Workplace Issues Today

Rockhurst University is being sued by an employee after her personal information was leaked to hackers. Alexandria Stobbe was one of 1,200 university employees to have her information stolen after a hacker posed as an administrator and emailed employees requesting their W-2 information. Stobbe is suing the university for being reckless when it failed to provide proper methods and security to protect its employee's data. The case could open the door for more employee Internet security cases if the university is found to be at fault.

See Joseph Steinberg, Inc., May 25 2016

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has uncovered thousands of children in Indonesia who are being exposed to nicotine, toxic chemicals and extreme heat when they are working in the country's tobacco fields. According to the nation's labor laws, children under the age of 18 cannot work in hazardous occupations and conditions. Despite the law, children working in the tobacco fields are currently at risk for cancer, respiratory issues, and nicotine poisoning. Indonesia is currently the 5th largest tobacco producer in the world and approximately 1.5 million are employed in the country's agriculture sector. HRW is calling upon tobacco companies to stamp their merchandise signaling their use of child labor and hopes to pressure the Indonesian government into increasing the enforcement of the country's labor laws.

See James Griffiths , CNN, May 25 2016

Earlier today, French police shut down an organized fuel depot blockade. The blockade was run by CGT, a powerful French Union, who has now threatened to strike. The union has voted in favor of a 24-hour strike that will begin at 3pm EST (1900 GMT) today. As a result, the French government has resorted to its emergency fuel reserves and has declared that the union is holding the country hostage. CGT is fighting a new labor reform aimed to relieve the country's 10% unemployment rate, despite the fact that the bill has garnered support from other unions. CGT maintains that the bill will result in protective labor regulations.

See Fortune, Reuters, May 25 2016

Earlier this month, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers reached a deal with Uber to represent the company's drivers in New York. Although the deal appeared to mark a historic moment in short term/"gig" employee labor agreements and organizing, it has been criticized as weak and as a “historic betrayal”, according to Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. Under the Machinists' agreement with Uber, drivers will be unable to unionize, strike, or press law makers to change their status from independent contractors to actual employees until at least 2020. The Machinists will be able to intervene with Uber in regards to wrongly terminated drivers and negotiating benefits, but the lackluster agreement has further divided labor activists in regards to the growing "gig" employee sector.

See Fortune, Reuters, May 23 2016

Currently, Telsa's factory in Fremont, California is the only domestically located and owned assembly plant without union representation. Although the automaker has been previously regarded as a start up, CEO Elon Musk's decision earlier this month to boost production to 500,000 vehicles by 2018 would make the Telsa the 9th largest seller of new cars in the United States. This has prompted UAW President Dennis Williams to target the Californian plant; however, he claims the UAW will not be pursuing the plant in an "adversarial" fashion. The automaker ramped up production after its affordable Model 3 grew in popularity and plans to expand both Europe and China.

See Gina Hall, Silicon Valley Business Journal, May 23 2016

The Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California published a study that found the amount of lawsuits regarding discrimination related to pregnancy or providing family care has tripled since 2006. 67% of the 4,400 analyzed cases were won by the discriminated employees, who cumulatively received over $500 million in damages from their employers. The rise in these cases are attributed to an increase in workers having to care for family members, men taking paternity leave, and the need for employees to care for the growing number of elderly relatives. Most significantly, federal laws including providing a woman "reasonable break time" for breastfeeding and protecting workers on the basis of family responsibilities have opened the door for these major lawsuits.

See Anna Robaton, CBS Money Watch, May 23 2016

Despite Volkswagen's recent emissions test scandal, the company has reached a labor agreement with its German union. The agreement will boost 120,000 of its workers' wages by 4.8%, which will be implemented in two phases. The union had originally demanded 5% after striking at the Wolfsburg, Kassel, Braunschweig and Salzgitter factories. Concessions also included profit-sharing programs, pensions, and a partial early retirement plan.

See Market Watch, May 20 2016

A law that would have required private businesses to pay equal wages to men and women workers who performed the same duties was rejected by the Louisiana House on Thursday. Senate Bill 254 was defeated by a 10-5 vote. The bill was mainly opposed by the business community who claimed it would place a burden on employers, despite the fact that in 2014 Louisiana had the largest pay gap in the country. The bill had been passionately supported by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who testified for the bill during the session.

See Julia O'Donoghue, NOLA.com, May 20 2016

Glassdoor, a job and salary search website, released a report on Thursday that determined which cities in the United States have the best opportunities for workers. The website weighed factors such as cost of living, employee satisfaction, work-life balance, and difficulty of job search. The number one city was San Jose, California, where there are currently 61,000 jobs available. West Coast cities dominated in the list, with San Francisco and Seattle coming in second and third respectively. Overall, the top cities tended to be those that had a smaller populations and lower costs of living.

See Kathryn Dill, Forbes.com, May 20 2016

Later today, the United States Labor Department will finalize a new overtime rule that will boost the overtime pay threshold to include annual salaries of up to $47,476 for employees who work 40+ hours a week. The previous salary level was $23,660 a year and had not been adjusted in over 10 years. Additionally, the Labor Department will now being assessing the salary level every three years. Critics of the rule argue that increasing the amount of employees eligible for overtime pay will result in employers cutting hours and laying off workers. The overtime rule is expected to have the largest impact on "mid-level managers" who currently fall just above the old cap.

See Michael A. Memoli, Los Angeles Times, May 18 2016

Despite a Nigerian Court's injunction, The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) began striking against the government's decision to raise fuel prices by 67%. The Nigerian government raised fuel prices to combat shortages and stabilize the market, but has been met by extreme opposition. Strikers believe that the government must ease the effects of the hike on consumers and provide easier access to petrol. The strike has been labeled as "illegal" by the Nigerian government, who is also maintaining a "no work, no pay" rule for the strikers.

See BBC News Online, May 18 2016

1,200 of Kroger's cashiers, meat cutters, stockers and clerks have elected to reject the company's "last best offer" and announced their plan to strike. The United Food & Commercial Workers union will present company officials with the union members' decision and await a response. Union members were unimpressed by Kroger's offer, which would have included a minimal pay bump, lacked paid sick leave for for associates, and did not vote to renew retirees' health insurance. Kroger and the UFCW are scheduled to meet again next Monday and Tuesday. The strike would include up to 41 stores in Roanoke Valley and impact over 3,000 employees.

See WSLS 10, May 18 2016

After Verizon's CEO, the Communications Workers of America President, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President met with Thomas Perez, the U.S. Secretary of Labor, the feuding parties have agreed to return to the bargaining table after over a month of protesting. The Secretary of Labor has intervened in other high profile cases in the past, especially when negotiations continue to regress. The Verizon strike marks the largest labor dispute in nearly five years, when Verizon workers famously marched to the picket lines in 2011. In regards to his meeting with Verizon, the CWA, and IBEW on Sunday, Secretary Perez stated, “I was singularly impressed by the parties’ appreciation that time is of the essence, and their strong commitment to use the collective bargaining process to reach a mutually beneficial resolution.”

See Aaron Pressman, Fortune, May 16 2016

In the United Kingdom, over 15 million absences each year are a result of poor mental health, which has prompted the English government to allot an additional $1 billion towards mental health services. Due to the impact of stress on productivity and absences, Business in the Community, a business-oriented charity, has launched an online survey to determine methods to improve employees' mental health. The survey will be available for three years and is being sponsored by the mental health organization Mind. Mind hopes that its research will aid in teaching managers how to identify the early warning signs of poor mental health amongst their employees. The survey has been highlighted as the largest of its kind.

See Sarah Neville, Financial Times, May 16 2016

A study conducted by the University of Queensland Institute for Social Science Research in Australia has found that mothers who went back to work full time were less likely to breastfeed their newborns through the first six months of life, compared to those who went back to work for 19 hours or less per week. 60% of mothers working full time quit breastfeeding before their child hit the 6 month mark, versus only 10% of mothers who worked 19 hours or less. The researchers stressed that governments and employers need to keep this fact in mind and provide incentives for women to delay their return to work.

See Dennis Thompson, CBS, May 16 2016

A California state audit released Thursday accuses the State Bar of not giving a transparent view of its finances and grossly overpaying its officials. The scathing, 68-page report claimed a misuse of funds by the organization, pointing out that the top 13 officials had a higher annual salary than the governor and state attorney general. California's is the nation's largest state bar and oversees more than 250,000 attorneys.

See California State Bar Salaries Questioned by State Audit, Matt Hamilton, The Los Angeles Times, May 13 2016

A controversial labor reform bill that was pushed through without a vote in the lower house of parliament by the French government incited mass protests, marches, and talks of strikes throughout France on Thursday. The bill, which will establish longer work days, easier layoffs, and weaker unions, will now be debated in the Senate in the coming weeks. It is estimated that 55,000 protesters took to the streets across the nation and a no-confidence vote was raised against the Prime Minister, but not enough votes were cast.

See French Government in Hot Water over Controversial Labor Bill , Angela Charlton and Sylvie Corbet, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, May 13 2016

On Thursday, the union for the the City University of New York (CUNY) announced that they voted strongly in favor of authorizing a strike if they are unable to reach a deal with administration. According the Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the possible strike would not take place until the fall. Union members are upset over not having a contract since 2010 and having no salary increases since then.

See CUNY Union Votes in Favor of Possible Strike, DAVID W. CHEN, The New York Times, May 13 2016

Economists believe that technology will replace 50% of current jobs by the 2030s. PwC has found that drones could replace up to $127 billion of employee labor across industries like infrastructure and agriculture. Drones will be used across all sectors to do a variety of jobs: spraying pesticides over farmlands, assisting security companies monitor their websites and customers, and helping with the filming of movies and shows. Additionally, drones will provide provide cost reductions and will be particularly helpful towards major online shopping sources by providing a faster, cheaper alternative to standard shipping.

See Chris Weller, Tech Insider, May 12 2016

New Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime rules are prompting employers to reinspect their policies. These new regulations will boost the current threshold that determines whether an employee is exempt from overtime pay. The current threshold sits at $23,660 per year; however, the Department of Labor hopes to increase this exemption level to $50,440 sometime later this year. This would result in full-time employees in the 40th percentile of weekly earnings being eligible for overtime pay. Additionally, the Department of Labor plans to increase the salary threshold on an annual basis, citing changes in inflation and earnings percentiles for full-time salaried employees as the primary markers.

See Employee Benefit News, May 12 2016

Four ethics students at San Francisco State University ended their hunger strike after University President Leslie Wong allocated additional funding to their program. The additional $482,806 was only a small fraction of the $8 million the students were asking for, but was enough to continue the program. The students had been on their hunger strike since May 2nd and one student was hospitalized after complaining of chest pains on Monday night. The administration will also fund two additional courses for the fall of 2016 and will meet with ethics students once a term to discuss the program. The students will not be punished for their actions.

See Michael Barba, San Francisco Examiner, May 12 2016

According to a new poll, there is a current trend towards voluntary turnover and lack of job tenure amongst the younger generation. Unlike their parental baby boomers, millennials are believed to have different attitudes towards their jobs and the benefits they receive. 40% of baby boomers remained with their employer for more than 20 years, which is now believed to be driven by the pensions they traditionally received. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 18% of workers currently have defined pension plans, unlike the baby boomers, of which 35% received pension plans during the 1990s. Millennials have also lived through the recession, where many saw their parents laid off, resulting in a lack of trust for big corporations that the baby boomers had. Millennials and younger baby boomers are also more likely to go back to school to receive further education and thus move up in their careers.

See PBS, Associated Press, May 11 2016

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced that illnesses and injuries that occur in the workplace are required to be electronically reported on a public website by employers in hazardous industries. These industry employers include those in manufacturing, construction, farming, and trucking, who OSHA hopes will be pressured into making their workplaces safer for employees. The rule has faced major backlash from organizations such as the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which claims that OSHA is attempting to "publicly shame" employers. OSHA will start requiring employers to submit online reports in January of 2017, which the administration will then publish online. OSHA has also vowed to shield workers from workplace retaliation if they report their own incidents.

See Tim Devaney, The Hill, May 11 2016

A PwC employee working in the UK has started a petition that would allow women to wear "flat formal" shoes to work instead of high heels. The employee was reportedly told to return home if she refused to go buy a pair of heels. The petition currently has 20,000 signatures. Currently, in the UK, employers can send workers home if they do not abide by the company dress code, which sometimes require women to wear high heels. These codes can be different for men and women and apply as long as employers have been given ample time access and buy clothes that fit the dress codes. Serious health concerns are also at risk, including joint damage, arthritis, and osteoarthritis, which can be caused from wearing heels. If the petition reaches 100,000 signatures, members of Parliament could debate over the issue.

See Claire Bates and Justin Parkinson, BBC, May 11 2016

Since the New York State Nail Salon Industry Enforcement Task Force was created by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2015, 143 nail salons have been charged and forced to pay exploited workers an estimated $2 million in owed wages. This task force was created after the New York Times wrote an expose into the working conditions faced by nail salon workers. These workers' paychecks were frequently withheld and their pay did not meet minimum wage levels. The task force has investigated approximately 450 nail salons since its creation.

See Task Force Rules Nail Salons Must Pay $2 Million in Owed Wages, The New York Times, Reuters, May 10 2016

In France, a lower house of parliament will not have the opportunity to vote on a highly contentious labor reform bill. This decision was made on Tuesday by the government after a compromise could not be made among legislators. A group of "rebels" in the socialist party strongly object to this bill. The bill will make it easier for employees to be laid off, and regulations on the country's 35 hour workweek will be loosened.

See France Doesn't Allow Lower House of Parliament to Vote on Labor Bill , The New York Times, The Associated Press, May 10 2016

On Monday, unionized employees of Triumph Composites Systems voted to go on strike after their current contract expires this Tuesday at midnight. The company, which is located in Spokane, Washington, is a major aerospace supplier. These workers already voted to reject a proposed new three-year contract, which did not bring back pension benefits and did not offer wage increases for most workers.

See Workers in Aerospace Plant in Washington Vote to Go On Strike, Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times, May 10 2016

In Belgium, prison guards have been on strike for the last two weeks. As a result, the country's Army was called to assist with the staffing shortage to make sure that the prisons were still secure. These officers are on strike because the prisons are short-staffed. Despite Justice Minister Koen Geens offer to hire an additional 405 new guards, union members still believe this is not sufficient. The lack of staffing has caused prisoners to no longer be able to participate in some activities, and some of them have not received rights such as three meals per day or showers.

See Prison Guards in Belgium Strike Over Staffing Shortage, The New York Times, Reuters, May 9 2016

In the UK, lecturers at universities will conduct a strike on May 25th and 26th. This strike comes after the teachers rejected a proposed pay increase of 1.1%. When accounting for inflation, the teachers' real wages over the past six years have actually fallen by 14.5%. The teachers' strike will happen during students' exams, so the universities will try to minimize the impact on students with assistance from the University and Colleges Employers' Association. Employers issued a statement that 1.1% only represented one of the incremental pay increases and that workers pay could be increased by as much as 2.3% during some increments.

See Strike of UK University Lecturers May Impact Student Exams, Sean Coughlan, BBC News Online, May 9 2016

On Friday, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) filed unfair labor complaints on behalf of home care workers in Illinois. There are approximately 24,000 worker represented under this complaint who care for disabled residents for $13 an hour. On May 1st, Gov. Bruce Rauner implemented new restrictions on overtime pay that were not discussed during contract negotiations. Representatives believe that these new changes will "punish disabled residents".

See SEIU Files Unfair Labor Complaint on Behalf of Home Care Workers, JOHN O’CONNOR, Chicago Daily Herald, May 9 2016

Currently Atlantic City puts an estimated $1 million toward its lifeguards' pensions each year. Some of these lifeguards who act as temporary workers over the summer are able to walk away with as much as $15,000. The pension payout has been scrutinized and some argue that it is a waste of funds. However, some of these workers began their job as a life guard as many as fifty years ago. Senator Sweeney, who acts as the President of the New Jersey Senate, is calling for the 88-year-old bill that guarantees the lifeguards' pensions to be repealed.

See Lifeguards in Atlantic City May Lose Pension Payouts , PATRICK McGEEHAN, The New York Times, May 6 2016

In Greece, a vote is expected to happen on Sunday to decide what tax changes will take place. Protestors called an unexpected 48-hour strike that will begin on Friday and last through Saturday. This strike is in addition to the already scheduled protests that will take place on Sunday. Unions participating in the strike are demanding pension reforms. Metro operators that went on strike in Athens caused disruptions in public transportation.

Administration at hospitals are currently in negotiations with unions over new ballot initiatives. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has proposed that insurance companies pay higher rates to hospitals with less funding. While SEIU representatives say they are open to alternative solutions, they have already collected 64,750 signatures for this ballot. The Massachusetts Hospital Association is one of the organizations that has opposed this ballot. Many of the SEIU members work in these hospitals that are considered "lower-paid" and would benefit it this ballot goes through.

See SEIU Works on Ballot To Restructure Hospital Payments, Priyanka Dayal McCluskey, The Boston Globe, May 6 2016

Inmates have started to strike inside five Alabama State Prisons this week as part of the “Free Alabama Movement”. The prisoners are hoping to bring attention to the poor living conditions they currently suffer from, the violent environment that is encouraged, and the exploitation they receive while working-- usually for less than $1 an hour. Two of the prisons where demonstrations are taking place were forced into lockdown, as corrections officers were unable to completely fill in for important jobs such as food preparation. Social media and cell phones are credited with the growth of coordinated prison strikes, as they enable inmates to record videos that their families then can post to Facebook.

See MICHAEL EDISON HAYDEN, ABC News, May 5 2016

The Chicago Teachers Union stated today that they would not strike, focusing their efforts instead on pushing legislation. The union still fears the potential pension cuts that The District will be voting on next month. The District has been seeking new credit in order to fund the upcoming school year, despite the city’s currently difficult funding formula. Chicago Public Schools are still preparing for a strike, announcing that if teachers did protest, the school year would end early.

See Juan Perez Jr., Chicago Tribune, May 5 2016

Over the last five days, 42 workers at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State have received medical attention after being exposed to toxic vapors. Experts have stated that even being exposed to the vapors for a short period of time could lead to long-term, life threatening diseases. Although this is not a new problem for the nuclear site, as it has had toxic gas issues in the past, this week has seen a record number of incidents. Washington State Attorney, Bob Ferguson, attempted to protect workers with a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Department of Energy and Washington River Protection Solutions in September and has called this week's accidents "shameful".

See Susannah Frame, NBC King, May 5 2016

As the Verizon strike enters its 4th week, workers on the picket lines are now receiving financial support from the Communications Workers of America's strike fund. The 40,000 strikers consist of mainly installation and service workers for Verizon’s internet and cable products. As a result, the telecommunications company has hired thousands of temporary workers and continues to maintain that it has not suffered any negative financial side effects. The CWA and Verizon met on Monday, after Verizon submitted its "last, best offer", but the two parties are still far from an agreement.

See Aaron Pressman, Fortune, May 4 2016

Teachers returned to work this morning after calling in sick on Monday and Tuesday in protest of the possibility that they may not be paid if the Detroit School District runs out of funds. Over 1,500 teachers failed to show up on Monday and Tuesday, resulting in 45,000 children missing two days of classes. The struggling district is one of the worst performing in the country and has been receiving aid from both financial consultants and the state. Lawmakers have proposed a $500 million restructuring plan, which has been bashed by union leaders who argue the new legislation would nullify current labor agreements as well as limit collective bargaining in the future.

See Fox News, Associated Press, May 4 2016

After being fired from his job at Knight Transportation in Katy, Texas, earlier this morning, a gunman returned to the site and shot who is believed to have been his supervisor. Police believe this was a "retaliatory act" and have yet to name the gunman or his victim. One other coworker was injured and the gunman committed suicide shortly after. Police speculate that the worker was disgruntled after being terminated and retrieved the gun shortly after from his home. The investigation is currently ongoing.

See Mark Berman, Washington Post, May 4 2016

On Tuesday, Saudi Arabia's Labor Minister Mufrej al-Haqbani outlined new plans the country has that will help to reduce unemployment. Saudi Arabia has struggled to maintain strong employment levels, and now hopes to reduce the number of unemployed by 7% by 2030. New labor quotas will be implemented to encourage Saudi businesses to hire local workers. The country would like to also increase female participation in the labor force from 22% to 30%.

See Saudi Arabia Outlines Plans to Improve Unemployment Levels, The New York Times, Reuters, May 3 2016

At the end of 2015, skilled workers employed at a Volkswagen plan in Tennessee voted to unionize with the UAW. Despite these workers' decision to unionize, the 1,500 hourly employees at the plant voted against unionization. As a result, the employer has refused to bargain with the workers who are now represented by the UAW. Labor leaders from the union will meet later this month with the company's upper level management in Germany in an effort to resolve this dispute. So far, a complaint has been issued by the NLRB over VW's refusal to negotiate.

On Monday, the Chicago Teacher's Union issued a statement that it had not yet decided on a date for the potential strike it may hold. Now, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has taken issue with the union because it had previously issued a statement saying that a strike would not happen in May unless things escalated. The CTU lashed out against these comments saying that the city of Chicago had the money to resolve these issues teachers currently faced.

See Chicago Teachers Union has yet to Decide on a Date for May Strike, Juan Perez Jr. and John Byrne, Chicago Tribune, May 3 2016

On Sunday, a rally was held in Paris to protest new labor reforms. These reforms, which will make it easier for employers to negotiate with employees on working time, are in an effort to drop the country's unemployment rate below 10%. On Sunday, it is estimated that as many as 80,000 people joined the march. Youth wearing hoodies fought with police officers and three of them were detained.

See 80,000 People Protest Labor Reforms in France , The New York Times, Reuters, May 2 2016

According to survey results collected by the European Union, despite a recovering economy in Spain, the unemployment rate has still hovered around or above 20% for the last five years. This number is considerably higher than other struggling countries such as Italy, which has an unemployment rate of 11% and Portugal, which sits at 12%. This unemployment rate may be slightly higher due to many workers who have "off-the-books jobs". Despite this, Spanish officials do not expect the country's unemployment rate to fall below 15% before 2019.

See Despite Economic Recovery, Spain's Unemployment Rate Still at 20%, Peter Eavis, The New York Times, May 2 2016

On Sunday, labor leaders announced that approximately 1,000 Uber drivers had signed membership cards to join the Amalgamated Local of Livery Employees in Solidarity (Alles). After Uber settled a case for nearly $100 million with drivers in California and Massachusetts, workers won the right to form associations so that they could more easily bring issues to management's attention. Alles plans to work to better protect Uber drivers, and will also push for tighter regulations on ride-share companies.

On Thursday, the charity International Cocoa Initiative (ICI), signed an agreement along with the government to build schools in the Ivory Coast in an effort to reduce child labor. The agreement also included plans to better protect and support victims of child labor. Cocoa plantations are large culprits of child labor. In 2011, $22 million was put toward a plan to reduce child labor in the industry by 70% by 2020. It is estimated that as many as one million children are employed by cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast.

See Increased Education Opportunities Used to Fight Child Labor, New York Times, Reuters, Apr 29 2016

In Chicago, teachers may go on strike at some point after May 16th, which would cause school districts to cancel final exams for students. With the threat of another strike, the Chicago Public School system is only able to guarantee that graduation will take place for seniors in the district. Administration would be able to take the place of teachers for graduation, but would be unable to host other typical graduation activities such as a luncheon. The teachers' union will meet on Wednesday to discuss things including the strike, although both sides remain committed to negotiating a new labor agreement.

After 10 months of negotiations, Verizon sat down with union leaders to present a new contract. Included in the contract is more protection against layoffs and a 7.5% wage increase for employees. This contract comes after 36,000 Verizon employees went on strike two weeks ago, making it the largest strike since 2011. A majority of these workers had been without a contract since last August. The workers were upset that Verizon had sent over 5,000 jobs overseas and were hiring more non-union low wage workers.

See Verizon Presents Contract to Union Leaders, Ahiza Garcia, CNN Money, Apr 29 2016

The Communications Workers of America have complained to the National Labor Relations Board that T-Mobile has formed a company-controlled union in efforts to marginalize their efforts to unionize. Despite the illegal nature of this practice in the United States, T-Mobile formed “T-Voice”, which is made up of employee representatives. The wireless communications company is allegedly using this “sham union” to receive intel on employee desires and rollout new perks in an effort to diminish the need for the CWA to unionize the company.

See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Apr 28 2016

After over two weeks of strikes, Verizon employees have allegedly began resorting to criminal acts such as damaging equipment, vandalizing, and cutting the company’s fiber-optic wires. 36,000 Verizon employees are currently in their 15th day of strike activities, the largest strike the United States has seen since the the communications company’s workers protested in 2011. The strikers are fighting Verizon’s use of hiring independent contractors as well as the company relocating jobs to Mexico. Verizon is offering a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to an arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.

See Matt Egan , CNN Money, Apr 28 2016

After Volkswagen ignored bargaining requests from 160 skilled trades workers in their Chattanooga plant, the National Labor Relations Board filed an official complaint. The tradesmen are represented by the United Auto Workers, after another NLRB decision earlier this month sanctioned the union election and upheld its appointment of the UAW. This would be the UAW’s first successful organization of a foreign automaker in the South.

See Bernie Woodall and Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Apr 28 2016

Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Cologne/Bonn, Dortmund, and Hannover airports in Germany went on strike this morning, resulting in hundreds of cancellations and delays. Verdi, a German labor union, called the strike and is pushing for a 6% salary increase for over 2.1million public service workers across the country. This is drastically higher than the 3% pay increase the German government has offered the union, prompting the Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizeiere, to deem the strike “totally inappropriate”. Delays are expected to continue throughout the day as major airlines such as Lufthansa have had to cancel up to 895 flights.

See Richard Weiss, Bloomberg, Apr 27 2016

Chobani employees were delighted yesterday as the company’s CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya, announced that he would be granting them up to 10% of the greek yogurt manufacturer’s overall value. Each employee could, on average, receive up to $150,000 if the company were to go public via an IPO. Ulukaya’s decision stemmed from a desire to “create something special and of lasting value” that would reward his employees. The labor conscious CEO has also been a champion of higher minimum wages and support for refugees.

See Jeanne Sahadi , CNN Money, Apr 27 2016

In an effort to conserve energy, President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela has decided to shorten the country’s work week to encompass only Monday and Tuesday. The issue of paying public employees has yet to be announced. The nation has been plagued by the Zika virus, food and water shortages, and an economic crisis, resulting in Maduro’s vast unpopularity. Venezuelans have suffered from “rolling blackouts” as the government attempts to conserve power and electricity.

See Patrick Gillespie , CNN Money, Apr 27 2016

In the United States, over time globalization has led to many manufacturing jobs to be shipped overseas to countries where labor was relatively less expensive. As a result, many of the people who lost their jobs to this phenomenon have been left politically polarized, falling either on the far left or far right. In the south, some regional unemployment levels were as high as 12.8% in 2010 as the result of nearly 10,000 manufacturing jobs being relocated abroad after China entered the World Trade Organization.

See Voters Left Politically Polarized as a Result of Job Relocation, NELSON D. SCHWARTZ and QUOCTRUNG BUI, The New York Times, Apr 26 2016

On Monday, Volkswagen announced that it would be taking the case involving unionization among its workers in Tennessee to the U.S. federal appeals court. The case is over whether the United Auto Workers union (UAW) will represent some of the company's employees at this plant. The UAW filed unfair labor practice charges against the company after Volkswagen refused to bargain with 160 workers who voted to unionize with the UAW in December. This past month, the NLRB voted to uphold the UAW's election.

See Volkswagen Challenges NLRB's Ruling Over Union Election, BERNIE WOODALL, Reuters, Apr 26 2016

Last month, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin signed a bill that will help to protect fast-food companies from labor conflicts that happen within their franchises. The law prevents courts from applying the same logic imposed by the NLRB that makes corporations more liable for activities in its franchised locations. So far seven states have passed similar laws, which jeopardizes the NLRB's attempts to make large food corporations more accountable for the activities that happen in its restaurants.

On Sunday, Volkswagen indicated that it would be ready to meet demands of its workers just after one of their top managers was accused of using the carbon emissions scandal as an excuse to cut workers. Since this accusation in early April, VW has been working with labor groups in an effort to create a strategy that benefits both groups. VW has planned to set aside approximately 16.2 billion euros to pay for the results of their emissions scandal, which will be a net loss of 1.4 billion euros.

See VW Agrees to Involve Labor Groups in Future Cost-Cutting Strategies , The New York Times, Reuters, Apr 25 2016

In Greece, press unions have intensified their strike in protest of reforms that will affect their pension fund. As a result, the country will not publish news papers or broadcasts for the next several days. These journalists went on strike for two days last week and then decided to call for a strike that began on Sunday at 6am and will last until Wednesday at 6am. On Monday, no newspapers were printed and most online news channels did not hold their regularly scheduled broadcasts.

See Press Unions In Greece Call for Three-Day Strike Over Reforms, ABC News, The Associated Press, Apr 25 2016

On Tuesday, employees of Southern rail, who are unionized with Rail, Maritime, and Transport (RMT), will go on strike at 11am over safety being jeopardized as a result of new proposal that includes cost-cutting measures. The strike, which will last 24 hours, has been designed to impact commuter trains in an effort to create the maximum amount of disruption to normal operations. Certain lines will not operate as a result of this strike. The company's new proposal is to switch to driver-only trains, which will no longer make conductors responsible for opening and closing train doors.

See Employees of Southern Rail Strike Over Cost-Cutting Measures, Gwyn Topham, The Guardian, Apr 25 2016

On Thursday, Uber settled a class-action that all its drivers are to remain classified as independent contractors. By classifying its drivers as freelancers, it allows Uber to avoid paying typical costs associated with full-time employees such as social security payments and abiding by minimum wage laws. Under this settlement, Uber will be required to pay 385,000 drivers as much as $100 million who were complainants in the case. This is the largest number of drivers in history to file a class-action lawsuit.

See Uber Settles Class-Action Lawsuit, Drivers Remain Freelancers, MIKE ISAAC and NOAM SCHEIBER, The New York Times, Apr 22 2016

Data from the Labor Department released Thursday showed a number of positive trends in workforce stability and economic health. Jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since 1973, the number of individuals receiving jobless benefits reached a 16 year low, and first-time jobless claims have held below 300,000 for the longest stretch since 1973. Economists say these numbers indicate robust labor conditions.

See Jobless Claims Fall to Lowest Levels Since 1973, Victoria Stilwell, The New York Times, Bloomberg News, Apr 22 2016

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) released an accusatory new report this week, alleging that officials at the University of Southern California (USC) interfered with a vote early this year that would have decided whether faculty members should form a union. The report claims that the university gave raises to some non-tenure track faculty and threatened that faculty would not be allowed to serve on university committees if they voted to unionize. It also singles out USC Provost Michael Quick, claiming that he created "a general atmosphere of fear making a free election impossible." The report calls for a rejection of the initial results and for a new, fair election.

See USC Accused of Tampering with Faculty's Vote in Union Election, Rosanna Xia, The Los Angeles Times, Apr 22 2016

As the strike of 40,000 Verizon employees continues, the telecommunications company has claimed that the strike has not had any impact on its financials. The company’s CFO still believes that the company will meet their expected targets for the year. This contradicts Verizon’s quarterly report, which stated that the company may “take an unspecified hit” due to the strike. Verizon had taken proactive measures, which included training replacement employees in the case of a strike.

See Aaron Pressman, Fortune, Apr 21 2016

The National Labor Relations Board is investigating cases to determine if employers who wrongfully classify their employees as independent contractors prevents those workers from the right to organize. The Teamsters have also rallied around the cause through their recently filed complaint against an employer of port truck drivers who allegedly prohibited the employees from exercising their Section 7 rights. Major decisions are expected this summer from both the Columbia University and Miller & Anderson cases.

See Brian Mahoney, Politico, Apr 21 2016

After two employees of the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center were killed due to domestic violence incidents, the hospital has been changing training and protocol in order to prevent future tragedies. The University hospital has introduced a new training program to educated and teach employees how to recognize the signs of domestic violence as well as prevention methods. Despite the fact that domestic violence affects 1 in 4 women, the hospital is one of the first employers to introduce an official domestic violence policy in the United States.

See Melissa Jeltsen, Huffington Post, Apr 21 2016

The Conference Board has published “Help Wanted”, a report that highlights the increased labor shortages in manufacturing, technology, and small business industries. This labor shortage is a direct result of the county’s low unemployment rate of 5%. Employers have been struggling to find qualified employees that suit their business’ needs, which economist Gad Levanon believes will result in higher compensation for those who fulfill these needs. Contrastingly, employers may begin to hire less-qualified workers and put more effort into training programs to get their skills up to par.

See Mitchell Hartman, Market Place, Apr 20 2016

After the union representing Chicago Public Schools rejected a fact-finding report that supported teacher’s claims to economic gains in their contracts, teachers have demanded that the union submit to binding arbitration. The teachers have stated that they will strike despite the obvious suffering it would cause parents and students. The Chicago Teachers Union has called this demand a “publicity stunt”, further dividing the two parties. CTU president Karen Lewis is expected to address these demands later this afternoon.

See Chicago Sun Times, Apr 20 2016

Protests ceased after Anas al-Saleh,the oil minister of Kuwait refused to negotiate with employees while they were on strike. The strike lasted 3 days and resulted in the county’s crude production dropping by almost 50%. Workers were protesting potential wage and benefit cuts as well as layoffs. These anticipated concessions are fueled by the Kuwait government's takeover of public sector payrolls.

See CNBC, Reuters, Apr 20 2016

On Tuesday, Bernd Osterloh, was quoted in the German newspaper Handelsblatt saying that Volkswagen should cut bonuses for the company's management. Osterloh, who acts as the company's labor chief is not the first to propose this idea following the company's carbon emissions scandal. Volkswagen's second largest shareholder, Lower Saxony, has also argued that executive bonuses should not be paid out this year. Osterloh believes that these bonuses should be cut based upon moral principle.

See Labor Chief at VW Calls for Cuts to Management Bonuses, The New York Times, Reuters, Apr 19 2016

In Brazil, the Ministry of Labor has begun to publish a list of "dirty" companies in an effort to publicly advertise who is caught engaging in slave labor. Brazilians are frequently promised high wages in exchange for working on coffee plantations, however once there they are subject to terrible working conditions and armed guards prevent them from leaving the property. Unlike other coffee exporting countries, Brazil has been willing to publish information on these farms which allows groups fighting slave labor to give their input on how to best tackle the problem.

See Brazil Publishes List of Companies Engaged in Slave Labor, The New York Times, Reuters, Apr 19 2016

Airbnb has begun to negotiations with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in an effort to reach an agreement in which the company will promote unionized housekeepers for its short-term rentals. The company has been trying for several years now to partner with a union, but has been unsuccessful so far. The deal with the SEIU would include the company promoting a $15 an hour wage for the housekeepers. Some people within the SEIU have been hesitant to partner with Airbnb as they believe that they company has only exacerbated the housing crisis. If this partnership goes through, it will be the first major agreement between a union and a company that relies on short-term engagements.

See Airbnb Negotiates with SEIU to Promote Unionized Housekeepers, Sam Levin and Julia Carrie Wong, The Guardian, Apr 19 2016

The group, Gulf Ultra Luxury Faction (G.U.L.F.), has decided to resume protests at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum after the museum decided to expand its operations to Abu Dhabi. These protests will resume after a year-long break now that the museums upper management have refused to continue talks with G.U.L.F. The museum has been negotiating with the labor group for the past six years, but believes any further talks will continue to be unproductive. G.U.L.F. is concerned about the labor abuse that migrant workers face in Abu Dhabi.

See Labor Group to Protest Guggenheim Museum's Expansion Plans, COLIN MOYNIHAN, The New York Times, Apr 18 2016

In Kuwait, oil production was reduced by 60% when thousands of workers went on strike beginning Sunday. The employees of Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), went on strike after the government proposed pay reforms for public sector employees. Representatives of KNPC have declared the employees' strike illegal. These changes to public sector pay could mean wage and benefit cuts for 20,000 oil workers. The workers' union did not say how long the strike was expected to last.

Last week, an Appeals Court in California voted to throw out a ruling made by a lower court that threatened job protections and tenure for teachers in the California public school system. Those who supported the lower court's ruling believed that it should be made easier to fire teachers with poor performance despite their tenure. The nine students who were plaintiffs in this case plan to appeal this ruling. The court's decision was based on the fact that the plaintiffs could not prove that they were more adversely affected by ineffective teachers protected by these firing procedures than any other students.

See Appeals Court in CA Upholds Job Protections for Public School Teachers, Howard Blume, Joy Resmovits and Sonali Kohli , The Los Angeles Times, Apr 18 2016

On Thursday, workers across 300 cities in the United States gathered to protest in favor of increasing the federal minimum wage. In New York City, the protestors began in Times Square and marched down Broadway passing retail stores where other workers showed their support. These striking workers passed by Verizon employees who were on strike over contract negotiations and the two groups joined together in a chant. Currently the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009, and the minimum wage for tipped employees is only $2.13 an hour.

On Thursday, workers in France held a violent protest in response to President Hollande's decision to move forward with his plan to implement a new labor bill. These protestors damaged cars, attacked job centers, and vandalized bus stops. Hollande's bill is meant to loosen labor laws in the hopes that it will encourage companies to increase their hiring, but workers fear it will remove most of the protections that are in place. So far, most of the protests that have been organized by union leaders have been peaceful. Despite this resistance, Hollande maintains that the bill will be pushed through.

See Violent Protests in France Erupt Over New Labor Bill, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Apr 15 2016

On Thursday, California fast-food workers decided to shift the focus of their efforts from the "Fight for $15" campaign to unionizing. Many workers have shifted their focus to unionization now that they believe that a $15 wage is in reach. The Governor of California recently signed new legislation that will incrementally increase the state's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Workers in California believe that unionizing will ensure that these future jobs they hold are "good". Despite this change in focus, the workers in California will continue to rally along with the rest of the country until all workers wages are at least $15 an hour.

See Workers in California Shift Focus Away from Wages to Unionization, Samantha Masunaga, The Los Angeles Times, Apr 15 2016

According to the United States State Department, reports of abusive work environments and forced labor have continued on Thai seafood ships despite regulations issued in the U.S’s 2015 global report. The annual global review of human rights practices uncovered approximately 2,000 enslaved workers and led to the punishments of offenders as well as the shutting down and seizure of many Thai fishing boats. These labor violations pushed Thai lawmakers to enhance policies on human trafficking as well as increasing punishments for offenders. Unfortunately the new laws’ lack of specificity in defining forced labor has led to these continued labor violations. The United States is expected to issue an additional report regarding human trafficking and will grade other countries’ track record in fighting these issues in 2016.

See Apr 14 2016

Protesters in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour have chosen McDonald's restaurants around the globe as their center stage. The movement’s decision to protest in front of the famous golden arches stems from the belief that the company has the ability to make substantial impacts on the U.S. market and laws. The Service Employees International Union has bolstered the “Fight for $15” campaign by holding strikes for the past 4 years. These strikes are expected to continue in major cities such as New York, Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and even Paris.

See Candice Choi, Apr 14 2016

Dangerous conditions on Amtrak tracks have resulted in the deaths of two of the rail service’s employees in Philadelphia. The accident occurred after an Amtrak train collided with a backhoe that was working along the tracks. The incident has resulted in Amtrak coming under fire as its safety procedures are scrutinized by union leaders. The Brotherhood of Maintenance of Ways Employees Division, the union representing the railroad workers, is calling for better measures to ensure employee safety and will be issuing more information as it becomes available through its independent investigation.

See Brittany Horn, The News Journal, Apr 14 2016

Early this morning, after 8 months of failed negotiations, tens of thousands of East Coast Verizon employees began picketing. Although the majority of strikers hail from the phone company’s wireline business, Verizon Wireless workers have also organized protests—signaling a potential disruption of customer service. The workers are fighting against slashed pension benefits and disadvantageous changes to company policies in regards to outsourcing.

See Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, Apr 13 2016

In a 2-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board dismissed Volkswagen’s challenge to a union vote held in December. The vote unionized 160 of the German automaker’s maintenance workers under the United Auto Workers, but VW refused to engage in negotiations. Union workers had been concerned after Bob Corker, a United States Senator, stated that VW would reward a union defeat by introducing the production of a new SUV at the plant. Despite the union’s victory, Chattanooga is still planning to begin production of the company’s new SUV, relieving skepticism regarding the plant’s future.

See Erik Schelzig , ABC News, Associated Press, Apr 13 2016

In a 2-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board dismissed Volkswagen’s challenge to a union vote held in December. The vote unionized 160 of the German automaker’s maintenance workers under the United Auto Workers, but VW refused to engage in negotiations. Union workers had been concerned after Bob Corker, a United States Senator, stated that VW would reward a union defeat by introducing the production of a new SUV at the plant. Despite the union’s victory, Chattanooga is still planning to begin production of the company’s new SUV, relieving skepticism regarding the plant’s future.

See Erik Schelzig , ABC News, Associated Press, Apr 13 2016

In a 2-1 decision, the National Labor Relations Board dismissed Volkswagen’s challenge to a union vote held in December. The vote unionized 160 of the German automaker’s maintenance workers under the United Auto Workers, but VW refused to engage in negotiations. Union workers had been concerned after Bob Corker, a United States Senator, stated that VW would reward a union defeat by introducing the production of a new SUV at the plant. Despite the union’s victory, Chattanooga is still planning to begin production of the company’s new SUV, reliving the skepticism about the plant’s future.

See Erik Schelzig , ABC News, Associated Press, Apr 13 2016

The American Federation of Teachers has begun to organize teachers at government-funded public charter schools under the supervision of the NLRB. The growing trend has resulted in debates regarding the use of private sector law in what are traditionally regarded as public entities. Due to the inconsistency of state laws, the lines have been blurred in the case of charter schools. Although the AFT’s recent successful union organizing efforts have gone mostly unopposed by school administrators, some NLRB complaints have been filed and have resulted in the reinstatement of unfairly fired teachers.

See Michael Rose , Bloomberg BNA, Apr 13 2016

On Monday in Ohio, a federal judge ruled that two men were guilty of trafficking young workers in order to employ them on an egg farm. An investigation into the situation began after federal agents raided a trailer where they found children from Guatemala who had been forced to work at this egg farm. Some of the children from Guatemala had been promised that if they came to the U.S. they would be given an education. Reportedly these traffickers forced the workers' families to sign over the deeds to their homes in exchange for the promise that their children would be able to attend classes.

See Men Found Guilty of Forced Labor on an Egg Farm in Ohio, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Apr 12 2016

On Tuesday, Deutsche Bank announced that it would put its plans to expand operations in North Carolina on hold as a result of the recent ruling that will remove protections against discrimination toward people based upon sexual orientation. The bank had initially planned to add 250 new positions to its technology division which is located in Cary, N.C. PayPal also announced recently that it will be postponing its plan to add an additional 400 jobs in the area in light of this ruling.

See Deutsche Bank Postpones Expansion in NC Following Bias Law Ruling, PETER EAVIS, The New York Times, Apr 12 2016

Air Traffic Controllers working at the Brussels airport decided to hold a wildcat strike, which caused all inbound and outbound flights on Tuesday evening to be put on hold. The workers decided to hold a strike over disputes regarding pension reform. Traffic at this airport has already been reduced following the attack that happened on the airport on March 22nd. Workers who participated in the strike reported to their superiors that they were either sick or "unfit to work".

See Brussels Airport Air Traffic Controllers Hold Wildcat Strike, ABC News, The Associated Press, Apr 12 2016

In California, many councils have voted to raise the minimum hourly wage for workers. However, there is a loophole in these agreements that sometimes prevent unionized workers from benefitting from the same wage increase as everyone else. These types of exemptions do not exist in federal and state level minimum wages, but because cities in California are raising wages on their own, some of these loopholes are appearing. Workers, who at times pay over $50 a month in union fees could now be making less than their non-unionized coworkers.

See Unionized Workers Could be Paid Less as Result of Wage Law Loopholes, Peter Jamison, The Los Angeles Times, Apr 11 2016

Verizon has been given until Wednesday of this week to resolve a contract dispute with its employees or they will strike. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Communications Workers of America, which represent approximately 39,000 Verizon employees, have been without a contract since their previous one expired on August 1st, 2015. Most of these unionized workers are assigned to the company's landline division, which has experienced job cuts as a result of falling profitability.

See Verizon Employees Threaten to Strike on Wednesday, Scott Moritz, Bloomberg, Apr 11 2016

In New York, the internal affairs unit has decided to launch an investigation into the corrections officers conduct toward inmates. Up until recently, internal affairs had been hesitant to challenge the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, an organization that represents approximately 20,000 members. The union holds a considerable amount of power in rural New York areas where prisons are one of the main employers. Through lobbying, the prisons have obtained good labor contracts for their members, and are largely well protected by lawmakers.

See NY State Internal Affairs to Investigate Correctional Officers' Conduct, MICHAEL WINERIP, MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ and TOM ROBBINS, The New York Times, Apr 11 2016

Even though California and New York passed plans to incrementally increase their minimum wages to $15 an hour, many are still divided on the issue. Those in favor of raising the minimum wage believe it will help to battle the growing inequality in the U.S. However, those opposed believe that a higher wage will put strain on struggling cities. In Massachusetts, the minimum wage is expected to increase from $10 to $11 an hour by January of 2017. Currently, the median wage of workers in Massachusetts is around $21.19 an hour so an increase to $15 is 70% of the state's median wage. This large minimum wage increase has the potential to greatly improve workers' welfare or it could lead to massive job cuts from companies.

See Impacts of a $15 an Hour Wage in Massachusetts , Evan Horowitz, The Boston Globe, Apr 8 2016

On Thursday, faculty of California State University campuses announced that they would be postponing a strike they had scheduled to happen next week. The teachers have reached a tentative agreement that may put an end to salary disputes. The strike, which was supposed to begin next Wednesday and last for five days, would have caused major disruptions across campuses in California. The faculty argue that they are underpaid in comparison to their colleagues and demand a 5% wage increase. During negotiations, University officials maintained that they could only afford a 2% increase for these faculty. Details of the contract will be released on Friday.

See Faculty at Cal State Postpone Strike Over Tentative Contract, Rosanna Xia, The Los Angeles Times, Apr 8 2016

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is expected to review whether graduate students should be considered employees of a university. If the NLRB finds that they should not be considered employees, these graduate students could lose their right to unionize. The NLRB had previously considered them to not be employees until a case in 2000 when the board sided with the "students". The board then sided with the universities in a case just four years later. Thus the board has commonly flip-flopped over its view on this topic. At this time the NLRB has not set an exact date to address this issue.

When the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act - otherwise known as welfare reform - was passed in 1996, its goals were to reduce the number of people on welfare by making government benefits “temporary” (5 years or less) in order to encourage people to seek work. Those who couldn’t find work, or who didn’t volunteer or get job training, would eventually be removed from welfare. While welfare reform succeeded in reducing the number of people on welfare from 13 million in 1995 to 3 million today, results are mixed in that many are still unemployed, still living under the poverty line, and are now faced with diminishing aid and benefits such as food stamps. A delayed tenet of welfare reform was to remove access to food stamps after three months if adults weren’t employed at least 20 hours of week; many states have chosen to implement this requirement this year as of April 1st, leaving many without food stamps. Welfare reform also changed the way states received federal assistance, with funding appropriated in large blocks without delineating the way it should be used. As a result, states may allocate the money towards college scholarships and foster care, instead of skills training and helping people with attaining and keeping jobs that would keep them above poverty level.

According to the National Institute on Retirement Security, 45% of employees in the private sector do not have a retirement savings plan through their job. While they can set up retirement accounts on their own, in reality only 5% do so. Due to growing concerns that many middle-class workers will slide into poverty due to the expected shortfall in personal retirement savings and dwindling Social Security benefits, California state senator Kevin de León wrote a bill in 2012 proposing the feasibility of what is now known as the Secure Choice Retirement Plan, a state-run entity that would help workers automatically contribute 2-5% of their wages towards the plan, unless they opt out. MyRA, which was launched last year by the Obama administration, exists as an option for workers with no employer-sponsored retirement plan, but it has a limit of $15,000.

While the 5 percent unemployment rate appears consistent with a jobless rate conducive to stable inflation and possible economic expansion and full employment, economist Jared Bernstein argues that underemployment remains too high at 9.8 percent. Previous economic booms and expansion cycles will typically see underemployment rates as low as 7 percent. Underemployment, referred to as U6 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is a measure of three categories – the unemployed, part-timers who would rather be full-time, and “marginally attached” employees who are not working or actively searching, but would take a position if a good opportunity became available. The underemployed figure generally concerns the “the involuntary part-timers” continuum, where whether a worker is working as much as desired reflects the strength of the labor market. U6 rose steeply due to the Great Recession, but other foundational changes may have contributed, including a shift to service industries and “just-in-time” staffing scenarios.

See Underemployment rate remains high despite low unemployment figures, Jared Bernstein, The Washington Post, Apr 7 2016

The Labor Department finalized details on Wednesday that would mandate that the advice financial advisors give their clients needs to be in their best interest, potentially reducing sales fees and commissions. The rule came about due to a White House Council of Economic Advisers study that found that advice given to consumers resulting from conflicts of interests on behalf of their financial advisors resulted in losses of $17 billion. Under the new fiduciary rule, advisors can no longer only recommend a “suitable” investment (which may result in a sizable commission for the broker); they must recommend an investment that suits the client’s best interests. Critics of the rule argue that the rule will raise regulatory and liability costs, making it difficult for advisors who work on commission with small investors. Supporters say that argument is exactly why the rule was needed, that hidden fees and large commissions aren’t necessary to offer a low-income investor the best benefits.

The frequently bandied-about wisdom these days is that the U.S. economy is returning to normal in terms of job growth, while wage growth remains average or stagnant – perceptions that may be misleading and incomplete. While it’s true that the economy has experienced the most consecutive months of job growth in history, the jobs being created reflect a change in the nature of the employment relationship. Previous economic recoveries usually signal increased growth in “standard full-time” positions; these jobs have actually had a slight decline. What’s risen post-recession is the number of “alternative” work arrangements – such as independent contracting and temporary work – that result in fluctuating work schedules and lack of benefits. While such work can be “full-time”, this type of employment has led to “full-time job seeking” where workers have to patch together the salary and benefits they need. Similarly, wage growth may appear to be depressed due to the growth in cheap labor and contracting jobs, and the retirement of high-wage employees from the work-force as Baby Boomers begin to retire. Continuously-employed individuals, who haven’t experienced job loss, have continued to earn higher wages.