The National Air Traffic Controller’s Association appeared to signal its approval of a House bill that would create a federally chartered, private, non-profit corporation in charge of 38,000 federal employees, 14,000 of whom are air traffic controllers. Union president Paul Rinaldi testified on Wednesday that the modernization of the industry would not occur expeditiously if left under FAA control, due to instability with federal funding. The proposed corporation would draw revenue from user fees, manage 80% of the current FAA workforce, and oversee the $40 billion NextGen project that would implement a new national airspace system based on satellite communications. If the bill is approved, the union will be held to binding arbitration in contract negotiations with the new corporation.
Workplace Issues Today
Corporations with a higher number of women in top management positions experienced increased profitability, reports a new study that surveyed almost 22,000 publically traded companies in 91 countries. A 30% increase in women executives would be correlated to a 15% boost in profitability. The same survey reported that gender diversity in corporate executive positions appears to be weak, with 60% of the corporations surveyed reporting no female board members, more than 50% with no female executives, and less than 5% with a female chief executive. Countries with female students who score highly on math assessments were more likely to have women in management positions, and companies with stronger paternity leave policies resulted in higher female leadership.
The fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 resulted in massive investment growth in Eastern Europe, fueled by cheap labor and expansion into new markets, but the low-cost, high-growth model has also led to higher living standards, falling unemployment, and ultimately a labor shortage as workers seek higher wages by migrating to countries such as Britain and Germany. While countries such as Spain and Greece struggle with high unemployment, employers in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia are facing a shrinking quality labor pool. Economists and policy makers suggest two short-term solutions – make it easier to import workers from other countries (legal economic migration), or raise wages, contrary to the traditional growth model in manufacturing. Some countries, such as Hungary, are trying to avoid switching to a service industry model, prioritizing industrial growth by encouraging students to attend trade schools.
In December, the number of Americans quitting their jobs reached its highest level in the past nine years. This statistic is a strong indicator of market strength. On Tuesday, a report was released showing a drop in small business confidence, so the strengthening job market underscores that. However, despite an increase in jobs openings rate in November from 3.6 to 3.8 percent, the hiring rate remained constant at 3.7 percent. This could mean that employers were struggling to find qualified workers to fill these positions.
In April, the faculty at Cal State University may decide to strike if a new pay deal is not reached. The potential strike would take place from April 13-15, 18th and 19th and could include as many as 26,000 of the employees represented by the California Faculty Assn. As of 2014, there were an estimated 460,000 students that could be affected by this strike. This strike was authorized in October when 94% of the voting members voted in favor of a strike if a pay deal was not reached.
At the end of January, talks between junior doctors in England and the British Medical Association (BMA) broke down, despite the help of Acas, an arbitration firm. The government had initially suggested the that these junior doctors receive an 11% wage increase. However the proposal put forward by the BMA stated that they would only see a pay increase of half of the 11%. However, the BMA did offer that Saturday no longer be treated as a normal working day for these doctors.
Performers with the English National Opera will potentially organize a strike in order to preserve their jobs and wages. Their union, Equity, is currently in the process of conducting a ballot among its members over the idea of a strike. The English National Opera is trying to cut costs with a potential wage cut of 25% for its employees. Over the past few months, the opera has struggled due to a chairman, executive director, and artistic director leaving the organization.
After the city of Los Angeles announced that it would increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour, many nearby cities began to consider the idea as well. Despite this, many cities may decide to avoid holding a vote over the wage increase in favor of waiting for a statewide policy that would increase the minimum wage. Officials of cities in California hope that a statewide vote would take the pressure off of individual cities to raise local wages.
Last year, expenses per worker reached their highest levels since 2007 when they increase by 2.4%. Despite these increasing costs, employee output has only managed to grow by an average of 0.5% per year over the past five years. Overall productivity for many has continued to fall as companies put off huge capital investments into technology in the hopes that new employees could meet demand. Several economists predict that hiring will fall as a result and this could lead to a recession in 2016.
At the end of April, VW is expected to begin talks with IG Metall, a labor union representing its workers. The union is demanding a 4.5% to 5% wage increase for its members despite the fact that inflation is near zero. These wage increases could be a challenge for VW as it is may have to pay billions in fines following the emissions scandal. Now VW has realized that its goal to increase productivity may be unrealistic and the company will potentially need to consider job cuts, particularly among the company's temporary staff.
On Friday, the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union announced that it would cancel the 48-hour strike that London Underground station staff had been planned to participate in this weekend. This strike was expected to cause several train station closures between Saturday night and Tuesday morning. Instead of this strike, RMT said that tube maintenance staff would hold seven 24-hour long walk-outs that will begin next week. Employee’s of the London Underground have been in an ongoing dispute with their employer over job losses and the closing of ticket offices.
Recently a federal judge ruled that the right-to-work law in Kentucky is invalid. On Thursday, a lawyer announced that it would seek to appeal this ruling. The "right-to-work" law allows employees of a unionized company to avoid paying dues and becoming a member of the union. A year ago, Hardin County ruled that a unions were prohibited from requiring its members to pay dues in exchange for representation.
Despite the fact that more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the number of applications for unemployment aid for the year is still at a historic low. These low levels of jobless claims indicate that employers are still looking to hire more employees. Weekly claims are below the 300,000 level threshold, which indicates strong hiring levels. Currently it is estimated that only 2.3 million people are collecting aid.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a letter that will give Trade Adjustment Assistance to 500 employees of an Alcoa facility in Washington state. Alcoa plans to suspend production at this facility at the end of the second quarter. This assistance program is designed to offer training and compensation to employees that lose their jobs as a result of outsourcing. Production of aluminum in the United States this year is expected to be at an all-time low as a result of a drop in aluminum prices.
On Thursday, unions in Greece will participate in a nationwide strike over the austerity measures proposed with the bailout. In anticipation of this strike, journalists decided to walk-off the job on Wednesday. It is expected that there will be no news broadcasts on Thursday as a result. In addition, the nationwide strike is expected to cause school closures, public transportation and domestic flights will also be disrupted.
On Wednesday in Brazil, airline pilots and stewardesses participated in a two-hour strike demanding a pay increase to compensate for the 11% inflation that has happened over the past year. The strike caused flights throughout the country to be delayed or cancelled. The striking employees held signs and gathered in the lobbies of major airports in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.
Tensions have begun to grow as Uber drivers struggle to maintain a steady wage. Many UberBlack drivers will take out loans of up to $35,000 to purchase luxury vehicles to transport passengers. In September, UberBlack drivers in Dallas were told that they would now need to pick up lower fare UberX customers. In addition to this, Uber has frequently announced fare cuts in cities across the country. In the future, Uber drivers plan to band together more through organized walk-offs in an order to gain more bargaining power over the company.
On Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union rejected a four-year proposal. The union claims that this proposal does not address issues at the school and will require teachers to contribute more toward healthcare and pension costs. The school district is currently facing a $500 million deficit. Teachers have already been in negotiations with the school board over this new contract for more than a year.
Bud Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation committee is launching a plan that will transfer control of air traffic control from the government to a nonprofit organization that is controlled by labor unions, airports, airlines and other entities. This new plan will still be financed by taxes charged on fuel and passenger tickets. According to the internal reports, efforts to improve the quality of service have not proved successful.
On Monday, the finalists for a contest called Rethink Supply Chains were announced. The two ideas were a mobile phone system that would be used to collect data on forced labor, and a survey tool on cellphones would assess working conditions for fishermen in Ghana. The winner of the competition will be announced in April and will win a $250,000 prize. It is estimated that as many as 18.7 million people worldwide are victims of forced labor.
On Monday, Uber drivers in New York City called for a strike after the company decided to reduce its fares by 15%. Several hundred people joined the rally that happened outside of the company's headquarters in New York City. It is estimated that the company currently employs 30,000 drivers. This fare cut will greatly affect drivers who must cover their insurance, gas, and vehicle costs. Despite the call for a strike, many drivers still maintained their normal work schedule.
In Brazil, response workers who are helping to battle the Zika virus have threatened to go on strike. These workers are demanding sunscreen, uniforms and bug repellent, as well as improved working conditions. If these demands are not met by Thursday, it is expected that as many as 7,000 people will go on strike. In addition to this, as many as 220,000 additional workers could join the strike if conditions do not improve in the long-run.
Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees Union, recently said that despite her organization's commitment to support Hillary Clinton, the Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump does appeal to some of her members. These members who support trump admire his candid approach to economic issues and trade. Ms. Henry will try to persuade members that the Republican's economic agenda does not align with the union and members' interests.
At Workiva, a cloud based software company out of Iowa, they have implemented a green prize wheel as tool to recruit more employees. Current employees have the opportunity to spin the wheel every time they refer a new hire to the company. Workiva and many other companies in Iowa have recently struggled to attract new employees. The state currently boasts an unemployment rate of 3.4%.
On Friday, the Obama administration announced a new plan that it has to reduce the gender wage gap that currently exists among employees in the United States. This new plan will require companies that have more than 100 employees to provide the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with detailed documents on employee wages broken down by gender, ethnicity, and race. The plan is expected to be implemented in September of 2017.
On Thursday, protests in Greece only continued to intensify as journalists joined in. Tear gas was fired and farmers fought with riot police, although no injuries were reported. It is estimated that 5,000 farmers participated in the strike using tractors to block the entrance to the agricultural fair that was scheduled to happen in the city center of Thessaloniki. This strike is over the potential income losses that could occur from tax and pension reforms.
On Thursday, hundreds of taxi drivers marched through Paris waving flags and shouting. This marks the third day of protests by taxi drivers over the increased threat presented by private car services such as Uber. Demonstrators were unable to continue their march due to a police blockade that was at the Champs Elysees. Protestors harassed taxi drivers that were not involved in the strike by kicking their cars and yelling.
On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission filed a suit against DeVry University alleging that the school lied to students about job success rates for its graduates. According to the suit, DeVry claimed that 90% of its graduates were employed after graduation. In addition to that, the school also claimed that its graduates' incomes was 15% higher than graduates from other colleges. As many as 50,000 students may have been affected by this information.
On Tuesday, five children who were forced to leave school and pick pecans testified against their employer. The children were exposed to freezing rain, received little food and were not allowed to rest. The company charged is Paragon Contractors. The company was caught using 1,400 unpaid laborers, which included 172 children, on a film taken in 2012. Paragon claims that the women and children volunteered to help pick pecans.
On Tuesday, Lyft announced that it would settle a class-action lawsuit that was filed by the company's drivers back in 2013. The drives filed the lawsuit in an effort to be considered full-time employees of the company. Lyft will now have to pay $12.25 million to the workers who were listed in the suit. In addition, the settlement included a clause that the company can no longer fire employees at will.
On Wednesday, members of the largest public sector union in Portugal are expected to walk off the job for 24 hours. This strike is expected to include as many as 600,000 employees and could disrupt courts, schools, and hospitals. Recently the government approved the change from a 40 hour work week to a 35 hour one for civil servants. However, workers are still seeking a quicker roll-back of austerity measures.
Last year, nearly 250 technology employees at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL were fired. Recently, two of those employees filed a lawsuit against the company claiming that they were replaced by foreign workers from two international consulting agencies. The two former employees argue that these consulting agencies illegally brought workers in using temporary H-1B visas.
On February 9th, President Obama is scheduled to present a spending plan to Congress in regards to his effort to help 30 million Americans put more toward retirement. This plan will include automatic enrollment into Individual Retirement Accounts, so employees are able to maintain savings even when switching jobs. In addition to this, employees at small companies will also be allowed to have a pooled 401(k) plan.
On Tuesday, police had to intervene during a heated protest conducted by French taxi drivers who are angry over increased competition from private car services. In addition to protests by taxi drivers, air traffic controllers also walked off the job along with teachers as part of a larger strike by state employees. As a result, 20% of flights were cancelled and many schools were disrupted. Nearly 20 people were arrested as a result of the protests.
Currently employees are subject to financial penalties if they do not have regular health checks or enroll in programs to help them better manage their weight. Despite increased desire to maintain employee privacy, courts have ruled that companies should have increased power to regulate their workers' health. Recently, a case in Wisconsin involving the company Flambleau Inc. looked at whether the company was allowed force its employees to complete a health questionnaire and have their blood pressure and weight checked just to qualify for their healthcare program. The judge ruled in favor of Flambleau.
Herbert Diess, a current executive of Volkswagen, recently announced that the company hopes to increase its productivity by 10% in 2016. A labor leader has spoken out saying that this goal is will most likely result in job cuts among salaried employees and is "unrealistic". The structural changes Volkswagen continues to undergo have only created more unease among its workforce.
After weak growth in the labor market, the number of U.S. citizens that have filed for unemployment rose to the highest level its been over the past six months. It is estimated that an additional 10,000 people filed to receive unemployment benefits last week. Economists hope that this statistic does not indicate that the job market in the U.S. will continue to weaken in the future.
At a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, workers are still waiting on a collective bargaining agreement to be implemented. The workers hope that the new management that has taken over will resolve this issue, however the company is still very preoccupied with the aftermath of its diesel scandal. Unions have struggled to unionize workers employed by foreign automakers in the southern United States.
A judge recently ruled that Walmart must reinstate 16 former employees and give them back pay. These workers were fired after conducting protests during the months of May and June in 2013. In addition to this, the company is required to hold meetings in 29 of its stores informing employees of their right to strike and that they will not be disciplined for it.
On Thursday, the British based publisher Pearson announced that it would cut approximately 4,000 jobs as the company continues to restructure itself. Pearson is the former owner of The Economist and The Financial Times. This restructuring is a result of college enrollment levels which have begun to drop as the U.S. job market grows stronger. Pearson has begun to focus more on the educational products it provides, and falling enrollment has hurt the company's performance.
On Wednesday, in Kasserine, Tunisia a police officer was killed during the second day of demonstrations staged by citizens in an effort to create more jobs. Demonstrations such as this one have been happening across Tunisia. As a result, the government announced that it would launch construction projects that are expected to create 6,000 additional jobs for young people in the country.
In Brazil, the ministry of labor announced that layoffs and high levels of inflation caused the country to lose 1.5 million of its payroll jobs during 2015. Most of these jobs were lost in civil construction and industrial sectors. These are the worst job creation numbers since the country began tracking this statistic in 1992. At the end of 2014, 41.2 million Brazilian were employed. That number fell to 39.7 million in 2015.
In China, cities such as Dongguan have seen many factories shut their doors as the Chinese economy continues to struggle. Last quarter, China reported a growth rate of only 6.8%, which is the lowest it has been since 2009. The country's growth for the year will fall just below the government's 7% target at 6.9%. This marks the country's lowest growth rate since 1990.
On Wednesday, the Department of Labor issued a guidance during a case involving employees at McDonalds franchises. This guidance is an effort to clarify issues associated with joint employment. Currently there is a case involving McDonalds that is trying to determine if the company is responsible for employees at its franchised stores. It is often critical to determine joint employment when a worker is seeking unpaid wages owed to them.
Next month, approximately 500,000 Walmart employees are expected to have their wage increased from $9 an hour to $10 an hour. This comes after the company announced in October that it would invest $2.7 billion into its workforce over the next two years. This means that as many as 1.2 million of its hourly employees in the U.S. could receive a wage increase.
Candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination will be met by protesters at Sunday's debate in Charleston, SC. Fast-food workers in the region will go on strike to demand an industry-wide $15 per hour minimum wage, backed by the SEIU. Thousands are expected to descend on the debate and collect signatures calling for the higher pay minimum among other issues. While both Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders have supported the $15/hour minimum, Hillary Clinton is in favor a lower minimum wage at $12 per hour. Other protests are expected to be held at future debates for both Democrat and Republican candidates.
A recent court ruling concerning employee wellness programs highlights the tension between employers' desire to cut health care costs and employees' privacy concerns. The complaint involved an employee at Flambeau whose health insurance coverage was pulled after he declined to take part in the company's health screening. The case was filed by the EEOC, which charged that the company-sponsored screening violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by violating his right to privacy. A federal judge ruled, however, that employees' privacy isn't violated by wellness program screenings if the data compiled is used only for health coverage, and that thus denying coverage under such circumstances was legal. Workplaces increasingly implement wellness programs to help cut health insurance costs thru requiring surcharges for risk behavior such as smoking, or by offering cash incentives for healthier practices. The EEOC is reviewing the decision and has two more lawsuits related to wellness programs pending.
As of January 1st, small companies with 51-100 employees are required to meet an Affordable Care Act mandate that requires an employer to offer affordable health coverage to all employees, or suffer penalties if their employees have to turn to subsidized insurance offered on the health exchange. Larger companies such as Oasis Foods, which had to meet the mandate in 2015, have found that the health plans they offered were still too expensive for their employees, many of whom were factory workers earning $10 to $15 an hour. With two-thirds of their employees refusing health coverage, and unable to raise wages, Oasis turned to BeneStream, a company that has facilitated Medicaid enrollment for qualified low-income employees across the country. This helped Oasis avoid the penalty, but also raises controversy as it means employers are shifting the costs of health insurance towards the government and taxpayers.
At his State of the Union address yesterday, President Obama offered an unusual remedy to those who’ve found lower-paying jobs after being unemployed– wage insurance. The proposed entitlement program would help employees who’ve lost their jobs involuntarily find other jobs through retraining, but also help protect employees from future losses in earnings. It prevents low- and middle-income wages from dropping below a certain level if they take a lower-paying job in order to stay employed.
In 2014, when a hospital in Oregon proposed saving costs and gaining efficiencies by outsourcing their hospitalists to a management company, a third of their doctors gave notice, and the rest responded by forming a union, affiliating with the American Federation of Teachers. This forced the hospital’s leadership to back down from outsourcing, but their attempt to unionize highlights the increasing pressure doctors face in order to meet performance targets and metrics, with many being offered financial incentives to perform well under the requirements of the Affordable Health Act. This strikes at the profession’s intrinsic feeling that the patient-doctor relationship will suffer under financial incentives to see more patients, known as “skin in the game”.
The Supreme Court appeared sympathetic to arguments on Monday that First Amendment rights are violated when non-union state employees are required to pay agency fees to state unions, a precedent that has been in place since the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. During Monday’s hearing of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the Court’s liberal justices noted that the plaintiffs have not presented enough evidence to overturn a long-standing precedent, but it seemed likely that the conservative majority, which had already expressed skepticism in 2012 and 2014, appeared closer to overturning the decades-old ruling. Justice Antonin Scalia, previously supportive of pro-fee arguments, expressed doubt that fees were necessary to union longevity. Justice Anthony Kennedy, often the swing vote in close decisions, expressed concern that the current system, where teachers are being forced to subsidize union policies that they may disagree with, creates ‘a whole class of persons whose speech has been silenced." He also noted that collective bargaining negotiations could not be separated from controversial public policy decisions.
California regulators have begun public hearings out of concern that planned health insurance mergers will lead to three health insurers controlling nearly half of the U.S. commercial insurance market, resulting in narrowing provider networks, fewer choices and increased costs for consumers and employers. Consumer advocates fear that the mergers between Aetna Inc. and Humana, Anthem Inc. and Cigna Corp, and Centene and Health Net Inc. will worsen access to affordable care and increase unjustified premium hikes. While analysts expect that the mergers will ultimately take place, health insurance executives, in the hopes of passing regulatory approval, are defending the mergers, arguing that it will eliminate inefficiency and unnecessary costs, while passing on savings to consumers in the form of more affordable benefits. Antitrust officials at the U.S. Justice Department are also reviewing the planned mergers.
The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal brought by Nestle SA and two other companies in an attempt to reject a class-action lawsuit that brought allegations of human rights violations against the three companies. The denial left in place a 2014 federal appeals court ruling that refused to dismiss the class-action lawsuit brought against Nestle SA, Cargill Inc., and Archer Daniels Midland Co. The lawsuit had been initiated in 2005 by Malinese laborers who accused the three companies of being complicit in allowing child labor to continue while offering financial assistance to Ivory Coast farmers in order to ensure guaranteed low cocoa prices. On appeal, the case focused on how lower courts have interpreted a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that challenged the ability for plaintiffs to sue corporations in U.S. courts for abuses overseas.
New York City has adopted one of the most progressive parental leave programs in the United States, as Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an order granting six weeks of paid leave to 20,000 city employees. De Blasio hopes the order, which is specifically for non-union employees, will help bring the city's unionized employees to the table to bargain for similar measures. The measure is part of a larger movement to adopt similar programs across the country, as President Obama implemented an similar executive order for federal workers last year, along several other large cities. Labor leaders and women's advocates are hopeful the program's success will press New York State's legislature to move to adopt a similar measure.
The U.S. Supreme Court will begin hearing arguments in a landmark case Monday that could decide the future of public sector unions across the country. The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, involves a California teacher who claims her First Amendment rights are violated by having to pay union dues, even though she isn't a member of the union. If the Court rules for the plaintiff, it would mean the "fair share" fees public sector unions charge for both member and non-union employees in a workplace are unconstitutional, and in effect establish so called "right to work" rules for all public sector employees in the United States. With public and private sector union membership and influence in decline nationwide, the country's largest unions have rushed to support the CTA in the case, filing amicus briefs and providing financial support for its defense. Support for the plaintiff has centered around the argument that "fair share" rules hurt small business and represent government overreach.
257,000 net new jobs in the private sector were added in December, an increase over the previous month's 211,000, and a sign that the Department of Labor's comprehensive labor report, due this Friday, will remain positive for December 2015. Payroll firm Automatic Data Processing (ADP) released data in conjunction with analysis from Moody Analytics that exceeded economist expectations which had predicted slower job growth. December's job growth was the highest since December 2014. Construction and manufacturing firms experienced continuous job gains, while energy companies were the only ones to reduce employment due to low oil prices.
While poverty amongst the elderly declined during the 20th century, this societal achievement faces reversal in the coming decades as shrinking Social Security funds lower retirement benefits by over 11 percent in the next 20 years. The phenomenon will not be limited to the American workforce; economic analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development indicates that gross replacement rates of public pension systems for several European countries will decline over the next half-century. Governments have tried raising the retirement age and linking benefits closely to employee contributions, but an increasingly aging populace, coupled with poor economic growth and employment prospects over the last few years, will make it difficult even for younger workers to save enough money towards a decent living standard in old age.
SAP, one of the largest cloud-based human resource software companies, is combining two current system applications, SuccessFactors and Fieldglass, in order to help human resource managers better assess non-salaried workers. Data from Oxford Economics indicates that employment of “contingent workers” - such as consultants, part-time, and contract workers - will increase 80% over the next three years. The combination of the two software systems allows managers to view and analyze skill sets and talents of employees who are managed outside the traditional HR framework. SAP is seeking to be competitive in a growing market for cloud HR systems; its closest competitor is Workday.
Federal Reserve policymakers, who are looking to estimate inflation in preparation for rate increases, are studying a new Bureau of Labor Statistics report that indicates that the reasons that people stay out of the workforce have changed over the last decade. 35% of Americans were not part of the workforce in 2014, an increase of almost 4% since 2004. More people in all age groups cited “retirement” as a reason for not actively seeking employment, with the number of 20-24 year olds who have retired doubling since 2004. Other reasons for not working include men with increased home responsibilities, an increased number of male veterans with service-related disabilities, and women who have retired due to illness or school.
Wisconsin unions, and perhaps unions nationwide, will be watching closely the results of an upcoming Supreme Court case that will be heard January 11. The Supreme Court will determine whether to prohibit any requirement that government workers pay fees to the unions that represent them. Since 2011, Wisconsin labor leaders have been struggling to maintain union membership, due to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker limiting local union bargaining power with the enactment of Act 10. AFSCME (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees) has been making an effort nationwide to increase union membership, especially if the Supreme Court rules against “fair share fee” requirements.
In China, the government has detained hundreds of labor activists that have been accused of pushing for change in the current labor system. The media has stated that these workers are encouraging strikes and disrupting the country's social order. Critics of these practices claim that these activists will be denied a fair trial. As manufacturing in China slows, the number of labor disputes continues to rise. The advocacy group China Labour Bulletin reported that 59 strikes happened in China's large manufacturing city Guangdong just in November alone.
On Monday, the United Auto Workers (UAW) union filed charges against Volkswagen claiming that the company is refusing to collectively bargain with some of the workers at its Chattanooga, Tennessee plant. Several weeks ago, over 70% of the facility's skilled workers voted to unionize with the UAW. This vote marks the only foreign-owned automobile plant located in the southern United States to unionize.
The President of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Don Hahs, has been accused of embezzling $58,000 of the union's money. The charges against Hahs were filed by the Teamsters union. In 2004, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen merged with the Teamsters. Hahs reportedly used the embezzled money for personal vacations and to purchase tickets to the Cleveland Cavalier games.
In New York City, it was found that workers represented by the Sheet Metal Workers union received different pay and pensions based upon race. Data revealed that white workers received considerably more work and larger pensions. Last month payout began from the settlement of a decade old lawsuit about discrimination among these workers. Hundreds of black and Hispanic workers are expected to receive a portion of the $12.7 million decided in the settlement.
Just Capital's founder, Paul Tudor Jones II, has devised a new strategy to rank companies based upon three criteria: how they treat their employees, the environment and society. Jones hopes that this ranking metric will affect customers, investors, and the people that companies choose to hire. Jones believes that companies should focus less on profits and be more concerned about social responsibility.
On Monday, a press conference was held in Thailand as a response to the investigation conducted by the Associated Press. It was emphasized that the Thai government is not ignoring the rampant problem of slave labor in its fishing industry. Thailand's fishing industry is estimated to bring in $7 billion each year. The workers in this industry are often forced to work 16-hour days where they received little to no pay.
Despite repeated promises by businesses and government in Thailand to clean up the country's $7 billion seafood export industry, shrimp peeled by modern-day slaves is reaching the U.S., Europe and Asia. Corruption and complicity among police and authorities has led to few arrests and prosecutions. Raids that have occurred end up sending migrants without proper paperwork to jail, while owners go unpunished. An ongoing AP investigative series into slavery in the Thai seafood industry has led to the freeing of more than 2,000 trapped fishermen this year. The reports also have led to a dozen arrests, millions of dollars' worth of seizures and proposals for new federal laws. The State Department has not slapped Thailand with sanctions applied to other countries with similarly weak human trafficking records because it is a strategically critical Southeast Asian ally. Federal authorities also say they can't enforce U.S. laws that ban importing goods produced by forced labor, citing an exception for items like Thai shrimp, that consumers can't get from another source.
On Monday, the Seattle City Council plans to vote on a proposed law to give freelance, on-demand drivers the right to collectively negotiate on pay and working conditions, a right historically reserved for regular employees. If the legislation is passed— and early indications are positive — the group they belong to, the App-Based Drivers Association, or ABDA, will become the first organization of on-demand contract workers in the United States to win an explicit right to unionize. If workers in other cities follow suit, it could spur a potential shift in the rights of American contract workers, one that could have lasting repercussions on Uber’s bottom line and $62.5 billion valuation. Uber has two potential legal arguments against the measure if it passes. The first is that federal law reigns supreme when it comes to organizing, rendering a city ordinance on the subject essentially null and void. The second is that collective bargaining by independent contractors would amount to illegal price-fixing under antitrust law.
The Chicago Teachers Union on Monday delivered the city a message that educators are prepared to walk off the job for the second time since 2012 if an agreement can't be reached on a new contract. The union said 88 percent of its 24,752 eligible members voted "Yes" to authorize union leaders to call a strike, well above the 75 percent threshold necessary for a strike to occur. The contract reached following the 2012 strike expired June 30, and the two sides have been negotiating for more than a year, yet remain far apart on a number of issues. Union officials say the district has asked for a contract that would amount to $653 million in cuts. The district says the union's demands would cost well over $1 billion a year and require hiring new school nurses, psychologists and social workers, counselors and case managers, as well as 5, 000 teachers to accommodate a union demand to shrink classroom sizes. Union demands also include a 3 percent salary increase and pay for snow days.
On Friday in India, an investigation at a brick kiln revealed that hundreds of workers were subject to forced labor. This investigation was launched after a 30-year-old pregnant woman died after she was forced to work with a fever. The officials found 293 women and children working there in inhumane and unhygienic conditions. The workers, who were trafficked from the neighboring state of Odisha to Telangana were not paid minimum wage, and were often subject to physical and verbal abuse.
In recent years, Samsung has received criticism toward the working conditions in its factories that manufacture computer chips. It has been suggested that the chemicals used in the factories have caused cancer among some of the workers. Despite the fact that the company has denied these allegations, Samsung did issue a formal apology and offer to compensate sick workers. However, Samsung has refused the mediator's suggestion that an independent company handle compensation for these workers. This refusal has led to even more conflict between the company and the advocacy group for the sick workers, Banolim. Presently, more than 200 sick people have sought help from Banolim on this issue.
On Thursday evening, a written opinion by U.S. Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier was released that ruled against police officers who claimed they were discouraged from filing overtime hours that they spent doing work on their BlackBerry. This class action lawsuit, which was filed in 2010 by 51 current and former police officers, stated that they were expected to respond to messages and calls when they were off-duty, but were discouraged from reporting this for overtime pay. Schenkier ultimately ruled that these officers could not prove that they would not be compensated for this work if they reported the hours.
On Thursday, 2,000 armed Korean police officers surrounded a Buddhist temple where Han Sang-gyun, president of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, had been hiding for a month. Han was arrested for his involvement in a violent labor protest that happened a month ago. The temple is known for harboring "political dissidents". When Han stepped out of the temple to be arrested, he called for a general strike to begin on Wednesday. Han has also already planned another strike that will begin on December 19th.
Over the years, New Jersey has seen many of its large pharmaceutical companies abandon their corporate headquarters, which has in turn led to a disappearance of thousands of well-paying jobs. To combat this, Hackensack University Health Network and Seaton Hall University will be opening a private medical school. The plan is to establish hotels and related businesses around the new school to stimulate job growth and spending.
Several years ago the company Munchery, a food delivery service, switched from contracted drivers to regular hires. Despite the lower upfront costs associated with contracted employees, the company found that employee turnover was very high and decided to make the switch. While the switch cost the company an additional 20% to 30%, executives say the decision has nearly paid for itself. Many on-demand companies have decided to make this switch because of the stable workforce it provides.
A report, created by the Economic Policy Institute, found that from 2001 to 2013, imports from China either eliminated or displaced approximately 400,000 jobs. As a result, well paying manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been lost. Over that time period, 3.2 million total manufacturing jobs were lost in the U.S. In 2014, Walmart's imports from China amounted to around $49 billion. This is not the first time Walmart has been accused of flooding the U.S. market with cheap goods produced in China. In 2013, the company announced that it would put $50 billion toward products manufactured in America.
Next year, Adidas will plan to make its first 500 pairs of shoes at a German factory that will be largely comprised of robots. Adidas has chosen to do this in an effort to speed up production and cut labor costs. Currently, Adidas has over one million workers at its factories in Vietnam and China. The company wants to move production closer to its large customer base in Europe to speed up delivery. Adidas, which currently makes 600 million shoes a year, plans to increase that number by nearly half by 2020.
On Wednesday, the New York Industrial Board of Appeals upheld Governor Andrew Cuomo's decision to raise the minimum wage of fast food workers in New York City to $15 an hour over the next three years. The plan is also to raise the statewide minimum wage of fast food workers to $15 an hour over the next six years. The new law was challenged by National Restaurant Association. Workers in these restaurants told the board that the current wage of $8.75 "forces them into poverty".
In Las Vegas, it was confirmed on Monday that employees of the Trump International Hotel voted to unionize under the Culinary Union. The election, which happened on Friday and Saturday, will have its results certified after the 7-day objection period ends. The process to unionize began last year but was postponed due to a series of complaints. The hotel is owned by a current Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
In Michigan, workers with the Nexteer Automotive Group went on strike on Tuesday after rejecting a contract that was proposed. The workers, who are represented by the United Auto Workers union, produce vehicle parts that are essential to General Motors among other car manufacturers. As of Tuesday evening, approximately 3,200 workers were participating in the strike. Nexteer issued a statement saying that they were in negotiations with the UAW to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the city has taken a new approach to its homeless population after a homeless man was fatally shot by police officers last year. The city is now finding jobs for these people, and places such as St. Martin's Hospitality Center feeds 400 people a day. The homeless people are given day jobs and must work five to six hour shifts before they are paid. For many of them, these jobs give them a purpose and pride in their work. So far the city has allocated $50,000 to this program, and plans to increase that number through public and private funding next year.
In Tennessee, skilled workers at a Volkswagen plant have recently voted to unionize with the United Auto Workers (UAW). This vote comes just over 20 months after the UAW lost the vote to unionize the entire workforce at the plant. The skilled workers, who maintain and repair the machines and robots, voted 104-44 in favor of representation by the UAW. Volkswagen, which has opposed the ruling to allow just skilled workers to unionize, plans to appeal this decision with the National Labor Relations Board.
In November, the uptick in homebuilding resulted in 46,000 new jobs in the construction industry. This marks the largest job growth in that sector in the last two years. In addition, there was large job growth from healthcare, restaurant and retail sectors. Overall, the unemployment level has held constant at 5%, and a total of 211,000 jobs were added in November. Only two industries, mining and information, saw a decrease in jobs as the two sectors continue to cut jobs.
For the past three and a half months, workers at a Allegheny Technologies have been locked out after the workers' union, the United Steelworkers, refused to accept concessions proposed by the company. The lockout, which began on August 15th, is at 12 of the company's plants and has affected approximately 2,200 workers. Allegheny proposed these concessions in an effort to compete with both domestic and Chinese based competitors. Allegheny would like to reduce benefits for future hires through a two-tier wage system, require employees to contribute $2,000 a year for health coverage and implement a four-year wage freeze.
Recently a new study was released by James Bessen, a professor at Boston University's Law School, that examined the impact of technology on employment levels. This study specifically looked at 317 various occupations between 1980 and 2013. The study found that industries that employed automation through technology actually saw an increase in the number of jobs that were created. For example, Bessen noted that automated teller machines were implemented by banks in the 1990s, yet the number of bank tellers has actually increase by 2% each year.
On Friday, workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee will finish casting their ballots to vote on whether to unionize with the United Auto Workers. The election, which began on Thursday, is scheduled to concluded at 8:30pm on Friday. Last year, the UAW lost the vote to unionize all of the hourly workers at this plant. Now, this vote only includes the 172 skilled trades workers who repair and maintain robots and machines at the plant. Volkswagen's request to prevent this election was denied by a regional director with the National Labor Relations Board.
Current job market conditions have created numerous problems for small business owners. There are a large number of job openings, a skill shortage in the workforce, and a younger generation that frequently switches jobs throughout their career. In 2015, between January and May, business with 10 or less employees had 1.8 million people quit. This number has increased 34% from the same time period in 2014. To combat this problem, business owners have implemented programs in their office that allow workers to submit anonymous feedback so the company can try to solve the issues employees experience.
In Greece on Thursday, workers walked off the job in a nation-wide strike protesting the new austerity measures that may be implemented in the country. This is the second general strike in the past three weeks. This walkout, which will last 24 hours, has caused school closures and hospitals are running very short-staffed. On Saturday, parliament is scheduled to vote on a bailout package that will include €5.7 billion in spending cuts along with tax increases.
Recently, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland published a Q&A where they suggested that raising the minimum wage won't reduce the poverty in America. One argument for raising the minimum wage is that income growth will continue to outpace minimum wage increases. Thus people being paid at the minimum wage level have actually seen their buying power decrease over time. In contrast, people against an minimum wage argue that it will lead to job cuts. Cleveland's Fed suggests a more targeted approach to reducing poverty.
Amnesty International recently published a report that claimed Qatar is still abusing migrant laborers in order to build the facilities that will be used to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The government of Qatar rejected the report and issued a statement saying that the report did not address the major reform Qatar's labor system has undergone. According to the government, Qatar has implemented a "wage protection system" and denies that its workers are being exploited.
On Wednesday, journalists in Greece will hold a 24 hour strike just before the austerity strike that is scheduled to happen. Two major unions, which represent both public and private sector employees, called for a general strike to begin on Thursday in protest of the budget that Parliament will vote on this Saturday. In Greece, no newspapers will be published on Thursday as a result. Transportation in Greece will be distributed and public hospitals and schools are expected to be closed.
In Los Angeles, the company Build Your Dreams, which is a Chinese based automobile manufacturer, is being accused of breaking its promise to use the millions it received from private and government investments to establish "living wages" for its employees. As a result, city officials are asking the company to provide documents on the wages that the company is currently paying its employees. Labor groups have also accused the company of failing to hire employees from the local community. Both the wage and local hiring initiative were outlined in a five year plan that the company signed five years ago.
On Tuesday, Volkswagen told its employees at its only U.S. based plant that it would be challenging a decision that allows the United Auto Workers to attempt to unionize a subset of skilled workers. Last month, Volkswagen argued that the entire plant should have the opportunity to vote on unionization, not just a small subset of workers. The National Labor Relations Board rejected this argument. The skilled workers are scheduled to vote on unionization this Thursday.
Unemployment in the Eurozone, which includes nineteen different countries, has fallen to a four-year low. The unemployment rate in the Eurozone fell from 10.8% in September down to 10.7% in October. Currently, the number of unemployed people is approximately 17.24 million. Despite this drop in the unemployment rate, it is still expected that the European Central Bank will continue with its plan to stimulate the economy through additional quantitative easing.
Ford said on Monday a labor cost gap of $8 to $10 per hour will remain with nonunion automakers such as Toyota Motor Corp and Hyundai Motor Co under the new labor deal ratified by UAW Ford workers on Nov. 20. This means that foreign automakers with plants in the United States will be able to keep vehicle prices competitive with the unionized Detroit Three automakers, or charge less for their vehicles. According to CEO Mark Fields, Ford can leverage its global manufacturing footprint to boost its competitiveness in North America. "In this contract, we're not restricted from sourcing products anywhere in the Ford world for sale in the U.S. as long as we're meeting our U.S. sourcing commitment,” said Fields.
A bill that would exempt Native American casinos from a federal labor law allowing workers to unionize, which cleared the House last week, has support from an unusual mix of Republicans and Democrats who contend the exemption is critical to keeping Indian tribes’ fragile economies afloat. But it has also garnered opposition from labor unions that call it an affront to workers’ rights, saying that the bill would strip the estimated 600,000 workers connected to tribal casinos of collective bargaining rights and other protections under the NLRA, like the right to seek workplace improvements without retaliation. President Barack Obama has also voiced opposition and wants changes to the measure that would require tribes to adapt labor practices equivalent to NLRA standards.
The government of Guyana investigating a Russian-owned bauxite plant found "disturbing" working conditions after a surprise inspection last week prompted by the complaints of dozens of workers to the Social Protection Ministry. Some staff had to work for 12 hours in poorly ventilated rooms without safety gear or drinking water. Workers also complain about the lack of upward mobility and the company's reluctance to recognize a labor union. The company and authorities have been feuding since 50 plant workers were fired more than five years ago.
As the nation enters its busiest holiday shopping season with extended working hours for many employees, Fortune releases its second annual listing of the 20 best retailers to work for. In addition to generous medical coverage, discounts, financial rewards, and onsite health and fitness options, many retailers on the list were noted for higher than average wages, flexible scheduling and leave policies, and creative ways of fostering input and support. Employers on the list include Wegmans, REI, Whole Foods, The Container Store, L.L. Bean, Nordstrom, and IKEA.
Part-time and adjunct professors at the University of Southern California have submitted a request to hold union elections in early 2016, following similar union organizing movements at other California colleges and universities as well as nationwide. Even though tuition has risen to $49,000, some university benefits have been cut recently, and faculty in support of unionizing hope to see higher pay and better job stability. University provost Michael Quick feels that part-time and adjunct faculty at USC are doing better than many other California campuses that are unionized, and cautions that introducing an “industrial model of labor relations” would be “adversarial” to collegial processes.
The threat of a strike on Black Friday in 2012, which would have affected billions of sales as well as its public image, prompted Walmart to employ the use of intelligence-gathering services from Lockheed Martin to oversee the activities of employees supportive of union organization efforts. By using surveys and social media, increasing labor hotlines, using “Delta Teams” for management alerts, as well as seeking help from the FBI Joint Terrorism task force, Walmart kept an eye on employees most closely involved with OUR Walmart, a group of employee labor activists, as well as thousands of others who supported their efforts. The surveillance efforts came to light when OUR Walmart brought allegations to the National Labor Relations Board that Walmart retaliated against employees who participated in widespread protests. This year, OUR Walmart is holding a 15-day fast through Black Friday in support of a $15 minimum wage.