Workplace Issues Today
On Monday, the Supreme Court said that companies are allowed to use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to keep workers from coming together and filing a law suit against a shared employer. Class action law suits have historically been an effective way for workers to exercise their rights and seek justice. Employers can now mandate that any grievance must be settled through arbitration. This decision comes at a time when the number of American workers who are unionized is at an 80-year low.
See Terri Gerstein and Sharon Block, New York Times, May 21 2018
A growing number of people are surviving cancer thanks to advances in medicine, but unfortunately, many survivors are grappling with losing their jobs and their health insurance because of their illness. The side effects of sugary and chemotherapy leave many people needing more time off than their employers are willing to give, and advocates say that workplace laws have not made the same advances as treatments for cancer. While it’s unclear how many people lose their jobs because of cancer, studies show that only 40% of patients are back to work within six months.
See Glenn Howatt, Star Tribune, May 21 2018
The U.S. Department of Labor penalized 11 McDonald’s franchises in New Jersey, costing the franchisee S&P Enterprises, Inc. nearly nine thousand dollars for child labor violations. After an investigation conducted earlier this year, the Wage and Hour Division found violations in the number of hours employees under the age of 16 were allowed to work. The string of franchises employed sixteen minors during the time of the violations.
See Owen Proctor, NorthJersey.com, May 21 2018
An arbitrator has ruled that Cornell violated the NLRA by abusing official mass communication channels to propagate an anti-unionization campaign. Senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School Barbara Knuth sent out mass emails to graduate students to discourage them from voting in favor of unionizing. The American Federation of Teachers lost the March 2017 election by a narrow margin, with 856 votes in favor, and 919 against. A petition circulating prior to the election, however, showed that a majority of Cornell graduate employees supported unionization. Despite finding that the administration interfered with the free choice of voters, arbitrator Howard Edelman upheld the election results. Edelman also noted that in order for the graduate union’s request for re-election to be granted, they would need a substantial showing that without the university’s interference, the results would have been different.
See Matt Steecker, Ithaca Journal, May 18 2018
On Monday, the Supreme Court denied Chastity Jones a chance to argue that the company she worked for who told her to get rid of her dreadlocks infringed on her rights. Jones, an African American woman, has been trying for nearly a decade to have her case heard and says that there is racial bias at play in such corporate grooming policies. In 2010 Catastrophe Management Solutions offered Jones a job, on the condition that she get rid of her dreadlocks. She filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Commission, who filed a lawsuit against the company in 2013. In 2014, an Alabama federal judge ruled that civil rights laws only apply to unalterable traits like race and sex. The decision was upheld in 2016 by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Jones says that if the Supreme Court was able to recognize the role stereotypes play in sex discrimination cases like Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the same reasoning should apply in racial discrimination cases as well.
See Nadra Nittle, Racked, May 18 2018
After a contracted worker broke his jaw while working at a Tesla factory, the company denied any responsibility for dangerous workplace practices. Instead, they blamed the company who contracted him out to Tesla. They are not the only ones pointing the finger at someone else, large corporations have been pushing for the creation of increasingly complex employment arrangements in order to distance themselves and avoid being held accountable for workplace injuries and labor relations disputes. The Supreme Court has signaled a willingness to consider the issues of workplace safety and workers rights in the era of contract work. In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court defined an “independent contractor” as someone in business for himself or herself, not under the company’s control, or working in a job that is outside the usual work of the company. Recent data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows an increase in work-related deaths involving contract employees.
See Rebecca Smith, San Francisco Chronicle, May 18 2018
According to research conducted by Human Rights Watch in 2017, tobacco farms in Zimbabwe regularly employ children between the ages of 12-17 during their harvest and processing seasons. Moreover, the organization reported that farm workers are often made to work long shifts with no overtime and sometimes forced to go months without pay. A boom in tobacco sales in the Global South and Asia is fueling the exploitation, and the Zimbabwe government is looking the other way as farmers do everything in their power to take advantage of the growing demand. Last November, Robert Mugabe was ousted as president and replaced with more business-friendly Emmerson Mnangagwa, who vowed to reform agricultural policy by relaxing the regulatory environment and returning control to local farmers. Pricing inequities in the marketplace which stem from non-transparent trading practices often leave tobacco farmers severely underpaid, compounding other factors that exacerbate the exploitation of child labor.
See Michelle Chen, The Nation, May 16 2018
Dozens of farmworkers rallied on the steps of the New York State Capitol on Tuesday, urging the Senate’s Agricultural Committee to pass the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act. Politicians and representatives from a number of unions including the Hispanic Federation and the New York Civil Liberties Union delivered speeches at the rally. The Act would guarantee agricultural workers one day a week off and overtime pay. If passed into law, the Act will also require that supervisors report injuries to employers and provide employees with workers’ compensation forms. In January, New York Supreme Court Justice Richard McNally dismissed a lawsuit brought by the NYCLU and two other advocacy groups seeking to secure collective bargaining rights for farm workers. Similar attempts to extend protections to agricultural workers in the past have routinely been denied.
See Madison Iszler, Times Union, May 16 2018
In a complaint filed on behalf of 14,000 AT&T employees, the Communications Workers of America accused the company of withholding information about how they are spending its windfall from Trump’s tax overhaul. The union is currently in contract negotiations with AT&T and filed the complaint last Friday alleging that the company has put the Communications Workers at a disadvantage in contract talks by illegally withholding data. The telecom giant is one of roughly a dozen companies who have formal disclosure requests against them concerning their corporate gains from this year’s tax cuts and how much of that money is being dealt out to workers.
See Josh Eidelson, Dallas News, Bloomberg, May 16 2018
As the population of German nationals continues to age, the government is executing a plan to leverage their large refugee population as a way to fill gaps in the workforce. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants are arriving in the country every year, most of whom are young men coming from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. The government plans to spend 3.2 billion euros a year to first teach the refugees German language and culture, and the practical skills necessary to start working in factories and hospitals. Germany is the first country to integrate workers into the labor force on such a large scale, and they could be setting an example for other EU countries to follow in the future. According to a study by the German Institute for Economic Research, the country’s future depends on successful integration. Failure could result in prolonged government transfer payments to the refugee population, who would at best provide a supply of low-skilled labor. The hope is that Germany’s large investment will pay off in seven to ten years when the net tax revenue from immigrants will exceed the costs of integration and transfer payments.
See Paul Hockenos, New York Times, May 14 2018
The Israeli National Labor Court ordered striking dockworkers to return to work after a three-day strike. An unusual court order was issued instructing police to round up union officials who failed to show up to court last Thursday. The striking workers were members of labor groups at state-owned ports in Haifa and Ashdod. Only 104 of the 116 employees at the Haifa port returned to work on Sunday, and according to management at the Ashdod Port, productivity there was between 15-20% lower than usual. The workers are protesting the introduction of privately owned ports which are due to open in the next few years. Unions are concerned that the competition from these Chinese and Dutch-owned enterprises will threaten jobs and wages at state facilities. The court imposed penalties in the amount of 20,000 shekels on each of the five union leaders at the Haifa Port and 80,000 shekels for each of the Ashdod committee heads, about $22,400.
See Tali Heruti-Sover, Haaretz, May 14 2018
At a recent rally in Michigan, Trump shocked his base and delighted the powerful agricultural lobby when he said “we need to have your workers come in”, referring to the H-2A agricultural visa program. Days before the speech, the Labor Department reached a settlement with the Arizona-based G Farms in a case arising from inhumane conditions that the agribusiness had subjected its workers to. The farm was housing 69 temporary H-2A workers in crowded and unsanitary trailers. Critics of the visa program say that it enables the mass import of vulnerable and easily exploited people. In fiscal year 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor approved more than 200,000 H-2A visas, a 20.7% increase from the year before. A study published by Indiana University found that temporary guest workers are guaranteed to be underpaid because their employers control their visas, making it almost impossible for them to advance in the labor market. Farm owners, however, maintain that their survival depends on easy access to cheap labor.
See Joe Guzzardi, The Vindicator, Cagle Cartoons, May 14 2018
Walmart has admitted to taking illegal action against pro-union employees in some of it’s California stores. After a prolonged lawsuit, the retail giant signed an agreement last month with the workers’ advocacy group, Our Walmart, acknowledging that their 2010 dress code banning union buttons was a violation of national labor law. The company also admitted to taking disciplinary action against six workers who participated in a peaceful protest in 2012. An administrative law judge ruled against Walmart on these counts in 2016, but the company appealed the decision which allowed them to avoid rescinding the disciplinary actions and dress code until April of this year. Walmart must now post notices in its Placerville and Richmond stores about the reformed dress code.
See Matthew Boyle and Jef Feeley, Bloomberg, May 11 2018
On Friday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals revived a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce challenging a Seattle law that would allow Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize. The 2015 Seattle law was the first of it’s kind, and requires that the city’s 9,000 Uber and Lyft drivers be represented by one union. The law was put on hold pending the outcome of the Chamber’s law suit. The 9th Circuit ruled that the city did not have the power to regulate employment arrangements between ride-hail companies and their drivers. However, last year a federal judge in Seattle disagreed, saying that Washington state had specifically authorized it’s cities to regulate the for-hire transportation industry. On Friday, the 9th Circuit revised their initial ruling, saying that state law allows the city to regulate rates that the companies charge to consumers, but not the fees that they charge the drivers for ride referrals. The case was sent back to the federal judge in Seattle for reconsideration.
See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, May 11 2018
Graduate students at George Washington University held an eight hour sit-in on Thursday morning for the second time in two weeks. GW Graduate Students United members delivered a letter to the school’s president and provost at 9:30 requesting that they agree to hold a third-party election that would allow the students to establish a collective bargaining unit. The unionization efforts began last fall in response to low pay and poor health care plans. More than 20 students participated in the first hour-long sit in two weeks ago, which prompted Provost Forrest Maltzman to meet with leaders of the graduate students union. Maltzman reportedly walked out of the meeting early, causing more than 50 students to protest outside of Rice Hall earlier in the month. Both the Student Association and the GW Faculty association have expressed support for the unionization drive.
See Dani Grace, The GW Hatchet, May 11 2018
The system-wide University of California AFSCME strike has been drawing an increasing amount of attention. Senator Kamala Harris cancelled her speaking engagement this weekend at UC Berkley’s 2018 commencement to stand in solidarity with the workers. More than 12,000 surgeries, cancer treatments and appointments have also been canceled. At least two physical altercations have occurred in conjunction with rallies, including a man who reportedly drove his car into a crowd of protesters on Monday. All ten campuses have remained open, although some classes have been canceled and dining services scaled back.
See Teresa Watanabe and Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times, May 9 2018
Despite having generally positive labor relations, United Airlines is opposing unionization efforts by some 2,700 catering workers. In January, Unite Here submitted a list of signatures representing 76% of the corporations’ catering employees, more than enough to meet the NLRB’s 50% threshold to hold a representation election. In March, the airline challenged the validity of the signature list. On March 29, the National Mediation Board announced it would launch an investigation into the union’s card-check drive. Unite Here claims that United had been attacking the unionization effort by suspending worker-organizers in Houston and Newark, and posting anti-union messages in work areas. United released a prepared statement refuting the allegations, maintaining that Unite Here’s organization campaign was deliberately confusing employees and misrepresenting the situation. As of May 9, the National Mediation Board has not released a conclusive statement on their investigation.
See Ted Reed, Forbes, May 9 2018
On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders announced new legislation designed to strengthen labor unions and raising static wages across the country. Although he acknowledged that the bill is likely to not pass given Republican control of the house and senate, Sanders did bring national attention to the issue of stagnant wages. More than a dozen prominent Democrats co-sponsored the bill, including Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren.
See Josh Delk, The Hill, May 9 2018
Tronc Media, the parent company of both the LA Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other news outlets, agreed on Sunday that they will recognize the Tribune’s recently elected labor union. The corporation has historically been strongly against unions and initially refused to recognize the Newspaper Guild after they were elected by journalists last week by an 85% margin. Organizers have expressed concern about noncompetitive pay, uneven compensation between women and employees of color compared to their white and male counterparts, as well as a lack of journalistic freedom.
See David Folkenflik, NPR, May 7 2018
The Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents more than 30,000 employees across LA, has called for a 24-hour strike on May 15. The union and school district have been unable to agree on contract terms after more than a year of bargaining. Executive director Max Arias says that some 125 special education assistants had their hours cut without the Union’s knowledge and that there have been efforts by the administration in at least one school to interfere with the strike vote. More than 94% of the 11,000 school bus drivers, custodians, special education assistants, teacher assistants, health aides and cafeteria workers who voted were in favor of the strike.
See Alene Tchekmedyian, Los Angeles Times, May 7 2018
French Minister of Finance Bruno Le Marie warned the airline workers’ union on Monday that Air France is on the brink of bankruptcy, and will go under if strikes continue. Despite holding a majority stake in the Airline, Le Marie said the French government will not come to the rescue and bail the corporation out in the event it goes under. The workers are demanding a 5% wage increase, and have carried out a series of rolling strikes over the last few months that have cost the airline some $300 million Euros, roughly $360 million. Company shares were down 13% at the start of this week.
See Liz Alderman, New York Times, May 7 2018
In 2015, an analysis of nearly 300 studies found that overly-stressful workplace stress is as likely to lead to a medical illness as second-hand smoke. A number of recent work-related deaths illustrate this phenomena, including a 21-year old Merrill Lynch intern in London who collapsed and died after working 72-hours straight. Long working hours, economic insecurity stemming from job loss and unpredictable work hours, and work-family conflict are just a few of the potentially deadly harmful workplace practices that put so many workers at risk of negative health repercussions related to their work. The American Institute of Stress contests that workplace stress costs the American economy around $300 Billion every year. Approximately 12,000 deaths occur each year in the US from harmful management practices, according to one peer-reviewed article. Around 12.5 million working days were lost in the UK due t work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016-17, according to the Health and Safety Executive. Some companies, such as Patagonia, Collective Health, SAS Institute, and Google, are taking the issue of workplace-related medical and mental health problems seriously. Employees at these companies get paid time off and are encouraged to use it.
See Jeff Pfeffer, BBC Capital, May 4 2018
Economics professor John Summa was denied reappointment for teaching left-of-center views at the University of Vermont. Summa was a full-time lecturer at the university between 2009 and 2017.The Vermont Labor Relations Board dismissed his grievance on Friday. Over his eight-year career teaching UVM, professor Suma had become persona non grada with his colleagues in the economics department, he claims that they detested the fact he challenged the “straight-jacket” model of economics that was being taught at the university. UVM administrators say that Summa was let go because the quality of his education was not u to par with their standards.
See Molly Walsh, Seven Days, May 4 2018
French protesters have raised more than one million euros to support striking workers on Friday. Rail workers began periodic strikes over a month ago to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s overhaul of the national labor code. The movement has been running a crowd-funding campaign online that has attracted an impressive amount of attention. Internet polls reveal that a majority of people in France support the Société nationale des chemins de fer Francis’ reform plan.
See Reuters, May 4 2018
A bi-partisan group of senators is urging the Federal Labor Relations Authority to stop efforts to close the regional Boston office until Congress can contribute an opinion. The group is lead by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey. On Tuesday, they sent a letter stating their concerns to FLRA chairman Colleen Duffy Kiko. It included 11 different signatures from senators across the Northeast.
See U.S. News, Associate Press, May 2 2018
AFSCME Local 3299, the official union of the University of California, is planning a university-system-wide strike between May 7 to 9. The UC workers recently voted to authorize the strike on April 18th. Roughly 25,000 workers across ten different campuses are represented by the union. AFSCME cited a number of reasons for the strike, including racial and gender wage disparities. The UC’s have also been systematically shrinking the workforce, opting to outsource low-wage jobs to contract workers instead of keeping full-time employees with benefits. Many displaced workers are coming back as contract workers, which puts downward pressure on overall wages and benefits packages. Most recently, the UC refused the union’s demands to freeze healthcare costs, increase benefits, end the practice of hiring outside contractors, and strengthening the system for protecting workers against sexual harassment. Their counter offer was just a 2 percent annual increase in wages for the next four years, prompting the workers’ to strike. On April 25th the Associated Students of UCSD unanimously passed a resolution of support for the union’s efforts.
See ABC7.com staff, ABC 7, May 2 2018
Hundreds of union members congregated outside of the Macedonian government building in Skopje this May Day to protest poor working conditions. The rally, led by the National Federation of Trade Unions, was to urge the government to pass legislation that strengthen collective bargaining rights. Specifically, the trade federation is speaking out against large fines imposed by debt collectors, which are blocking people from accessing their bank accounts. An independent union of journalists also joined the protest to demand better working conditions and salaries.
See Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Associated Press, May 2 2018
Illinois public employees are being denied overdue pay dating as far back as 2011, and the state is ignoring the AFSCME’s demands to compensate their members. Some 38,000 workers are represented by the union. Members rallied at the Statehouse on April 26th, demanding the money promised in their contracts. The battle is over pay-raises that were included in the public employees’ contracts but never paid out. Former Illinois Governor said that state lawmakers failed to include the raises in the budget. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the AFSCME, and the employees were compensated half of the money initially promised in their contracts. They have yet to receive the rest, and workers are increasingly the pressure on the administration to pay-out.
See Sam Dunklau, Northern Public Radio, Apr 30 2018
The debate over implementing an unconditional basic income is gaining more attention from German policymakers and social scientists. A UBI would grant all citizens a fixed sum of money every month, regardless of whether they are working or not. With increasing public fear of widespread job loss due to digitization and robotic production, many Germans see UBI as a potential solution to high unemployment. However, trade union leaders said on Monday that implementing a UBI is not a reasonable solution, calling the policy a “standstill reward”.
See Deutsche Welle, Apr 30 2018
Portland Uber and Lyft drivers will rally outside of City Hall today to speak up about low pay, secretive corporate culture, and gaps in insurance coverage in ride-hailing companies operating in the city. The AFL-CIO is supporting the drivers’ effort, called the Transportation Fairness campaign, which is urging city officials to delegate a board to protect workers at these companies. The union slowed Uber and Lyft’s entry into the municipality for over a year, although the ride-hailing giants finally gained entry into the city in 2014.
See Elise Herron , Willamette Week, Apr 30 2018
Union members from across the state rallied in solidarity alongside Arizona teachers at the state capitol on Thursday. Some have promised not to complete or begin jobs at public schools until the dispute is resolved. Israel Torres, a spokesperson for UA Local 469, told the press that they will not go to work at schools where teachers have walked out. The union represents some 3,000 plumbers and pipe fitters in Arizona. Members of Local 99 of the United Food & Commercial Workers have made similar vows. Other workers affiliated with the AFL-CIO handed out water bottles and held up signs to show their support.
See Russ Wiles, AZ Central, The Republic, Apr 27 2018
Local 881 of the United Food and Commercial Workers filed a claim against the Albanese Confectionary, alleging that it used widespread firings, threats, and intimidation to discourage its’ workers from attempting to unionize. An unfair labor practice complaint was filed with the NLRB on April 17th and says that the illegal tactics have been taking place since February after a group of production workers decided to start organizing. The candy maker is based in Hobart, Indiana.
See Karen Caffarini, Post-Tribune, Apr 27 2018
Despite their high demand and good salaries, some engineers in Silicon Vally are showing interest in unionizing. A dozen employees at a startup called Lanetix were fired earlier this year. The company says that they needed to let people go for economic reasons, although on an employee, Bjorn Westergard, says the layoffs happened just a few days after they filed an application for an election to join the Communications Workers of America. High turnover rates among Silicon Valley engineers weakens the potential for worker solidarity. Westergard, however, says many of his colleagues in the industry are increasingly showing an interest in staying in their jobs and trying to fix problems with the company rather than leaving for another well-paid position. An organization called the Tech Workers Coalition, say that the push for unionization at Lanetix is a positive sign that interest in organizing has been gaining traction in the tech industry. Tech companies are notoriously libertarian and strongly anti-union, and as the spat between organizers and Lanetix illustrates, it will not be an easy path toward organizing tech workers.
See Julie Charpentrat, Phys.org, Apr 27 2018
A coalition of labor unions in Costa Rica went on strike Wednesday. The workers are protesting a new fiscal plan that is currently being discussed in the Legislative Assembly. Members of the National Insurance Institute, the Social Security Authority, and public education unions are participating in the strike, among others. Their position is that the proposed fiscal plan should be thrown out in order to have a more substantive discussion about the root of the fiscal problem. They say public workers are not the people who caused the crisis, and should not be made to pay through cuts to their benefits packages. The unions took to the streets of San Jose at 9 am this morning.
See Laura Alvarado, The Costa Rica Star, Apr 25 2018
South African labor unions are staging a nationwide strike today to protest a wage bill that, if approved, would set the minimum wage at 20 rand an hour, the equivalent of $1.60 USD. The bill was approved by the cabinet in November and set to be introduced on May 1. However, in the midst of disagreements over its’ contents, a parliamentary committee recently sent the bill back to the labor ministry to be redrafted. One member of the metalworkers union NUMSA said the proposed minimum wage is a “spit in the face of the working class”. The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) represents roughly 800,000 workers in 30 different unions. They are staging six marches around the country to urge the government to radically change the wage legislation.
See Alexander Winning, Reuters, Apr 25 2018
Chicago Tribune management announced on Wednesday that it will not recognize a newsroom employee labor union, despite overwhelming support from workers. In a letter to the union organizing committee, Editor-in-Chief Bruce Dold cited a lack of information as the reason for their decision. According to a twitter post from digital news editor Charlie Johnson, management made no effort to seek additional information after announcing their decision to not recognize the union, adding that the employees plan to file signature cards with the NLRB and petition for an election.
See NBC Chicago, Apr 25 2018
In a historic moment for the university, Harvard graduate student TAs and research assistants voted to unionize late last week. Graduate student workers at the school have been pushing to unionize for decades. Their first unionization election was held in November 2016, shortly after the NLRB ruling in Columbia that incorporated graduate student-workers into the definition of a “worker” and granting them collective bargaining rights. The initial election was shrouded in controversy after the NLRB confirmed that the university-generated voter lists were incomplete. This time around, more than 3,500 eligible graduate students voted over the course of a two-day election. The results tallied in at 1,931 votes in favor, 1,523 against, and the grads are now full members of the Union-United Automobile Workers.
See Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Molly C. McCafferty , The Harvard Crimson, Apr 23 2018
Colombia graduate students are ready to strike if the university does not agree to bargain with their union by the end of the day. The student-workers are represented by the Auto Workers Local 2110. Ninety-three percent of members voted in favor of a strike during an election held earlier this month. They strike is set to last until classes end on April 30th, just days before the start of final exams on May 4th. The university has not shown any signs of wavering from their anti-union stance.
See Katie Fustich, Labor Notes, Apr 23 2018
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued new guidance on when the NLRA will protect union “salting” campaigns, and when it will not. The new guidelines came out of a lawsuit involving the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the recruiting Aerotek. Four IBEW members applied for positions with Aerotek, seeking to recruit new members. All four “salts” were upfront about their intentions to organize non-union sites and expose as many electricians to the IBEW as possible. After Aerotek refused to hire any of the four organizers, they filed a complaint with the NLRB. The administrative law judge who heard the case ruled in favor of the salts, stating that the company had violated sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(3) of the NLRA by refusing to hire any of them based on their union affiliation. On appeal the Eleventh Circuit upheld the decision as long as the NLRB’s general council shows the following: (1) the salt’s were genuinely interested in being employed with the employer in question; (2) the employer was hiring or had plans to hire; (2) the salt had relevant experience and was qualified for the position; and (4) anti-union animus had a clear influence on the employer’s decision not to hire the salt.
See Sara J. Robertson, The National Law Review, Apr 23 2018
The NLRB will hold an election on Friday for more than 300 custodial employees at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The unionization election comes in the wake of the Senate’s decision to block the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act earlier this week. The bill would have exempted native businesses from federal labor standards provided by the NLRA and FLSA. After a nearly year-long campaign led by organizers from Unite Here’s Boston-based regional New England offices, janitors and other cleaning staff at Foxwoods will finally get to decide whether they want to be represented by the union. Other employees at the casino including dealers, bartenders, and beverage servers are already unionized, and there is speculation that the custodial staff will soon join them after Friday’s election.
See Ana Radelat, The CT Mirror, Apr 20 2018
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and Teamsters Canada are threatening to go on strike and disrupt Canada’s second largest railroad for the second time in three years if they cannot reach an agreement with Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. by the end of the day. Negotiations were still underway this afternoon, despite a looming 12:01 am strike deadline. The unions represent more than 3,000 electrical workers, train conductors, and engineers working for railway company. CEO Keith Creel took a strong stance on Wednesday, saying that he refuses to sacrifice long-run profit and has contingency plans in place if the workers decide to walk off. Teamsters Canada has already filed a complaint against Canadian Pacific, alleging systematic bullying and forcing employees to work grueling shifts. Canadian Labor Minister Patty Hajdu weighed in on Thursday, saying that she expects the parties to stay at the negotiating table until a resolution is reached, and that she will continue to closely monitor the situation.
See Frederic Tomesco, Bloomberg, Apr 20 2018
Top NLRB prosecutor Peter Robb suggested on Wednesday that the time between when a petition is filed and a unionization election is held be extended from 8 to 12 days. He also suggested that the Board should throw out the rule that blocks an election if an employer is accused of using certain methods of dissuading workers from voting in favor of unionizing. Robb is facing some push back from within the NLRB on these issues, and has been working to strip power from regional directors and revise investigation protocols to minimize their decision-making role. As general counsel, Robb already holds substantial power to sway the direction of federal labor policy, and he has not been shy about using that power since his appointment by Trump in December.
See Hassan A. Kanu, Bloomberg Law, Apr 20 2018
The proposed Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act, which would have exempted businesses on native American reservations from FLSA, was successfully shot down on Monday. The bill would have affected more than half a million people employed by casinos on reservations across the country, and thousands of employees in other tribal businesses. Supporters of the bill say that the Act would simply restore the principle of tribal self-governance, and many tribes do have their own labor laws in place to protect workers. Those laws, however, typically have narrower definitions of collective bargaining rights than the FLSA.
See Noam Scheiber, New York Times, Apr 18 2018
German public sector employers came to an agreement with unions early on Wednesday on a contract for roughly 2.3 million workers. The workers’ will see an increase in wages of 7.5 percent over the next two and a half years, a retroactive 3.09% increase beginning March 1, and another 3.09% increase beginning April 1. Workers at the lower end of the pay scale will also receive a one-time payment equal to $309. The deal was reached following three full days of talks and a countrywide strike threat last week that resulted in hundreds of flight cancellations.
See Deutsche Welle, Apr 18 2018
The Communications Workers of America and 32BJ SEIU withdrew their affiliation with the Working Family’s Party this week, signaling their support for Governor Cuomo over his progressive rival and gubernatorial nominee of the WFP, Cynthia Nixon. Nixon is a former actress on Sex and the City and prominent LGBT rights advocate. The CWA and 32BJ said in a joint statement that supporting Gov. Cuomo is the most effective way to promote the interests and concerns of workers. A recent poll released by Marist and NBC 4 New York showed that Cuomo continues to dominate the polls with a 41-point lead over Nixon.
See Jimmy Vielkind, Politico, Apr 18 2018
On Thursday, Governor Cuomo signed a bill that will strengthen unions in New York even if the Supreme Court rules against organized labor in the high-stake Janus case. The bill would ease Unions’ ability to recruit members and allow them to deny services to people who refuse to join. City and State governments will have to notify the union within a month after a new employee is hired and provide them with their name, work location, and home address. They will then be allowed 30 days to meet with the employee during work hours to speak about the benefits of unionization. Unions would also be allowed to deny free lawyers, insurance, discount programs, or civil service exam test prep to employees who chose not to join.
See Erin Durkin, New York Daily News, Apr 13 2018
Journalists from the Chicago Tribune informed management on Wednesday that they have collected signatures from dozens of colleagues and are preparing to organize. This is a dramatic deviance from the paper’s historic staunch opposition to unions. Pro-union journalists for the Tribune say that a union will help them secure better pay and support their ability to fulfill the paper’s mission. Many are concerned about journalistic independence, lack of adequate resources, and executives’ generous compensation.
See David Folkenflik, NPR, Apr 13 2018
New York’s construction unions are currently in the midst of a inflammatory battle with real estate developers after decades of relatively positive relations. Currently underway are daily picket lines on the Far West Side of Manhattan where construction of a $4 billion office tower has just began. Real estate developers are running anti-union advertisements in subways and newspapers. Over the last ten years, non-union contractors have gained a sizable share of the construction labor market, some workers earning just $15 an hour. According to one study published by the carpenter’s union, organized labor only makes up 65% of Manhattan projects and only 39% of projects in the other 4 boroughs. Unions have had to make significant concessions, including agreeing to a no-strike pledge, in order to compete with the nonunion contractors.
See Charles v. Bagli, New York Times, Apr 13 2018
A union representing employees at the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut is battling with the owners over legislation that would make it illegal for companies to force workers to attend meetings about employees’ personal politics or religious views. With state elections just around the corner, the AFL-CIO is pushing for “captive audience” legislation, that would give workers the choice to refuse attending company meetings. A similar campaign failed to pass the General Assembly in 2011. The union’s president, Lori Pelletier, linked the issue to campaign finance laws that make it easier for corporations to influence political campaigns.
See Stephen Singer, Hartford Courant, Apr 11 2018
Georgetown University recently announced it’s decision to privately negotiate with graduate student worker organizers. The decision to engage in private negotiations deviates from their refusal late last year to negotiate with the organizers, leaving some worried about the university’s intentions as it skirts NLRB jurisdiction. The legally-binding agreement says that both parties will negotiate without the board’s oversight. Other catholic colleges are looking at Georgetown’s approach as a possible alternative to dealing with the national labor board.
See Menachem Wecker, National Catholic Reporter, Apr 11 2018
The office of United States Senator Lamar Alexander, a republican from Tennessee, made a press release on April 9th stating that management-side labor attorney John Ring is expected to be confirmed this week as the newest member of the NLRB. If the Senate confirms Ring, it will give republicans a 3-to-2 majority on the board and likely begin a series of reversals of Obama-era labor board decisions. It will also be the first time since December that the board will be at it’s full membership, after previous Chairman Philip Miscimarra’s term expired.
See Howard M. Bloom and Philip B. Rosen, Lexology, Apr 11 2018
Roughly 80% of high-speed trains were out of service in France today as the country’s rail workers carried out their fourth day of strikes that will continue periodically through June. A quarter of trains traveling in and out of France were also affected. On Friday, the workers’ will carry out their next round of walk-outs. The unions’ strike schedule is set to last two to four days per week. The workers are vehemently protesting President Macron’s plans to revoke the rail driver’s special status that allows them to retain their jobs and certain benefits for life. The CEO of France’s national rail authority reported that the strikes have already resulted in a cumulative loss of $123 million since they began last week.
See Associated Press, The Washington Post, AP, Apr 9 2018
GM workers in South Korea are losing public support as the automaker accumulates massive losses as a result of strikes. The cost of shares in Korean companies are typically undervalued on the market due to their history of strong labor unions and high employment costs, something known as the “Korea Discount”. Now, investors are now looking to move their production to countries with cheaper labor which is putting Korean unions are under pressure to make concessions or face widespread layoffs. Many South Koreans are beginning to turn against the GM workers’ fight to preserve their benefits as employment prospects become increasingly scarce.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Apr 9 2018
Bank employees in South Korea are demanding that branches close between 12:00 and 1:00 pm for lunch. The Korean Financial Industry Union reportedly said on Monday that the proposal is intended to guarantee a fair lunch for bank clerks. Fifty-two other demands were made alongside this on March 29th and will be addressed in upcoming bargaining talks.
See Son Ji-hyoung, Korea Herald, Apr 9 2018
Georgetown University administrators agreed to allow graduate students to vote this spring on joining the American Federation of Teachers union; the agreement allows the students to proceed without the involvement of the National Labor Relations Board. While a 2016 NLRB ruling grants teaching and research assistants the legal protection to unionize, there had been concern that a partisan shift of the NLRB would overturn the ruling. The university’s decision signals an acceptance towards graduate students being able to participate in collective bargaining regardless of what the NLRB decides. Previously, the university had refused to support unionization attempts under the rationale that the work students did was part of their education, and that they were not employees. The Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees proposed that the election could be administered by a neutral third party rather than the NLRB, which the university on Monday agreed to. The university would also consider proposals on wages, benefits, leave policies and hours of work should the election decide in favor of a bargaining unit.
See Georgetown University will allow graduate students to vote on unionizing this spring, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post, Apr 6 2018
A San Francisco judge ruled last week on allowing two class-action lawsuits to proceed against Google. One class-action lawsuit had accused the tech giant of systematically undercompensating women as well as diverting them into lower paying jobs and promoting them at slower rates. The other lawsuit being brought alleges that Google permits a “bro-culture” which allowed a female engineer to experience daily harassment in the form of pranks, lewd comments, and in one case, physical violence. The female engineer is also claiming wrongful termination. In the latter case, Google had argued last week that the matter should not be resolved in court but in private arbitration, a means which has received criticism in recent months due to the #metoo movement. The engineer’s attorney refiled the case as a class-action suit in order to force Google to face the allegations in open court rather than in private arbitration.
See Class-action lawsuits will proceed against Google for pay disparity, sexual harassment , Sam Levin, The Guardian, Apr 6 2018
Oklahoma teachers have been on strike since Monday, with some making 110 mile walks to the state capital where substantial demonstrations have taken place, leaving half a million students out of school as they seek $200 million in increased funding to compensate for education cuts and low salaries. The Senate did pass an internet sales tax bill and a tribal gambling bill on Friday, but still left to deliberate are measures asking for a hotel lodging tax and a repeal of a capital gains income tax deduction; both face fierce opposition. Oklahoma elementary and high school teachers have the lowest median pay in the nation, and while they had received a $6000 increase in wages in a measure passed last week, they walked out on Monday, calling for $10,000 in increased wages over three years. The Oklahoma strike follows recent teacher strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arizona, and have accentuated teachers' increasing frustration with low salaries and education budgets. Although some teachers have returned to work, it is expected that the state’s two largest school districts will continue to be on strike next week.
See Oklahoma teachers’ strike reaches 5th day as lawmakers deliberate tax hikes, revenue bills, Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, Reuters, Apr 6 2018
By the end of today’s date, April 4, Britain will have required all businesses with more than 250 employees to report pay discrepancies between male and female workers as they actually exist, without the use of control variables that may whittle the appearance of pay disparity. The 2017 law will affect approximately 9,000 companies and 15 million employees, with companies required to report unadjusted mean and median hourly wages, bonus pay for all employees, as well as percentages of men and women in each pay quartile. Without strict legal guidelines, most companies would prefer to analyze their salary data within strict parameters. Microsoft, for example, had reported in 2016 that women employees were paid 99.8 percent of what men working in the same roles at the same level received. The number didn’t show whether women were assigned to the correct pay level or were promoted as often as males. Princeton University economics professor Henry Farber had analyzed the data provided in a 2015 pay disparity lawsuit against Microsoft and found that, in contrast to the company’s claimed 0.2%, pay disparity occurred at 2.8% for people with the same job title; 6.3% when accounting for all previous factors within a department; 7.4% when accounting for age, tenure, location, and performance; and 8.6% when based on gender alone. Farber believes that the strict reporting required by the British law will, even if limited to U.K. work forces, provide insight into company structures around the world - revealing that higher paid divisions are dominated by males, and that women’s careers move slower, peak at a lower level, and ultimately pay a lot less than men’s careers.
See April 4 deadline for British law requiring unadjusted pay disparity reporting reveals salary gap is real, Claire Suddath , Bloomberg Business, Apr 4 2018
Chicago was one of only four U.S. cities cited in Pricewater Cooperhouse’s 2016 edition of “Cities of Opportunity”, its periodic analysis rating cities on “economic innovation and common wellbeing”. The city had earned the distinction based on a low employment rate and the fact that almost one-fourth of Chicago households in 2016 earned more than $100,000 a year; in addition, since 1970, the number of wealthy census tracts had increased four-fold. A common belief today is that rural areas in America are suffering from lack of economic opportunity, with resources and talent being driven towards large urban areas that are reaping the benefits of globalization and technological advancement. Those same two forces are applying great pressure on prosperous large cities such as Chicago, however – resulting in an equally large if not larger divide between the wealthy and the poor. In theory, each new job for an educated worker in a city should result in five jobs for less educated people, but it hasn’t happened in Chicago, where large sections of the population have been unable to get ahead, due to the compounded effects of two forces – the legacy of segregation and the decline of industrial jobs in factories and steel plants. Middle class African Americans have been leaving the city in droves between 2000 and 2010, and those left behind in segregated, decimated ghettos are unable to find nearby educational or job opportunities to help them leave; they often lack the necessary transportation to find jobs in the suburbs. While low-income whites in economically depressed rural areas are told to move to big cities, or areas that are booming such as Texas, the reality is that global cities like Chicago have their own poverty issues, with 34 percent of African Americans living in relative poverty and with worse economic outcomes than African Americans living in less prosperous cities.
See Urban-rural divide continues to attract rural job seekers while cities struggle with existing poverty, Alana Semuels , The Atlantic, Apr 4 2018
A recent report bu the OECD posits that only 10% of US jobs, and 12% of jobs in the UK, are at high risk of being automated over the next two decades. This contrasts with a 2013 report form Oxford University, which forecasted those numbers to be 47% and 35%, respectively. The OECD credits the differing results to the way that earlier studies grouped jobs together broadly by similar job title, hiding differences in susceptibility to replacement.
See Leo Kelion, BBC News Online, Apr 2 2018
Workers at the French state railway, SNCF, are set to begin a strike Monday evening that could lead to three months of train stoppages in that nation. This is the latest in a series of strikes that have protested French president Emmanual Macron's efforts to alter public sector working conditions, following last months walkouts by rail staff that were joined by teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers. Similar strikes last fall were unsuccessful in stopping Macron's government from passing laws easing restrictions on hiring and firing.
See BBC News Online, Apr 2 2018
Labor relations at Tesla’s Freemont plant in California have are becoming increasingly tense. The UAW has filed an unfair labor practice complaint, alleging rampant employee discrimination, and illegal intimidation tactics against pro-union employees, forcing them to sign nondisclosure agreements prohibiting any discussion of conditions at the plant. The conflict garnered national attention in February of 2017, when an employee published a blog post detaining the harsh working conditions, even reporting on-site injuries. In February, the UAW filed it’s most recent complaint against Tesla, who they say has been terminating employees over the last six months for engaging in union activities.
See Katie Burke, Automotive News, Mar 30 2018
The president of GM Korea, Kaher Kazem is urging its workers to accept wage freezes, saying that the company won’t be able to cover costs for the month of April unless the union agrees to these conditions. The company says that they need $561 dollars to cover severance packages for 2,600 workers who are retiring. The union says that GM Korea must forego their plans to close one of its factory’s before they agree to wage freezes and foregoing employee bonuses. To make matters worse, Korea’s National Development Bank (BDB) is refusing to extend any financial aid unless they see active participation from all parties involved.
See Jennie Oh, UPI, Mar 30 2018
Governor Cuomo has called upon the NLRB to investigate reports from nurses at Albany Medical center alleging threats and coercive behavior by management. More than 2,000 nurses will be eligible to vote in an upcoming representation election on April 12th. The allegations include warnings directed toward Filipina employees who are in the country on work visas that their union activities might effect their immigration status, tearing down posters advertising the organizing campaign, and holding one on one meetings with nurses to dissuade them from unionizing.
See Bethany Bump, Times Union, Mar 30 2018
On March 26th a complaint was filed against Duke LifePoint by the NLRB after the Michigan Nurses Association filed three charges on behalf of U.P. Health System nurses in Marquette, Michigan. The complaint includes illegal threats and intimidation by supervisors against nurses who participated in a two-day strike urging safer staffing. A hearing will take place on July 24th.
See Alissa Pietila, Upper Michigan Source, Mar 28 2018
Former cook of 13 years Isaac Perez filed a federal lawsuit against the Brooklyn-based Italian restaurant L&B, alleging that the restaurant’s owners have been skirting overtime compensation laws. According to labor law attorney Lou Pechman, who has about a dozen cases pending against Brooklyn restaurants, this is a common occurrence in New York City restaurants. Pechman says that a big part of the problem is that restaurant employees are often unaware of their rights. To help combat this issue, he created a website called waiterpay.com that outlines the legal rights of restaurant workers. Isaac Perez says that despite working up to 75 hours a week, he was consistently paid a flat wage between 2011 and 2016, and the complaint he filed in Brooklyn’s federal court claims that there are around 16 other L&B employees in basically the same situation as Perez. Pechman Law Group specializes in workers rights violations, and although much of their attention has been aimed at Manhattan restaurants, Lou says his firm is taking on an increasing number of cases against Brooklyn employers, where he says the number of violations is growing. Many of the victims are undocumented immigrants, but if the employer doesn’t keep records of hours worked, then the employee is assumed to be trustworthy in the court’s eyes, according to Pechman.
See Paul Frangipane, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar 28 2018
On Monday, the Illinois Labor Board ruled it is legal for the state to bargain with officers over holiday pay and overtime compensation and is not a violation of federal law. The Decatur Police Benevolent and Protective Association was unhappy with the ruling, although one of their attorneys, Shane Voyles, said that it ultimately means very little. Decatur police officers have been working under an expired contract for almost three years. Procedural disagreements during arbitration have delayed contract resolution. Both sides filed complaints with the state labor board for bad faith bargaining, which culminated in Monday’s ruling.
See Tom Lisi, Herald & Review, Mar 28 2018
Widespread strikes across France’s transport and public sectors took place on Thursday in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s labor code overhaul. Less than half of all long-distance high-speed TGV trains and fewer than a third of all commuter trains were not operating. Moreover, 30% of flights leaving Paris airports were canceled. Civil servants, teachers, and hospital workers also participated in the roughly 140 rallies across the country. Macron’s sweeping labor reform agenda includes plans to eliminate jobs-for-life guarantees for civil servants, reductions in retirement packages for public-sector workers, and cuts to government employment levels by 2022. Thursday’s protests marked the beginning of a three-month wave of strikes by France’s transport workers. They plan to strike two out of every five days between April and June.
See Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Jim Bittermann, CNN, Mar 23 2018
Teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky are taking action just weeks after West Virginia teachers succeeded in securing wage and benefit increases through a 13-day state-wide strike. In Oklahoma, a movement is garnering support among teachers that are planning a sick-out on April 2nd, the day that state-wide testing is scheduled to begin. In Arizona, 30,000 joined the “Arizona Educators United” Facebook group within the first 10 days it was created. On March 21, sick-outs closed nine Phoenix elementary schools. Arizona teachers are planning a march on the Capitol for March 28 alongside the grassroots movement Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association. On March 21, teachers at seven school districts in Kentucky, coordinated with superintendents to close schools in an attempt to mobilize their state capital, where legislators have been pushing to cut cost-of-living adjustments for teachers and other employees.
See Dan DiMaggio and Jonah Furman, Labor Notes, Mar 23 2018
A Geneva-based international labor federation, IndustriALL, condemned working conditions at Glencore mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo owned by commodity giant Glencore. The company responded to the criticism defensively, saying that the accusations were unfounded and factually inaccurate. Glencore is one of the biggest suppliers of cobalt and has multi-million dollar contracts with Apple, Volkswagen, and other multinational corporations. It accounts for roughly 40% of the world’s cobalt supply, a key component of the batteries needed to power electric cars and other electronics. The incident reflects growing scrutiny towards mining companies that are increasingly desperate to market their products as being ethically-sourced.
See Thomas Wilson, Bloomberg Markets, Mar 23 2018
Earlier this month, the NLRB issued a complaint against the Cesar Chavez charter school network in Washington, D.C. The board found that all four of the public charter schools had unilaterally changed teachers’ working conditions without engaging in the collective bargaining process and also implemented rules that interfered with and restrained employees’ from exercising their rights. In June of last year, Cesar Chavez middle school became the first charter school in the nation’s capital to unionize, and its administration has been under investigation by the labor board since last August. Since then, the American Federation of Teachers has filed two additional complaints on behalf of Cesar Chavez teachers in December and early February. The board has yet to substantiate these new complaints. According to teacher Christian Herr, who sits on AFT’s collective bargaining board, it is unclear how the administration will respond to the NLRB complaints at this time.
See Rachel M. Cohen, Washington City Paper, Mar 21 2018
Duquesne University in Washington D.C. has to recognize its’ adjunct faculty union, according to an NLRB ruling this month. The University’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts voted to form a union in 2012. The NLRB’s regional D.C. office validated the union’s legitimacy, but Duquesne appealed the decision, arguing that their religious affiliation exempts them from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act. After the national labor board upheld the regional office’s decision, the university said that it plans to file an appeal in federal court.
See James Dearie, National Catholic Reporter, Mar 21 2018
An NLRB judge ruled in favor of Giant Eagle employees who filed a complaint against the company for urging workers to get their union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23, to sign waivers allowing them to release information about upcoming wage and benefit information before the representation election. These claims have been outlined in official NLRB documents that were released to the press. In a separate issue, Giant Eagle announced it would not consider openly pro-union employees for promotion opportunities unless the union supplied a waiver promising not to file complaints with the labor board if they offered that employee a promotion.
See Stacey Federoff, Pittsburgh Business Times, Mar 21 2018
A group of nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital are seeking to unionize, claiming that they are overworked and underpaid. They argue that shortages of nurses are putting the quality of patient care at serious risk. National Nurses United is working with these nurses and trying to rally enough support for a representation election. They would need a majority of the 3,200 nurses to sign cards expressing their interest in holding an election in order for the NLRB to approve their petition. The union’s regional collective bargaining director said that despite the hospital’s world-renowned reputation, turnover among their nursing staff is high, which she said has led to fewer experienced nurses and is a safety risk for patients. In 2014, the hospital dealt with a different labor conflict among their service workers, who staged a four-day strike following a negotiation impasse. The strike was ultimately successful, and Johns Hopkins agreed to phase-in a $15 minimum wage for longtime employees. The nurses do not yet have a timeline for their labor action, and it is unclear at this time when they hope to collect enough signatures for an election.
See Andrea K. McDaniels, Baltimore Sun, Mar 19 2018
On March 19, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), which indirectly represents 38,000 pilots in the European Union, signed a protocol agreeing to represent pilots at Irish LLC Ryanair across the EU countries. They are creating the Ryanair Transactional Pilot Group (RTPG) by bringing together the Ryanair company councils of ECA’s pilot-union members. They will pool legal, political, and technical resources to achieve their goals including direct permanent employment contracts bound to local laws, equal and transparent career opportunities across the network, and collective bargaining represenataion for all Ryanair pilots regardless of country or base. Ryanair has not yet commented on whether they plan to officially recognize RTPG.
See Victoria Moores, Air Transport World, Mar 19 2018
According to JNESO, the labor union representing more than 1,400 nurses at Virtua hospitals in New Jersey, their nurses have reached an agreement with hospital management and are calling off their plans to strike. The sticking point that almost led to the nurses' strike was not wages, but low staffing levels and patient acuity— the number of patients assigned to each nurse and the level of care that they need. JNESO filed a complaint last fall with the New Jersey Department of Health, alleging violations of state licensing standards related to nurse-to-patient ratios. In February, the state department of health cited Virtua after investigating the allegations. Since negotiations began in January, the health system has hired 63 new nurses and is actively recruiting 100 more. Virtua has also agreed to purchase an acuity system to be phased in over the next several months. In the meantime, the hospital is forming a workgroup with bedside nurses to determine an effective method for measuring patient acuity before the system is in place.
See Danielle DeSisto and Kelly Kultys, Burlington County Times, Mar 19 2018
Several labor unions including the SEIU, UAW, Unite Here, and the American Federation of Teachers announced this week that they are working together on an initiative to persuade private colleges and universities to bargain collectively with graduate student workers. Despite the NLRB’s 2016 Columbia University decision that expanded the definition of “employee” to include graduate student workers, several private universities have refused to collectively bargain with elected unions. Recently, some unions have been withdrawing their petitions pending before the labor board to avoid being denied by the current Republican-controlled NLRB. In-line with the new initiative, graduate students at several universities including University of Chicago, Yale, Boston College, and others delivered letters to their administrations urging them to begin the collective bargaining process.
See Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Mar 16 2018
The University of Pittsburgh’s administration is challenging a petition to hold a graduate student union election. The university is seeking to reverse a Pennsylvania Labor Board decision from February of this year that included graduate students at state universities in the definition of employee. According to a Facebook post made by a Ph.D. student organizer on Wednesday, the administration hired a law firm that is known for union busting. An upcoming labor hearing has been scheduled for both sides to argue their cases.
See Janine Faust andJohn Hamilton, Pitt News, Mar 16 2018
Almost a thousand union members convened in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday at the AFL-CIO’s first Workers’ Congress in four years. Workers shared stories, brainstormed strategies, and swore in the AFL-CIO’s new executive board, the most diverse leadership in the organization’s long history. Speakers addressed issues including the growing connection between unions and social justice campaigns, the current supreme court hearing in Janus v. AFSCME, and other topics concerning contemporary labor groups.
See Eric A. Gordon, People’s World, Mar 16 2018
After spending months negotiating with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the Education Department left the bargaining table and said that it will implement its own terms. They will not be implementing previously agreed on policies regarding training and disability exceptions, telework, and others. The Education Department will be implementing a new grievance procedure and restrictions on the union’s use of office space and supplies. The contract began on March 12 and spans a 7-year duration. AFGE said that they did not agree to the new terms. According to a union spokesperson, their primary concern is to return to the bargaining table.
See Nicole Ogrysko, Federal News Radio, Mar 14 2018
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 1943 ratified a two-year contract with AK Steel, the third largest employer in Butler County, Ohio. Seventeen hundred workers at AK Steel’s plant in Middletown will be covered under the new contract, starting on March 15. CEO Roger Newport said that the company is pleased with the settlement and that it provides a competitive labor contract and will be beneficial to both labor and management.
See Eric Schwartzberg, Journal News, Mar 14 2018
On Wednesday, BHP’s Escondida copper mine in Chile invited a powerful union to start talks for a new contract. The copper mine is the largest in the world, and last year a labor dispute ended after a month-long strike that lead to the workers’ contract being extended through July 31, 2018. Negotiations for a new contract are scheduled to begin in June, but the company wants to start early. The union ruled out the possibility of early talks in February, while they were dealing with the formation of a competing union. However, according to their website the union called for an assembly to decide whether they will accept the invitation.
See Fabian Cambero, Reuters, Mar 14 2018
Prosecutors in Brazil have filed a lawsuit to shut down an Evangelical Church with ties to the U.S., alleging a wide range of abuses including physical abuse of school children and extensive labor exploitation. Leaders of the Ministerio Evangelico Comunidade Rhema church allegedly coerced children and adults to work 12 hours at a time for very little pay, threatening them with social isolation and physical punishment. Last July, the Brazilian authorities opened several investigations following an AP press release reporting that World Faith Fellowship, the parent organization of Ministerio Evangelico Comunidade Rhema, was operating a pipeline funneling young Brazilians to a church in rural North Carolina, where they were forced to work under similar conditions. The civil case was filed on March 1 and seeks damages and back pay of $15,000 for each victim.
See Peter Prengaman, Sarah Dilorenzo and Mitch Weiss, Times Union, Associated Press, Mar 9 2018
New Mexico district court judge David Thompson scheduled a hearing on Friday for public testimony on an agreement that would protect workers against wage theft. The agreement is part of a settlement in a case against New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions, which has been accused of dismissing several wage-theft complaints amounting to more than $10,000 in lost wages and not holding employers liable for their breach of minimum wage laws. The settlement stipulates that the Department force offending employers to pay back wages three times the amount that they initially failed to pay their employees.
See The Associate Press, The Seattle Times, AP, Mar 9 2018
An Australian Labor Union called the Labor Council of New South Wales (NSW) has begun a national campaign to push for greater regulation of the gig economy. The push for regulation began after people were hired without the necessary license to perform an asbestos removal job through the website Airtasker. One worker was reportedly paid $50 to illegally remove five sheets of asbestos with only a safety mask for protection. A representative from NSW said on Friday that web-based employment opportunities and on-demand job hirings are occupying a growing portion of the labor market, and these jobs are operating largely outside the scope of current health, safety, and minimum wage enforcement. Airtasker’s CEO insists they work with a number of different regulatory bodies and denies allegations of wrongdoing.
See Byron Connolly, CIO, Mar 9 2018
The NLRB directed Reed College to permit a union election for their housing advisors, known as HAs. The college initially opposed an election, arguing that the HAs did not meet the legal definition of an employee and that an election for student workers would need to encompass a broader bargaining unit. The NLRB rejected these claims and concluded that the HAs were entitled to a union election after applying the Columbia University test to determine whether the workers’ were protected under the National Labor Relations Act. An election date has not been set yet.
See John R. Merinar, Jr. and Allison B. Williams, The National Law Review, Mar 7 2018
According to union officials and the Greek government, the country may sell 51% stake in Hellen Petroleum, it’s biggest oil refiner, in order to meet a condition necessary to secure it’s next EU bailout. Athens agreed to launch a series of privatizations as a stipulation for the 86 billion euro bailout that they are set to receive. The country has been sustaining itself on EU bailouts since it’s economic collapse in 2011, and stability would be severely undermined if they fail to secure the next sum.
See Angeliki Koutantou, Reuters, Mar 7 2018
Members of the Zentrum Automobil union and labor representatives at automobile company Daimler’s headquarters in the Untertuerkheim plant in Germany have been accused of aligning themselves with neo-Nazism and using the union as a venue for proliferating their speech. This issue has recently escalated as the union allegedly harboring neo-Nazis has gained two more seats during the election of new representatives for Daimler’s works council, furthering their influence and power among other trade unions and their employer. The German media’s assertion that top labor leaders at Daimler have expressed xenophobic and anti-Semitic views has been met with severe scrutiny, especially given that the company was closely affiliated with the Nazis during World War II, resurfacing Daimler’s dark history. In addition, the political climate in Germany, fraught with xenophobia and concerns of “intruders” taking German employment, has made the public more sensitive to these kinds of accusations. Many fear that giving this union more power signals a seal of approval on neo-Nazis and may help spread their ideology.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 6 2018
Railway workers in Greece who are opposed to privatization and taxi drivers who are opposed to ride-sharing services siphoning away their traditional market both demonstrated in Athens on March 6. Railways workers, along with many laborers in Greece, have been hit particularly hard by the Greek government’s attempts to adhere to austerity measures imposed by organizations bailing them out of their dire economic situation. Privatization has been a major tenet of these reforms, leading to frustrations and ultimately demonstrations like the one at hand, in which all Athenian intercity trains were halted for 24 hours. Meanwhile, taxi drivers demonstrated over companies such as Uber or Lyft, which lead to unemployment for licensed, professional taxi drivers, claiming that the Greek government’s creditors have contributed to the proliferation of these ride-sharing services in Greece.
See The Washington Post, Associated Press, Mar 6 2018
Volkswagen’s plan to combine the MAN and Scania truck brands and potentially have an initial public offering (IPO) of Volkswagen Truck & Bus has been halted in its tracks by the company’s works council. In light of Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel emissions scandal, the company has been urged by investors to undergo some serious structural change in order to continue appealing to investors and consumers, including the streamlining process which is currently leading to conflict. Works council representatives of MAN, Scania, and Volkswagen have demanded that the company demonstrate what value this structural shift would have for workers, if any; additionally, the works councils refuse to allow the plan’s initiation unless Volkswagen can assure all laborers involved that their rights will be respected.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 6 2018
Workers at a Boeing aircraft factory in South Carolina are petitioning for union representation for the third time in the last three years. They are seeking to be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The vice president of Boeing South Carolina said that the company plans to fight the petition, based on a recent NLRB decision that made it more difficult to organize workers into smaller bargaining units. The workers will not get an election date until the legal issue is resolved.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 5 2018
On March 1, about 130 YMCA “Head Start” program workers in Chicago went on strike, alleging the company engaged in unfair labor practices. The childcare and support staff have been represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) since 2012, and the union is saying that the Chicago YMCA retaliated against unionized employees by withholding information during negotiations. Some workers have described taking out pay-day loans and driving for Uber in order to make ends meet. The SEIU is has been highly critical of the fact that the company’s CEO Dick Malone makes $300 an hour, asserting that the YMCA has plenty of funds to pay their support staff higher wages.
See Rebecca Burns, In These Times, Mar 5 2018
Australian Airlines, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, has canceled more than 140 flights that were scheduled on March 5th and 6th, as the airline collectively bargains with Vida, the union representing cockpit and crew members. Vida vehemently opposes the company’s offer of a 2.1% inflation compensation and a one-time bonus of 1.4%, calling it “unacceptable”. The union also said that they haven’t ruled out going on strike if management refuses to level with them. The two sides will meet next on Tuesday and again on Wednesday to resume bargaining.
See Kurt Hofmann, Air Transport World, Mar 5 2018
Public school teachers in all 55 counties in West Virginia have been on strike for more than a week now, one of the few state-wide teachers strikes in history. They are the third least paid teachers in the country, and they pay among the most in medical insurance. The state wanted to offer them a 1% annual raise over the next five years, and the teachers responded by shutting down every school in the state. Thousands flooded the state Capitol building on Friday to make their presence known by the state senate, as they convened to discuss whether to approve an amended bill that would secure a 5% pay raise. The teachers, however, are adamant about securing both lower insurance payments and higher wages. The Senate has yet to approve the bill, despite its endorsement by the governor, Republican-controlled house, and the state’s superintendent. For the striking teachers, this is truly an all-or-nothing battle.
See CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and JESS BIDGOOD, New York Times, Mar 2 2018
For the last five days, 42,000 professors at 64 different public universities across Britain have been on strike. Students have been attending the faculty rallies in solidarity with their professors. In the late 1990s, tuition at Britain’s public universities was completely free for citizens, today, they pay about $12,000 US dollars a year to attend school. At the same time, the number of part-time faculties has increased tremendously, and tenured professors face constant threats to their pay and benefits. The sticking point in this round of negotiations is a threat to their pension plans in their next contract. If the issues are not resolved soon, the strike could last a total of 14 days over 4 weeks.
See Steven Parfitt, Labor Notes, Mar 2 2018
Given the years of wage stagnation plaguing low-wage Australian workers, Brendan O’Connor, a Labor employment spokesperson, has announced that the party will be working towards establishing industry-wide collective bargaining as the nationwide norm as opposed to enterprise-level bargaining. This change was proposed by Labor in January, with leaders supporting the shift of the minimum wage towards a living wage in order to support low-wage workers who have been struggling as the average Australian household is making less real income than it did in 2013. After the Australian Council of Trade Unions began its Change the Rules campaign, government attention was forced onto the issue of the country’s consistent low wage growth, which industry-level bargaining will hopefully address.
See Paul Karp, The Guardian, Mar 1 2018
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina has announced a labor amnesty for the nearly one third of Argentinian laborers who are working informally, allowing them to register as employees with no negative employment repercussions. The Argentine president has had a term full of doubt regarding his campaign promises to boost economic growth in the country and hopefully attract foreign investors. Macri’s government has had run-ins with union leaders in the past when Macri’s proposal of making the firing of employees easier for corporations was met with organized labor’s outrage. Due to controversy regarding Macri’s presidency, it would appear that the government is now taking a “piecemeal” approach to introducing legislative change, achieving a medium ground between their preferred gradualism and their attempts at drastic and fast-paced labor law change.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 1 2018
Members of Service Employees International Union of Illinois and Indiana (SEIU) working at ten different YMCAs across Chicago took to picketing alleged unfair labor practices outside their respective workplaces this Thursday. Workers at the YMCAs claim that YMCA has been underpaying them for their skills, forcing them to work multiple jobs just to maintain a living wage. According to Greg Kelly, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the over 100 workers joining in on the protests are arguing that the YMCAs have been using intimidation tactics to quiet their workers, and that these unfair labor practices are the motivation behind these demonstrations. The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago has presented a calm front in light of these allegations, stating that it plans to reach a fair agreement with its employees and claiming surprise at their demonstration.
See Mike Lowe, WGNTV, Mar 1 2018
A survey at Disney’s Anaheim theme parks showed that 73% of workers report not being able to afford basic living expenses. The survey was taken only weeks after Disney reported greater than expected profits. Eleven percent of employees at the resort reported being homeless or not having their own place in the last two years, according to the survey that is funded by labor groups fighting for higher wages.
See Hugo Martin, LA Times, Feb 28 2018
On Wednesday, the NLRB said they made an initial finding of merit to the unfair labor practice complaint that the SEIU filed on behalf of nursing assistants, housekeepers and dietary workers employed by the Christian Care Home nursing home in Ferguson Missouri. Sixty-five full time and 25 part time employees have been on strike since December first. The union says that the company refuses to offer raises in the workers’ new contracts, who make an average of $9.65 an hour.
See Leah Thrones, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb 28 2018