction of privately owned ports which are due to open in the next few years. Unions are concerned that the competition from these Chinese and Dutch-owned enterprises will threaten jobs and wages at state facilities. The court imposed penalties in the amount of 20,000 shekels on each of the five union leaders at the Haifa Port and 80,000 shekels for each of the Ashdod committee heads, about $22,400.
See Tali Heruti-Sover, Haaretz, May 14 2018
At a recent rally in Michigan, Trump shocked his base and delighted the powerful agricultural lobby when he said “we need to have your workers come in”, referring to the H-2A agricultural visa program. Days before the speech, the Labor Department reached a settlement with the Arizona-based G Farms in a case arising from inhumane conditions that the agribusiness had subjected its workers to. The farm was housing 69 temporary H-2A workers in crowded and unsanitary trailers. Critics of the visa program say that it enables the mass import of vulnerable and easily exploited people. In fiscal year 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor approved more than 200,000 H-2A visas, a 20.7% increase from the year before. A study published by Indiana University found that temporary guest workers are guaranteed to be underpaid because their employers control their visas, making it almost impossible for them to advance in the labor market. Farm owners, however, maintain that their survival depends on easy access to cheap labor.
See Joe Guzzardi, The Vindicator, Cagle Cartoons, May 14 2018
Walmart has admitted to taking illegal action against pro-union employees in some of it’s California stores. After a prolonged lawsuit, the retail giant signed an agreement last month with the workers’ advocacy group, Our Walmart, acknowledging that their 2010 dress code banning union buttons was a violation of national labor law. The company also admitted to taking disciplinary action against six workers who participated in a peaceful protest in 2012. An administrative law judge ruled against Walmart on these counts in 2016, but the company appealed the decision which allowed them to avoid rescinding the disciplinary actions and dress code until April of this year. Walmart must now post notices in its Placerville and Richmond stores about the reformed dress code.
See Matthew Boyle and Jef Feeley, Bloomberg, May 11 2018