Workplace Issues Today

Jobless claims for unemployment benefits rose to 260,000 last week, far exceeding projections made by Bloomberg economists. Some posit that the effects of Hurricane Matthew sent jobless claims rising. Despite the rise in claims, the unemployment situation is still record-breaking, with an 85-week streak spent with under 300,000 claims, last experienced in 1970. Despite the rise in unemployment filings, the level remains at a healthy place for the labor market.

See Patricia Laya, Bloomberg BNA, Oct 20 2016

Companies in Hungary and other Eastern European countries such as Samsung, have begun looking internationally for new workers. A number of European Union countries are currently suffering labor shortages resulting years of emigration to Western Europe. Over the summer, Hungarian unemployment rates fell to only 4.9 percent. Samsung, having just invested $465 million into a new factory located in Hungary, has already hired at least 120 Ukrainian employees. Samsung has since refused to comment on its current plans to hire more workers.

See Reuters, Oct 20 2016

Today, five-thousand unionized professors and coaches across Pennsylvania's state universities began striking for the first time in 34 years. The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties represents professors and coaches across 14 of Pennsylvania's institutions, whose contracts expired in June of 2015. The negotiations had previously stalled over healthcare packages.

See Erin McCann, New York Times, Oct 19 2016

Despite early reports from Manager Magazin, labor leaders at Volkswagen confirmed that talks with its work council are “still ongoing and will be continued tomorrow”. Manager Magazin had reported that the union reached an agreement with VW that would cut costs by $5.5-6.6 billion by 2025. Union leaders and the German automaker have been negotiating on quotas and factory investment, but VW is being pressured to cut expensive operations in Germany in order to shift to electric and autonomous cars.

See Fortune, Reuters, Oct 19 2016

Chicago and its charter schools avoided a strike after reaching an agreement early this morning. The contract addresses pension contributions, an 8 hour workday, and a maximum class size of 32 students. If class sizes breach that 32 student cap, teachers will now receive compensation. Additionally, the charter network has agreed to continue to pay for most of its teachers’ pension contributions, a practice that will not be applied to new employees.

See Juan Perez Jr. and Megan Crepeau, Chicago Tribune, Oct 19 2016

Economists from Arizona State University, McMaster University (Ontario), and Goethe University (Frankfurt) released a study that found that the average U.S. employee works 19% more than the average worker in Europe. This statistic suggests that European workers put in approximately one hour less than U.S. workers each day. Interestingly, work trends vary by country, with Switzerland being the most comparable to the United States. The study does not explore whether or not U.S. workers are more productive, and could be skewed by the fact that promotions are more lucrative in the U.S., incentivizing workers to work longer hours to get ahead. Additionally, labor unions in Europe are stronger than in the United States, resulting in more worker protections.

See Ben Steverman, Bloomberg, Oct 18 2016

Harvard reached an agreement with its graduate students this afternoon and will now allow eligible graduate students to vote in a union election on November 16th and 17th. The graduate students are hoping to unionize under the United Auto Workers Union and submitted a formal election petition to the NLRB today. Graduate and undergraduate teaching fellows, course, teaching, and research assistants will be included in the bargaining unit; however, undergraduate research assistants will be excluded. After a landmark decision this summer, private universities, including Harvard, were mandated by the NLRB to recognize student assistant unions.

See Leah S. Yared, The Crimson, Oct 18 2016

As the Harvard strike finishes its second week, student activists showed their support yesterday by joining dining hall workers in their protests against the university. Hundreds of Harvard College and Divinity School students left their classes on Monday afternoon in order to join the workers’ rally. Students sang “Lean on Me” and broke bread in solidarity with their dining hall workers. A petition supporting the workers has been passed around Harvard’s faculty, and includes over 150 signatures.

See Hannah Natanson, The Crimson, Oct 18 2016

After failed contract negotiations, 252 Jim Beam employees have gone on strike. The walkouts occurred at two of the bourbon producer’s Kentucky distilleries on Saturday. Union members have said that now that Kentucky bourbon has regained popularity, they have been overworked. Jim Beam offered the workers wage increases, but the union is still concerned about the 80 hour work weeks and lack of family time. Workers are pushing the company to hire more full-time employees and reduce overtime hours. The whiskey workers’ contracts expired in August.

See Bailey Loosemore, USA Today, Louisville Courier Journal, Oct 17 2016

The SAG-AFTRA union has named Friday as the strike deadline for video game makers if an agreement cannot be reached with its voice actors. The SAG-AFTRA constitution only authorizes a strike if it is supported by 75% of voters. The union would strike against 11 different gaming companies, including Disney Character Voices, Insomniac Games, WB Games, VoiceWorks Productions, and Activision Publishing. The union is fighting for bonuses for voice actors if more than 2 million games are sold, as well as stunt compensation for vocally stressful recordings, and a limit on the length of recording sessions.

See Dave McNary, Variety, Oct 17 2016

The New York City Bar Association released the results of a confidential survey, revealing that many of the city’s largest law firms have done very little to promote and hire both women and minorities. The NYC Bar required firms with 51-500+ lawyers to complete the survey, 70% of whom responded. Only 19% of these firm’s partners are female, and less than 3% are female minorities. Many of the practices have devoted resources and hired diversity managers to aid in their recruiting processes. This was the first year that the NYC Bar Association broke down the survey by both gender and ethnicity, making it the most detailed thus far.

See Elizabeth Olson, New York Times, Oct 17 2016

After implementing a five-year assessment program, England’s government is reviewing the country’s pension age. The government funded review is being lead by John Cridland, former head of business organization at the Confederation of British Industry. One of the major issues being discussed is an early access pension plan for manual laborers or those who enter the labor force at 16. By 2028 and 2046, the age at which a person is eligible to receive a pension will be increased to 67 and 68, respectively. Cridland argues that this rising pension age is unfair for workers with long working lives, or jobs that require manual labor, which could result in shorter life expectancies.

See Kevin Peachey, BBC, Oct 14 2016

DeVry University has settled with the U.S. government after being accused of misleading students with false job placement rates. The university is one of the nation’s largest for-profit institutions, and receives funding from the Department of Education. DeVry had advertised that 90% of its graduates had jobs within 6 months of graduation, but failed to provide evidence to support such claims. The Department of Education has instructed DeVry to stop using the unsubstantiated statistic, but has decided to not pull its funding. Other for-profit institutions such as ITT Tech and Corinthian were forced to shut down after being fined and losing their government funding after inflating their job placement numbers.

See Katie Lobosco, CNN Money, Oct 14 2016

After a month-long strike, the Minnesota Nurses Association ratified its contract with Allina Health on Thursday. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton intervened earlier this week, an action that brought the nurses and Allina Health back to the bargaining table. Health insurance negotiations had been the centerpiece of the 9-month labor negotiations. The ratified contract keeps the value of the nurses’ health benefits unchanged, addresses workplace safety issues, and improves staffing policies. Although the health plans will shift from a union-only plan to a less costly corporate plan, Allina promised that the value of the plan won’t be reduced through 2021.

See ABC News, The Associated Press, Oct 14 2016

The NLRB decided on October 7th that Northwestern will not face charges of unfair labor practices against its football players. This ruling implicitly suggests that college athletes could be considered employees, because the NLRB found that Northwestern’s rules did not allow athletes to discuss workplace concerns or issues. Some of these guidelines prohibited football players from talking about the team in a negative light, and also forced the student athletes to “keep [Northwestern’s] information private”. The university has since eliminated the problematic language in the handbook; therefore the NLRB had no reason to rule that there had been unfair practices.

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

Although Uber has claimed that their drivers are independent contractors, New York State Regulators decided to classify the workers as employees. The ruling was a result of two former Uber driver’s bid for unemployment payments. While the decision applies strictly to the two former drivers only, many see an opportunity to “extend the logic” of the decision in order to obtain more rights for Uber and Lyft drivers.

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

Workers at Washington state’s Hanford Nuclear Reservation were allegedly exposed to toxic chemical vapors between January and July. As a result Bob Ferguson, Washington’s Attorney General, is requesting that a federal judge obligate the U.S. Department of Energy to more effectively protect the employees. The department has responded that there is no reason to believe the vapors are harmful, because one commonly cited symptom, headaches, are universally experienced. The long-term effects of breathing the toxic vapors is unknown, so Ferguson is urging the court to push up the September 2017 court date.

See ABC News, Oct 13 2016

After 24 rounds of striking since July and threats from South Korea’s government to intervene, a tentative wage agreement was reached today between Hyundai Motor and the union that represents 50,000 of its workers. The union had rejected the automaker's wage proposal in August, arguing that it was worse than the previous year’s deal. The strike has had a significant impact on Hyundai Motor’s domestic production -- 131,851 vehicles were prevented from being produced, an equivalent of $2.6 billion USD. Under the new agreement, each worker will receive a one-time payment of 3.3 million won, bonus and incentive payments, shares of Hyundai stock, in addition to a monthly pay increase.

See Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters, Oct 12 2016

Jim Beam employees represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 111D voted to reject the whiskey maker’s contract yesterday evening and are preparing to strike. In a 201-19 decision, strikes were approved at distilleries in both Clermont and Boston. The decision shocked company executives, as the new contract includes wage increases and the elimination of the two-tiered wage system for most of the company’s employees. The Beam employees’ contract expires this Friday.

See Bruce Schreiner, ABC News, Associated Press, Oct 12 2016

The Labor Department’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS), which was released today, revealed that U.S. job openings hit their lowest point in eight months in August. Despite the dip, the report still suggests that the United States has a solid jobs market, as the number of people voluntarily leaving their jobs rose and layoffs fell. JOLTS is one of the contributing factors the Federal Reserve uses in evaluating the U.S. economy, and many investors still believe all signs are pointing towards an interest rate hike in December. Rates have been kept at historically low levels because of low inflation rates.

See Lucia Mutikani, Reuters, Oct 12 2016

After a long weekend of bargaining, Canadian union Unifor and Fiat Chrysler have reached an agreement and avoided a strike. The deal includes the union’s demand for investment in Canadian plant in Brampton, Ontario, and awarded employees their first raise in 10 years. The investment in Brampton will total $325 million, and $6.4 million will go towards upgrading a plant in Etobicoke, Ontario. Union members will vote on the deal next week. Unifor is set to meet with Ford next, and has set a strike deadline of October 31st. Unifor’s practice of pattern bargaining has, in the past, resulted in very similar deals for the 3 major automakers.

See Brent Snavely, USA Today, Detroit Free Press, Oct 11 2016

The Chicago Teachers Union reached a deal with the administration late last night, averting a strike that was scheduled to begin this morning. Chicago’s mayor has agreed to add more of the city’s revenue into the district’s budget. Despite the budget increase, from $32.5 million to $88 million, it is uncertain whether all of the contract terms will be funded. The contract must be ratified by 28,000 teachers, but it does not address the growing pension payments that are due in upcoming years.

See Karen Pierog and Timothy Mclaughlin , Reuters, Oct 11 2016

After seven days of striking, Harvard’s dining hall employees haven't shown any signs of backing off. The university's dining halls are currently being staffed by volunteer workers and students must work around a limited schedule that includes boxed lunches. Before walking out last Wednesday, Harvard's 750 cafeteria workers had been preparing to strike since May. Workers currently earn an average of $21.89 an hour and 42 hours of paid time off; however, the union is asking for $24.08 an hour and summer stipends from the university, which has an endowment of over $35 billion.

See Katie Rogers, New York Times, Oct 11 2016

After failing to reach a contract deal with thousands of UNITE Here Local 54 union members, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resorts in Atlantic City, New Jersey is shutting its doors. Unionized workers have been on strike for 102 days outside of what used to be the most expensive of Donald Trump’s Casino investments in Atlantic City. The property was purchased out of bankruptcy in 2014 by billionaire Carl Icahn, who was then entangled in labor contract talks that centered around pensions and healthcare. The closing of the Casino will result in 3,000 workers losing their jobs.

See Antoine Gara , Forbes, Oct 10 2016

In Canada, Unifor and Fiat Chrysler must reach an agreement by tonight at midnight in order to avoid a strike. The two parties met throughout the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, but seem to be at odds when it comes to economic terms in their negotiations. The union has been pushing for further investment in Canadian plants. Unifor will be updating the media via twitter and media briefings this evening. These negotiations are significant because Unifor typically uses its agreement with the first of the three Detroit Three Automakers to set the tone for the remaining 2 automakers.

See CBC News, Oct 10 2016

Members of the Chicago Teachers Union are set to begin striking tomorrow morning at 6am, following the expiration of their set strike deadline at midnight tonight. Parents showed their solidarity with the teachers today, marching with signs and banners as the union and administration continued talks this afternoon. The district is prepared for the strike and has informed parents that all buildings will remain open tomorrow. Additionally, the Chicago Transit Authority announced that it will provide free transportation anytime between 5:30am-8:30pm for the duration of the strike, if it occurs.

See Michelle Relerford, NBC Chicago, Oct 10 2016

The Labor Department released its monthly Jobs Report this morning, revealing that the nation added 156,000 jobs in September, suggesting that the economy has remained strong despite lingering uncertainties from Brexit as well as November’s elections. According to the Labor Department, not only did the 156,000 new positions accommodate new laborers in the market, it also attracted citizens who dropped out of the labor force after the great recession to re-enter the labor force. Average hourly earnings increased by .2% in September, contributing to a 2.6% gain over the past 12 months. Although the added jobs numbers missed both Labor Department’s and Wall Street’s expectations, the private sector continued to be the main driver of the addition, with the government’s slowdown of hiring causing the slight lag.

See Nelson D. Schwartz, The New York Times, Oct 7 2016

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority voted on Thursday to approve a 5 year contract with a private cash collection company, Brink’s. The $18.7 million deal will replace current union workers who are assigned to the MBTA's cash collection department and save the agency $8.6 million. The MBTA’s cash collections department has been criticized for many years for its errors and mishandling of receipts. The Boston Carmen’s Union represents a majority of the unionized cash collections workers to be replaced, and its president has said they will not back down in the fight against privatization. As a result, the union held protests in front of the MBTA’s cash collection facility this morning. Tensions escalated as protesters padlocked the facility’s gate and blocked collection trucks from entering the premises, resulting in the arrest of 7 union officials for unlawful assembly.

See Matt Rocheleau and Laura Crimaldi, The Boston Globe, Oct 7 2016

Yesterday, teachers in UNO Charter School Network, who are represented by the American Federation of Teacher’s charter school branch, announced a strike deadline of October 19 if they can not reach an agreement with Chicago Public Schools. This deadline is 8 days after the Chicago Teachers Union’s strike date of October 11th. Talks between the CTU and CPS are expected to continue through this weekend and have lasted over a year. The CTU is against charter schools because they act as competitors to district-run schools and usually don’t use organized labor. The strikes show that the CTU could influence the future of charter schools going forward.

See Juan Perez Jr. and Nereida Moreno, Chicago Tribune, Oct 7 2016

Labor organizers claimed to have filed sexual harassment charges against McDonald’s as a part of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission. While the EEOC is not permitted to confirm that any allegations have been made unless the agency itself files a lawsuit, the sexual harassment claims would be part of a broader push for better working conditions. The labor organizers are especially aiming for higher pay, as reflected in their Fight for $15 campaign. They are also pushing for the McDonald’s Corp. to acknowledge their significant power over individual franchises.

See Candice Choi, ABC News, Oct 6 2016

Deutsche Bank and labor representatives have concluded labor negotiations, agreeing to cut 1,000 jobs across several branches of the firm. Karl von Rohr, a member of the Bank’s management board, stated that the bank recognizes the “personal impact” of their decision, and will attempt to eliminate jobs in a “socially responsible manner”. This is part of a larger restructuring by the lender to eliminate 4,000 jobs in Germany’s market, and 9,000 globally. The job cuts come after a “slide in shares” last year that almost halved the bank’s market value. The company also faces significant legal costs.

See Keith Campbell and Jan-Henrik Foerster, Bloomberg, Oct 6 2016

Applications for unemployment benefits hit a near 43-year low last week, indicating a strong labor market. The Department of Labor announced a seasonally adjusted 249,000 unemployment benefits claims, 8,000 fewer than economists had predicted. Over the past four weeks, the moving average of Americans filing for benefits has fallen to 253,500. Overall, despite a gradual decrease in job growth, the market is still strong enough able to accept new job entrants. The U.S. Federal Reserve has noted that if the labor market continues in this strong trend, it may choose to raise rates by the end of the year.

See Lindsay Dunsmuir, Reuters, Oct 6 2016

Harvard’s dining hall workers are taking action today, staging the first strike at the university since 1983. The protests began this morning at 5am outside of the university’s main freshman dining hall, where forty workers and students gathered. Across campus, hundreds more picketed at other dining halls on campus. Despite the planned work stoppage, dining hall workers prepared food last night to be served to students today. The workers are asking for wages of $35,000 for employees who wish to work year-round as well as asking the university to not raise their healthcare costs. The university’s endowment is the largest in the world, totaling $37.5 billion.

See Adam Vaccaro, Steve Annear and Hae Young Yoo, Boston Globe, Oct 5 2016

Companies in the United Kingdom may be forced to disclose the amount of foreign employees they employ as the government tries to increase the amount of British workers being employed by British companies. Amber Rudd, the UK’s Home Secretary, argues that foreign workers should not steal positions that UK citizens “should do”. Rudd stated that companies may be forced to publish their foreign employment numbers, in hopes that it would “name and shame” them into hiring more domestic citizens. It was also announced that the United Kingdom would limit the amount of students studying in Britain who come from outside the European Union.

See Michael Wilkinson, Telegraph, Oct 5 2016

The United States Labor Department released a report today that calls for deeper investigations into federal oversight and federal minimum benefits. The report examines changes in state workers’ compensation legislation, which have resulted in systems failing to provide injured employees with adequate benefits. The Labor Department also suggests revisiting a commission by the Nixon administration in 1972, which called upon Congress to take action if states failed to comply with recommended minimum benefits for employees. In an effort to prompt federal action, the report specifically details the government’s involvement in promoting benefit standards since 1939.

See Howard Berkes, NPR, Oct 5 2016

Harvard’s food service workers are preparing to strike as their negotiation deadline looms. The deadline is set for tonight at midnight, and the potential strike is prompting Harvard’s students to stockpile food from the cafeteria’s buffet. Harvard’s employee union represents over 750 food service workers who are fighting for non-seasonal employment and health-care benefits. The food service employees have never held a strike during the school’s academic year, but has received support from both graduate and undergraduate students. In preparation for a strike, Harvard’s administration has organized large amount of frozen food to serve the students.

See Jordan Virtue and Katie Mettler, The Washington Post, Oct 4 2016

Yesterday, Chicago Public Schools laid off approximately 250 employees after the school system saw a 3.5% decrease in student enrollment this year. With 13,800 less students to educate, CPS made the decision to cut 140 teachers and 109 support staff members. Teachers who have been laid off are being considered for other open positions within CPS. Of the laid off employees, 187 are Chicago Teachers Union member. The district is still in contract talks with the union, who may strike as early as next week. Since August, 1,500 union members have been laid off from CPS. The union and school district are set to meet 3 days this week in hopes of agreeing on a contract and preventing a strike.

See Juan Perez Jr. , Chicago Tribune, Oct 4 2016

According to a new study, employees who fear losing their jobs have a higher chance of developing diabetes. The study was conducted in the United Kingdom by the University of Bristol and University College London. The researchers examined 19 different studies that involved 140,825 adults across the US, Europe, and Australia. Those who felt insecure with their current employment saw an uptick of 19% in diagnosed diabetes cases. Possible reasons for the increased risk of diabetes are that job-related stress can result in both overeating and an increase in stress hormones, which both contribute to weight gain.

See Andrew M. Seaman, Reuters, Oct 4 2016

After meeting with a mediator on Saturday, members of the Philadelphia Orchestra ended their 2 day strike and signed a 3 year contract yesterday morning. The new contract includes a 2% and 2.5% raise for 1st years and 2nd/3rd years, respectively. The musicians have agreed to perform more on Sundays and in pop-up concerts. The orchestra members had received pay and benefit cuts when the orchestra went bankrupt over 4 years ago. The strike shocked many, as it coincided with the Philadelphia Orchestra’s season-opening weekend. The group’s next performance will be this Thursday in Philadelphia.

See Michael Cooper, New York Times, Oct 3 2016

ING, the Netherland’s largest financial services company, announced that it will be cutting 7,000 jobs while simultaneously investing in its digital platforms in order to save $1 billion by 2021. One-thousand of the jobs will come from suppliers, with the remaining 6,000 to account for less than 12% of the bank’s total workforce. ING was given a state bailout and forced to restructure during the financial crisis in 2009. The decision has drawn sharp criticism from many of the country’s labor unions, who argue that the government did not intend for the bank to cut jobs after it received a bailout. Labor Leader Herman Vanderhaegen called ING’s decision a “horror show”.

See Toby Sterling, Reuters, Oct 3 2016

Glassdoor, the online job recruiting website, released its annual best work/life balance job rankings. The list was dominated by jobs in the technology sector. Glassdoor believes that the more in-demand a position is, the more leverage an employee has to negotiate conditions and terms, directly impacting their work/life balance and happiness. Non-tech jobs that made the list include positions with lower salaries such as substitute teacher and library assistant, a fact that Glassdoor believes shows that people have different definitions of work/life balance. The top five jobs were: corporate recruiter, user experience designer, data scientist, strategy manager, and user interface designer.

See Maria Lamagna , Market Watch, Oct 3 2016

In an effort to fight child labor, delayed wages, and trafficking, textile workers in both Bangladesh and Turkey are using cell phones as methods of reporting. Currently, there are two toll-free, anonymous hotlines the garment workers can utilize--Laborlink and LaborVoices. Both hotlines use simple reporting methods, allowing workers to simply press 1 for “yes” and 2 for “no” to questions they are asked. Laborlink has impacted over 500,00 workers across the globe, and 5,239 employees called LaborVoices in the first half of 2016. The calls came from 85 different factories, many of which supplied major brands such as Walmart, Target, Zara, and H&M.

See Rina Chandran, Reuters, Sep 30 2016

Today, Amnesty International released a report, which warns that electric auto makers may be unknowingly using batteries that are indirect results of child labor. The batteries contain cobalt, a substance that is famously mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country which supplies 50% of the world’s supply. The DRC also is known for its child labor practices in many of its informal cobalt mines. Automakers that may be involved include GM, Volkswagen, Tesla, Fiat Chrysler, Daimler, and Renault-Nissan, who Amnesty blamed for failing to keep track of where its cobalt is coming from. Many of the automakers have zero tolerance policies when it comes to child labor, and are now looking into whether their batteries contain cobalt from the DRC.

See Lin Taylor, Reuters, Sep 30 2016

Following a failed attempt for labor contract negotiation between Trump’s hotel workers union (UNITE NOW) and the management, UNITE NOW is calling for a boycott of all services offered at Trump hotels and gold courses. The contract talks were a response to the recent vote by the hotel staff to unionize. In response, the hotel management asked the National Labor Relations Board to overturn the vote. This request comes after allegations of an anti-union campaign by the Trump Organization. Union President D. Taylor responded simply that “enough is enough”, and that, by law, the organization was required to engage in the negotiations

See Tyrone Richardson, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 29 2016

The Obama Administration ruled last Thursday to necessitate seven days paid sick leave for employees across the country. This decision is part of an effort to improve workplace policies no longer aligned with modern ways of life. Paid sick leave is especially designed for families with two working parents needing to take care of sick children. Congress debated a similar version of this legislation, then called the Happy Families Act, but it failed to gain traction in the Senate. Those in favor of the bill hope that the rate at which sickness spreads through the workplace will decrease, while opponents of paid sick leave wonder about the ability of employers to afford the additional cost.

See Noam Scheiber , The New York Times, Sep 29 2016

The recent lawsuit Dawson v. National Collegiate Athletic Association calls for college football players to be treated as employees and therefore owed wages. This lawsuit comes in a line of many unsuccessful attempts to get athletes compensated as employees. Support for college football players to be recognized as employees stems from the ‘enormous value’ many believe the athletes bring to the school. Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal advisor, contests this idea because he claims the athletes are focused primarily on academics and feel a commitment to the sport that pay might devalue.

See Jon Steingart, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 29 2016

After numerous lawmakers, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, asked the Labor Department to investigate Wells Fargo’s labor practices last week, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has vowed to take action.The Labor Department will be conducting a “top-to-bottom” investigation into Wells Fargo’s wage and and working-hour practices. There is concern that the bank’s tellers and sales representatives may have worked overtime to meet their quotas. Additionally, the Labor Department has launched a website,, to inform Wells Fargo’s employees of their rights and protections. A criminal investigation is being pursued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after it was alleged that Wells Fargo financially rewarded employees for creating over 2 million unauthorized accounts and credit cards.

See Fortune, Reuters, Sep 28 2016

According to a report from Advocates for Human Rights, immigrants and other local workers in Minnesota might be working under oppressive conditions and being robbed of their wages. The organization issued the report, along with many recommendations to remedy the situation. Recommendations include raising awareness of labor trafficking and exploitation and providing support and services for victims. The organization is hoping their report will also encourage exploited workers to come forward, which will help the organization “better ID and measure” the worker exploitation issue in the state of Minnesota. Investigations conducted by the US Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division have been ongoing in Minnesota.

See Martin Moylan , MPR News, Sep 28 2016

Uber and Lyft drivers took to the streets of New York City yesterday, protesting for their right to unionize. Currently, these drivers are classified as independent contractors, not employees -- resulting in limited protection under the NLRA and other legislation. Both Uber and Lyft drivers teamed up with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181, and signed over 14,000 union cards. Uber responded by saying that the cards were powerless, because the ATU was organizing against the Taxi Commission, not Uber, thus proving the tricky nature of organizing independent contractors. Nevertheless, the drivers are calling on Uber and Lyft to award them living wage fares, eliminating pool fares, granting them protection from exploitation, and allowing them to be represented by a union.

See Vice, Sep 28 2016

Volkswagen has included itself in a growing number of businesses and Republican legislators fighting against the union strategy of ‘splinter groups’. This approach involves organizing smaller groups of workers, as opposed to entire companies, in an effort way to boost union membership. Larger businesses are against these smaller groups, claiming the ‘micro-unions’ threaten divisiveness between employees in the workplace. Despite Volkswagen’s efforts, experts say it is unlikely that these splinter groups will be banned.

See Daniel Weissner and Bernie Woodall , Reuters, Sep 27 2016

For the past two months, the teachers and school board of the Lincolnshire-Prairie View Illinois school district have been renegotiating the teachers’ expired contracts. Recently, a federal mediator has been involved to oversee the as yet unsuccessful proceedings. Currently, the teachers are receiving compensation from their now expired contracts. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board has not yet gotten involved with the negotiations, but remarked they would do so if either party files a complaint that the other side does not desire to make any deal.

See Ronnie Wachter, Chicago Tribune, Sep 27 2016

Three Chinese Labor Activists who had worked to ‘organize and protect workers’ were sentenced to prison time with suspension. One organizer, Zang Feiyang, was given three years of jail time with four years’ suspension, and the other two only one and a half years of jail time with a two-year suspension. If the three individuals break the law during the periods of their suspensions, they will serve the prison time. The activists had each significantly contributed to a movement for higher wages and benefits. In the past, labor organizing was tolerated by the Chinese government. Now, however, with the economy slowing down and labor being outsourced to Vietnam, the government is becoming stricter.

See Michael Forsythe, The New York Times, Sep 27 2016

Unifor, the union representing 4,000 of Canada’s General Motors workers, ratified a four-year contract with the auto giant on Monday. The deal granted job security, wage increases, and a $420.84 million (USD) investment in local plants, but conceded defined pension plans for new employees. The contract was ratified by 64.7% of union members and, because of Unifor’s use of patterned bargaining, the deal will impact approximately 16,000 workers at Fiat Chrysler and Ford, whose contracts are also expiring. One of the major issues going into Fiat Chrysler’s negotiations will be the future of the Brampton plant, and Unifor has set a strike deadline for midnight on October 10th.

See Ethan Lou , Reuters, Sep 26 2016

After stalled negotiations and numerous partial work stoppages, Hyundai’s South Korean labor union launched a full-day walkout, marking the union’s first nationwide strike in 12 years. Thus far, over 114,000 cars’ worth of revenue has been lost, putting the world’s fifth-largest automaker’s earnings and sales targets in jeopardy. The automaker produces 40% of its vehicles across South Korea, where continued partial strikes are expected for the rest of the week. The union rejected a tentative wage contract last month. Overall, Hyundai Motor has seen smaller, more localized strikes in 25 out of the 29 years the company has been in existence.

See Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters, Sep 26 2016

After concerns of patient safety rose, junior doctors in England called off the five day strikes that were planned for October, November, and December of this year. The strikes began after the Department of Health proposed a new contract that would have provided a 7-day National Health System, but pay junior doctors their normal rate during the day on both Saturday and Sunday. The junior doctors’ decision to end the strikes was influenced by “feedback from doctors, patients and the public, and following a passionate, thoughtful and wide-ranging debate amongst junior doctors", but they will continue to use "alternative forms of resistance", according to Dr. Ellen McCourt, chairwoman of the BMA junior doctors committee. McCourt stated she hopes this decision will result in the government engaging with junior doctors and listening to their concerns. McCourt's position was in jeopardy until yesterday, when committee members voted to keep her.

See Telegraph, Sep 26 2016

The Labor Department has been asked by eight US senators to investigate Wells Fargo following a civil suit that ended in the bank paying $190 million. Employees of Wells Fargo had opened over 2 million credit card accounts that may not have been authorized. The senators want the Labor Department to investigate if the bank violated wage and working hour laws when it neglected to pay overtime to employees who would stay after hours in order to meet their sales quotas. This comes as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued a complaint that Wells Fargo’s system financially rewarded employees opening new accounts. Federal investigators are also launching a criminal investigation against the US Bank.

See Sarah N. Lynch , Reuters, Sep 23 2016

Dublin Bus services shut down Thursday night, marking the third work stoppage this week. The strikes began because bus drivers have not received a wage increases in eight years. Four hundred thousand commuters were forced to find alternative methods of transportation, resulting in long lines for taxis.

See Rachel Flaherty, The Irish Times, Sep 23 2016

In a 3-0 ruling, the US Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 ruling that racial discrimination must be based on characteristics that cannot change. This decision disqualifies hairstyles as an area of racial discrimination. The case centered around Chastity Jones, a woman whose job offer was rescinded after she refused to get rid of her dreadlocks. She claims that a human resource representative told her that her hairstyle “tended to get messy”. Circuit Judge Adalberto Jordan specifically noted that discrimination on the basis of black hair texture is still covered by Title VII, but that classic black hairstyles, because they are changeable, are not.

See Taryn Finley , Huffington Post, Sep 23 2016

On September 19th, a court dismissed the case Divney v. Penske, determining that Penske Automotive Group could not be held liable for discrimination. Divney, an employee at an Ohio based car dealership that is a subsidiary of the Penske group, sued the parent organization, not the car dealership, as the sole defendant. A federal court determined that a parent company is only responsible for subsidiaries based on the daily interrelation of operations, significantly shared management and control of labor relations, as well as total financial control and ownership. The evidence Divney brought did not indicate that those conditions had been met.

See Kevin McGowan, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 22 2016

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to adjust labor laws to increase the number of jobs available in India. The bills will mostly address increasing hiring flexibility by decreasing the severity of legislation that prohibits mass lay-offs. Currently, the law has resulted in a decrease in permanent hiring. Although Modi has been pushing for these changes since his election, legislation has stalled over the past two years due to opposition from unions. Laws concerning working conditions and employee benefits are still under discussion.

See Tommy Wilkes and Manoj Kumar, Reuters, Sep 22 2016

Chicago teachers held a second vote on September 21 to determine whether or not they will strike. The worker’s contract originally expired over a year ago, in June 2015. That December, teachers voted on a possible strike, and then participated in a one-day walkout in April. As of now, the union has not given Illinois any preliminary notice about an upcoming strike. Depending on the outcome of the vote, the earliest an open-ended strike could occur would be October.

See CBS Chicago, Sep 22 2016

After 6 straight years of decline, the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) results improved by 3%. The DHS includes 22 federal agencies and was formed after the 9/11 attacks of 2001. The DHS proudly announced their increase in score, which is significant versus the overall government-wide increase of 1%. The FEVS polled approximately 408,000 employees across 80 agencies (a participation rate of ~46%). According to Beth Cobert, acting Office of Personnel Management Director, more employees in the DHS were happier with their jobs, wages, and organizations than in 2015. The Homeland Security Secretary, Jeh Johnson, attributed the department’s positive results to both his and Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ personal involvement with employees, who they spoke to 45 times across 22 cities. Notably, in March, Johnson worked alongside TSA employees at BWI airport to understand his personnel’s needs and work-life balance.

See Joe Davidson , The Washington Post, Sep 21 2016

According to the New York Department of Labor, employers must now receive written consent to pay their employees via direct deposit and cannot charge them for this service. Both wage payment via payroll debit cards and direct deposits will now require greater obligations for employers, who will also need to take internal measures to stay in compliance. Employers using these means of payment must now provide employees with a written explanation of the worker's choices for wage delivery, a statement that they are not required to receive wages via payroll deposit and/or direct deposit, and inform them that they will not incur any fees to receive wage via payroll debit cards. Consent must be received in the employee's’ primary language and electronic notice is allowed if all regulatory requirements are met. The new regulation will go into effect on March 7, 2017.

See Richard Greenberg, Daniel J. Jacobs, Daisy A. Tomaselli, The National Law Review, Sep 21 2016

Twenty-one states are currently suing the United States Government over the Labor Department’s new overtime rule that is being rolled out this December. The new rule would make employees who make up to $47,000 eligible for overtime pay. The lawsuit argues that by almost doubling the floor that employers are required to pay overtime, the government is forcing employers to either 1) increase salary costs significantly, or 2) cut employee’s hours and organize them as hourly workers instead of salaried. For example, Iowa has estimated that the overtime law will amount to over $19 million in additional spending. Many of the states involved in the lawsuit, including Texas and Oklahoma, have participated in other legal disputes aimed at blocking the Obama administration’s initiatives, which have included the Clean Water Rule and giving illegal immigrants semi-permanent residency status.

See Daniel Fisher, Forbes, Sep 21 2016

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune decided on the NewsGuild CWA to act as their collective bargaining representative. This action came after the newspaper’s September 9th motion against the newspaper, citing unfair labor practices that were in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Journalists spoke out against stagnant wages and significant layoffs. Newspaper Publisher Patrick Dorsey, responsible for the Sarastota Herald-Tribune, has in the past expressed disappointment over employees moving to unionize.

See Tyrone Richardson, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 20 2016

Andy Hall, a British labor activist, was found guilty of defamation in a Thai court. Hall was convicted of violated Thailand’s Computer Crimes Act while researching labor abuses in the Natural Fruit plant. The defamation charges are especially concerning considering the two dozen witnesses who testified that the abuse allegations were legitimate. The conviction is being called “a real blow to human rights in Thailand”, with Hall as a “scapegoat” for those looking to exercise free speech.

See Felize Solomon, TIME, Sep 20 2016

Late Monday night, General Motors and their union reached an agreement on an expiring contract that threatened to cause a strike. Ultimately, the parties agreed to close one assembly line at the Ontario plant, but build another line with the capability to produce both cars and trucks. This change will actually increase the number of workers employed by general motors. The union representative stated his main goal was to keep jobs in Canada, because the auto-industry is dwindling there.

See Ian Austen, The New York Times, Sep 20 2016

Unifor, the Canadian autoworkers’ union, and General Motors are reportedly still far from resolving their contract disagreements. 3,900 of GM’s unionized workers have the legal right to strike at midnight tomorrow, a deadline that the union’s president has said he will not extend. The 4 year contract covers worker at GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford in Ontario and expires today. The major area of contention is Unifor’s demand that the automaker invest in building new vehicle models in the Oshawa, Ontario factory. The new contract could either salvage 2,500 jobs at the Oshawa plant or bring it closer to closing its doors.

See Allison Martell , Reuters, Sep 19 2016

After an Associated Press investigation found that hundreds of foreign fishermen laboring on Hawaii’s commercial fleet, state and federal lawmakers are promising to take action. The AP found that the Southeast Asian and Pacific Island men had been confined to the ships for many years without being granted their basic labor rights. The report found that the men were forced to defecate in buckets and lived with bed bugs. Some also suffered from tuberculosis and food shortages, while sometimes being paid only 70 cents per hour and working 22 hours per day. The foreign workers were able to work on U.S. ships without proper visas because they never actually set foot on American soil. Whole Foods has stopped purchasing fish from the commercial fleet and the Hawaii Seafood Council has announced that beginning on October 1, the Honolulu Fish Auction will only let boats who have accepted new standardized contracts to sell their fish. The goal of the new contracts is to specifically prevent forced labor. If lawmakers decided to include boat owners in Hawaiian regulations, there will most likely be an injunction to stop labor on the fleets. Another possible course of action proposed by Rep. Kaniela Ing of Honolulu, would be introducing specific legislation to protect the fishermen.

See Fox Business, Associated Press, Sep 19 2016

On Friday, coaches at 14 of Pennsylvania's state colleges approved a strike. The decision links them with APSCUF, who represents 95% of tenured/tenure-track professors and 75% of adjunct employees across the 14 state colleges. Contract negotiations have been underway for over two years, with professors and coaches working under expired contracts for over 450 days. The union is opposed to the State’s proposal to increase the number of temporary employees, increasing costs for less medical benefits, and increased workloads for adjunct professors.

See Lydia Nuzum, Pittsburgh Business Times, Sep 19 2016

Sixty-two protesters were arrested across France and 15 police officers were injured after fights erupted Thursday during labor protests against the country’s new labor law. The law, which was passed in parliament in July, makes protective labor laws less strict by allowing employers to adjust wages and terms to fit their needs. The law would also allow employers to reduce overtime pay from a 25% markup to 10%. Between 12,500 and 13,500 protesters marched in Paris, and riot police fired tear gas and water cannons at the protestors. After six months of protest, this was many unions’ last push to overturn the law.

See Brian Love, Business Insider, Reuters, Sep 16 2016

Due to the United States unemployment rate falling to 4.9% last month, the tightened labor market is posing a serious obstacle for retailers looking for seasonal workers to employ this holiday season. Preliminary government data shows that slightly more retail jobs were unfilled versus last July. Retailers are now beginning to hire more temporary workers and recruit more aggressively, with Target holding a nationwide hiring event for the first time. Retailers are anticipated to employ approximately 738,800 seasonal employees for this upcoming holiday season, a statistic which is flat from last year. Additionally, with online sales continuing to increase, retailers have expressed difficulties in filling warehouse and other back-office positions.

See Krystina Gustafson, CNBC, Sep 16 2016

After 12 days, professors at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus have regained access to their buildings. Yesterday, the Long Island University Faculty Federation and the University reached an agreement that has extended the faculty members’ contracts until May 31, 2017. On September 7, approximately 400 faculty members were locked out of the campus after they rejected the university’s proposed contract. Professors rejected the contract because of the salary cuts that new adjunct professors would have to take, while existing professors would receive an average raise of 13% over the course of 5 years. This was the first time that higher education teachers have been locked out of their facilities. The two parties will continue to bargain, but the contract extension allows professors to continue teaching in their classrooms without being locked out.

See Emily Marks , University Herald, Sep 16 2016

Recently, approximately 180 million disgruntled Indian workers participated in what unions are definitively calling the “biggest work stoppage in human history”. The mostly unskilled laborers are asking for a $270 per month minimum wage, as well as health and social security benefits. Last year, the Indian finance minister offered a $180 per month minimum wage, but the proposal was rejected because it did not address many of the other union’s demands. There is currently no enforced minimum wage in India, although about 90% of the workforce are engaged in the informal positions that would benefit. Strikers blame the government for favoring the business sector over the working class.

See Shashank Bengali, The Los Angeles Times, Sep 15 2016

After seeing a Facebook post detailing tuna plant workers from $1 million dollars in compensation, chicken farmer Tun Tun Win realized he and his coworkers could sue for exploitation. Up until recently, migrant workers at a chicken farm in central Thailand were used to working appalling hours: 20 hour shifts for as long as 40 days in a row, followed by three weeks of 10 hour shifts. For this labor, they were given three days off, and $7 per day. After reading the social media posting, Tun Tun Win and several of his coworkers have filed a lawsuit against their employer asking for $1.3 million in compensation.

See Alisa Tang, Thomson Reuters Foundation, Sep 15 2016

Postal workers around the United Kingdom are beginning a 24 hour walk-out today. The employees are protesting the pension losses, privatization and closures of branches, and layoffs outlined in a new cost-cutting proposal. Half of the postal workers are slated to have had their final salary pension schemes cut. Many workers also mentioned unhappiness with the new organizational structure, and the loss of job security. The Communication Workers Union has joined forces with Unite, the union for post office managers, to protest 4,700 workers strong.

See Sarah Butler, The Guardian, Sep 15 2016

Despite the United Kingdom’s decision to exit the European Union, the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9% until July. Surprisingly, today the Office of National Statistics reported that July’s unemployment rate actually fell to 4.7%. Wage growth declined .2% since last quarter. The Bank of England does expect unemployment to eventually creep to 5.6% by the middle of 2018, which could hurt the nation’s economy. Chief economist at PriceWaterHouseCoopers, John Hawksworth, confirmed that the Brexit did not have an immediate impact, and believes that if a delayed impact does occur, the labor market won’t be the first to react. The news resulted in the pound rallying to versus both the dollar and the euro.

See BBC, Sep 14 2016

After the Carolina Panthers’ starting quarterback, Cam Newton, took a significant hit to the head in Thursday night’s season opener, the National Football League and its players’ union have both opened investigations regarding the team’s compliance with concussion protocol. Newton suffered from a helmet-to-helmet collision with Darian Stewart, safety of the Denver Broncos. If the Panthers are found to be in-compliant with the policies they could face disciplinary actions from the NFL. Both the NFL and players’ union will recommend a disciplinary response, which will go to a third-party arbitrator if the two sides cannot come together, a procedure that is outlined in the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement. Additionally, both the NFL and the players’ union will receive access to game footage, documents, and ability to formally interview parties involved, such as the Independent certified athletic trainers (ATC spotters) and the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant that was present during the blow.

See Tom Pelissero, USA Today, Sep 14 2016

ITT Technical Institutes announced last week it will be shutting its doors as a result of the Education Department’s decision to no longer give financial aid to students at the school. This has prompted over 100 former ITT Technical students to actively refuse to pay back their federal student loans. It is a strike against the government’s lack of policing for for-profit colleges. The students argue that the credentials that they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for are essentially worthless and the US Department of Education failed to protect them. This movement is not new, it began last year after the Education Department bailed out Corinthian Colleges Inc. Both Corinthian and ITT Tech students are demanding their federal student loans be forgiven.

See Shahien Nasiripour , Bloomberg, Sep 14 2016

Recently, almost 10,000 Chipotle workers have filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging wage theft. Both current and former employees claim that supervisors would clock workers out when their shifts ended, while in many cases the employees were still cleaning up their stations. In other cases, workers were automatically clocked out by the computer system. The popular food chain plans to fight the accusations in the upcoming lawsuit Turner v. Chipotle.

See Heather Long, CNN Money, Sep 13 2016

On September 12th, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to allow agricultural workers overtime pay after eight hours. The previous law necessitated overtime pay for employees working over 10 hours per day. The United Farm Workers Union hopes that this new precedent set by California will push other states to do the same. Opponents to the legislation have voiced concern that employers will hire more workers for fewer hours in order to avoid the new expense.

See by Jazmine Ulloa and John Myers, The Los Angeles Times, Sep 13 2016

On Sunday, New York Governor Cuomo officially extended the opportunity for Ground Zero Workers to apply for government compensation until 2018. The decision came two days after a news release by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene clarified that the physical toll for workers who cleaned Ground Zero remains widely felt. The E.P.A. has recently apologized for stating that the air around Ground Zero was harmless; higher rates of cancer have been found in rescue workers who breathed the contaminated air.

See Marc Santora, The Guardian, Sep 13 2016

In his closing speech Bob Martinez, President of the International Association of Machinists, ended the union’s convention by highlighting plans to adjust the group’s goals to modern realities, especially stressing the need to increase union membership and to update the IAM’s outdated organizing playbook. Martinez has already released plans to bolster worker organization in the South, and to significantly cut IAM’s expenses. The convention focused on the need to explore global partnerships and the impact of 3D printing technology, as well as their desire to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

See Tyrone Richardson, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 12 2016

In a vote by employees at Pennsylvania Visual Charter School, workers responded in favor of representation by the Pennsylvania State Education Association. By contrast, workers at Hyde Leadership Charter School voted in opposition of representation from their respective union, the United Federation of Teachers. These results demonstrate the increased desire for representation under federal labor law. In response, AFT President Randi Weingarten stated that either under state or federal law, the union would continue organizing teachers at charter schools.

See Michael Rose, Bloomberg BNA, Sep 12 2016

Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program, which hires foreign workers from temporary positions working on farms, has recently faced accusations that the program is exploitative. A group representing foreign migrant workers in Canada called Justicia for Migrant Workers claims that because employees’ work permits are entirely dependent on a single employer, they face immediate repatriation upon losing their jobs. The collective has launched a campaign to highlight working conditions for migrants and push the government to grant permanent immigration status to workers, including a month-long caravan tour of the country.

See Jillian Kestler-D'Amours, Al Jazeera, Sep 12 2016

Inmates across the United States began striking today to protest the slave-like conditions they endure working in their prisons. 45 years ago today, prisoners in New York’s Attica Correctional Facility rioted for better conditions. Today’s strike could potentially be the largest prison strike in history, and one riot has already been reported in Florida. Inmates are hoping to put an end to the forced labor they are victim to, an issue they have attempted to draw attention to in the past through nonviolent protests and work stoppages. Prisoners can earn as low as 15 cents per hour doing tasks that keep their facilities running. Lucky prisoners land coveted positions working for companies such as Victoria’s Secret, who sometimes outsource their labor to U.S. jails. The strike is expected to last multiple days and many facilities may order a lockdown to prevent rioting.

See Aimee Picchi, CBS News, Sep 9 2016

Associated Justice Douglas Wilkins ruled against Boston’s Police Union’s injunction on the body camera program on Friday. Judge Wilkins cited that it was “surprising that no officers voluntarily submitted an application to participate” in the program and supported BDP Commissioner Evan’s order that 100 of his men participate in the pilot program. The program is now set to start on Monday. Although Union President Patrick Rose is “disappointed’ by the ruling, he is confident that the body cameras will highlight the good work his members do on a daily basis.

See Zuri Berry , Boston Herald, Sep 9 2016

Musicians in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra put down their instruments in protest at 12:30pm on Thursday, after 15 months of failed contract negotiations. The musicians are members of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 72-147, and decided to strike after management gave them its “last, best and final offer”, which the musicians claim was identical to one they had rejected 4 days ago. The Symphony was forced to cancel the 2016-2017 season opener this weekend and may have to cancel performances on September 16-18th. The rejected contract included pay cuts over the next three years and a pay increase of 3.5% in the fourth year, which would have boosted principal players’ salaries to over $70,000. Management cites a projected deficit of $700,000 this year as the driver of the pay cuts, but the musicians argue that they have taken large pay cuts for far too long and that ticket sales have been on the rise. The musicians took a 13.5% pay reduction in 2010 because of the recession.

See Michael Granberry , Dallas Morning News, Sep 9 2016

In an unprecedented move, Long Island University locked out 400 faculty members just days after their contract expired, and just as the school semester was to begin. The lockout, located on LIU's Brooklyn campus, came after the union and the university clashed over salaries. Representatives from LIU claim the lockout is a pre-emptive move to avoid the faculty strikes which have occurred in each of the last several contract negotiations, and hope to cut adjunct faculty pay as part of a broader effort to cut costs university-wide. In response to the lockout, faculty voted overwhelmingly to reject the university's latest contract offer, as well as for a vote of no-confidence in LIU's president, Kimberly Cline. Labor historians observe that employer lockouts are rarely effective tactically, and often prove to be damaging from a public relations standpoint.

See Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, Sep 8 2016

The University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Labor Center suffered a blow as its director, Eve Weinbaum left amidst declining enrollment and decreased revenue. The prestigious program, founded in 1964, saw some of its funding cut last year, including cuts to part-time faculty and graduate student funding. In additions, the Labor Center's director was decreased from a 12-month to a 9-month position. While the administration claims that the cuts are only temporary and will be reversed when the program is revived, Labor leaders and faculty nationwide are concerned the fate of the Labor Center are signs of a possible larger trend in which similar labor programs are targeted for cuts for ideological reasons.

See Laura Krantz, Boston Globe, Sep 8 2016

In Boston, a pilot program for officers to wear body cameras was scheduled to begin last week, but was delayed after not a single officer volunteered. This prompted Police Commissioner William Evans to force 100 of his men to participate and wear the body cameras. The Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association fired back, asking Judge Douglas Wilkins to issue an injunction on the program. Patrick Rose, president of the Patrolmen’s Association, had instructed his members to abstain from the program until an agreement was reached with the city, an order that has led Kay Hodge, the city’s lawyer, to deem the union’s hands “unclean”. The hearing will continue through this afternoon.

See Boston Herald, Associated Press, Sep 7 2016

After 3 months of unsuccessful contract negotiations, over 600 employees in Harvard’s Dining halls are preparing to strike. The dining hall workers’ contracts expire on September 17th, as well as the “no-strike” clause that lies within them. Harvard’s dining hall workers are pushing for a minimum of $35,000 a year and for the university to continue their current health care program. Currently only 30% of dining hall workers earn $35,000, excluding overtime. Harvard University’s spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga issued a statement arguing that the university’s wages are “highly competitive”, with dining hall employees earning almost $22 an hour. Additionally, the university’s new health care plan has been accepted by over 5,000 employees thus far.

See Lauren Fox, Boston Globe, Sep 7 2016

Both teachers and students in Chicago’s public school system returned for the start of the new school year yesterday, but the threat of a teachers’ strike still looms. The Chicago Teachers Union and the Chicago Public School System has been without a contract for over one year and the union is considering striking in October if negotiations continue to not progress. The main area of controversy is the 7% pension pick up that the district hopes to remove from the teachers’ contracts. The pension provision has been in place since 1981 and requires the school system to pay 7% of the 9% of salaries teachers must contribute to their pension. Additionally, the CPS’s budget currently relies on $215 of new state funding, which is not guaranteed. The CTU will be meeting tonight and could potentially set a formal strike deadline.

See CBS Chicago, Sep 7 2016

4,800 nurses employed by 5 of Allina Health's Minneapolis hospitals (Abbott Northwestern, Phillips Eye Institute, United, Unity, and Mercy) began an open ended strike on Labor Day. The nurses, who are represented by the Minnesota Nurses Association, are fighting for health insurance, workplace safety and staffing levels. The strike erupted after meetings between the two parties and federal mediators lasted 22 hours on Friday and ended in a stalemate. This is the second time this year that the nurses have gone on strike, with the first taking place for an entire week in June after their contracts originally expired. Allina Health claims that the strike will not effect patient care and the business, but the union's June strike cost the company $20.4 million, primarily driven by the high cost of employing replacement nurses.

See Steve Karnowski , ABC News, Associated Press, Sep 6 2016

Unifor National, Canada's main autoworkers' union, picked General Motors as its strike target on Tuesday. The union is currently negotiating with GM, Ford, and Fiat Chrysler, but has chosen GM as its target. The union chooses one company during each negotiation period to set the tone for the other major manufacturer's contract negotiations, who typically agree to similar deals. Jerry Dias, Unifor's president, set the strike deadline for September 19th, which is when GM, Fiat Chrysler, and Ford's contracts all expire. The strike could potentially disrupt GM's North American production and supply chain.

See Allison Martell, Yahoo Finance, Sep 6 2016

The British Medical Association's junior doctors announced a five-day strike that will take place later this month after 58% of doctors rejected a contract backed by the junior doctor's leader, Johann Malawana. The junior doctors fear that a new contract will stretch resources even further and decrease morale for the already understaffed professionals. Additionally, they argue that the contract negatively impacts and disincentives workers who work part-time, particularly women and those who typically work on weekends.

See Rebecca Ratcliffe, The Guardian, Sep 6 2016

After two months of straight growth, the US Labor Department announced that employment numbers slowed more than expected in August. Nonfarm employment, which rose by 275,000 in July, decreased to 151,000 in August. Economists had forecasted payrolls increasing by 180,000 and a .1% drop in the unemployment rate to 4.8%. The US Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9%. The slowdown is cited to potentially be caused by difficulties in adjusting data based on seasonality and changes due to school calendars. On Thursday it was announced that the manufacturing sector tightened, which coupled with today’s Labor Department numbers, makes a Federal Reserve interest rate hike in September less likely.

See Lucia Mutikani , Reuters, Sep 2 2016

After the NLRB ordered Volkswagen to bargain and recognize the Local 42 United Auto Workers union on August 26th, the car manufacturer announced it would file an appeal with the United States Federal Appeals Court. Despite VW’s reluctance to comply with the NLRB’s order , yesterday, the UAW publically encouraged the company to comply and meet them at the bargaining table. Last year’s unionization of the Chattanooga plant was significant, as it marked a victory despite the deeply anti-union sentiment found in the southern United States.

See Gaurika Juneja and Aurindom Mukherjee, Reuters, Sep 2 2016

Approximately 180 million workers across India began striking on Friday in protest of the government’s lackluster minimum wage increase for unskilled workers. Protesters included state bank employees, school teachers, postal workers, miners, and construction workers. Many of the country’s unions are calling on the government to guarantee social security and healthcare for all workers, as well as increasing the minimum wage to meet inflation. Some states, however, have boosted their minimum wage levels in excess of monthly targets of 9,100 rupees ot 13,598 rupees (a change from approximately $136 to $204 USD). The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, says that the reforms are necessary to increase growth in the country.

See ABC News, Associated Press, Sep 2 2016

Since their inception 25 years ago, charter schools have been greatly debated and oftentimes fall into a grey areas in terms of state law. After unionization efforts in both New York and Pennsylvania’s charter schools, the National Labor Relations Board was thrown into the debate in regards to whether charter schools should be treated as public or private entities. Because of charter schools’ use of tax dollars, as well as their tuition-free and open-enrollment nature, many supporters have dubbed them public institutions. Opponents, which include union leaders, argue that charter schools are private companies and are comparable to government contractors. The NLRB agreed, stating that charter schools are not directly established by state governments and their administrators are not controlled by voters or public officials. The decision is significant because charter school employees must now organize under the NLRA instead of other state laws that apply to public-sector employees.

See Emma Brown, Washington Post, Aug 31 2016