Workplace Issues Today
Senators in Ohio and Oregon have called for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to reject the import of cocoa that is being made with forced labor. An investigation conducted by the Washington Post uncovered that the Ivory Coast cocoa industry is still reliant on child labor. Following the publication of the aforementioned findings, two senators wrote letters to the CBP requesting that unethically produced cocoa be disallowed from entering the United States.
See Ayenat Mersie , Reuters, Jul 17 2019
Temperatures are rising rapidly, however, there are no federal guidelines that address working in extreme heat. The Occupation Safety and Health Administration has a number of recommendations regarding staying cool and safe when working in high temperature environments. These recommendations include implementing a buddy system and ensuring that new workers do not spend more than 20% of their first workday in the heat. Last week, representatives from Arizona and California introduced a bill that would require paid water breaks and access to water in dangerous heat conditions.
See Abdel Jimenez, The Chicago Tribune, Jul 17 2019
Governor Andrew Cuomo has just signed legislation that will advance farm workers’ labor rights. The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act gives workers the right to engage in collective bargaining and receive overtime pay, amongst other new protections. Additionally, the Act eradicates a New York state law that did not allow agricultural workers to unionize.
See WKBW Buffalo, Jul 17 2019
United Auto Workers and Detroit Three have just begun to engage in talks with Ford, GM, and Fiat Chrysler in order to produce new, four-year labor contracts. Recent plant closures and management scandals have created a tense bargaining environment. The key issues that will be addressed at the bargaining table include protecting factories and jobs, the role of temp workers, and health-care benefits.
See David Welch, Gabrielle Coppola, and Keith Naughton, Bloomberg LP, Jul 15 2019
A survey conducted by IHS Markit has shown that Italy’s business outlook has improved immensely this quarter. In fact, Italy’s outlook has improved more than any other country over the past four months. While survey participants reported optimism regarding future employment and capital expenditure, concerns about political uncertainty were reported, as well. The labor market has also shown improvements this quarter, with the employment rate rising to 59 percent.
See Gavin Jones , Reuters, Jul 15 2019
This year, Prime Day has proven itself to be an excellent marketing opportunity for U.S. retailers. Numerous retailers have begun offering sales that coincide with the dates of Prime Day. It appears that other retailers are “taking advantage” of Prime Day as a way to increase sales in July, and some have noted that the sales are beginning to rival Black Friday. However, at the same time, more than 2,000 Amazon workers are on strike in Germany, and many other protests have been planned across the U.S. and Europe. Workers are protesting poor pay and working conditions by engaging in work stoppages.
See Melissa Fares , Reuters, Jul 15 2019
A judge has ordered unions representing mechanics who work for American Airlines to fine workers whose actions result in flight delays. This order was issued to force mechanics to discontinue work slowdowns. The collective action that employees have been engaging in is part of an ongoing battle between the unions and the airline. Employees are upset about delayed contract discussions and have been protesting by engaging in slowdowns and using other tactics to disrupt airline operations.
See Dan Reed, Forbes, Jul 12 2019
Unionized Kaiser mental health workers in California have rejected their latest contract offer. Management officials have expressed disappointment, while the union is pushing greater benefits for employees and more reasonable working conditions. 88 percent of employees in the bargaining unit voted to reject the contract, stating that it did not truly address the issues that are most concerning for employees- including long wait times and unmanageable caseloads. Clinicians are asking Kaiser to hire additional staff immediately, and resume talks.
See Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, The Vallejo Times Herald, Jul 12 2019
On Thursday, Amazon announced that it will be spending hundreds of millions of dollars to train 100,000 employees for higher-skilled positions. Training programs will be available for employees all over the company. Additionally, employees will be able to choose from a number of programs. Amazon also has plans to help warehouse employees pay for degrees in high demand fields. All of this training will be done in an effort to retain employees, in an increasingly tight job market.
See Amy Scott , National Public Radio, Jul 12 2019
Thousands of Walmart employees in Chile have gone on strike to protest automation. Workers are insisting that they receive compensation for the additional demands of their jobs that have accompanied automation. As a result of technology in stores, cashiers now have to do other things, such as stock shelves. Walmart has requested to resume talks with the union.
See Laura Millan Lombrana, Bloomberg, Jul 10 2019
The former CEO of Uber is exploring investment opportunities in South Korea’s rapidly expanding food-delivery market. South Korea has the world’s fourth largest market for online food-delivery. The massive amount of food deliveries has given rise to “cloud kitchens” which are restaurants that exclusively prepare food for online delivery. This new food industry is threatening the traditional restaurant industry and changing how restaurant-prepared food is consumed by customers.
See Heekyong Yang & Hyunjoo Jin , Reuters, Jul 10 2019
General Electric’s machinists rejected a tentative labor agreement this week. Union leaders stated that the contract presented by GE was a “concessionary contract.” Over the last year, GE has laid off thousands of employees which has caused labor tensions. The union that rejected an agreement this week hopes that this rejection will encourage more talks, and a greater agreement for workers that includes higher wages and better benefits.
See Alwyn Scott , Reuters, Jul 10 2019
Amazon warehouse employees in Minnesota are planning a Prime Day strike. The plan to strike endures, despite Amazon’s promise to raise wages to a minimum of $15 per hour for all employees. Prime Day and Black Friday strikes have been common in Amazon warehouses abroad, however, a major shopping day strike has not yet occurred in the U.S. Organizers have stated that Amazon has failed to satisfy worker demands, and Amazon has declined requests for comments on this issue.
See Spencer Soper , Bloomberg, Jul 8 2019
As a result of the dispute over forced wartime labor, Japan has placed tighter export curbs on three materials that are used to produce smartphone parts. The materials that have been curbed are fluorinated polyimides, photoresists, and hydrogen fluoride. A number of South Korean tech companies, and their employees will be impacted by this move. The country relies heavily on Japan for these materials, as Japan dominates the three aforementioned markets.
See Makiko Yamazaki & Heekyong Yang & Ju-min Park , Reuters, Jul 8 2019
In a recent labor dispute at the Guthrie Theater, the NLRB has ordered the theater to “cease and desist” from unfair labor practices. A judge has found the theater guilty of both threatening and punishing employees who were involved in collective activity. Employees were also punished for speaking out against harassment occurring at the theater. Further, numerous members of the theater’s management team failed to give consistent testimony.
See Marianne Combs , MPR News, Jul 8 2019
The percentage of companies that allow their employees to bring their pets to work is steadily increasing. In 2014 only 4% of workplaces reported that workers were encouraged to bring their pets to work, compared with 9% in 2018. However, in order for a pet-friendly office to be successful it is important to create pet policies prior to inviting animals into the workspace. In addition to creating policies regarding animal behavior, managers should be sensitive to the needs of employees who are not comfortable with having animals in the office.
See Andrea Yu, The Globe and Mail, Jul 5 2019
In June 224,000 jobs were added to the U.S. labor market, which has caused the unemployment rate to increase as more people begin to seek employment. In Pittsburgh, the labor market has grown- however, employers are struggling to find workers to fill new positions. The labor market is particularly tight as young adults are preoccupied with school and other enriching opportunities which have driven them away from summer work. In response to this challenge, employers have shifted towards recruiting older Americans and have ultimately had to raise wages.
See Amanda Parrish, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jul 5 2019
While summer employment used to be the norm for America’s youth, young people today are attending summer classes and engaging in a variety of extracurricular activities, rather than working. In the summer of 2018, only 40% of U.S. teens were participants in the labor market; in 1980, nearly 70% of teens held summer jobs. It does seem that summer courses are a significant factor in teens’ decision not to work, as the percentage of teens enrolled in summer classes has increased from 10% in 1980 to 45% in 2018. As employers seek to fill open positions, they are beginning to target older demographics with their recruitment efforts.
See Kate Rogers & Nick Wells , CNBC, Jul 5 2019
A new study has found that members of the LGBT+ community in Britain, earn an average of £7,000 pounds less than their straight counterparts, annually. The study that found this average, surveyed over 4,000 people. Nearly two-thirds of study participants stated that they have felt uncomfortable about their sexuality or gender identity- perhaps businesses should do more to ensure that they are cultivating an inclusive workplace for all of their employees.
See The Irish Times, Jul 3 2019
The President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, promised to provide jobs for migrants who are seeking asylum in the U.S. However, some businesses are demanding that migrants complete background checks prior to being employed. Because many of the individuals seeking asylum are fleeing Central America due to violence and poverty, employers have demanded that the government conduct background checks to ensure that criminals and gang members are not being hired. Additionally, many firms along the border are required to employ people who have completed background checks due to the Customs Trade Partnership Against Terrorism.
See Lizbeth Diaz & Anthony Esposito , Reuters, Jul 3 2019
Women have made up around 39% of the global labor force for the last 30 years. Recent research at the McKinsey Global Institute has found that automation will displace men and women equally, however, women may have a more difficult time transitioning into new jobs due to the obstacles that exist for women in the workplace. Because labor fields are so often segregated by gender, and most of the new jobs that are being created are in traditionally male dominated fields, women may have a more difficult time finding new job opportunities and remaining employed. The key to attaining job opportunities for women in the future will be the acquisition of skills- the majority of jobs moving forward will require advanced degrees, especially in STEM fields.
See Anu Madgavkar, Mekala Krishna, Kweilin Ellingrud, The Harvard Business Review, Jul 3 2019
In 2017, more than 18,000 workplace assaults and 458 workplace homicides were reported, according to the National Safety Council. OSHA considers, “…any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site,” to be workplace violence. Despite the increasing risk of violence in the workplace, risk reduction is not a priority of many businesses. In order to combat violence, it is important that employers take this issue seriously and implement policies that can be referenced in the event that violence does occur.
See Ivy Walker , Forbes, Jul 1 2019
Airbnb has recently joined a number of other companies, including Netflix and Google, in creating a strict dating policy. According to the new policy, employees are only allowed to ask a coworker out on a date once. Additionally, this person cannot be in the same “chain of management” meaning that employees are not allowed to ask a boss or team member out. This policy is intended to prevent harassment, which harms employees and companies, alike.
See James Wellemeyer, The New York Post, Jul 1 2019
Higher temperatures caused by climate change may lead to the loss of 80 million jobs by 2030. These job losses would disproportionately impact poor countries which rely heavily on agriculture. Higher temperatures mean that people are not able to work as long due to heat stress concerns. When people are not able to work as much, this leads to a drop in productivity which costs the global economy trillions of dollars. The World Health Organization has estimated that heat stress will cause over 30,000 extra deaths each year between 2030 and 2050.
See Lin Taylor , Reuters, Jul 1 2019
Maintenance workers and art installers at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum have just voted to join the International Union of Operating Engineers. Despite museum management’s attempts to dissuade workers from unionizing, the union will represent nearly 150 employees. Employees have stated that a museum official sent an email earlier this week, stating his belief that a union will create division between workers and management. Employees were motivated to unionize in order to bargain for higher wages.
See Colin Moynihan, The New York Times, Jun 28 2019
South Korea has decreased the number of hours that employees are legally allowed to work, from 68 to 52 hours per week. According to Goldman Sachs Group Inc., this new legal expectation may decrease economic growth by 0.3 percent in 2020. Many are concerned that the country will have a difficult time making up for lost productivity. The new legislation was an important part of President Moon Jaein’s plan, despite the negative impact that it may have on the economy.
See Jiyeun Lee, Bloomberg LP, Jun 28 2019
Currently, the data collection industry in China is thriving as the demand for data has increased. Large amounts of data are being collected in order to pursue AI technology goals. A U.S. based firm that specializes in AI has estimated that the market for data grew 66% in 2018. While there are concerns regarding privacy laws and labor treatment, it seems that this growth is creating economic opportunities in many parts of the world, including rural China.
See Cate Cadell , Reuters, Jun 28 2019
Amsterdam has an incredibly tight labor market, and many businesses have been struggling to fill unwanted job openings. In 2016, government officials began implementing the “Amsterdam Approach” which is intended to help refugees integrate into the community, and fill job vacancies. Through this program, refugees are able to learn Dutch language, find emotional support, education, and employment. While the program has been largely successful, there are many job vacancies that the program isn’t capable of filing immediately due to training requirements.
See Ruben Munsterman, Bloomberg LP, Jun 26 2019
A construction worker in California has been sentenced to over eight years in jail, for forcing immigrant workers to work for him. The man has been convicted of making unregistered, immigrant workers live in inhumane conditions. Allegedly, the man threatened the immigrant workers when they brought up complaints regarding their conditions. Additionally, he has been court ordered to pay back over $900,000 in unpaid wages.
See The Washington Times, Jun 26 2019
Following a rapid economic downturn after the currency crisis, the unemployment rate in Turkey is incredibly high. The recession that began last year, was the result of many years of construction projects that were funded by foreign credit. The current unemployment rate is around 14.7%, or nearly 4.5 million people who do not have a job. While the Turkish government is trying to remedy the economic woes, economists anticipate that high unemployment will continue to be an issue for the next several months.
See Ezgi Erkoyun Ali Kucukgocmen , Reuters, Jun 26 2019
The United Steelworkers Union has accused Tesla of firing pro-union workers at its plant in Buffalo, New York. Allegations made against the firm, insist that employees were fired due to their union affinity; and in one case the union claims that Tesla attempted to interfere with an employee’s ability to find a new job. The NLRB is currently investigating these allegations, made by only one of two unions striving to organize the Buffalo plant employees. Tesla has claimed that these allegations are “without merit” and that the firm intends to follow the NLRB’s process.
See Matt Glynn, The Buffalo News, Jun 24 2019
Due to the expensive housing market in Boulder County, Colorado; farmers struggle to hire an affordable workforce. However, a local property which contains a large housing facility may be able to be repurposed in order to house farmhands. The facility has hosted laborers in the past, and with additional renovation it is possible that it could help farmers recruit a larger labor pool. Residents in the farming community are also interested in exploring other inexpensive agricultural worker housing options, in order to keep local farms operational.
See Sam Lounsberry, The Denver Post, Jun 24 2019
The United Steelworkers Union has scheduled a meeting in order to start organizing Carnegie Library employees. Workers' primary concerns include higher wages, fair salary raises, and increased benefits. The union believes that one of the challenges in this particular organization, will be securing a voice for employees in the library’s decision-making process. In the 1970s, a union attempted to organize library employees and failed. However, there is now a model for unionizing libraries to follow which makes employees and the union appear more hopeful.
See John Hayes, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Jun 24 2019
On the last day of the ILO’s annual conference, the UN introduced a convention intended to combat harassment and violence in the workplace. This convention began being discussed a few years ago, and has been largely influenced by the #MeToo movement. Key aspects of the treaty include protecting employees from violence and harassment in all areas- including work-related trips and social events. According to ILO records, all but six governments voted in favor of the convention.
See Stephanie Nebehay , Reuters, Jun 21 2019
A bonded worker in an Indian textile factory whose child passed away as a result of unsafe factory conditions has received compensation. This individual was given over $4,000 U.S. dollars, after his daughter was electrocuted in his workplace. The owner of the factory required that the child was left in the factory, while her parents went into the village. In this way, the factory owner was keeping the child as “collateral” in order to ensure her parents’ return. Despite a ban, thousands of people are trapped in labor bondage in India.
See Anuradha Nagaraj, Reuters, Jun 21 2019
Workers at the Faurecia auto supplier plant in Saline, recently reached a contract deal following a brief strike on Friday. The strike began as soon as the old contract had expired. The union was able to reach an agreement shortly after the strike began, and workers have returned to the plant. The French-owned auto supplier makes parts for major companies including Ford and Tesla.
See Ian Thibodeau & Breana Noble, Detroit News, Jun 21 2019
Transportation workers in Santa Clara County, represented by the Amalgamated Transit Union, intend to vote on a proposed contract on Wednesday. The union has stated that if members reject the agreement, a strike may be announced by Thursday. In April, the South Bay Labor Council granted the union approval to strike. However, the union is required to give the transportation authority at least 48 hours notice prior to engaging in collective action- which then requires further approval from the governor’s office.
See Erin Baldassari, The Mercury News, Jun 19 2019
On Wednesday, South Korea announced that a fund for forced wartime laborers was proposed to Japanese officials. The two countries have been involved in a lengthy dispute recently over forced labor that occurred during World War Two. In order to compensate families impacted by labor rights violations that took place during the war, South Korea has proposed the creation of a fund that Japan would contribute to. Japanese foreign ministry officials have rejected this proposal, stating that the fund is not an appropriate solution.
See Hyonhee Shin , Reuters, Jun 19 2019
New research has found that only one day of work per week is required for “optimal well-being.” It is understood that unemployment negatively impacts an individual’s sense of well-being and purpose. A study conducted by sociologists, who surveyed over 70,000 people in the UK, suggests that in order to achieve the benefits associated with working, one only needs to engage in work for one day each week. Additional work has not been found to be associated with greater benefits.
See Bloomberg Business, Jun 19 2019
The New Rules Summit, which was recently hosted by The New York Times, encouraged participants to propose changes in order to create a more equitable workplace. Topics discussed included creating a better workplace for women by exemplifying women in leadership positions, and retaining employees by being more flexible. Additionally, participants recommended creating accountability and real diversity in the workplace. Summit attendees included leaders from a wide variety of organizations, authors, and professors.
See The New York Times, Jun 17 2019
The Japanese diet recently passed a power harassment bill, that mandates that organizations prevent this type of workplace harassment from taking place. Power harassment has been defined as bullying/abuse that is committed by individuals who have power within their organization. The penalties for being found guilty of power harassment are severe- companies’ names are publicized in extreme cases. However, some fear that the ministry should provide more examples of what power harassment is, in order to make it more distinct from general job instruction.
See Yomiuri Shimbun, The Japan News, Jun 17 2019
Police have rescued 27 children, who were working in a biscuit factory in India. The factory was raided, following a tip that the police received regarding concerns that children may have been laboring in the factory. The biscuit company, Parle Products, has stated that it has regulations against using child labor and intends to investigate the factory- which is run by a different organization. Additionally, the company intends to audit all of its factories that are operated by outside organizations. A child welfare employee has stated that the children were working 12 hours a day in the factory, running machines and preparing biscuit packages.
See Anuradha Nagaraj , Reuters, Jun 17 2019
Penn State is kicking off the second phase of the “Workday project” at the beginning of next week. This new phase includes revamping the University’s recruitment strategy, by collaborating with other administrative entities to implement a more strategic “talent acquisition” model. One of the primary goals of the project is to increase awareness of new positions and career opportunities.
See Penn State News, Jun 14 2019
On Friday, a Belgian court decided that Ryanair employees are covered by local labor laws. This ruling is considered a win for Ryanair workers, as it sets the precedent that workers should be covered under whichever court suits their needs. A multitude of strikes that occurred last year, prompted this ruling as employees were upset by the labor laws that were being applied to them. Ryanair has released a statement, asserting that the court ruling will not set a precedent.
See Daphne Psaledakis, Reuters, Jun 14 2019
Thousands of workers at a major copper mine in Chile, have ceased work in response to an inadequate labor contract offer proposal. While investors are focused on trade wars and other tensions, a sustained strike at the copper mine would have a significant impact on global markets. Evidently, a sustained stoppage at the mine could mean that copper plummets into a greater deficit. However, investors are not concerned at this point because the strike is not expected to endure for much longer.
See Laura Millan Lombrana, Bloomberg LP, Jun 14 2019
Approximately 218 million children are working, many of them in unfree or dangerous conditions. In order to address this issue fully, businesses and nonprofits must work together to remove children from the workplace while avoiding detrimental economic consequences for impoverished families. Child labor reduces consumer costs and increases profits, however, today the ethics regarding labor are shifting- consumers are becoming more concerned with ethical supply chains. In order to create sustainable change, it is crucial to create opportunities for community development in order to ensure that children who are removed from the workplace, do not have to return to it.
See Craig Kielburger, Forbes, Jun 12 2019
A Thomson Reuters Foundation study that involved interviewing 100 female factory workers uncovered that all of the women participating in the study had been given pills to ease menstrual pain. More than half of the women experienced adverse side effects as a result of taking the pills. The painkillers were unmarked, and have been found to be non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are similar to ibuprofen. However, these drugs are known to have negative side effects if consumed frequently, which include depression and miscarriages. Activists are concerned that factory managers have too much control over the lives of their workers, as is illustrated by these findings. In response to this report, state officials intend to study the well-being of garment workers.
See Anuradha Nagaraj , Reuters, Jun 12 2019
A recent study conducted by Business Insider Japan has found that 60% of women in Japan experience employee dress codes that require heels. The study included a survey of 207 people, 184 of them women. Approximately 80 percent of the female participants expressed that wearing heels caused health problems, and a quarter of them recalled learning that heels were part of basic workplace etiquette. The Health, Labor and Welfare Minister has stated that he would not support a heel ban, due to his belief that heels are an important part of workplace decorum and social norms. Discussions took place on Tuesday, as proponents of the ban on workplace dress codes requiring heels, asserted their view that requiring heels is inappropriate.
See The Japan Times, Jun 12 2019
Recently, workers have been organizing at rapidly increasing rates. It is estimated that in 2018, 485,000 people partook in strikes involving work stoppages. Additionally, public support for collective action has increased tremendously. The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act has recently been introduced. It aims to protect employees from intimidation tactics used by employers to diminish organizing efforts. The Act would establish a process to ensure that unions are able to negotiate their first contract in a timely manner, prohibit permanent strike replacements, provide support to striking employees and penalize employers for failing to abide by labor laws.
See Alan Barber & Liz Watson, Workday Minnesota, Jun 10 2019
Nearly 4,000 mental health workers employed by Kaiser, cancelled a strike they had intended to start on Tuesday. Employees have been without a contract for months, and take issue with their wages and benefits. Additionally, employees would like their patients to have greater access to their services. The union representing mental health workers, The National Union of Healthcare Workers, has stated that the strike was cancelled due to recent progress that has occurred during contract negotiations.
See James F. Peltz, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 10 2019
Approximately eight months ago, Chicago hotel workers went on strike. Now, Hyatt has filed a suit against the union in an attempt to allow chefs to be involved in tasks typically completed by cooks. Evidently, there is a disagreement between management and the union regarding what level of control chefs should have over food preparation. The employees’ union has filed numerous suits against Hyatt due to chefs, who are managers, completing employee responsibilities. In 2018, an arbitrator evaluating this issue sided with the hotel. More recently, a different arbitrator found that only in the case of an emergency should management be allowed to intervene in the completion of employee tasks.
See Robert Channick, The Chicago Tribune, Jun 10 2019
Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee are attempting to unionize. In 2014, workers attempted to unionize and were stopped by GOP officials. Additionally, the bargaining unit was limited to hourly employees. The south is predominantly anti-union, aside from the Chattanooga plant the UAW has not been able to organize a foreign-owned assembly plant. This time around, all employees have been given a vote and it appears that a union win may be possible.
See Jonathan Mattise, The Washington Post, Jun 7 2019
Vox Media journalists staged a walk out on Thursday, in order to secure a new collective bargaining agreement. The journalists became unionized fairly recently, and the walk out is their most prominent display of labor activism. Despite becoming organized, the Vox employees have not yet been able to finalize a bargaining agreement. Vox management has declined to comment on the walk out, and has not addressed on the media website.
See Paul Farhi, The Washington Post, Jun 7 2019
Currently, Norway’s unionized energy workers have reached an impasse while negotiating wages. The union has stated that if an agreement is not reached by June 27, all 667 members will join rig workers on strike. In addition, the union has claimed that rigs could be negatively impacted by the strike. Also, Norway’s largest oil workers’ union intends to take nearly 1000 members on strike if an agreement is not reached via mediation.
See Reuters, Jun 7 2019
Germany’s service sector continues to grow, which is a sign that domestic labor is still contributing to growth in the economy. Currently, manufacturing is slowing down which has brought about concerns for the German economy. In the labor market specifically, job growth is at a three year low. The lagging labor market has just started to impact workers, with increasing unemployment for the first time in two years.
See Joseph Nasr, Reuters, Jun 5 2019
According to a report present in the journal Health Affairs, in 2017 immigrants made up more than 18% of U.S. healthcare workers. There is currently a shortage of elderly and disabled workers, and limits on immigration would likely increase this shortage. It is predicted that the elderly population will have doubled by 2050, making this an even more pressing concern. According to Dr. John W. Rowe, in the future the U.S. may be in a similar position as Japan due to a projected low birth rate and large elderly population.
See Linda Carroll , Reuters, Jun 5 2019
Currently, employees at the Nutella factory in Normandy, France are on strike. Not only has production ceased, but people have been blocked from entering or exiting the factory. A Nutella spokesperson has reassured customers that there is a large enough reserve to prevent a shortage. Employees are striking due to stalled wage negotiations- workers are demanding salary increases, bonuses, and better conditions.
See THERESA BRAINE , The New York Daily News, Jun 5 2019
Unionized Kaiser Permanente mental health workers decided to go on strike Monday, indefinitely. The strike is taking place as a result of patient care concerns that employees feel have not been addressed appropriately. The union representing the workers is currently negotiating a new contract that would ensure quicker wait times and additional access for patients who are seeking mental health services. Thus far, it appears that Kaiser has shown a willingness to negotiate with the union and has already taken steps to solve staffing issues and appointment scheduling constraints.
See Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, Jun 3 2019
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, 80% of canned tuna brands do not know where their fish is coming from- which puts workers at risk. Only seven firms are able to identify the entirety of their supply chains. Slavery is far too common in the fishing industry. Tuna companies are now being pressured to identify where their fish is coming from, and are failing to do so. The canned tuna industry is growing, and so is the slavery and violence associated with it.
See Lin Taylor, Reuters, Jun 3 2019
On Monday, graduate students at the University of Chicago officially began their strike for union recognition. As a result of the strike, some classes have been canceled. The Chicago Maroon encourages undergraduate students to support the strike by avoiding crossing the picket line, joining the strike, signing petitions, and avoiding telling the university which professors are supporting the strike. Additionally, undergraduate students have been encouraged to contact administration to encourage recognition of the graduate student union.
See Maroon Editorial Board , The Chicago Maroon, Jun 3 2019
The head of an oil workers union in Libya was released Thursday, after being held by security officials for nearly a month. The union leader was held for a “routine interrogation.” A week ago, the oil firm NOC, requested that he be released. The oil firm is based in Tripoli, which is still controlled by the country’s government.
See Ayman al-Warfalli & Ahmed Elumami, Reuters, May 31 2019
A Spanish company that produces leggings, recently had to pay more than $84,000 in fines related to violating compensation and child labor laws. Additionally, the firm was penalized for firing the employee who reported the violations to authorities. The owner of the firm, Legg-A-Licious, insists that the violations stem from a misunderstanding, and asserts that the employee was fired due to “performance issues.” The company’s owner also stated that she was unaware that employing individuals who were 13 years of age, was illegal.
See The Salt Lake Tribune, May 31 2019
Next week, members of the graduate student union at the University of Chicago are planning a work stoppage and protest in hopes of gaining University recognition of their organization. Graduate Students United voted to authorize the action last Monday. As of now, there is little information regarding strike specifics. Graduate students have cancelled their classes for the coming week due to the strike. Students have stated that during the strike, they will not be completing any of their typical tasks such as grading, answering emails, or engaging in research.
See Matthew Lee, The Chicago Maroon, May 31 2019
A nationwide “anti-austerity” strike is taking place in Argentina. This strike has grounded flights and brought grain ports to a standstill. Major transportation systems, schools, banks, and other public services are closed as the strike takes place. The economic crisis in Argentina has meant rapid inflation, accompanied by job losses. Unions representing public sector workers are demanding that the country increase wages in order to keep up with inflation.
See Nicolás Misculin , Reuters, May 29 2019
A union representing around 200 Norwegian oil workers has announced that workers intend to strike on June 4 if an agreement is not reached with management. A strike would stop halt production at two of seven offshore fields, at least. In accordance with Norway’s labor laws, a mediator is scheduled to work with the union and management and has set a deadline for negotiations. Norway is the largest oil producer in Western Europe, this strike would lead to significant losses if it were to occur.
See Terje Solsvik, Reuters, May 29 2019
The union representing Harrisburg School District teachers and negotiators for the district intend to meet in order to avoid a one-day strike at the end of this week. The union has decided to strike for one day, due to constraints regarding the amount of time teachers are allowed to engage in a work stoppage. Negotiations over the newest contract began around 17 months ago, and since then the union has accused management of not bargaining in good faith. The last time teachers in this district went on strike was in 1976.
See Jana Benscoter, Penn Live, May 29 2019
A family that owns a 7-Eleven franchise in Japan struggles to keep their business afloat. The owner of one store has stated that the works 500 hours each month. When his wife is at work with him, their children play in a backroom. As a result of the labor shortage in Japan, many franchise owners are struggling to keep their stores open. Less workers means less time spent with family members, and for one business owner it means long hours and frequent illness.
See Chunichi Shimbun, The Japan Times, May 27 2019
Reception and security workers at the Louvre went on strike Monday, in order to protest overcrowding and inadequate staffing. A rise in tourist numbers has occurred rapidly- with 20 percent more visitors touring the Louvre each year since 2009. As tourist numbers have increased, staff numbers have actually decreased. Louvre employees, many represented by a union, are demanding that the museum employs more people and introduces regulations that limit the number of people who can tour the museum at a time.
See The Local France, May 27 2019
This year workers at three different college campuses in Chicago went on strike. Currently, another strike is being authorized by graduate students at the University of Chicago. In an attempt to explain the increase in industrial activity seen amongst this population, some turn to statistics regarding unionization rates on college campuses. Since the 1970s, unions have grown in academia- university instructors have stated that they are starting to view themselves as laborers. Additionally, graduate students are starting to organize in order to secure higher wages and greater benefits. Many feel that unionization leads to greater accountability for colleges because it makes labor practices more visible.
See Dawn Rhodes, The Chicago Tribune, May 27 2019
Thailand has long struggled to protect workers in the fishing industry. In order to combat labor abuses, the government introduced a law that mandates basic rights for workers. However, labor activists are concerned that the law has loopholes that will make it difficult for the law to be enforced. One of the major complaints is that worker benefits are not well defined, it is not yet known how the adequacy of benefits will be assessed.
See Matt Blomberg , Reuters, May 24 2019
On Thursday, hundreds of McDonald’s workers staged a walkout in order to protest low wages and sexual harassment complaints. As a result of the walkout, some franchises have had to close temporarily. The strike was staged at this time in order to catch the attention of McDonald’s execs who are meeting with company shareholders in Dallas. Interestingly, the strike has gained the support of three Democrats who are running for presidential office in the 2020 election.
See Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, May 24 2019
A proposal sponsored by Lorena Gonzalez, that would allow striking workers to collect unemployment benefits, was just passed by the Assembly. Gonzalez, a former official of the AFL-CIO, recognizes that the longer a strike lasts, the more power the employer has. The bill would allow workers to collect benefits from weeks four through 26 of a strike. A letter written by the Chamber of Commerce raised many concerns about the bill. However, those who agree that the bill should be passed have stated that strikes are a “last resort” for workers- the bill should give employees greater leverage to avoid strikes.
See Wes Venteicher, The Sacramento Bee, May 24 2019
After nearly seven years of negotiations, Southwest Airlines mechanics have ratified a new contract. The new contract will give mechanics approximately $160 million in back pay, increase pay by 20 percent, and includes annual raises. The union has stated that the ratified agreement was approved of by more than 90 percent of union members. The major concession that the union made in order to achieve the desirable contract was allowing the firm to continue outsourcing some work to foreign contractors.
See Zach Wichter, The New York Times, May 22 2019
The New Haven teachers strike is entering into its fourth day, with summer break just around the corner. Students have not been attending school, due to classes being conducted by substitutes and administrators. On Tuesday, it is estimated that only 15 percent of the district’s students attended class, due to the strike. Some students have joined their teachers, out on the picket lines. Teachers are striking for a 10 percent wage increase- the union has stated that it is ready to bargain when management is ready to make a desirable offer.
See Joseph Geha, The East Bay Times, May 22 2019
Twenty-three new complaints of sexual harassment have been filed against McDonald’s. Most of these complaints have been filed with the EEOC, and three have been filed as civil rights suits. The complaints include inappropriate touching, and retaliation for reporting inappropriate conduct. Employees have stated that upon reporting sexual harassment, their scheduled work hours were reduced by managers. As a result of the company failing to take a strong stance against sexual harassment, inappropriate conduct continues. The firm has stated that it is committed to preventing sexual harassment, and is working to strengthen its current policies.
See Richard Gonzales, NPR, May 22 2019
Japan has requested that an arbitration board be assembled to assist in the resolution of South Korean labor compensation issues. Japan ruled over South Korea from 1910-1945. A pact was forged between the two countries in 1965 that was intended to cover any issues that might arise from Japan’s former rule over the Korean Peninsula. Last year, South Korea’s courts ordered Japan to compensate South Korea for wartime labor. Japan is now asserting that South Korea has violated the pact, and is requesting arbitration in order to settle the dispute.
See Reija Yoshida, The Japan Times, May 20 2019
Amplats, the world’s largest platinum company, fired 643 workers at the Mototolo mine after an illegal strike. The workers, represented by General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa, went on strike following a dispute over benefits. A court indictment was issued that was intended to prevent the strike, yet it went ignored by the union and striking workers. Following the strike, workers were dismissed. The union intends to speak to labor courts regarding the case.
See Tanisha Heiberg, Reuters, May 20 2019
British Ryanair pilots will hold a strike ballot to determine whether or not the union will engage in industrial action in response to an ongoing dispute regarding pilots’ wages. In 2017, Ryanair recognized unions for the first time. Since then, the firm has experienced increased industrial action as more pilots begin to organize. The firm has reached agreements with numerous unions, but has failed, thus far, to reach an agreement with British pilots. The union has even accused the firm of using “stalling tactics” in order to delay negotiations.
See Padraic Halpin & Conor Humphries, Reuters, May 20 2019
A large union in Lebanon is threatening to strike if the government decreases wages as part of its new 2019 budget. The cabinet has been meeting frequently to create a budget that will address the country’s large deficit. Employees fear that wage and benefit cuts will be part of the new budget, and are threatening to go on strike and protest if that is the case. Protests have already occurred in the public sector, as bank employees have gone on strike.
See Ellen Francis, Reuters, May 17 2019
Nearly 4,000 mental health workers at Kaiser have authorized a strike that will begin in June if a new contract is not finalized. The strike that has been authorized is “open-ended” meaning that it has no set end date. Union members have stated that they do not wish to go on strike, but feel that it has become necessary. Management believes that this strike is a tactic that the union is using to encourage management to meet their financial demands.
See Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, May 17 2019
On Thursday, executives from global retailers stated that as artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, stores will offer more training to employees. Many fear that automation and AI are taking away jobs- retailers “played down” this threat by stating that the jobs are not gone, and retailers intend to train employees to do other things as jobs are automated. Execs have stated that AI’s strength lies in completing repetitive tasks. However, robots are not good at interacting with people and so employees will still be needed for customer-facing work.
See Emma Thomasson , Reuters, May 17 2019
On Tuesday, the NLRB released a memo regarding the classification of Uber drivers’ labor. The NLRB has decided that Uber drivers should be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This means that Uber drivers are not entitled to benefits or employee protections. As a result of drivers being classified as independent contractors, Uber does not have to award workers access to healthcare, pensions, or other benefits which would cost the company a lot of money.
See Megan Cerullo, CBS News, May 15 2019
Three restaurants in the Bay Area, in California will be required to pay almost a quarter-million dollar to employees in back pay due to minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping violations. In addition to back pay, restaurant owners must pay nearly twenty thousand dollars in civil penalties. Not only did restaurant owners fail to pay employees appropriately, a lot of employees were paid in cash- which resulted in the aforementioned recordkeeping violations.
See George Kelly, The East Bay Times, May 15 2019
More than two million workers will benefit from legislation that was passed on Tuesday, that expands the rights of domestic laborers in Mexico. Many of these laborers are women, who were not recognized as part of the labor market or receiving protections. Now, domestic laborers will have legal rights, written contracts, and benefits including minimum wage and maternity leave. Additionally, the new legislation regulates teen labor by banning domestic work for individuals under the age of 15 and limiting the amount of time that older teenagers can work per day.
See Paulina Villegas, The New York Times, May 15 2019
Amazon has created technology that packages customer orders, a job that has previously been completed by human employees. The new technology is intended to replace workers, which could result in more than 1,000 job losses across the country. The order-packaging machines cost $1 million each, and pay for themselves in less than two years. These machines are another example of how Amazon is attempting to automate warehouse tasks in order to reduce labor costs.
See Jeffrey Dastin , Reuters, May 13 2019
Facebook announced that it will be raising the minimum wage for all contract workers, with the highest wage coming to $20 per hour in the Bay Area. The pay increases are in response to scrutiny over employee wages and increasing costs of living. The last time Facebook raised minimum wages was in 2015, the new wages are intended to reflect Facebook’s commitment to treating contractors better. Additionally, the company has committed to paying content reviewers $22 per hour in the Bay Area.
See Akanksha Rana & Arjun Panchadar , Reuters, May 13 2019
Unionized Macy’s employees have just authorized a strike, in response to more than four months of negotiations. The union has stated that it is hoping to achieve higher wages and less expensive healthcare. It is clear that the union, which represents more than 1,000 Macy’s employees, intends to strike if an agreement is not reached in a timely manner. The union representing Macy’s employees is the same union that represents the Stop & Shop employees that recently had a successful strike.
See Aviva Luttrell, Mass Live News, May 13 2019
The U.S. Consumer Price Index rose very little in April, meaning that the Federal Reserve will not intervene by changing interest rates. The Fed has may receive pressure to lower interest rates in response to low inflation. Economists believe that “temporary” factors may be halting inflation, as rent and healthcare costs have steadily increased. Another factor contributing to low inflation is high worker productivity that has kept labor costs stable.
See Lucia Mutikani , Reuters, May 10 2019
The United Nations refugee agency has opened a camp that serves Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia in order to escape the crisis occurring in their home-country. Hyperinflation in Venezuela has made basic necessities, such as medicine, unaffordable for most citizens. The camp is temporary, and is intended to allow migrants to be housed while they look for jobs.
See Steven Grattan, Reuters, May 10 2019
As a result of delayed negotiations between teachers and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, teachers are considering going on strike. A mediator has been invited to try to help teachers and management come to an agreement, if this doesn’t work the teachers have stated that they are prepared to go on strike in order to achieve better conditions. Teachers would like increased wages, smaller class sizes, and additional support staff as part of the new bargaining agreement. The district has stated that it cannot afford the wage increase that the union is requesting.
See Annie Sciacca, The East Bay Times, May 10 2019
Historically, upward mobility within the Japanese labor market was largely reliant on age. This meant that young people were unable to develop their skills at work until they were older. Now, due to a labor shortage, firms are facing far less competition for their job openings which has resulted in faster career advancement for young people. Additionally, some employers allow workers to work from home, take more vacation days, and create their own goals.
See Stanley White & Kaori Kaneko, Reuters, May 8 2019
Teachers in Clark County, Las Vegas, will vote this week to determine whether or not to strike at the beginning of the upcoming school year. The proposed collective action is in response to the lack of a state plan to give teachers higher pay and greater resources. According to the union president, teachers are currently facing excessively large class sizes, and a lack of school supplies. Additionally, teachers are dissatisfied with their wages which they believe to be stagnant.
See Miranda Willson, The Las Vegas Sun, May 8 2019
Little Big Burger in Portland, Oregon has fired an employee following a strike. According the union, workers walked out in response to unsafe workplace conditions and understaffing. The day after the workers walked out they were suspended by management, and then one of them (a union member) was fired. The Little Big Union has stated that the fired employee had no past history of misconduct and was given no reason for her termination.
See Brooke Jackson-Glidden , Eater Portland, May 8 2019
The Tide Is Turning For Teachers Unions
Randi Weingaerten, President of American Federation of Teachers labor union, is altering its endorsement process. Weingaerten is ensuring that the enforcement process will be slower and more transparent so that members can have time to hear about the party’s white House contenders. She wants her union members to feel empowered by the organization’s 2020 endorsement process.
See Daneil Marans, HuffPost, May 7 2019
Christine Cieplinksi, Director of Labor Relations at UConn Health is claiming a gender discrimination case against UConn Health. Cieplinkso says not only was she was paid less than her male counterparts but she is suffered retaliatory action for a case she handled in the past regarding fraud and sexual harassment which led to the subject’s resignation. Cieplinksi filed her discrimination case in federal court and is awaiting next steps.
See MARC E. FITCH, Yankee Institute, May 7 2019
Japan’s back-breaking work culture is slowing changing as the new generation attempts to reshape it. Chihiro Narazaki used to work in sales for a Japanese Bank where she would stay late to complete routine paperwork because that was the norm of the organization. Narazaki left that company for Cybozu, a technology company where she sells software. She has a lot more autonomy, flexibility, and freedom to do her job. In her previous job, everything was hierarchical, so it reduced her exposure to certain tasks and projects. Although Narazaki loves the culture at her new job, she realizes that this shift in workplace culture hasn’t become the norm yet in Japan.
See Stanley White, Kaori Kaneko , Reuters, May 7 2019
Drivers across the globe are planning on a strike, the day before Uber goes public, in order to protest poor wages and treatment. Over the past week, the strike has been advertised and has received numerous signatures from drivers in major cities. Additionally, politicians have supported the decision to strike. Rideshare Drivers United- Los Angeles has been organizing the strike, and managing the various time zones that it will be taking place in.
See Janet Burns , Forbes, May 6 2019
In Taipei, flight attendants who work for the airline, EVA Air, held a protest yesterday to pushback against unfair labor practices. Employees have alleged that their employer released a report that states that another employer with unionized employees, pays the same wages to flight attendants. This report was released by the company right before a union vote. It appears that the report released by the company does not contain entirely valid information, and thus gives employees a “one-sided” view of the situation. Ministry officials have encouraged the company to negotiate fairly with the union and not do anything to disrupt union activities.
See Ann Maxon , The Taipei Times, May 6 2019
The AFSCME Local 3299, which represents UC employees, has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the UC system. The employer has allegedly been engaging in negotiations that would allow low-wage employees to be replaced by contractors via outsourcing companies. The union represents more than 25,000 employers- many of whom have service jobs on UC properties. If UC is, in fact, engaging in negotiations regarding outsourcing service jobs, this would be in violation of the requirement of the employer to discuss this potential decision with employees and their representatives.
See Vanessa Arredondo , The Daily Californian, May 6 2019
Scandinavian Air pilots went on a strike that led to thousands of flights being canceled, leaving passengers stuck. Fortunately, on Thursday the airline and unions in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were able to meet an agreement, thus ending the strike. Union leaders negotiated an agreement that includes higher salaries and greater job security. The new agreement will last three years, and the airline appears convinced that the agreement is competitive in the Swedish labor market.
See Rob McLean, CNN Business, May 3 2019