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Workplace Issues Today

In anticipation of an anti-labor ruling in the potentially landmark Supreme Court Case Janus v. AFSCME that is set to be decided on Monday, an Illinois union is suing Gov. Bruce Rauner over an Illinois state law. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus will determine whether it is constitutional for unions to collect so-called “fair-share” fees. A decision in favor of Janus will overturn a more than 40-year-old law that allows labor unions to collect dues from all employees it represents, regardless of whether they favor of union representation. Local 150 of the Operating Engineers expects that the current Supreme Court Justices will rule in favor of Janus, and thus make the entire country right-to-work. The local has filed a suit against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, in order to try to undo unions’ legal duty to represent all workers within a bargaining unit, and instead make it so that they will only have to represent workers who pay union dues.

See Brian Mackey, Peoria Public Radio, Feb 23 2018

The Imperial Counties of Labor Council is planning to hold a rally on Saturday outside of the Democratic Party Convention in San Diego. The protest is part of a “Working People’s Day of Action”, scheduled two days before the landmark Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSME is set to be decided. Prominent speakers from the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, NextGen America, and other unions are scheduled to be at the rally. Similar protests will be held in 27 cities across the country as part of the Working People’s Day of Action.

See Times of San Diego, City News Service, Feb 23 2018

A Virginia congressman is urging Congress to review whether a Trump-appointed NLRB representative was qualified to cast the decisive vote to overturn an Obama-era ruling that made it easier for employees of franchises and contractors to go after large corporations in labor law violation cases. NLRB Inspector General David Berry issued a report on February 9th that identified what he called a “serious deficiency” in the handling conflict-of-interest issues, specifically with regard to board member William Emmanual’s decisive vote to overturn a decision in which his former law firm, Littler Mendelson, was on the losing side of. The report was shared with Congress on February 15th, along with a letter from NLRB Chairman Marvin Kaplan stating the agency was reviewing the possible conflict of interest and considering recusing Emmanuel’s vote in the matter. On Friday, Virginia Congressman Bob Scott (Dem.) wrote a letter urging North Carolina chairman Virginia Foxx (Rep.) to schedule a hearing for Emmanuel and the other board members to review the agency’s conduct in this matter.

See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Feb 23 2018

In light of significant shows of power by IG Metall, the largest industrial union in Europe and the most prominent metalworkers’ union in Germany, Volkswagen has announced that they will be offering over 100,000 employees more flexible schedules, improved wages, and better pension options. Following their first strikes in over a decade and various 24-hour strikes by IG Metall throughout the country, the European car manufacturer has reached an agreement with the union to raise wages by 4.3 percent from May and to give workers extra payments of 27.5 percent of their monthly wage once a year from next year onwards. This change has been met with optimism from both sides as Volkswagen is becoming a more attractive employer and its employees feel that their concerns are heard and acted upon.

See Maria Sheahan, Reuters, Feb 22 2018

As the inflation rate steadily increases in Argentina, workers are eagerly demonstrating against President Mauricio Macri and his government’s austerity measures. Argentinian workers are losing purchasing power as layoffs increase, wages decrease, and prices soar. Frustrations with the conservative leader and his government have reached a peak as tens of thousands of union members, primarily truckers’ union members, participated in a massive demonstration in Buenos Aires. Protestors decried the negligence of the government in caring for the most vulnerable members of the community, claiming that the inability of Macri’s policies to help starving workers across the country will have grave effects on today’s children and tomorrow’s leaders. Union leaders have threatened to hold nationwide strikes should Macri refuse to meet their needs in the near future.

See The Washington Post, Associated Press, Feb 22 2018

After Bankia, a Spanish bank, made the controversial decision to fire a pregnant employee, Jessica Porras, in spite of her legal protections in 2013, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has finally declared a ruling in its favor. The EU’s Directive 92/85/EEC, which concerns itself with the basic rights of people before and after pregnancy in the European Union, explicitly prohibits firing pregnant workers with specific exceptions. The ECJ, the top court in the European Union, has just ruled that businesses are allowed to dismiss pregnant workers as part of staff cuts. Bankia claimed to have dismissed Porras due to low scores on work evaluations and her poor performance alone, but many, including Porras, were dubious about the company’s sincerity. The ECJ’s ruling in this case has broad implications for the treatment of pregnant workers in the future throughout the EU, leaving questions of job insecurity for those who might become pregnant.

See BBC News, Feb 22 2018

In light of near constant debate surrounding the question of whether or not ‘gig economy’ workers are truly self-employed, the UK Supreme Court has taken on the case of an allegedly self-employed plumber who claims he is entitled to workers’ rights. Gary Smith, who worked for Pimlico Plumbers between 2005 and 2011, was dismissed after attempting to reduce his hours. Smith took his case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, where a judge ruled that he should be considered a worker as Pimlico Plumbers obligated him to work a certain number of hours per week and placed restrictions surrounding what kind of work he could do. The firm has unsuccessfully attempted to appeal this decision and the case made its way through the Court of Appeal, now landing in the Supreme Court, where a final decision is expected to be made within six months. The Supreme Court’s decision would ultimately apply to all self-employed persons in the UK, leading to high anxieties and fears among gig economy employers like Uber and Deliveroo.

See Costas Pitas, Reuters, Feb 20 2018

Following the reversal of a 2015 pro-labor ruling by the NLRB, questions of conflicts of interest surrounding Trump-appointed NLRB member William Emanuel are being raised by NLRB Inspector General David Berry. The 2015 ruling made it easier for workers to hold large corporations liable for the actions of their franchisees and staffing companies, as it broadened the definition of a “joint employer”. This ruling effectively made it so that the union-busting or abusive actions of a joint employer would imply legal liability for the larger corporation behind the layers of employment, understandably leading to a lot of concern from massive companies that often avoid accountability in these situations. NLRB Inspector General Berry has claimed that the reversal of this ruling was corrupt as William Emanuel, a former attorney for Browning-Ferris, the joint employer that lost the 2015 ruling, was one of the deciding votes on the matter. It is argued that Emanuel should have recused himself from the vote given that the matter would clearly benefit a past client. The issue of Emanuel’s vote poses a critical question regarding how to deal with conflict of interest in NLRB rulings to come.

See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Feb 20 2018

As the popularity of electric cars soar in Europe and North America, so do the mining efforts of companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt originate. The practices of Congolese mining companies have been under fire for years now in connection with the rampant and unreported use of child labor, the unsafe and at times lethal working conditions, and the generally unethical treatment of workers. As recently as 2016, Amnesty International published a report showing how children as young as seven were mining cobalt under life-threatening conditions for use in Apple and Microsoft technologies. Automakers such as Tesla and Volkswagen are anxious to divorce themselves from ethical scandals such as those faced by the tech giants only two years ago, but regulating cobalt mining in the Congo has proven incredibly difficult given unchecked smuggling and a surge in the output of artisanal mines which escape regulation more easily than large producers.

See Thomas Wilson and Jack Farchy, Bloomberg, Feb 20 2018

After the Trump administration’s tax reform was passed in January, Disney announced that it would deal out $1,000 bonuses to over 125,000 eligible employees. However, the union representing Disney World cast members said that on Monday the entertainment giant decided to withhold the bonus from unionized employees who do not approve their proposed contract. The contract Disney is pushing was voted against by 93% of employees in December, and 38,000 cast members in Orlando are having their bonus’ withheld in lieu of approving the contract. The union plans to file an unfair labor practice complaint, charging that the company is discriminating against unionized cast members exercising their collective bargaining rights.

See Chip Skambis and Ken Tyndall, WFTV9 ABC, Feb 19 2018

Pilots for the Dutch budget airline Transavia have gone on strike after months of contract negotiations with little progress. Dozens of flights have been canceled or delayed, and the disruptions are expected to last until noon on Monday. The pilots are seeking greater stability in their work schedules and a slight increase in pay. The airline said that the pilots association rejected their latest amendments to the contract proposal over the weekend.

See Times Union, Feb 19 2018

The president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, is urging the government to intervene after General Motors announced it’s plan last week to close a factory in Gunsan, 270 miles south of Seoul. To save some 2,000 local jobs, Jae-in is calling for a special task force to respond to the crisis and wants the central government to inject money in order to prevent the factory from closing. General Motors has three other factories in South Korea, but the company has recently been pulling out of certain markets and reducing their global operations. They said negotiation talks with unionized workers will begin on Wednesday.

See Jennie Oh, United Press International, Feb 19 2018

Seven months after Wendt Corp.’s manufacturing plant workers in Cheetowaga, New York voted in favor of being represented by the Iron Workers Shopmen Local 576, they are still struggling to settle the terms of their first contract. Members have drawn attention to their negotiation standstill with lunch-break rallies outside of the plant, even attracting the attendance of political leaders. Earlier this month, ten workers at the plant were placed on temporary layoff that can last anywhere from 6-8 weeks. James Wagner, one of the union’s negotiators working on the case, said that pro-union workers were targeted for layoffs. Wagner claims that the company has used various intimidation tactics to dampen morale and drag out the negotiation process, but Wendt Corp. denies any intimidation and said the layoffs were a result of slowdowns in production that are typical of this time of year. Neither side was able to predict when they will finally be able to settle negotiations.

See Matt Glynn, The Buffalo News, Feb 16 2018

After a nearly decade-long impasse, the New York City District Council of Carpenters finally settled negotiations with the city for a 12-year contract that spans from 2008-2020. The sticking points during negotiations dealt with restoring leave time that the city took from some employees and backpay for annuity payments that the city failed to disperse. The union is suing the city for using unfair tactics to reduce paid time off and annuity payments. A coalition of some 150 unions has endorsed their lawsuit, fearing that Mayor de Blasio’s failure to honor NYCCC’s previous contract terms after it expired while new contract negotiations are still going on will set a precedent that will have spillover effects for all New York City unions. The terms of NYCDCC’s new contract provides that workers will receive an average of $10,000 in back annuity payments and 39 days of paid time off that was taken from them during the 10-year long impasse.

See Jeffery C. Mays, New York Times, Feb 16 2018

On Monday, Mexican school teachers representing the La CNTE (the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers) movement held demonstrations in Mexico City as well as several states across the country to protest an education reform law the Mexican government passed five years ago. The legislation has led to growing privatization and widespread school closings. La CNTE is pushing its own education reform plan that calls for greater emphasis on math and logic, opening community libraries, and reviving traditional wisdom by teaching about medicinal plants in schools. The teacher’s movement is continuing the fight despite some grave risks. In 2016 at least 8 people were killed and more than 100 wounded at a teacher’s protest in the small town of Nochixlan.

See Jane Slaughter, Labor Notes, Feb 16 2018

Graduate student organizers at Yale University have withdrawn their petition to unionize with Unite Here. The organizing drive began last year, and included eight different departments at the University. In a statement, a union representative said that the NLRB has become increasingly hostile towards unions under the Trump administration, leading them to withdraw the petition. In December, the NLRB ruled against what is dubbed “micro-unit organizing”, where unions organize more narrowly-defined groups of workers employed by a given employer at the same workplace. Graduate students at other campuses across the country have expressed similar concerns about the increasing hostility towards union interests by the labor board.

See Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Feb 14 2018

On February 13, the Federal Labor Relations Authority reported in a congressional budget justification that it will close two regional offices in Boston and Dallas. The agency has promised that the sixteen FLRA employees from those offices who are directly affected by this decision will be offered different positions within the agency. The FLRA’s regional offices are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases for over two million non-postal federal employees.

See Louis C. LaBrecque, Bloomberg BNA, Feb 14 2018

On Tuesday, the SEIU endorsed Gavin Newsom for California governor. The union’s president Roxanne Sanchez said in a public statement that Newsom will be a visionary leader and a partner of working people. The SEIU plans to spend at least hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting his campaign, focusing on reaching minority voters in Los Angeles and other urban areas.

See Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, Feb 14 2018

On the fiftieth anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, thousands of low-wage workers, especially service workers, took to demonstrations around the country, demanding union representation in the workplace and a living wage for all. Workers in Memphis, with the support of the Fight for $15 campaign, led a march through the city, much like their predecessors half a century ago. Unfortunately, participants in these demonstrations and onlookers alike were quick to note that many of the grievances cited by discontent workers were identical to those from the 1960s, showing a lack of progress for labor. Many demonstrators were individuals working several jobs who still could not afford to adequately provide for themselves and their families but opponents of the demonstrations claim that these protests actually hurt the hiring prospects of individuals in similarly dire economic conditions, ultimately backfiring.

See Paul Davidson, USA Today, Feb 13 2018

Following the discovery of the horrific murder of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina worker who moved to Kuwait in hopes of finding employment, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has extended an invitation to return to the Philippines to any and all Filipino workers in Kuwait. This news comes in the wake of years of abuse accusations and corresponding evidence of the Gulf states’ violations of migrant workers’ human rights. President Duterte expressed exasperation with the conditions to which his compatriots have been subjected abroad, with various government officials urging the Kuwaiti government to intervene and guarantee at least basic human rights to migrant workers within their borders. With thousands of Filipinos in Kuwait rushing to get their travel documents and flights arranged and the ever-growing number of Filipinos working abroad, the issue of the abuse of migrant workers has been steadily escalating.

See Joshua Berlinger and Jinky Jorgio, CNN, Feb 13 2018

As the Trump administration continues to cut back Obama-era policies and rules, officials have decided to target “project labor agreements” (PLAs). These collective bargaining agreements were put in place in the construction industry to ensure that unionized workers were given priority in large infrastructure projects. Given Donald Trump’s bleak history with trade unions and his business backers’ general distaste for the clauses, as they disadvantage non-union bidders, it has not come as a surprise that the Trump administration would challenge the 2009 executive order by the former president. While most Democrats support PLAs, which almost always include a no-strike clause in favor of the employers, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget was the chief sponsor of a bill aimed at ending all PLAs in federally-funded infrastructure projects. White House representatives claim that the issue will be solved on a bipartisan basis.

See Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner, Feb 13 2018

The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled last Friday that Penn State graduate students working as teaching and research assistants have union rights under the Pennsylvania Employee Relations Act. The final decision came well after a week-long hearing in September where the University argued that graduate students are not employees. Unlike the other grad student organization drives at private universities across the country that happened in response to the September 2016 NLRB ruling that expanded the definition of a “worker”, Penn State graduate assistants are not covered under that ruling due to the fact that it is a public university. The Coalition of Graduate Employees is celebrating the decision by the Pennsylvania Labor Board to include Penn State grad students as protected workers under the Pennsylvania Employee Relations Act, CGE says they are confident they will win the representation election.

See Kelsey Thomasson, Centre Daily, Feb 12 2018

Multiple railroad workers’ unions representing over 13,000 Union Pacific and BNSF workers in Nebraska have cast their votes on the latest bargaining contract with the national train companies. More than 70 percent of the union workers have voted in favor of the contract, which puts monthly health and welfare contributions at around $225 a month, and are scheduled to freeze in 2019. Some additional votes still need to be cast before the contract is solidified, but so far the railroad workers’ have been approving the settlement terms by huge margins.

See Russell Hubbard, Omaha World-Herald, Feb 12 2018

A hearing is scheduled for the landmark Supreme Court labor case Janus v. AFSCME on February 26th. The issue at hand are the “fair share” laws in 22 states that require workers covered under a collectively bargained employment agreement to pay union dues. In 2016, a similar case ended in a 4-4 tie after Justice Scalia’s passing. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Janus, labor unions will be forced to take a massive economic loss, and the entire U.S. will be subject to right-to-work laws.

See Editorial Board, Washington Post, Feb 12 2018

On Friday, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) filed a complaint with the Canadian labor board against the airline WestJet for ignoring their duty to consult the union before hiring their new low-cost carrier, Swoop. WestJet has been expanding their international service and launching the low-cost carrier Swoop as a completely separate carrier. The key issue the APLA is pushing is that they believe Swoop pilots should be compensated the same as WestJet pilots.

See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Feb 9 2018

On Friday, the Human Rights Watch released a report highlighting the extent of discrimination faced by HIV positive employees in the Philippines. The report stated that despite the fact that it is illegal to not hire, fire, or terminate an employee based on their HIV positive status under the Philippine law, workers are facing massive amounts of discrimination and harassment for being HIV positive. The Philippines currently has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region. About 83% of the 49,733 cases of HIV in the country were reported in the last 5 years.

See Deutsche Welle, Feb 9 2018

In a debate that began on Wednesday night and lasting into Thursday morning, unions and the conservative Freedom Fighters group clashed over Senate Bill 6199. The proposal can be traced back to an incident that occurred last year where the Freedom Foundation sued SEIU Local 775 in order to get home health care workers' contact information so they could tell members that they weren’t required to pay dues. The SEIU sponsored a successful ballot measure in response that shielded certain information about their employees from Washington State’s public-records law. After a grueling debate, the bill ultimately did not receive a floor vote.

See Joseph O’Sullivan, Seattle Times, Feb 9 2018

After nearly a year of failed contract negotiations between graduate student workers and university administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Graduate Employees’ Organization union has declared a strike for February 26. The main issue of contention throughout the talks, which began in spring of 2017 and continued through the expiry of the previous contract in August until now, has been university officials’ plan to introduce flexibility into their tuition waivers for graduate student employees. Union members claim that a majority of their members can only afford to attend school due to their tuition waivers and that, without these, none of the graduate students would make enough money to pay tuition and survive. In addition, union members assert that U of I is attempting to create a system in which graduate students must compete with each other to earn tuition waivers, creating an allegedly dystopian environment. U of I claims that the change in contract language will not negatively impact student employees and their tuition waivers, but the workers themselves remain skeptical and believe organized action will show their steadfastness.

See Dawn Rhodes, Chicago Tribune, Feb 8 2018

Following a week of striking on behalf of members of Teamsters Local 174, who work as bus drivers under First Student for the Seattle public school system, a federal mediator will be presiding over reinitiated negotiations between First Student and union drivers. A vast majority of union members have remained resilient in picketing First Student, even as their employer offers individuals crossing the picket line extra pay and other benefits to mitigate the surge in student absences caused by the drivers’ strike. The union members’ main demands appear to be affordable health care and better retirement plan options, with First Student claiming that they have given workers generous and comprehensive coverage on both accounts. Both sides have expressed a desire to reach an agreement as the consequences of the strike escalate with a growing number of unexcused absences for nearly 200 students.

See Paige Cornwell, The Seattle Times, Feb 8 2018

After seven months of bargaining and with the support of the Tompkins County Workers' Center and Workers United, the newly-unionized baristas of Gimme! Coffee, an Ithaca-based chain of coffee shops, have successfully ratified their first contract with their employer. In light of an overwhelmingly pro-union response to union organization within the workplace, baristas and local workers’ rights advocates have worked tirelessly to spearhead not only the formation of a union but also the creation of a contract within one year. Gimme! Coffee owner Kevin Cuddeback has expressed a total willingness to work towards making sure employees’ voices and concerns are heard, describing the formation of the union as “people coming together to build a better world”, a message which he and his company fully endorse. Union members believe that the contract is a critical milestone in their journey to represent their interests and forge an improved relationship with management.

See Kelsey O’Connor, Ithaca Voice, Feb 8 2018

Due to upcoming budget cuts in 2019, the NLRB is drawing out a plan to scale back it’s size and scope in the near future. According to General Counsel Peter Robb, the board has between 70 to 100 excess full-time employees that were never approved by Congress. Robb plans to minimize operations in field offices across the country, inevitably leading to a steady decline in cases that the board will handle in the coming months and years.

See Chris Opfer, Bloomberg BNA, Feb 7 2018

On Wednesday, the Spanish labor union SEPLA announced it will take legal actions against the Irish airline Ryanair for hiring Spanish pilots under what they say were illegal contracts according to Spanish law. The union plans to file two lawsuits on behalf of 500 Ryanair pilots based in Spain. Ryanair denies the allegations that they failed to bargain in good faith, although it only recently decided to bargain with unions, striking its first recognition agreement last week with the British pilot’s association.

See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Feb 7 2018

The German industrial worker’s union IG Metall struck a deal this week with more than 700 companies in Southwest Germany that secured more flexible working hours for a large number of their 2.3 million workers. The negotiated deal will give workers’ the option to choose to work 28 hour weeks for up to 2 years before going back to the standard 35-hour workweek. The deal also gives employees the option of working 40 hours a week if they want to make more money. The deal is widely expected to influence other contract negotiations throughout Germany.

See Alanna Petroff, CNN, Feb 7 2018

As the Trump administration continues its aggressive rollback of Obama era labor policies, seventeen attorneys general around the country have asserted a united front against efforts to overturn a 2011 Obama rule mandating that tipped workers keep their tips. In addition to stirring controversy due to the possibility that employers could take the tips earned by their employees, this news has led to the initiation of an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of the Inspector General due to suspicion that officials within the Labor Department are hiding studies showing the detrimental effects withholding tips will have for workers. While supporters of the change claim that this tip-sharing would decrease the gap between the pays of front of house and back of house workers, opponents claim that this change will just lead to further exploitation of labor by management through the pocketing of workers’ tips.

See Greg Trotter, Chicago Tribune, Feb 6 2018

In light of weeks of grueling negotiations and days-long walkouts stemming from unionized German factory workers’ demands for better work-life balance in the workplace, a landmark decision has been reached in favor of German labor, translating into an immense economic boom for Germany as factory orders are higher than ever. The aforementioned German factory workers belong to IG Metall, the country’s largest and most powerful trade union. IG Metall was able to win its members a 4.3 percent pay increase as well as more free time, which was the most important objective of the workers’ grievances from the onset of their dissatisfaction. The end of employers’ battle with IG Metall representatives over bettering employees’ working conditions seems not only to have furthered the union’s interests, but also the companies’ as well as the country’s economic interests.

See Carolynn Look, Bloomberg, Feb 6 2018

Following the wrongful termination of a unionized employee in Dallas, Southwest Airlines is under fire for attempting to avoid giving full backpay by claiming that the money earned by the former employee via a GoFundMe donation page should be subtracted from the amount Southwest must pay. In February of 2016, Ken Hackett was fired after a supervisor reported hearing Hackett, then a shop steward for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, allegedly persuading coworkers not to take overtime hours. At the time, Southwest and the mechanics’ union were in heated battle over a perceived boycott of overtime, leading to Hackett’s dismissal. After an arbitrator was brought into the mix, she ruled in favor of Hackett, deciding that his termination was illegal and ordering backpay on Southwest’s behalf. A spokesperson for Southwest has recently claimed that the company will no longer be pursuing Hackett’s GoFundMe page as a component of his backpay.

See David Koenig, The Washington Post, Feb 6 2018

Faculty at the University of Vermont orchestrated a rally last Thursday to protest the administration’s decision to cut several courses from the College of Arts and Sciences’ roster last fall. More recently, plans were announced to reduce the number of full- and part-time lecturers on staff. United Academics, the union representing UVM faculty criticized the greater emphasis on marketing and expensive physical infrastructure the university is making while sacrificing academic quality.

See Kelsey Neubauer, VT Digger, Feb 5 2018

After several 24-hour strikes, progress is being made in negotiations between IG Metall, a German industrial workers’ union, and their employers. The union is demanding a 6 percent raise this year for roughly 3.9 million workers, as well as greater flexibility to work shorter hours in order to care for children and family members. Last week’s strikes resulted in a nearly $200 million euro loss of revenue for several large automakers, including BMW and Airbus. According to IG Metall’s chief negotiator, talks are set to resume this evening.

See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Feb 5 2018

Last Thursday, nearly 100 UC San Diego students marched in solidarity with university workers to protest low wages and meager pension plans. Two organizations, the Labor Commission of Associated Students (ASUCSD) External Affairs and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 protested at two separate locations. Following the expiration of the service workers’ contract last June, the AFSCME proposed the new contract include an 18% over three years and the maintenance of their pension and health care plans, which the university wants to cut.

See Matthew Rom-Toribio, The Triton, Feb 5 2018

In a campus-wide email sent to faculty and students on Tuesday, Columbia University announced their intent to file an appeal to contest the September 2016 NLRB decision that expanded the definition of a worker to include graduate students. The letter states the administration’s refusal to collectively bargain with the graduate student union that was formed shortly after the decision, in December of 2016. Typically, labor board election rulings like this one are not appealable in the courts, but Columbia is raising objections to the union certification and requesting a court test of the union certification. The letter indicates that Columbia is seeking to prove that the board erred in its 2016 ruling when it found that graduate students are considered workers under federal law.

See Josh Eidelson, Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jan 31 2018

The Communications Workers of America are seeking to jointly organize employees from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobil in a new association called “Wireless Workers United”. The initiative is the first nation-wide network of both union and non-union employees working together for greater job security as well as quality customer service. Workers from the three companies will stand in solidarity at a rally in downtown Orlando as part of the association’s launch. AT&T and Verizon employ a significant number of unionized employees, but T-Mobil, on the other hand, saw the number of represented workers fall from 30 to 0 in 2016 during the same period that the company created it’s own worker group, called T-Voice. T-Voice was subsequently under investigation by the NLRB for suspicion of being an employer-controlled union. The launch of Wireless Workers United is just the latest in a string of recent efforts by the CWA aimed at boosting the salaries and benefits of unionized wireless employees across the country.

See Mike Dano, Fierce Wireless, https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/verizon-at-t-t-mobile-employees-to-jointly-organize-under-cwa-s-wireless-workers-united, Jan 31 2018

On Tuesday, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled to block arbitration over a clause in Watertown Fire Fighters’ employment contracts that requires a minimum of 15 firefighters on duty at all times. The issue led to a three and a half year impasse in contract negotiations between the city and the Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 191. The judge cited precedent that gives elected officials the authority to control city budgets through cost management, including salaries and wages paid to public employees.

See Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times, Jan 31 2018

Housekeepers at a Marriott Hotel in Santa Monica are alleging that the hotel has been actively retaliating against employees who supported the successful Unite Here Local 11 unionization drive last November. According to a spokeswoman for Local 11, management withheld Christmas bonuses and took disciplinary action against employees in an attempt to discourage union participation. Workers were also bribed with better benefits to not become active in the union. Local 11 filed a complaint with the NLRB earlier this month, and a hearing date has been scheduled for April 3rd. The union says that a majority of housekeepers at the hotel have already pledged to strike.

See Niki Cervantes, Lookout, Jan 29 2018

In a speech addressing members of upstate New York’s Teamsters Local 294 on Monday, Senator Charles Schumer announced a proposal that Democrats are presenting to Congress. The Butch Lewis Act, named after the late Teamsters activist, would protect worker’s whose pensions and retirement plans have been threatened due to their employer’s poor economic performance. Just three months ago, workers at Local 294 saw their retirement plans plummet by 29%, and many other union workers are grappling with similar losses. If passed, he Butch Lewis Act will provide a long-term low-interest loan to the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp., the federal agency that works to mitigate financial hardship resulting from declining pension funds. Despite Trump’s opposition to the proposal, Senator Schumer believes the strong bipartisan support will prevent his administration from blocking it.

See Rick Karlin, Times Union, Jan 29 2018

Fiat Chrysler and the UAW are facing a proposed class-action lawsuit filed by three employees’ following the recent corruption scandal involving money transfers to top union officials from the auto giant. The allegations concern the use of union dues paid between 2009-2015 for corrupted negotiations. Earlier this week former executive Al Iacobelli plead guilty to paying $1.5 million to UAW officials in order to gain bargaining leverage, the proposed class-action suit is seeking damages in connection with the corruption investigation.

See The Tribune, The Associated Press, Jan 29 2018

Germany’s largest manufacturing union could begin escalating the intensity of strikes if they don’t strike a deal soon for a shorter workweek and a 6% pay increase, according to the head of IG Metall, Joerg Hoffmann. The union is trying to strike a deal for workers in the southern industrial district that will set an example for nearly four million German workers. Hoffmann says that if they don’t reach an agreement soon, IG Metall will begin 24-hour strikes targeting specific employers. So far, they have had smaller strikes that only lasted for a few hours at a time.

See ABC News, Associated Press, Jan 26 2018

A nationwide prison guard strike in France ended on Friday after a union struck a deal with the government to hire more staff. Overcrowding and violence were the main issues driving the strike, which started on Monday after the union rejected the government’s initial proposal to recruit 100 additional guards in 2018 and 1,000 before the start of 2023. The protests escalated quickly shortly after, and on January 24 guards at the Maubeuge jail barricaded the prison entrance with a bonfire. Prime minister Emmanuel Macron has been under pressure to take action after a recent string of violent attacks on guards by prisoners.

See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Jan 26 2018

The head of the UAW Dennis Williams said on Friday that the payments Fiat-Chrysler was making to top union representatives had no effect on the labor talks or union funds. Williams sent a letter to union members stating that the incident in no way compromised negotiations. The payments were made in the amount of $1.5 million to UAW officials by Alphons Icobelli, who plead guilty to federal charges earlier this week.

See Nick Carey, Reuters Business News, Jan 26 2018

The Civil Service Employees Association Local 1000 is suing the Mount Vernon Library in Westchester County, New York on behalf of library employees who say they should be paid the same as City Hall staff. The case was initially heard by an arbitrator who decided that the library staffers were only entitled to back pay for a retroactive raise if the library trustees removed specific language in the union contract stating that the library employees get raises when the city hall workers, who are also unionized, receive them. The Civil Service Employee’s lawyer says that the arbitrator’s decision violated public policy and grossly surpassed his authority. The case is now being heard in the New York Supreme court.

See Ernie Garcia, USA Today, Jan 24 2018

Earlier this month, the NLRB officially certified the results of Harvard’s controversial representation election that took place in November of last year. Weeks after the initial election, it was revealed that Harvard had acted in bad faith by failing to provide accurate voter lists, and in April the NLRB decided to allow the union to hold another election. The board recently confirmed that the November 2016 election results ended in a relatively narrow loss for the union, with 1,526 votes against unionizing and 1,396 in favor. Organizers are now gearing up for another election to be held this spring. The administration responded quickly to the news of a second election, sending a campus wide email that all but condemned the organization drive, urging students to consider the “potential impact of unionization”. Student organizers are particularly concerned with the lack of continuity in pay across the university, arguing that a standard contract and collective representation would offer more stability and also help balance the relationship between graduate students and the professors that they work with.

See Laura Krantz, The Boston Globe, Jan 24 2018

SEIU Local 775 is calling for Washington State to allow on-demand contract workers like Uber drivers to transfer benefits when they change jobs. Washington is leading the way in pro-worker legislation, recently passing an expansive paid family leave policy over the summer. The proposed “portable benefits” bill would require corporations to directly pay a third-party benefits provider based on the amount of services used by contract employees. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is working together with the SEIU to push this new bill.

See MONICA NICKELSBURG, Geek Wire, Jan 24 2018

The U.S. government shut down that began at midnight on Saturday as a result of the Senate’s failure to close a funding deal is having wide-reaching effects on federal agencies charged with investigating labor law violations. The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which is responsible for investigating breaches of labor and civil rights laws by contractors, have halted their operations. The NLRB has stopped working on all current cases, and the Trade Adjustment Assistance Program is not taking any new requests from workers displaced by offshore competition. The EEOC has also stopped investigating civil rights violations in the workplace and OSHA has temporarily reduced their staff by two-thirds. There is currently no known time frame for how long the government shutdown could last, but previous shutdowns have ranged from 1 to 21 days.

See Zero Hedge, Centre for Research on Globalization, Jan 22 2018

Al Iacobelli, former Fiat Chrysler labor relations executive, pleaded guilty on Monday to giving away over $1.5 million to high-up UAW members. Iacobelli admitted that the funds were given in an attempt to win the union’s favor over the course of the party’s relationship. The money was partially used to pay off the vice president of the union General Holiefield’s mortgage, who was directly responsible for negotiating with Chrysler on behalf of the workers. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax violations and may face up to 8 years in a federal prison.

See Ed White, The News Tribune, Associated Press, Jan 22 2018

A federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania recently decided that the Democratic National Committee overstepped it’s authority when they sent a dispute between the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98 and multiple news outlets to arbitration. The dispute arose in 2016 when an agreement was signed between the union and the DNC stating that IBEW electricians would be responsible for any work that was needed during Philadelphia convention. The court determined that several broadcast networks used their own electricians during the convention, and the parties agreed to settle the issue through arbitration, allowing the union to seek damages. Eventually, the arbitrator determined that the case was not arbitrable, and the DNC and broadcast stations both filed motions to dismiss the case. Judge Pratter granted the motions, leaving it up to the courts to decide the outcome.

See P.J. Dannunzio , The Legal Intelligencer, Jan 22 2018

The results of a representation election for newsroom employees at the Los Angeles Times were tallied this Friday, and the result was an overwhelming 248 to 44 vote in favor of a union. The journalists will be represented by the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America, a D.C. based labor union. The organizing drive began in October of last year, and the election was held earlier this month. The NewsGuild represents 25,000 journalists, reporters, and editors across the country, including employees at other major news outlets like the Washington Post and the New York Times. This is the first time that the historically anti-labor newspaper voted in favor of a union, and according to the staff organizing committee, it was prompted by years of high upper-level management turnover, cutbacks, and advertising declines.

See James Rufus Koren, Los Angeles Times, Jan 19 2018

The NLRB issued an official complaint against the Hyatt Regency Chicago earlier this week, concerning the Hotel’s possible tracking of guests and employees using facial recognition software. The initial complaint was submitted by UNITE HERE Local 1 in September, which represents about 800 employees at the Hyatt Regency. According to state law, it is illegal for companies to gather biometric data without first getting consent. The union is alleging that this is a failure to bargain in good faith, but Hyatt denied that they were breaking any laws.

See Greg Trotter, Chicago Tribune, Jan 19 2018

The United Steel Workers of America plans to launch a card drive on Monday among University of Pittsburgh’s Oakland campus faculty members. Over the last two years, the USW has been organizing part-time faculty members on Pitt’s Oakland, Greensburg, Titusville, Bradford, and Johnstown campuses. The issues driving this campaign range from academic freedom to lack of adequate compensation and job security among adjunct professors. Just last month, 2,000 Pitt graduate student teaching and research assistants petitioned for representation under the same union, although an election has yet to be scheduled.

See Debra Erdley, Tribe Live, Jan 19 2018

General Counsel for the NLRB Peter Robb might launch a significant overhaul of the Labor Board’s operations. Robb told regional directors on January 11 that he was considering consolidating the 26 regional offices into districts that would be supervised by officials reporting directly to the general counsel, Robb himself. Some are worried that this maneuver is intended to take away power from the regional offices, who could require approval from official regional directors to issue complaints and dismissals of unfair labor practice cases.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jan 17 2018

Donald Trump has nominated John Ring to fill the vacancy left by Phil Miscimarra whose term ended in December. Ring is a business-side labor relations attorney who works for the firm Morgan Lewis and Bockius, which has advised the Trump Organization on taxes since 2005. If confirmed by the Senate, his appointment will ensure a Republican majority on the board, and his term would be for five years.

See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Jan 17 2018

Yesterday workers at a food packaging warehouse in the Bronx unanimously voted in favor of a strike, according to the president of Teamsters Local 202, Danny Kane. In a public statement, Kane told reporters that the workers deserve a 3 percent raise, and they planned to walk out at midnight on Tuesday. The warehouse packages more than half of the produce for the entire tri-state area.

See Roger Stern, CBS New York, Jan 17 2018

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which excludes any enterprise owned and operated by an Indian tribe and located on a reservation from the definition of an employer. The proposed bill would still need to pass through Senate and then the White House before it became law. Given the failure of similar bills dating back as far as 2004, many suspect the bill will have difficulty getting approved by Senate. The NLRA still currently applies to Indian-owned businesses operating on reservations.

See The National Law Review, Jan 12 2018

A new development in one of the most expensive NLRB cases in history is widely anticipated within the labor movement. The case involves a complaint filed in 2014 against McDonald’s claiming that the company should be held accountable for unfair labor practices perpetrated by franchisees. The retaliatory actions were taken against employees who participated in strikes as part of the Fight for $15 movement. In December the labor board’s new general counsel Peter Robb wrote a memo indicating his intent to change the direction of many of his predecessor’s initiatives, and while he most likely wouldn’t be able to drop the case altogether, many people within the labor community expect that he will seek to settle the case.

See Lydia DePillis, CNN Money, Jan 12 2018

The president of Pittsburgh’s police union Robert Swartzwelder accused the city of discrimination on the basis of anti-union animus. The allegation stems from an email for which he was disciplined where he criticized the U.S. Attorney’s office’s prosecution of an officer convicted of police brutality. The incident happened while an officer was working off-duty as a security guard for Landmark Event Services, a company that provides security for Heinz Field. Swartzwelder’s email sent to members in May said that the convicted officer was unfairly prosecuted and warned against taking off-duty employment at Heinz Field. He was reprimanded for the email and required to attend counseling, but Swartzwelder says that his speech was protected under law. A phone conference has been scheduled by the labor board for February 13, and if an impasse is reached a hearing will take place on April 23.

See Bob Bauder, Tribune-Review, Jan 12 2018

An NLRB decision on Tuesday concluded that Cayuga Medical Center retaliated against two nurses in 2016 after they started an organizing drive. The nurses, Anne Marshall and Loran Lamb, were illegally fired after engaging in union organizing activity at the hospital. According to the decision, management subjected Lamb to threats she was prohibited from taking part in any kind of union activities. Marshall was demoted from her position and also suspended for her activities. According to CMC, the nurses were suspended due to failure to follow protocol, but coworkers testified that both did their jobs correctly.

See Sarah Mearhoff, Ithaca Journal, Jan 10 2018

Two years ago the UAW won it’s first victory of a foreign-owned automaker in the US when it organized skilled workers at the Chattanooga Volkswagen plant in a 108 to 44 vote in favor of representation. After the election, Volkswagen went on the offensive and announced that it would fight any Labor Board decision to recognize a unit that did not include all hourly-wage production workers at the plant. The company refused to bargain with the unit, and the UAW promptly filed an unfair labor practice complaint, which Volkswagen appealed. A December ruling by Trump’s NLRB that reversed a prior ruling in the case Specialty Healthcare is helping Volkswagen’s case by increasing the size requirement for bargaining units. Following the reversal, the D.C. Circuit Court send Volkswagen’s appeal back to be decided by the Labor Board to be decided with consideration for the new standard. The UAW is expected to take a loss in the case, and the union vote will likely be overturned.

See Chris Brooks, Labor Notes, Jan 10 2018

The national decline in union power has led an increase in nonunion worker organizations with a mission to help low-wage employees. More than 200 of these organizations exist nationwide, and a New York City law passed last year is helping organizers gain traction using this model. According to the law, fast food workers who wish to contribute to a nonprofit, nonunion labor organization can insist that their employer deduct money from their paychecks if they get 500 or more employees to agree to contribute. The group Fast Food Justice announced on Wednesday that they have received 1,300 signatures of employees across New York who have agreed to pledge $13.50 a month to their cause. The organization will not bargain with employers, but rather push for things like higher minimum wages, affordable housing, immigration reform, public transit improvements, and better police-community relations. There has been some backlash against this type of organizing, however, and the legal arm of the National Restaurant Association is suing in federal court to overturn the law. Fast Food Justice and other organizers utilizing this law in New York are hoping to inspire similar efforts across the country.

See Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, Jan 10 2018

The NLRB held a representation election on Thursday for newsroom employees at the L.A. Times. Roughly 40 journalists spearheaded organization efforts last year with the help of the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America. Election results are expected to be released on January 19th. Organizers are fighting for regular raises, better benefits, greater job security.

See Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times, Jan 5 2018

On Thursday Teamsters local 350 put in a request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asking them to reconsider their ruling last month in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors Ltd that overturned a 2015 ruling in Browning-Ferris. Both cases involved a dispute over the standard for deciding joint employment in areas such as franchises and subsidiaries of large corporations. It remains unclear when or if the NLRB will change its decision to remand Browning-Ferris.

See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Jan 5 2018

The NLRB has dropped a complaint against Honeywell that was initially filed in 2017 for a 10-month lockout of workers at their South Bend and Buffalo, New York plants that ended in February of last year. The company would have had to appear in court in May 2018 to determine the amount owed in damages, which has been estimated at around $20 million. UAW Local 9 said in a press release that they blame Trump’s appointee for General Counsel Peter Robb for the dismissal.

See Mark Peterson, 16 WNDU, Jan 5 2018

Workers in New York are enjoying a wage increase as Governor Cuomo’s 2016 $15 minimum wage and paid family leave law are gradually taking effect. Starting on New Year's Eve, the minimum wage for most New York City workers increased from $11 to $13 an hour. People working for businesses with fewer than 10 employees are enjoying a $1.50 increase in their wages, raising the bar to $12 an hour. Minimum wage workers in the suburbs and upstate also received a pay increase for the New Year. New York City will be the first district to see the full effect of the law, and on December 31st, 2018 the official minimum wage for all city workers will be $15. Long Island and Westchester will follow in 2021, and legislators are still determining a timeline for the rest of the state. The new paid family leave law also took effect on January 1st, which guarantees paid time off to workers after having a child or to take care of a relative with a health condition.

See Glenn Blain, Daily News, Jan 3 2018

On December 26th, the National Labor Relations Board affirmed local administrative judge David Goldman’s ruling that Cayuga Medical Center (CMC) illegally retaliated against employees who were engaging in union organizing activities. The case involved a number of nurses who were seeking to organize with SEIU Local 1199 beginning in the Spring of 2015. The original investigation found that CMC’s code of conduct was overly broad, but the hospital is continuing to reject these claims.

See Kelsey O’Connor, Ithaca Voice, Jan 3 2018

An administrative law judge in Chicago ruled that the city’s police department broke state labor law when it failed to negotiate with the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police when it extended the use of body cameras. The Honorable Anna Hamburg-Gal ordered that the city open a dialog with the union to discuss safety and disciplinary issues surrounding the expansion of the body camera program. However, the decision does not reverse any disciplinary actions taken as a result of body camera footage, only halting future discipline until the city and the police union can negotiate the terms of the expanded program.

See Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune, Jan 3 2018

Auto workers at a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee might lose their union status as a result of an NLRB reversal last week that forces unions to organize larger bargaining units. In 2014, the UAW lost when it tried to organize all workers at the plant, but in 2015 it won an election for a smaller group of workers who fix and maintain equipment. When Volkswagen refused to bargain with the union, the UAW filed un an unfair labor practice complaint that was approved by the board, and the case is now in the appeals court. The NLRB has put in a request to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to send the case back to them so that they can reconsider the appropriateness of the bargaining unit’s size.

See Mike Pare, Times Free Press, Dec 22 2017

A regional labor board ruled that graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania will be able to vote on whether or not they want to be represented by a union. GET-UP, the organization that has been leading organizing efforts at the university, initially excluded the Wharton School of business and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences from their proposed bargaining unit. The regional board, however, said that those students should have a say on whether to unionize. As of yet, a date has not been set for the election.

See Avi Wolfman-Arent, WHYY, Dec 22 2017

Republicans in Florida are pushing for House Bill 25, which proposes to decertify any union in which 50 percent of workers don’t pay dues. As a right to work state, workers in Florida are not required to pay dues to a union, even if they benefit from representation. Florida state representative Scott Plakon introduced the bill, which if passed, would disproportionately impact women who make up the majority at the unions that would be targeted.

See Michael Arria, In These Times, Dec 22 2017

The NTEU union, which represents many IRS employees, says that the passage of the new tax bill will add new responsibilities to the already overstretched agency. In addition to the normal preparations for the upcoming tax filing season, the IRS will need to educate taxpayers and business so that they can understand and comply with the new legislation. The union says it is Congress’ responsibility to ensure that they have enough resources to successfully implement the new bill, but years of budget cuts have substantially reduced the agency’s workforce. Since 2010, the IRS has lost more than 20,000 full-time employees, which has led to declines in customer service, fewer audits, and greater security vulnerabilities as a result of outdated technology.

See Fedweek, Dec 20 2017

Mayor Bill de Blasio is under attack by multiple labor organizations after his trip to Iowa on Tuesday, just weeks after his reelection. The mayor’s office released a statement saying that the reason for the trip was to meet with other mayors and activists regarding the recent tax bill and that New Yorkers deserve a seat at the table in the national conversation on this issue. However, public outcry against the mayor’s trip is significant, and many citizens and labor leaders say he is neglecting local issues to focus on a national agenda. The Patrolman’s Benevolent Association is sending representatives to protest de Blasio’s attendance at a fundraiser for an Iowa-based advocacy group, claiming the mayor is no “friend to labor”. Meanwhile, the Transport Workers Union of America is launching a billboard campaign against de Blasio in Des Moines, Iowa.

See Reena Roy, CBS New York, Dec 20 2017

Mayo Clinic’s Alberta Lea hospital in Minnesota has locked out unionized employees after they staged a demonstration on Dec. 19. The hospital has brought in temporary workers on a 7-day contract to replace 79 nursing assistants, housekeepers, and other workers. The dispute initially began when Mayo made across-the-board changes to its employees’ benefit packages. The SEIU, who represent the locked out workers, says that their failure to bargain over the changes was against the terms of the workers’ contracts. The lockout will continue until the 26th of this month, and negotiations will resume shortly after on December 28th.

See Alex Kacik , Modern Health Care, Dec 20 2017

In the wake of Teva Pharmaceutical’s plan to lay off 1,700 Israeli workers— a quarter of the country’s entire workforce— the Israeli government is not considering punitive measures against the company. Instead, leaders will work with Teva, one of the country’s few multinational corporations, to reduce layoffs as much as possible. The government has already dealt out billions in tax breaks to Teva, and there is widespread animosity toward the company as employees are bracing to pay the price for top-management errors. An official close to Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the government understands the financial predicament that Teva is in. Despite claiming that Netanyahu takes a free market approach, the anonymous source revealed that officials plan to meet with CEO Kare Schultz later this week, presumably to discuss further government assistance.

See David Wainer and Yaccov Benmeleh, Bloomberg, AP, Dec 18 2017

In the wake of Teva Pharmaceutical’s plan to lay off 1,700 Israeli workers— a quarter of the country’s entire workforce— the Israeli government is not considering punitive measures against the company. Instead, leaders will work with Teva, one of the country’s few multinational corporations, to reduce layoffs as much as possible. The government has already dealt out billions in tax breaks to Teva, and there is widespread animosity toward the company as employees are bracing to pay the price for top-management errors. An official close to Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the government understands the financial predicament that Teva is in. Despite claiming that Netanyahu takes a free market approach, the anonymous source revealed that officials plan to meet with CEO Kare Schultz later this week, presumably to discuss further government assistance.

See David Wainer and Yaccov Benmeleh, Bloomberg, AP, Dec 18 2017

After four months of bargaining, the professional health-care union JNESO has ratified a three-year contract with the for-profit owners of St. Mary’s General Hospital in Passaic, New Jersey. The contract covers 270 nurses and 120 techs, who will receive wage increases each year for the duration of the contract. The two sides reached an agreement after hostile negotiations that included a strike authorization last month and an NLRB complaint filed against the hospital.

See Lindy Washburn, North Jersey, Dec 18 2017

Last Friday, the NLRB reversed a 2011 decision in Specialty Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Mobil that held an employer must demonstrate that the employees it seeks to include in a given bargaining unit share “an overwhelming community of interest” with the employees already in the unit suggested by the union. The decision made it easier for unions to organize employees by allowing them to focus on smaller groups of employees that share a specific occupation, rather than having to organize several different types of workers at a given facility. On Friday, in a 3-2 ruling in PCC Structurals, INC, the NLRB reverted to the original “community of interest” test, which determines the size and extent of a bargaining unit based on a broader set of factors. The reversal will make it substantially more difficult for unions to organize employees.

See Daniel B. Paternak, The National Law Review, Dec 18 2017

On Thursday, the NLRB overruled the 2015 Browning-Ferris decision that made employers potentially liable for violations carried out by their subcontractors and franchisees, saying the earlier decision was a “distortion of common law”. Organizations like the free-market Competitive Enterprise Institute, the National Retail Federation, and the National Restaurant Association commended the board’s move to distance companies’ from the potentially illegal actions taken by their subcontractors. The decision went through in a 3-2 vote, with Trump’s two new appointees Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel voting in favor along with outgoing Chairman Philip Miscimarra, who is set to leave on Sunday. Mark Gaston Pearce and Lauren McFerran, both Democrats, voted against the decision.

See Dave Boyer, The Washington Times, Dec 15 2017

After 22 months of stalled negotiations, West Chicago High School teachers staged a “grade-in” on Wednesday to express their support for union negotiators, and plan to hold a second one on December 20th. Roughly 25 teachers graded students’ work while others demonstrated outside of a bargaining session where union members presented their most recent counterproposal. The school board’s latest offer was for a three-year contract, and teachers are calling for a longer five-year agreement. In October a federal mediator was called in to try and bring an end to the negotiation talks, but while there has been some progress in recent rounds, president of the West Chicago Teachers Association Brad Larson said that they will likely be looking at final offers in the near future if negotiators don’t reach a breakthrough soon.

See Katlyn Smith, Daily Herald, Dec 15 2017

After the Irish Pilot’s Association threatened to strike on December 20th if Ryanair continued its refusal to recognize organized labor groups, the massive airline conceded and agreed to negotiate and sent out letters to pilot unions in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Italy, and Spain this Friday inviting them to talks. CEO Michael O’Leary has said that “hell would freeze over” before Ryanair workers unionized, but the threat a strike in the middle of holiday travel season was enough for him to finally change this longstanding policy. The low-cost airline giant has been long known for having poor labor relations, and this dramatic reversal of their anti-union policy has emboldened their workers, who will likely push for further concessions in the near future.

See Dara Doyle and Richard Weiss, Daily Herald, Bloomberg, Dec 15 2017

Israel’s national trade union, Histadrut, has announced a general strike will take place on Sunday in response to Teva Pharmaceuticals’ plan to lay off 10,000 workers. The world’s largest producer of generic drugs will be at a standstill all of Sunday, and according to the union’s chairman, the entire Israeli economy will stand in solidarity for half of the day, including government services, banks, and the airport. Histadrut is about 750,000 workers strong, and although their power has weakened somewhat in recent years, its massive base is still able to wield power over major areas of the economy.

See Yaacov Benmeleh, Bloomberg, Dec 14 2017

Greece’s economy is at a total standstill as workers participate in a 24 hour general strike to protest austerity measures that will continue after the end the third bailout package next year. The country has been fully dependant on international bailout funds since 2010, and leaders have been forced to impose tax increases, spending cuts, and other reforms after accepting billions of euros in emergency loans from European Union countries. State hospitals are only accepting emergency cases, and public transportation is widely unavailable across the country.

See Arab News, AP, Dec 14 2017

Amazon warehouse workers protested outside of the company’s NYC corporate offices on Wednesday to bring attention to what organizers are calling a human rights issue. The poor working conditions suffered by Amazon warehouse employees include unpredictable shifts that change daily, being forced to stand for ten hours with no breaks, and low wages. Although efforts to organize amazon workers have been unsuccessful so far, the drivers of this campaign want to make consumers aware of the costs that convenient online shopping comes at to workers.

See Joan Verdon, North Jersey, Dec 14 2017

On Tuesday the NLRB began its attack on yet another pro-labor policy and issued a Request for Information, asking for public opinion on a 2014 ruling that simplified the process for representation elections. The decision under attack reduced unnecessary delay in the election process and modernized agency procedures. If it’s rolled back, workers will have a harder time filing electronic election petitions. Ironically, the NLRB is encouraging electronic responses to the Request for Information, which can be found on their website at www.nlrb.gov.

See Common Dreams, Economic Policy Institute, Dec 13 2017

Last night, the Pennsylvania House rejected Senate Bill 166, which would have prohibited some public sector unions from using employers’ electronic payroll systems to let workers make voluntary donations to political action committees. Despite republican control of the house, enough moderate conservatives sided with democrats on this issue, and the Bill was shot down in a 102-90 vote. The Bill was supported by two powerful lobbying groups, the Commonwealth Foundation and the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs.

See Steve Esack, The Morning Call, Dec 13 2017

Labor unions and business representatives joined forces to rally at the Port of Vancouver commissioners meeting on Tuesday, urging port leaders not to cancel a lease with Vancouver Energy. The lease expires every three months, and is automatically renewed unless either party cancels the agreement. Vancouver Energy wants to build an oil terminal that will facilitate the transport of oil between ships and trains. The Washington State Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has strongly opposed the project for several years, and has unanimously recommended that the project proposal be denied. The commissioners will vote to make an official recommendation to Governor Jay Inslee, who ultimately has the final say over the project’s approval.

See Dameon Pesanti, The Columbian, Dec 13 2017

Japan’s shrinking population, booming economy, and remarkably low unemployment rate of 2.8 percent has lent itself well to introducing and increasing automation in food service and in hotels. One company runs a restaurant and a hotel where robotic chefs who make pancakes, serve soft-serve ice cream, fry donuts and pour mixed drinks while speaking pleasantries in Japanese; at the hotel, robots check guests in and help with luggage transport. The company’s CEO speculates that 70% of the jobs at Japan’s hotels will be using automation in five years, and that while it may take up to two years to recoup the investment cost, automated employees can work 24 hours a day without needing vacation, creating efficiencies. While Japan’s particular circumstances makes it more suitable for a highly automated economy, research from think tank McKinsey Global Institute suggests that 54% of the tasks in American restaurants and hotels could currently be automated. This trend could be worrisome for American workers, however, as the restaurant and hotel industries in America have been a bright spot for employment in recent years, adding more jobs for workers that have been displaced by automation in other industries, with an increase of 38 percent since 2000, and overtaking manufacturing jobs since 2013. The cost of automated production has dropped 40 percent since 2005, while labor increases in cost as several cities increase minimum wages. Business owners insist that automation will replace dirty, dangerous jobs in favor of humans providing better guest services, and that while technology may replace some jobs, it opens up others - that require education and trained troubleshooting skills. However, almost 80% of food service workers only have a high school diploma or less.

Nearly 55,000 employment agencies in Europe hire hundreds of thousands of temporary workers each year for cheap manual labor and service jobs for employers wanting both flexibility and avoidance of high labor costs. Manual labor jobs range from pouring concrete in France, picking vegetables in the United Kingdom, and working assembly lines in Eastern Europe. Workers are often paid as little as $4.10 an hour, less than minimum wage in some countries. Some agencies transport employees to other countries, house them, and provide transportation to job sites, before moving them when their contracts expire. European citizens are permitted to work anywhere in the 28-nation bloc, but European regulators are increasing scrutiny on employers who rely on outsourced short-term worker, due to concerns that basic labor protections - such as social security benefits and sick leave - are deteriorating. A third of Europeans are in atypical employment, ranging from Uber drivers to pilots. Companies such as Foxconn and Panasonic find employment agencies useful as the economic recovery has made finding low-cost labor difficult, resulting in agencies signing on migrant workers who may have little understanding that the contracts they sign, sometimes in a foreign language, may subject them to frequent overtime hours as well as being on call. Such workers are easily exploited, but support has been building for greater protections, with the European Commission proposing a new labor authority to fight questionable employment methods, while French President Macron wants stricter regional labor rules.

A grievance filed in 2016 against one of the world’s most successful hedge funds, Baupost Group, has revealed gender discrimination issues that women face in the often secretive hedge fund industry; at the same time, two of Baupost’s Boston neighbors in the financial services industry, Fidelity Investments and State Street Corp., are dealing with their own complaints concerning sexual harassment and pay inequality. The lucrative hedge fund industry oversees over $3 trillion in investments, with managers taking home a 20% cut of the profits. However, women are underrepresented in investment jobs but over-represented in support roles such as marketing. Women hold only 11 percent of senior roles at hedge funds, 21 percent of mid-level positions, and 26 percent of junior positions. 81 percent of women at alternative asset managers in North America report that it is harder for women to succeed, with 44 percent claiming that women are depicted as being more committed to personal lives than work. Baupost declined to comment on the particular case - which questioned Baupost’s record of retaining women after childbirth – but stated that the company works hard at promoting women into leadership roles, but has suffered from an industry-wide shortage of female applicants for investment positions.

Graduate students at the University of Pittsburg with the help of the United Steelworkers Union have been collecting authorization cards in support of a vote since February. If they receive 30% or more authorization cards they can petition the NLRB to hold an election in the spring semester. Nationwide, grad student organizing efforts have been flaring up, and the recent GOP tax bill has led some to take to the streets. A provision in the House tax bill classifies graduate student’s tuition, which is typically covered by the university in exchange for research and teaching, as taxable income. Many students will face a roughly 300% increase in taxable income, while their stipends for research and TA positions would remain stagnant.

See Sarah Schneider, WESA, Dec 8 2017

Gerawan Farms, California’s peach and grape farm giant, was finally defeated after a 25-year battle in court where they claimed they were not bound by the Mandatory Mediation Law, a provision of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act. United Farm Workers president Arturo Rodriguez said in a statement that after years of stalling, Gerawan Farming should immediately honor the union contract and pay its workers the $10 million it already owes them, according to a contract written by a neutral, third-party mediator.

See David Bacon, People’s World, Dec 8 2017

In a letter last week, current NLRB Regional Director Kathy Drew King dismissed claims that Trump has been using his position to silence his own employees. The letter states that the Board’s investigation found no evidence that the widely encompassing nondisclosure agreement that he passed was ever applied by Trump Organization Inc. to any employee covered by federal law.

See Robert Iafolla, Reuters, Dec 8 2017

The Trump administration on Wednesday submitted a brief in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, siding with the Illinois state employee who is challenging the right of unions to collect fair share fees from all represented employees regardless of whether or not they favor the union. Janus is receiving funding for legal fees from the conservative Bradley Foundation, which seeks to impose right-to-work laws in all 50 states. The brief, submitted by the Office of Solicitor General, is a stark departure from the office’s opinion under Obama in the 2016 case Friedrich's v. California Teachers Association, where they argued that public-employee fair share fees were legal. That case ended in a 4-4 deadlock after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, but Justice Neil Gorsuch has since taken his seat and it is widely anticipated that the court will rule in favor of Janus.

See Ian Kullgren, Politico, Dec 7 2017

The SEIU announced Thursday morning that they will hold a one-day strike on December 19. Seventy-nine SEIU housekeepers, CNAs, sterile processing staff and utilities and materials management workers will picket outside of Mayo Clinic Health System’s Albert Lea campus in Minnesota. The union has filed complaints with the NLRB since the two sides began negotiations in 2015, but the board recently sided with Mayo Clinic and dismissed the complaints. The issue at hand is a contract clause that permits Mayo to make changes to employee benefits without bargaining with the union. Mayo has threatened the workers with a Christmas lockout, but SEIU president Jamie Gulley said in a speech he has faith that the workers won’t be intimidated by threats from Mayo executives.

See Brett Boese, Post Bulletin, Dec 7 2017

Graduate Students at Georgetown will rally this afternoon in response to the university’s refusal to voluntarily recognize their graduate student union. Provost Robert Groves said in a statement earlier this week that the grad students’ relationship with the school is fundamentally educational, publicly rejecting the 2016 NLRB decision to expand the definition of an employee to include graduate students.

See Colleen Flaherty , Inside Higher Ed, Dec 7 2017