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Workplace Issues Today

This past weekend, two unfair labor practice charges against Trump International Hotel Las Vegas were settled in favor of the employees who filed the complaints. For the past several months, workers at the Trump hotel in Las Vegas have made efforts to organize under UNITE HERE affiliates Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Union Local 165 when Juan Cruz, a labor consultant for the business, warned employees that their efforts to unionize were futile and made promises of greater mobility within the company should workers remain unaffiliated. These general threats and promises as well as management’s discharge of a union organizer and overlooking of another union supporter for a promotion culminated in allegations that the hotel had violated the NLRA. The settlement grants relevant employees reinstatement and back pay and obligates the hotel to post notices for 60 days in its facilities about the settlement and about workers’ rights to organize.

See Rhonda Smith, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 25 2016

Argentinian teachers’ unions have united to put classes to a standstill until they receive what they feel are proper wage increases. With Argentina’s inflation rate having skyrocketed to 42% from 25% in recent months, teachers feel that their contracts must be flexible in accommodating the worsening domestic economy and their wages should be increased in accordance with inflation. A representative of La Unión de Docentes de la Provincia de Buenos Aires (Udocba) emphasized that teachers in the province of Buenos Aires are only “3,000 pesos away from dropping below the poverty line”, highlighting the necessity of the teachers’ strike. In addition to demanding higher wages, unions are protesting corruption within the educational system and fighting for better social security benefits.

See Herald staff, Buenos Aires Herald, Jul 25 2016

Casino Pauma, a casino operating on native land in California, is now adding another NLRA violation to its list of transgressions against employees attempting to organize. In a recent NLRB decision by administrative law judge Robert A. Giannasi, the Casino was charged with overly-broad restrictions on employee conduct in its manuals as employees were not allowed to carry out any “personal business” while at work. Giannasi found that this rule infringed on employees’ Section 7 rights and constituted an unfair labor practice under Section 8(a)(1) of the NLRA as the rule could be used to prevent workers from discussing unionizing and engaging in protected activities at their workplace during non-working hours. This decision comes in light of the Casino’s past charges of banning the use of union paraphernalia at work and interfering with union organizing.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 25 2016

In light of a renewed push for graduate student union rights and the NLRB’s upcoming decision on the matter, Columbia University has announced new graduate student benefits, including drastic pay and stipend increases for teaching and research assistants. John H. Coatsworth, Columbia’s provost, claims that these improved benefits are a result of collaboration with the Graduate Student Advisory Council and other student groups on campus. Columbia has been steadily improving its graduate students’ working conditions and wages over time, seemingly responding to heightened demands for collective bargaining rights while maintaining its firm position against graduate student union rights. Regardless of the university’s pushes to appease graduate students, the push for union rights continues on Columbia’s campus.

See Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Jul 22 2016

Following months of violent clashes between trade unions, workers, and Socialist Party members with the French government, Prime Minister Manuel Valls used Article 49 Part 3 of the French Constitution to push hotly contested labor law reform through parliament without a vote. The adoption of these reforms marks the third time Valls has bypassed parliament to enact legislation and comes in light of the recent terrorist attacks in Nice which have, for obvious reasons, substantially overshadowed conflicts over the labor bill. While President Francois Hollande has made the reduction of France’s skyrocketing unemployment a tenet of his government, many members of his own party and French workers and union members feel that the loosening of labor regulations will drastically damage workers’ rights and will not, in effect, create jobs. Regardless, the reforms have become law and while major French unions are refraining from taking action due to the recent national tragedy, they have vowed to take up their cause again in the fall.

See Our Foreign Staff, Telegraph, Jul 22 2016

The Chilean government is remaining steadfast in pushing a labor law through congress that will aid unions through strengthening their collective bargaining rights. However, various opponents of the bill have called attention to how giving unions the power to decide who can and cannot participate in negotiations and share their benefits could deeply damage non-union workers’ bargaining rights. While in the U.S., unions have exclusive bargaining rights with the employer on behalf of their members, in Chile, workers can independently bargain with employers in unionized workplaces. The legislation’s expansion of unions’ leverage in collective bargaining could greatly empower unionized workers but could lead to legal conflict over independent workers’ ability to control their working conditions.

See Tom Azzopardi, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 22 2016

Following the NLRB’s recent historic ruling that “mixed bargaining units” are permissible, there has been much debate over how this decision will be practically implemented and whether it will have the positive effects the majority of the Board claims it will. While the Board aimed to strengthen unions by making it impossible for employers to claim that jointly-employed and temporary workers should not be included in bargaining units with other employees, this ruling could actually further complicate and harm relations between unions and management. The participation of workers who can have radically different relationships with the employer in the same bargaining unit could lead to conflict, with Philip A. Miscimarra, a member of the NLRB, writing in his dissent that this ruling will lead to “greater uncertainty and instability” in negotiations.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 20 2016

In a rare international collaborative effort, OUR Walmart and the Wal-Mart Chinese Workers Association (WCWA) have united to fight for better wages and working conditions for Chinese Wal-Mart workers as they have tirelessly and unsuccessfully campaigned against their employer’s wage cuts and unreasonable schedule changes. While Wal-Mart employees in both countries face roadblocks to achieving their ends, with OUR Wal-Mart not having collective bargaining rights and the WCWA having waged a recent fruitless strike, they have, with the help of a translator, held video conferences in which both parties exchange strategies, ideas, and tactics to better their working conditions and employment relationships. Few international union collaborations like this have taken place, this being one of the first times a Chinese union and an American union have worked together to fight unfair labor conditions, illustrating a broadening solidarity between workers and a possible threat to Wal-Mart.

See Nandita Bose, Reuters, Jul 20 2016

For the first time in two decades, South Korean Hyundai Motor Company and Hyundai Heavy Industries unions initiated a strike together against their respective employers. Hyundai Motor Company employees are fighting for better wages in the wake of industry reform while Hyundai Heavy Industries employees are striking in protest of their employers’ perceived insincerity during negotiations and to deter company restructuring that would cost thousands of jobs. The consistent hostility between South Korean automobile and shipbuilding employers and their workers has played a massive role in the decline of both of these industries, with South Korea experiencing a steady fall in automobile exports and constant conflict in the shipbuilding industry. While the strike led to substantial production losses for employers, the effectiveness of these efforts is doubtful as only one quarter of employees at HHI, for example, are unionized, meaning that the facility can operate while the strike takes place.

See Jung Suk-yee, Business Korea, Jul 20 2016

The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has been accused of engaging in unlawful industrial action on the Gorgon gas project owned by Chevron, Shell, and ExxonMobil. According to a chain of correspondence between union leaders, the MUA alleged that they had safety concerns with the project to justify industrial action when in reality the union purely wanted to prevent the use of a foreign crew. The work stoppage, which took place in 2012, took place under the claim that work conditions were too hazardous and needed to be attended to while in reality the MUA has purely been campaigning against foreign workers. The union is now facing a $10 million damages claim over this alleged unlawful industrial action.

See Ewin Hannan, Financial Review, Jul 18 2016

Weeks after declaring a strike at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, members of Unite Here Local 54 are still going strong in light of little to no concessions on the employer’s end. Nearly 1,000 workers have been picketing outside the casino for almost a month with union leaders emphasizing that they would not be taking such drastic measures if management had not forced them to through refusing to provide a contract that adequately compensates workers and gives them the health insurance coverage they need. While Carl Icahn, owner of the Taj Mahal Casino, claims to have offered employees a contract with improved terms and conditions, workers rejected this offer, stating that this proposal had no substance in comparison to the contracts covering employees at competing casinos. Workers have been given until 5 PM this Monday to accept or reject a new contract offer.

See Nicholas Huba & Jack Tomczuk, Press of Atlantic City, Jul 18 2016

The decade-long debate about the employment status or lack thereof of university graduate students may be coming to a close with the NLRB preparing to rule on a petition started by Columbia University graduate students claiming that they should have the right to unionize. Graduate students have made a claim to the same rights and opportunities traditionally-defined employees covered under the NLRA have in terms of union organization, stating that they provide essential services in the interest of their employers, in this case the educational institutions where they study and work. Meanwhile, universities have vehemently denied that graduate students are their employees, claiming that the work these students do pertains exclusively to their studies and serves as an educational experience, not employment. The liberal-leaning NLRB is expected to weigh more in favor of students pushing for the right to organize than in favor of private universities.

See Melanie Trottman & Douglas Belkin, The Wall Street Journal, Jul 18 2016

Following a week of protest and a meeting with the Nigerian National Executive Committee, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) have called off their strike. The main reasons cited for the halting of the workers’ demonstrations are government and petroleum industry leaders’ promises that wrongly laid-off employees would be reinstated and that workers would be guaranteed some level of job security in the face of industry restructuring efforts. The proposals drafted at the aforementioned meeting between the striking unions and national leadership have been agreed to by a number of major oil companies which have previously curtailed employees’ rights by firing them without due process.

See Collins Olayinka and Roseline Okere, All Africa, Jul 15 2016

Nearly 40,000 state school teachers in the Queensland Teachers Union (QTU) have announced that they will be sending out ballots to all union members to determine whether or not to strike should the Labor administration fail to provide them with adequate salary increases. The QTU is asking for a 4.5% annual salary increase over three years and the organization has made it clear that they feel public educators should be paid as much as private educators working in Queensland’s Catholic schools. However, the current government is in poor economic shape and can barely afford 2.5% annual salary increases for public sector workers, meaning that it may be impossible for state and private teachers’ salaries to be matched up. While the QTU is calling for the strike vote for the first time in seven years, the process of collecting votes can take up to 8 weeks, meaning that the threat of a strike is not yet immediate.

See Sarah Elks, The Australian, Jul 15 2016

Oil workers employed by Wood Group at Shell’s North Sea Brent oilfield platforms have poured out support for strike action against their employer in the face of dramatic wage cuts coupled with unreasonably long and demanding shifts. Unite regional manager John Boland has emphasized that the 99% pro-strike vote by 200 oil workers demonstrates an overwhelming fervor regarding changing terms and conditions of employment and that Wood Group would be wise to listen to the grievances of their employees given that they have remained loyal to the company through a tumultuous time in the oil industry. Meanwhile, Wood Group representatives have alleged that they have had many meetings with union officials in attempts to appease workers and claim that the crippled state of the oil industry does not enable them to inflate employees’ salaries and give them better benefits, characterizing its drastic cuts as necessary to the preservation of jobs.

See Jillian Ambrose, Telegraph, Jul 15 2016

In a landmark ruling, the NLRB has overturned over a decade of precedent in allowing labor unions to represent bargaining units consisting of both employees employed by a single organization and employees employed by that same organization through another company. The decision in Miller & Anderson, Inc. overturns the 2004 decision in Oakwood Care Center, which disallowed inclusion of solely employed employees and jointly employed employees in the same unit absent consent of the employers. Members of the Board in favor of this ruling cited the shifting American workforce as a main reason for their reconsideration of NLRA Section 9(b)’s definition of an appropriate bargaining unit as staffing, temporary work, and outsourcing have skyrocketed in popularity. This ruling aims to strengthen jointly-employed employees’ bargaining power and prevent the occurrence of “’parallel organizing drives’”.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 13 2016

National Nurses United (NNU), the largest union of registered nurses in the U.S., has called on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to crack down on violence faced by healthcare workers around the country. Requests in the NNU’s petition to OSHA include a requirement for violence prevention programs in the workplace, employee input in the creation and execution of these programs, anti-retaliation measures for employees who seek out law enforcement following acts of violence, and more, with the NNU asking for OSHA’s new regulations to be as inclusive of all healthcare workers as possible. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has reported that the number of healthcare and social-assistance workers who sustain injuries from workplace violence constitutes 2/3 of all workers and makes healthcare “more dangerous than construction”.

See Stephen Lee, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 13 2016

Nearly 50,000 workers employed by Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), unionized under the two largest Korean trade unions, have announced plans to vote on a general strike following an impasse in negotiations with their respective employers over wages and work conditions. Should the two massive unions approve the strike, which seems highly likely, this would be the largest strike of its kind in South Korea in over two decades. While local businesspeople warn union members against staging a walkout in the wake of the restructuring of the shipbuilding industry given the dramatically detrimental effects this could have on the economy, both the HHI and Hyundai Motor workers are steadfast in their demands for higher wages and the reinstatement of workers fired during the course of meeting with company officials.

See Jhoo Dong-chan, The Korea Times, Jul 13 2016

Conflict between Southern California supermarkets and traditional grocery stores and their respective employees’ representative unions is ongoing as members of various locals of the UFCW announce their intent to strike in early August should negotiations over new contracts for nearly 50,000 workers reach an impasse. As the cost of living in Southern California skyrockets, these employees’ wages have remained the same, prompting the UFCW to demand a living wage for workers on top of better health benefits and more flexibility and advanced notice in terms of scheduling. On the other end, supermarkets and grocery stores are facing unprecedented competition with supercenters, warehouse sellers, and others while union density is decreasing, leading to doubts about the efficacy of a strike in getting the union’s demands met. Both employer and union representatives have made clear their intent to bargain in good faith and hopefully avoid a strike.

See Rhonda Smith, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 11 2016

In light of Nigeria’s already struggling petrol industry with the Niger Delta Avengers having bombed 12 oil pipelines and with ever-present national fears of a petroleum shortage, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) began striking at the end of last week. While the government has claimed to try to set up various meetings between ministry and union leadership, the union claims that these meetings were inconclusive or never took place and are government tactics to characterize labor as unreasonable. Due to Nigeria’s reliance on joint venture agreements and the government’s inability to uphold their end of the deals, the country is billions of dollars in debt and this has led to loss of jobs and benefits for oil workers, making it a primary reason the PENGASSAN has declared a strike. Because of Nigeria’s already struggling economy and dependence on petroleum product exports, this strike could be detrimental to the country as a whole.

See Michael Nwakalor, Ventures Africa, Jul 11 2016

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) has threatened a shutdown of all mail services throughout Canada in its mission to achieve higher wages and better pensions for postal workers. The Canada Post, which previously intended to stage a lockout, has scrapped this tactic in favor of coming to an agreement with the union and having “serious negotiations” in light of public fears regarding the stoppage of all mail and delivery services nationally. Due to the rapid decline in the use of the postal service given the popularity of using internet services, the Canada Post has been hit hard and this effect has trickled down to its employees. While employees demand better working conditions, the Post struggles with the high cost that these demands would incur, which it might not be able to afford in its current state.

See Frederic Tomesco & Michael Yang, Bloomberg, Jul 11 2016

After the Obama administration attempted to alter labor regulations to increase transparency in employers’ anti-union tactics, many employer unions and business groups are alleging that this rule would infringe on their First Amendment rights. The practice of hiring a professional anti-union consultant following a workforce’s declaration of intent to organize is commonplace and, as of yet, has never been a matter that an employer has had to disclose to their employees. While unions must legally furnish records of where they allocate their funding, employers do not have to tell employees when they bring in consultants to train supervisors and higher-ups on how to avoid unionization in the workplace. While union leaders and members assert that this law would only further transparency and level the playing field for labor and management, those representing business state that this regulation would threaten the First Amendment rights of employers and give unions an unfair advantage.

See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Business, Jul 8 2016

The Illinois Labor Relations Board denied Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s request to speed up the determination of whether negotiations with AFSCME Council 31 were at an impasse. Should it be decided that negotiations are truly at a standstill, the governor can take on drastic measures and unilaterally impose conditions of employment on nearly 40,000 workers while the union can decide to go on strike. The governor’s historically anti-union stance has made the Board skeptical of his reasons in requesting an accelerated ruling on the progress of the negotiations as this request is highly unusual and has little to no precedent. AFSCME spokespeople have announced their willingness to go back to the bargaining table while the governor’s general counsel has expressed disappointment with the Board’s decision.

See Sophia Tareen, ABC News, Associated Press, Jul 8 2016

Mexico’s most prominent teachers’ union, the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), is remaining steadfast in its fight against the national government’s proposed education reform. In light of fatal bouts of violence that have taken place in encounters between state and federal police with CNTE protestors and massive CNTE blockades that have led to Mexico’s poorest states facing food shortage crises, the teachers and other professionals within the union refuse to budge on this issue. The proposed reform calls for the administration of a test every three years to every Mexican teacher and the CNTE alleges that this test does not account for the different needs and resources present in rural Mexican schools and that it will unfairly punish teachers in these areas. While Mexico has dire educational needs that the government is seeking to address, the CNTE remains confident that these reforms are not the answer.

See Natalie Schachar, Reuters, Jul 8 2016

A public transport workers strike has commenced today, Wednesday July 6th, in Athens, Greece. Nearly all workers in the city's transport system have walked off the job in a planned 24-hour strike to protest privatizations. The privatizations are one of a number of austerity measures the Greek government has been required to implement in return for receiving rescue loans from Eurozone countries.

See Athens Public Transport Workers Protest Privatization, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jul 6 2016

On Wednesday, thousands of Zimbabwean workers flooded Harare, the nation's capital, protesting a recent Finance Ministry announcement that pay for state workers would be delayed. The Zimbabwean government is currently experiencing an economic collapse that has led to a cash shortage, controls on imports, and most recently, a failure to pay salaries on time. The government has increased police presence around Harare in an effort to keep the protests under control.

See Worsening Economic Conditions Lead to Worker Strike in Zimbabwe, Godfrey Marawanyika and Chengetai Zvauya, Chicago Tribune, Jul 6 2016

A controversial and contested labor bill was pushed through the French Parliament without a vote Tuesday night. This is the second time Prime Minister Manuel Valls has invoked a special constitutional article to approve the reading of the bill. It will now go to the conservative-led Senate and return back to Parliament later this month, where the final say will be had. The bill, if enacted into law will give companies more freedom to fire workers and allow them to enforce extend work hours.

See French PM Pushes Labor Bill Through Parliament without Vote, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Jul 6 2016

Local 54 of Unite-HERE has followed through on its strike threat at the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City during one of the busiest and most lucrative times of the year: 4th of July weekend. Local 54 has undertaken bargaining with 5 different Atlantic City casinos and has managed to reach an agreement with every casino except for the Carl Icahn-owned Taj Mahal, which has instated massive cuts to employee health insurance coverage and pensions, enraging its workforce. Over 1,000 employees have walked out and picketed the Taj Mahal in protest of management’s refusal to grant them appropriate wages and benefits. Local 54’s timing of the strike seems promising as the last time they decided to strike, an impressive walkout lasting 34 days and causing a loss of about $60 million took place, meaning that this strike could last an impressive amount of time and cause even more profit loss due to the busy holiday season.

See Associated Press, CBS News, Jul 1 2016

The NLRB has ruled that Graymont PA, Inc. has violated the NLRA in making unilateral contract changes and in withholding information from its employees, who are represented by Local Lodge D92 of the United Cement, Lime, Gypsum and Allied Workers. Graymont PA, Inc. is a lime-mining company that produces lime products in the U.S. and Canada, including its several locations in Pennsylvania, where the NLRA ruled that the company violated Section 8(a)(5) and 8(a)(1) of the NLRA. The Board overruled precedent set forth in Raley's Supermarkets & Drug Centers (2007) to state that a company’s refusal to furnish information regarding unilaterally-changed workplace rules and regulations to its employees constitutes an unfair labor practice.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jul 1 2016

Conflict continues in France as not only national labor unions but also employers take a hostile stance towards President Francois Hollande’s attempt to loosen labor regulations and hopefully decrease the country’s skyrocketing unemployment rate. Unions have recently rejected the government’s attempts to amend the proposed labor law to appease workers, stating that the concessions being made do not sufficiently satisfy their demands. Meanwhile, employers allege that while the reform’s intent to grow business and make employment more flexible is positive, the actual proposal is too complicated to practically fulfill its purpose and will just harm French businesses. President Hollande remains steadfast in getting the reform through the National Assembly regardless of the countless protests and demonstrations taking place around the country against it and against his faction of the Socialist party.

See Brian Love, Reuters, Jul 1 2016

In Nepal, a weak economy has driven workers to look for employment in other countries in order to support their families. Many of the Nepalese people have found work in Afghanistan, but that comes along with its own risks. Nepalese workers guarding the Canadian Embassy in Afghanistan were killed last week by a bomb Taliban suicide bomber. These workers were forced to pay immense broker-fees that would take months to pay-off just to acquire these jobs.

See A Weak Economy in Nepal Forces Workers to Take Risky Jobs, KAREEM FAHIM and BHADRA SHARMA, The New York Times, Jun 29 2016

Last Friday, United Airlines and its flight attendants, who are represented by the Association of Flight Attendants, announced that they had reached an agreement over a contract for the 25,000 flight attendants employed by the airline. This is the employees' first contract since United and Continental merged back in 2010. Union leaders unanimously approved the contract, and it will now be sent to the flight attendants for approval. The contract includes a healthcare plan specific to flight attendants as well as a new pay scale. If this contract is ratified, the flight attendants will all operate under the same contract for the first time.

See Union Leaders Approve Contract for United Flight Attendants , Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune, Jun 29 2016

On Wednesday in Minnesota, a petition will be delivered to the Minneapolis City Hall in an effort to increase the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. The petition, which has approximately 20,000 signatures, was created by organizers from the group 15 Now Minnesota. The amendment is supposed to appear on the November 8th ballot. Members of the labor group collected over three times the number of signatures required to have wage vote listed on the ballot. If the wage increase is approved, Minneapolis will become one of over 30 cities to greatly increase its minimum wage.

See Petition in Minneapolis to Raise City Minimum Wage to $15 , Michael Moore, Workday Minnesota, Jun 29 2016

On June 19th, 4,800 members of The Minnesota Nurses Association went on strike over failure to agree upon a new three-year contract for the nurses. These nurses are employees at five hospitals operated by Allina Health. On Sunday, the thousands employees returned to work after seven days on strike. Despite their decision to return to work, a union representative has said that the employees feel even less confident that they will be able to agree on a contract. Allina was forced to hire 1,400 temporary workers in order to maintain normal operations during the strike.

See Nurses End Strike Despite No Contract Agreement , ABC News, The Associated Press, Jun 27 2016

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it would not get involved in a dispute between the federal government and the Native American tribal sovereignty. In 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a ruling that made it easier for unions to organize workers employed by tribal casinos. Congress has attempted to pass a new bill that would remove the NLRB's jurisdiction over these casinos, but the bill has yet to make it through the Senate. Until this new bill is passed, the NLRB will be able to regulate labor practices that happen on Indian land.

Lu Yuyu, a Chinese activist who has been documenting labor protests across China for the last several years, has reportedly been in the custody of Chinese authorities since June 16th. Mr. Lu, along with his girlfriend Li Tingyu, are being accused of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." Due to a slowing economy, the amount of labor protests has been growing rapidly throughout the country. A spokesman for the Chinese Labor Bulletin praised the work of Mr. Lu and Ms. Li and stated "by 'shooting the messenger' in this case rather than dealing with the root causes of social unrest, the authorities have once again simply made matters worse."

See Labor Reporter Arrested by Chinese Authorities, EDWARD WONG, The New York Times, Jun 27 2016

Following years of hostility between the UAW and Volkswagen over union representation of employees at the Volkswagen Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, a document has surfaced which contains an agreement between the company and the union over the recognition of the UAW. Volkswagen has steadfastly denied UAW representation in Chattanooga, refusing to bargain with exclusively a group of maintenance workers who want union representation and claiming that they will only bargain with a bargaining unit comprised of both maintenance and production workers. An unfair labor practice has been filed against Volkswagen, whose Chattanooga plant is its only existing plant without union representation.

See Michael Rose, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 24 2016

The NLRB overturned a landmark 1978 decision regarding witness statement availability and confidentiality in a recent ruling regarding American Baptist Homes, a senior care facility in California. The NLRB ruled that unions should be given access to witness statements that were previously unavailable to them because they are relevant pieces of evidence and should be on the table to allow for greater transparency in grievance proceedings. The 2015 Piedmont Gardens decision has incensed the employer, but the Board has responded to the care facility’s outrage by asserting that the employer does not have the authority or justification to challenge its order, even as they try to take the case to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 24 2016

In the midst of a lengthy campaign to better the working conditions of teachers in England, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has voted to strike starting on July 5th. The NUT and its members have expressed immense dissatisfaction with the massive funding cuts to schools which have adversely affected teachers by worsening their pay and working conditions, vastly increasing their workloads, and preventing them from properly attending to and teaching their students. The Department for Education has warned the NUT against taking this action, stating that they are more than willing to formally negotiate and accusing the union of “playing politics with children's futures”.

See Hannah Richardson, BBC, Jun 24 2016

The Center for Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CCR CSR) reported that 64% of manufacturing auditors found signs of child labor during their site inspections. These auditors were inspecting companies based in China, Myanmar, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh. Out of the 557 auditors included in CCR CSR’s poll, 385 of them were looking at Chinese based companies. These auditors found that the two driving factors behind child labor were poverty and children dropping out of school. The International Labour Organization estimates that in the Asia Pacific alone, approximately 122 million children under the age of fifteen are victims of child labor.

See Auditors Find Child Labor in Asia Pacific Manufacturers , The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 22 2016

Recently, grocery workers employed by Ralphs and Albertsons voted in favor of authorizing a strike. Approximately 47,000 workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union participated in the vote. The union will now have 10 meetings with the grocery companies over the next month to see if an agreement can be reached. So far, the workers have only been offered a wage increase of 10 cents per hour, as well as some small additional bonuses. The supermarkets have also refused to contribute more to employees’ healthcare, causing the additional contributions to come from the employees themselves. As a result, employees now have to retire at age 65 rather than 60. Ralph and Albertsons is the parent company of Pavilions, Safeway and Vons stores.

See Employees of Ralphs and Albertsons Authorize Strike , Natalie Kitroeff, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 22 2016

In France, seven labor unions have planned to conduct marches this Thursday and on Tuesday of next week in Paris. In the midst of these strikes, thousands of soccer fans are in France to watch the Euro 2016. Police had initially put a ban on these protests, because they believed that they posed a security threat. Just hours after the ban, the French Interior Ministry overturned the decision, and will be working with the unions to establish a revised itinerary. Leaders of these unions, who had already planned to fight the ban, called this ruling a “’victory for unions and for democracy”. Law enforcement measures will be heighted in anticipation of these protests. These protests are taking place as result of President Hollande's decision to go ahead with labor reforms that will increase workers' hours and make it easier to eliminate jobs.

See French Interior Ministry Authorizes Union March for Thursday , Helene Fouquet , Bloomberg, Jun 22 2016

Following a seven weeks-long strike after negotiations halted with the rejection of Verizon’s proposal by the IBEW and the CWA in early April, Verizon and its employees have finally come to an agreement. After months of demonstrations and even the intervention of Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) director Allison Beck, a tentative contract was drafted between the unions and Verizon which just requires members’ approval to be effective. CWA District 1 VP Dennis Trainor has lauded the nearly 40,000 employees as heroes for risking their families’ and their own livelihoods to protect their collective rather than their individual interests. This four-year agreement is a major victory for the IBEW and the CWA in its granting of better healthcare, pension plans, wages, and many other benefits to employees who have tirelessly worked to improve their standards of living.

See Zeeshan Athar, Business Finance News, Jun 20 2016

As the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) struggles against the Mexican government’s proposed education reforms, it finds itself confronted with deadly violence which cost the lives of six civilians in a recent confrontation between Mexican state and federal police and CNTE protestors. Following the arrests of key union leaders within the CNTE for various white collar crimes and the government’s proposal to administer testing for teachers, the CNTE mobilized, taking to the streets to demonstrate on behalf of Mexican teachers. The CNTE has a reputation for its radical approach to protests and its members have upheld this reputation in violent and explosive clashes with the police as demonstrators blockaded key cities in the state of Oaxaca and were met with powerful resistance following weeks of similar activity throughout the country.

See Associated Press, Daily Mail, Jun 20 2016

After massive restructuring of the shipbuilding industry, the top shipbuilding companies in South Korea are experiencing major conflicts between labor and management. The “Big Three” Korean shipbuilding companies (Hyundai Heavy Industries, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, and Samsung Heavy Industries) have all undergone management changes which have led to unstable employment for workers as employers have threatened to reduce their workforces by up to 40% with there already having been nearly 2,000 resignations in Hyundai Heavy Industries alone. While various sources advise the labor unions of Korea’s largest shipbuilders against striking, many workers feel that they have no voice as these major changes take place, leaving them insecure with their employment and unsure of what other options they have.

See Jung Min-hee, Business Korea, Jun 20 2016

Members of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union are declaring a key victory as they reached an agreement with Macy’s management regarding their new labor contract with several major New York stores. Both representatives of the union and the department store have declared their relief and satisfaction with the parties’ ability to create an agreement suiting their respective needs. Given Macy’s unstable economic position and workers’ insistence on wages and healthcare benefits that would allow them more than mere survival in one of the most expensive cities in the world, representatives of both sides had ample motivation to defend their interests. Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, has hailed this contract as setting a new standard for retail workers everywhere.

See Rachel Abrams, New York Times, Jun 17 2016

When employees of Cleveland’s Ace Heating & Air Conditioning Co. began organizing for representation by Local 33 of Sheet Metal Workers International Association, they found themselves threatened with a business closure. The NLRB ruled that this threat, made by Ed Dudek who frequently served as an agent of the employer and was handing out paychecks to employees at the time of the threat, constituted a violation of Section 8(a)(1) in attempting to discourage employees from voting for union representation in the upcoming election. While evidence was presented that Dudek had previously been pro-union, this ruling has established that regardless of a company agent or supervisor’s intent, their position of power outweighs their objectives when considering how their actions may infringe upon employees’ Section 7 rights.

See Elliott T. Dube, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 17 2016

Just 15 days before the Australian federal election to determine all members of the 45th Parliament, Employment Minister Michaelia Cash has announced the government’s plan to adopt several recommendations made by the trade union royal commission. The most prominent of these recommendations being the granting of permission to the courts to remove union officials from power when they have been deemed consistent offenders of workplace laws and the banning of “corrupting benefits”, secret payments exchanged between union representatives and employers. Cash has expressed that these measures are purely logical and indicate the government’s alignment with worker interests in ousting corrupt union officials and preventing under-the-table dealings that deprive workers of their full rights. However, Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union construction national secretary Dave Noonan has made it clear that he feels that government officials do not understand that workers elect their officials and courts should have no say in who is in union leadership.

See Paul Karp, The Guardian, Jun 17 2016

In light of the recent passing of the World Day Against Child Labor, Chang Hee Lee, Director of the Vietnamese ILO, discussed specifically the often overlooked roles minors play in supply chains as he addressed the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the ILO. Children are often major contributors to supply chains within Vietnamese industries and because they work at the lowest levels of operation, businesses frequently neglect to address this illegal employment and, at times, are unaware of the sources of their labor. In addition, most child labor comes from the children of economically disadvantaged families who rely on this work to sustain their households, making the problem even more complex and difficult to eradicate. As Vietnam continues to grow its economy and expand in the world market, corporate social responsibility seems to be taking a more prominent role indicating a positive trend in labor conditions.

See Bao Van, Thanh Nien News, Jun 15 2016

As the U.S. coal market continues to decline and mining companies steadily declare bankruptcy, thousands of retired miners and their families are faced with the possibility of losing their pensions and health care benefits from to a lack of funds due to dramatically decreased UAW representation in the mines. A rally was held in Lexington, Kentucky this past Tuesday at which Cecil Roberts, president of the UAW, addressed retired miners, many of which heavily rely on their benefits to cover the high costs of accommodating disabilities and impairments incurred during decades of hard and dangerous labor. The UAW and various senators vehemently support the passing of SB 1714, a bill that would dramatically increase the funds available to address health costs for nearly 89,000 covered individuals.

See Dylan Lovan, ABC News, Associated Press, Jun 15 2016

Following days of stormy negotiations between labor and management, members of Local 1-S of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union have threatened a strike against Macy’s at four different New York locations, including Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square if an agreement is not reached before midnight on Thursday. This strike would involve nearly 5,000 workers walking out on their jobs, dealing a deadly blow to Macy’s, which has already been in a downward spiral as competitors such as discounted and online stores steadily replace the once-prominent merchant. The Local’s bargaining unit representatives indicated that they refuse to budge on what they believe are necessary health care coverage and fair wages. Macy’s has already placed ads for temporary workers in major local publications, suggesting the gravity of the strike threat and the company’s willingness to take on this challenge regardless of its precarious position.

See Anne D'Innocenzio, ABC News, Associated Press, Jun 15 2016

The U.S. Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the NLRB in a case regarding the unfair labor practices of two nursing homes in Illinois. Employers were found to be bypassing workplace union representatives in directly dealing with employees and unilaterally imposing various contract changes with the intent of undermining the union. In finding these employers’ conduct in blatant violation of good faith bargaining, the Court ruled that paying bargaining expenses would be included in the remedies owed to the union. This marked the first time the issue of bargaining expenses as remedy was decided upon by the Court. However, the Court also ruled that the NLRB did not have the authority to demand that litigation costs be included in the remedies owed, following a precedent set forth in HTH Corp. v. NLRB.

See Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jun 13 2016

Following extensive periods of labor unrest in the South African mining industry which brought the economy to a standstill, Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat) has granted the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) exclusive union rights. This development comes after heated conflict between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), rival unions which have been fighting for domination of the platinum sector, the latter taking on a more militant approach to labor relations than the former. RBPlat and NUM acknowledged that industrial peace is necessary for the preservation of the South African economy, especially in one of its largest sectors, and that this was a main motivation behind this agreement.

See Zandi Shabalala, Reuters, Jun 13 2016

The French General Confederation of Labor (CGT) has mobilized its members in response to President François Hollande’s proposed reforms to loosen France’s labor laws, making the hiring and firing of employees easier and weakening union power. True to its roots in Marxist-Leninist principles, the CGT has organized strikes against this agenda, decrying Hollande and the French leadership as traitors to their leftist allegiance and inspiring smaller unions to lead protests regarding other, unrelated labor issues. It is argued that the CGT’s greatest fear regarding this legislation is the threat of moving bargaining from the sector level to the local level, stripping the union of its national clout. So far, the CGT’s methods have been successful in stripping the proposed law of many of its allegedly detrimental components.

See Celestine Bohlen, New York Times, Jun 13 2016

In Finland, the country is in the process of implementing a new labor reform bill that is meant to improve economic growth. The bill will cut the benefits of workers as well as relax rules in the labor market. On Friday, the Metalworkers Union, which represents 14,000 workers, voted in favor of of the bill. Along with these reforms, the government plans to cut taxes as well as spending. Workers will have to contribute more toward their pensions and increase their hours in return.

See Large Labor Union in Finland Pledges Support For Labor Reforms , The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jun 10 2016

In Sweden, pilots employed by SAS walked off the job after negotiations over job security and wages were not settled. It is estimated that as many as 400 unionized pilots went on strike. The strike has already led to the cancellation of 40 flights leaving the Stockholm airport. The pilots are demanding a 3.5% pay increase as well as better pay for new hires that is more comparable to pilots who have been with the airline for a while.

The National Employment Law Project published a report that claims that sales quotas implemented by banks tend to cause workers to make unethical choices that can harm both themselves and consumers. These quotas force workers to make a choice between their own "well-being", being a strong performer in the company, and the "well-being" of the customers the bank serves. The Committee for Better Banks, a subsidiary of Communications Workers of America labor union, is working toward organizing bank workers to ensure job security, push for higher wages, and bring an end to the sales quota benchmarks.

See Labor Group's Report Claims Sales Quotas Cause Unethical Behavior, James Rufus Koren, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 10 2016

On Friday, France is scheduled to host the Euro 2016, a soccer tournament that will run from June 10th until July 10th and will attract millions of fans. Garbage has piled up in the streets of Paris as well as several other major cities as workers continue to strike over labor reforms. The CGT union, which represents many of the striking workers, believes that these reforms will jeopardize the job security of workers. For the eighth day in a row, railway operations were disrupted as a result of the strikes. The railway operator SCNF said that only 10% of its workforce is on strike, a considerably smaller percentage in comparison to last week. In addition to railway strikes, pilots with Air France have planned a four day strike over pay cuts that will begin on June 11th.

See Strikes in France Could Disrupt Fans Traveling to the Euro 2016, The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 8 2016

On June 20th, United Airlines and the Association of Flight Attendants are scheduled to have a mediation session in an effort to bring an end to contract negotiations. Last week the two groups failed to come to an agreement over a new contract for the company's flight attendants. The Association of Flight Attendants is estimated to represent 24,000 employees of United Airlines. Flight attendants have not had a joint contract since Continental Airlines and United merged back in 2010. Other major employee groups of the airline ratified contracts in April, some of which included pay increases of up to 30%.

See Flight Attendants to Resume Talks with United Over Contract Negotiations, Lauren Zumbach, Chicago Tribune, Jun 8 2016

On Tuesday, the mayor of Washington D.C., Muriel E. Bowser, pledged his support for the D.C. council's recent decision to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Washington D.C. will follow in the footsteps of California and New York, which have already implemented laws to raise their minimum wages to $15 an hour over the next several years. Supporters of this increased minimum wage believe that it will help to reduce inequality and the current wage gap. This wage increase is estimated to impact 70,000 workers and put upward wage pressure on an additional 44,000 workers who make just above $15 an hour.

See Washington D.C. to Raise Minimum Wage to $15 an Hour, Aaron C. Davis, The Washington Post, Jun 8 2016

In Japan, the number of part-time workers has hit an all-time high and the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has shifted his attention toward wage equality. Now that temporary workers make up 40% of the country's labor force, Abe wants to ensure that people who perform the same job earn equal wages. This plan has been met with backlash from employers who will now be forced to pay some of its employees more. In addition to this plan, Abe announced that he would delay a planned sales tax increase for 2.5 years.

See Japan's Prime Minister Announces Plan to Reduce Wage Inequality , The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 6 2016

On Friday, Federal Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled that the U.S. Women's Soccer Team is not allowed to strike in order to put pressure on the federation to improve working conditions and increase wages. According to the union, they were seeking the option to strike, but had not definitively decided that they would. In a separate lawsuit, five soccer players had filed a complaint in March claiming that wage discrimination existed. The ruling on Friday does not directly impact the complaint filed by those five players.

In Estonia, in 2015 the country experienced the first year since 1991 that immigration exceeded emigration, thus there was a net inflow of people. The stable labor market and wage growth that has happened over the past several years has helped to bring the number of people leaving the country to a standstill. The other two Baltic economies of Latvia and Lithuania have not seen the same wage growth and are still dealing with the problem of high emigration. However, these Baltic countries are now expanding more quickly than the rest of the EU in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

See Estonia's Wage Growth Slows Emigration and Increases Immigration , Ott Ummelas and Milda Seputyte, Bloomberg, Jun 6 2016

In Qatar, eleven people were killed and twelve others were hospitalized, in a fire that erupted late Wednesday in housing used by a company working on a tourism project in the south of the country in preparation for the 2022 World Cup. Worker’s rights groups have criticized Qatar’s treatment of foreign workers and the country has enacted some labor reforms to improve working conditions. The fire will likely increase the scrutiny of conditions that low-wage guest workers are subjected to under the system of employer sponsorship.

See Eleven Killed in Fire at Qatar Migrant Labor Housing Facility, The New York Times, The Associated Press, Jun 3 2016

The U.S. economy added just 38,000 new jobs last month, a steep decrease from April’s low 123,000, and well below analysts’ forecasts. Overall, the economy has averaged just 116,000 during the previous three months of this year, compared with about 207,000 last year. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7% in May, the lowest since 2007, largely because 458,000 workers dropped out of the labor force. One positive of the May report was that wages continued to show solid improvement. May’s meager job growth was completely unexpected and makes it unlikely Federal Reserve policymakers will increase a key interest rate when they meet June 14-15.

See Weak May Job Report Makes Fed Interest Rate Hike Less Likely, Jim Puzzanghera, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 3 2016

An employee of the company Nest, a subsidiary of Google, filed a complaint against the parent company. The complaint was filed by an employee who was terminated after he shared a meme on his Facebook that mocked Nest's CEO Tony Fadell. Fadell has been recently criticized in the news for the company's culture. The complainant was questioned about the incident by the head of Google's security and then was fired.

See Employee Fired from Google's Subsidiary Nest for Facebook Meme, Gina Hall, Silicon Valley Business Journal, Jun 3 2016

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation reported that hundreds of thousands of low-wage jobs would be added in the area over the next four years. Food service workers and office administrators are estimated to account for approximately 93,000 of the jobs added. Economists have voiced complaints that they would much rather see job growth in high-wage sectors. Los Angeles county has already added 469,200 jobs since 2010, and another 346,000 jobs are anticipated to be added between now and 2020.

See Los Angeles to Add Hundred of Thousands of Low-Wage Jobs by 2020, Natalie Kitroeff, The Los Angeles Times, Jun 1 2016

On Tuesday evening, three major unions in France called for a railway strike that would begin at 7pm. This strike, which carried over into Wednesday, caused the railway operator SNCF to suspend service for 4 out of its 10 high-speed trains. In addition to this, the company had to cancel half of its commuter trains. On Tuesday, Hollande reaffirmed that he will continue with his labor reform measures. Tensions are high in France as it will host the Euro 2016 soccer tournament on June 10th.

See Railway Strikes in France Disrupt Service of Commuter Trains, Mark Deen and Francois de Beaupuy, Chicago Tribune, Bloomberg News, Jun 1 2016

On Wednesday, Mitsubishi Materials Corp announced that it had agreed to pay owed wages to Chinese workers who were subjects of forced labor in the company's mines during World War Two. It is estimated that 3,765 workers or families of deceased workers will receive a formal apology from the company along with $100,000. In 2015, Mitsubishi was the first company to come out and apologize for using forced labor during World War Two. The Chinese Foreign Ministry hopes that Japan continues to take responsibility for this historical event.

See Mitsubishi Materials To Reimburse Forced Laborers From WWII, The New York Times, Reuters, Jun 1 2016

Tensions continues to rise in France, where protestors have began to block roadways with burning tires after the government confirmed that it would not back down on its labor reforms. 150,000 union members have marched in protest of the government's reforms, 77 of whom have been arrested. François Hollande, the President of France, currently holds an approval rating below 20%, the lowest of any sitting President in the nation's history. In response to Hollande's reforms, which would make it easier for employers to hire and fire employees, union members have gone to extreme lengths to cut off the nation's fuel supply, resulting in large lines at gas pumps and strikes in the public transportation sector. Protestors have planned another day of demonstration, June 14, to coincide with the Euro 2016 soccer tournament.

See James McAuley, The Washington Post, May 27 2016

After almost two months of striking, Verizon has reached a tentative 4-year agreement with its 40,000 protestors. The deal is a direct result of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez's intervention two weeks ago, which restarted negotiations between the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Union members must still ratify the contract, the details of which have not been released as of 2pm today.

See Aaron Pressman, Fortune, May 27 2016

Emails made public by the Mayor of Boston today have uncovered union strong arming in the Boston Office of Tourism, Sports and Entertainment. The department is run by Kenneth Brissette, who has been arrested after forcing a city music festival to hire union workers. Brissette was also previously involved in a shake down conducted by Teamsters Local 25 of the television show "Top Chef"'s crew. Brissette has pleaded not guilty and has deemed the federal prosector's decision to indite him "factually and legally flawed."

See Joe Dwinell , Boston Herald, May 27 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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