Workplace Issues Today

Many economic forecasts predicted that US job growth would steadily decrease in the US. However, contrary to the predictions the US Economy added 266,000 jobs in the month of November. As a result, the unemployment rate is at a historic low of 3.5%. Wage growth has been smaller than expected, but it continues to outpace inflation rates.

See Gina Heeb, Business Insider, Dec 6 2019

On Thursday the Communications Worker of America Union filed a federal complaint against Google. The labor union is alleging that Google fired four employees for engaging in union activities. Due to the complaint, the National Labor Relations Board will prompt an investigation into workplace practices at Google. This occurrence at Google highlights the trend of growing tensions between labor and management in the tech industry.

See Paresh Dave, US News, Dec 6 2019

Away is a startup company that specializes in luggage. Away is a digital-oriented company that often uses Slack, a new web-based communication method, for communication purposes. However, Away has recently been under scrutiny for firing employees that complained about their supervisors in a private channel on Slack. The situation at Away displays the controversial nature of Slack, an app centered on making company communication inclusive, as it decreases employee privacy.

See Aaron Holmes, Business Insider, Dec 6 2019

Hourly employees at AMC movie theatres do not receive holiday or overtime pay because they are exempt from federal labor law overtime pay mandates. One employee interviewed at an Atlanta theatre noted that he works 80 hours per week, and only receives $10.25 per hour. In the 1930s professionals operated movie theaters, which is why these workers were excluded from the NLRA. However, today movie theatre workers are not professionals. A former AMC employee has started a petition to change AMC’s overtime policies that has received an excess of 6,000 signatures.

See Kate Gibson, CBS News, Dec 5 2019

Initially, mental health employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers intended to strike in mid-November. However, workers decided to postpone their strike until mid-December following the death of Kaiser’s chief executive, Bernard Tyson. Kaiser mental health workers are ready to engage in collective activity in order to combat long wait times for appointments, and unreasonable caseloads. The firm refuses to negotiate with the union in order to prevent the strike unless workers agree to lower benefits.

See Amy Stulick, San Fernando Valley Business Journal, Dec 5 2019

Labor authorities have found the advertising agency Dentsu Inc. has been engaging in illegal overtime practices again. In 2015, an employee committed suicide due to excessive overtime work, which led courts to order the agency to pay fines in 2017. Just two years after this conviction, the firm has been found to have continued engaging in illegal overtime practices. In response, its public relations division stated that the firm intends to continue changing its work environment. This case has encouraged a nationwide debate over the working conditions in Japan and how these conditions can be improved to better employee outcomes.

See Japan Times, Dec 5 2019

Former union officials have teamed up with pharmaceutical companies via the Pharmaceutical Industry Labor-Management Association to defeat drug-price proposals. Politicians who are proposing drug-price proposals to lower the costs associated with prescription medications are surprised to find that former union representatives are not aligned with their cause. In fact, union officials are championing the argument that drug companies make, stating that drug-price proposals will “stifle innovation” which ultimately threatens union jobs.

See Katie Thomas, New York Times, Dec 4 2019

A survey released by the Minnesota Department of Labor found that the state’s workplace injury and illness rate has remained at an all-time low. In 2018, there were 3.2 nonfatal injuries and illnesses per 100 full time workers. This number has decreased by 3.3 percent over the past year. In the United States, approximately 5 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses occurred in 2018. Additional insights revealed by the Minnesota survey indicate that sprains and strains account for 35% of injuries, and the most common injuries occur as a result of overexertion or bodily reactions.

See Andrew Weeks, Prairie Business, Dec 4 2019

Government workers in Washington state will no longer be compelled to pay union dues. Following the Janus ruling, public-sector workers are no longer required to pay union fees if they do not want to. Washington made changes to its state laws to conform to this new precedent. Moving forward, in order for a union to extract dues from a member’s paycheck, it must verify that it has received consent from the employee.

See Tacoma News Tribune, Dec 4 2019

Four Google employees were fired last week for violations of data security policies; the four employees had also been active in labor organizing, and their dismissals are likely to increase workforce tensions at the tech giant, which has come under increasing criticism for its handling of sexual harassment cases, contract workers, and its work with the Department of Defense and the Chinese government. Google's workplace culture had been previously lauded for its openness and its encouragement towards employee input. The deteriorating relationship between management and employees was made more evident recently when Google cancelled a long-established series of Friday meetings which had been in place to allow employees to pose questions to senior executives. Google has also begun working with a consulting firm that has previously worked on subdue unionization efforts. An internal memo said the fired employees had repeatedly searched for and distributed information “outside the scope of their jobs.”

See Firings of four Google employees active in labor organizing increases workplace tensions at tech giant, Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi, The New York Times, Dec 3 2019

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employee advocacy on behalf of unpaid interns is not protected behavior as unpaid interns are not considered employees by the National Labor Relations Act. It also ruled that an employer's frustration with employees who had advocated for unpaid interns is not an implicit threat. The suit had been brought against Amnesty International earlier this year when a recorded conversation with the organization's executive director indicated that the organization was disappointed that a need for paid internships had not been discussed orally with management prior to an employee starting a petition advocating for paid internships, which had been signed by almost all employees. The NLRB reversed the initial finding by an administrative law judge that that executive director's comments were coercive. Unions have recently increased efforts to bolster the NLRA’s reach by organizing non-traditional workers, including temporary campaign workers and graduate students. The reversal continues a reluctance by the NLRB to impose obligations on employers outside the traditional employment context, including excluding paid undergraduate and graduate students from the NLRA.

See NLRB rules advocacy for unpaid interns is not protected by the NLRA, Catherine A. Cano, Laura A. Pierson-Scheinberg, Howard M. Bloom, Philip B. Rosen, The National Law Review, Dec 3 2019

New York legislators plan to introduce a bill that would allow Uber and Lyft drivers to unionize. Uber and Lyft have been involved in many court cases recently defending the fact that they consider their drivers to be independent contractors rather than employees. The distinction is crucial as it defines the legal protections that the drivers are entitled to when it comes to collective bargaining rights. The proposed bill in New York highlights the trend of an increasing movement of gig economy workers that wish to unionize.

See Chris Opfer & Keshia Clukey, Bloomberg Law, Dec 2 2019

In March, Gabrielle Union was forced to exit from her role as judge on the popular television show, America's Got Talent. Gabrielle Union raised attention that her forced exit came quickly after she made claims that the production site fostered a toxic work environment. As a result the Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) labor union has gotten involved and will be conducting an investigation.

See Hannah Yasharoff, USA Today, Dec 2 2019

After last-minute negotiations with university administrators, graduate students at Harvard University are preparing to strike. The union is seeking better pay, expanded health care and child care benefits, and an outside arbitrator to handle complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Additionally, graduate student workers are fighting for a more comprehensive method to investigate allegations of sexual assault that involves an independent third party. Harvard officials contend that Title IX sexual harassment complaint process has improved significantly in recent years. The looming strike at Harvard highlights the trend of increasing tensions between university administrators and graduate students nation-wide.

See Deirdre Fernandez, The Boston Globe, Dec 2 2019

In Germany, BMW has reached an agreement with labor regarding various measures intended to reduce costs over the next few years. The goal of both parties is to achieve savings of at least $13.23 billion by 2022, while avoiding “drastic” actions. In order to save money, the parties agreed on a payout scheme for workers, and alterations to current annual bonuses. These measures are in response to the general auto industry decline currently realized by car manufacturers.

See Tom Sims, Reuters, Nov 27 2019

A labor demonstration at LAX on Tuesday caused extra traffic, and resulted in the arrest of 16 protestors. The protest was organized by Unite Here, a union which represents catering workers. Protestors were demonstrating in the hopes of achieving greater wages and benefits. Despite disrupting traffic on one of the busiest travel days of the year, flight operations were not negatively impacted by the demonstration. Unite Here has organized additional demonstrations that will take place across the country during this travel period.

See Tracy Bloom & Kimberly Cheng, KTLA 5, Nov 27 2019

A labor contractor in California has been fined for a number of offenses including hiring foreign laborers, instead of local workers. The U.S. Labor Department found that Empire Farm Labor Contractor failed to appropriately compensate foreign workers, and confiscated their documents. As a penalty, the company has been forced to pay back wages and has been fined for the abuses that it has committed. This particular case is the second instance of abuse of the agricultural guest worker program in California, in just two weeks.

See Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times, Nov 27 2019

In Germany, BMW has reached an agreement with labor regarding various measures intended to reduce costs over the next few years. The goal of both parties is to achieve savings of at least $13.23 billion by 2022, while avoiding “drastic” actions. In order to save money, the parties agreed on a payout scheme for workers, and alterations to current annual bonuses. These measures are in response to the general auto industry decline currently realized by car manufacturers.

See Tom Sims, Reuters, Nov 27 2019

The Indonesian government will deliver a revised labor law proposal to parliament by January, in an attempt to increase employment. Current labor law contains restrictive rules surrounding recruiting and laying off workers, and substantial severance pay. Investors have stated that the current rules are inhibiting economic growth by making it difficult for firms to create new jobs. The revised bill aims to do away with restrictive rules, in order to encourage new job creation and more equal job opportunities.

See Gayatri Suroyo, Reuters, Nov 26 2019

Workers at Los Angeles International Airport have planned a protest that will take place today, impacting individuals traveling for the upcoming holiday. LSG Sky Chefs and Gate Gourmet catering groups, which contract with a number of airline carriers, intend to protest for higher wages and improved benefits. The Unite Here union has stated that this protest could be the largest rally at U.S. airports in many years. A spokesperson for LAX has warned travelers of potential disruptions occurring between noon and 8 p.m. today.

See CBS Los Angeles, Nov 26 2019

This spring, Connecticut legislators achieved PTSD benefits for police and firefighters. Next year, lawmakers will consider extending these benefits to a greater number of emergency responders, including dispatchers and prison guards. Legislators have stated that this rule is a necessary protection for emergency responders. However, it took six years for legislators and labor advocates to achieve benefits for police and firefighters.

See Keith M. Phaneuf, The CT Mirror, Nov 26 2019

In Pennsylvania a new law has been passed requiring construction companies to run immigration checks on all of their employees through a federal database, E-Verify. Pennsylvania follows the trend of over 20 states to implement similar laws. Many Union leaders in support of the new legislation claim that the legislation is pro-labor and will mean more jobs for union members. However, critics of the new legislation worry that it is just promoting additional anti-immigrant sentiment in Pennsylvania.

See Juliana Reyes, Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov 25 2019

Delmar Joel Ramirez Palma is a metal worker that was working on the Hard Rock Construction site in New Orleans, LA when the building collapsed last month. As a result of the event, Palma suffered numerous injuries. According to a complaint filed with the Department of Labor, Palma had previously notified supervisors multiple times of his concerns over the safety of the construction site. However, his concerns were dismissed by supervisors. Following the complaint, Palma has been arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The arrest is controversial and highlights the various ways that immigrant workers are intimidated in the workplace.

See Eli Rosenburg, Washington Post, Nov 25 2019

McDonald's has settled a recent lawsuit regarding wage theft. The settlement will cost the fast food chain over 26 million dollars. The settlement ends a multi-year dispute between McDonald's and its employees, and employees alleged that McDonald's was violating overtime payment laws and were violating workers from other legal rights. The settlement highlights a recent trend of increasing workplace issues at McDonald's.

See Danielle Wiener-Bronner, CNN, Nov 25 2019

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is one of the largest and influential labor unions in the United States. IWLU is well known for its actions across ports on the Pacific. In 2012, dockworkers at a port in Portland, Oregon, began a slowdown to protest two positions which they believed should be given to union members. The company operating the port took the IWLU to court over the issue. 7 years later, the court has rendered a verdict favoring the company and awarding it $93.6 million in damages. This verdict has the potential to bankrupt a historic labor union.

See Mike Baker, New York Times, Nov 22 2019

Sira Naturals is a company that specializes in the production and sale of cannabis in Massachusetts. Recently, workers at Sira Naturals have voted to unionize. 115 employees of Sira Naturals voted to join Local 1445 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW). As legislation continually changes around cannabis, there are signs of a growing trend of unionization in the industry.

See Dan Adams, Boston Globe, Nov 22 2019

A former Digital Sales Director, Serena Bhaduri, has filed a lawsuit against USA Today regarding pregnancy discrimination. Bhaduri alleges that she faced retaliation and discriminatory practices after announcing her pregnancy to her supervisor. Bhaduri contends that USA Today has violated her rights as an employee granted under federal and state employment laws. This article highlights the trend of an increasing number of issues emerging regarding women in the workplace.

See Kerry Flynn, CNN, Nov 22 2019

It appears that the labor market is slowing down, despite unemployment benefit application numbers remaining unchanged. Manufacturing firms have reported less activity in terms of new orders. In response, factory employment has decreased- the hours of factory workers have lessened, as well. While the economy seems to be slowing down, the housing market is on the rebound which suggests that the risk of a recession is low.

See Lucia Mutikani , Reuters, Nov 21 2019

Seventeen McDonald’s workers are suing the firm due to its failure to address workplace violence. Earlier this year, employees filed a complaint with OSHA, urging the organization to examine the violence taking place in the firm's restaurants. In Chicago, 911 calls from McDonald’s restaurants are made, on average, more than 20 times each day. The lawsuit alleges that McDonald’s has not provided conflict resolution training for employees, nor has it designed its physical store spaces in such a way that prevents or minimizes violence against employees.

See Amelia Lucas, CNBC, Nov 21 2019

In response to the criminal investigation into illegal union payoffs, Gary Jones has resigned from his position as UAW president. The union announced today that its leadership intends to meet to elect a new president. His lawyer has reported that his removal from his position serves to eliminate the possibility of distracting the union from its ultimate mission. Moving forward the union’s executive board needs to meet to elect a new president, however, a date has not been chosen for this meeting.

See David Shepardson , Reuters, Nov 21 2019

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) has taken on a project called Reverse Overdose Oregon, in an attempt to address the opioid epidemic. The goal of this project is to teach people when and how to administer naloxone. The OHA will be equipping workplaces with red boxes that contain everything that one would need to administer naloxone. Employers do need to purchase the naloxone on their own, however, OHA hopes that employers will adopt these red boxes as part of their workplace emergency preparedness kits. This campaign will specifically target firms where employees are in contact with a lot of people, or have an increased risk of injury.

See Fedor Zarkhin, Oregon Live, Nov 20 2019

This summer Netflix negotiated its first labor agreement with the SAG-AFTRA union and last month IATSE stated that it would negotiate a contract with the streaming giant, as well. It appears that Netflix is seeking its own agreements with these groups and it is expected that additional unions will come forward hoping to bargain with Netflix. In the event of labor strife, Netflix will ultimately have an advantage by having these agreements that rivals cannot secure themselves due to their membership in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This means that if writers, actors, and directors strike against the producers alliance, they will still be able to work on Netflix shows and movies.

See Wendy Lee , Los Angeles Times, Nov 20 2019

This summer Netflix negotiated its first labor agreement with the SAG-AFTRA union and last month IATSE stated that it would negotiate a contract with the streaming giant, as well. It appears that Netflix is seeking its own agreements with these groups and it is expected that additional unions will come forward hoping to bargain with Netflix. In the event of labor strife, Netflix will ultimately have an advantage by having these agreements that rivals cannot secure themselves due to their membership in the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). This means that if writers, actors, and directors strike against the producers alliance, they will still be able to work on Netflix shows and movies.

See Wendy Lee , Los Angeles Times, Nov 20 2019

General Motors has launched a suit against Fiat Chrysler, alleging that Chrysler bribed UAW officials in order to reach more advantageous labor agreements. The lawsuit argues that Fiat Chrysler disrupted the bargaining process in 2009, 2011, and 2015 by paying for concessions. In response, Chrysler has stated that this lawsuit lacks merit and that the firm will defend against it. The firm also accused GM of filing this lawsuit in order to halt its merger with PSA Peugeout.

See Tom Krisher, Star Tribune, Nov 20 2019

A couple in Singapore was convicted of labor trafficking for exploiting female migrants. The couple forced three Bangladeshi women to work in nightclubs, subjecting them to abuse and confiscating their passports. An anti-trafficking law was enacted in Singapore in 2015, however, this is the first time that anyone has been convicted of such a crime. On Tuesday, the director of the Ministry of Manpower vowed to take action against labor trafficking, stating that there are two other similar cases unsettled in court.

See Beh Lih Yi , Reuters, Nov 19 2019

This weekend, the new Ford Mustang was revealed as an all-electric vehicle. While electric cars are rapidly increasing in popularity due to their lack of direct emissions, analysts predict that their adoption will have a negative impact on autoworkers. The production of these vehicles requires much less manpower due to their straightforward design. Additionally, most of the parts required for the manufacture of these cars are produced overseas. As vehicle assembly is simplified, less labor and skill will be required to manufacture cars.

See Eli Rosenberg & Faiz Siddiqui , The Washington Post, Nov 19 2019

Bus assembly line workers at Proterra have decided to unionize, joining the United Steelworkers Local 675. Surprisingly, the firm's leadership has been incredibly supportive of unionization efforts. Following the union vote, Proterra voluntarily recognized the union. Many assumed that the firm's CEO, Ryan Popple, who previously worked as a finance executive at Tesla would take an antiunion stance. However, he views the union as a positive force- it has helped the firm align with environmental and labor advocacy groups which allows the firm to be more productive, overall.

See Sam Dean, Los Angeles Times, Nov 19 2019

Last week, over 1,000 people gathered to strike at several McDonald's locations across East Detroit. The strike action was motivated after the recent sexual harassment case centering around McDonald’s former CEO. The strike exemplifies how workers are continually fighting for greater workplace democracy in the fast food industry.

See Eli Day, TruthOut, Nov 18 2019

Pennsylvania has seen a rise in preganancy discrimination lawsuits. Many pregnant women have cited that their hours were reduced or they were forced to work in conditions that posed harm to themselves. Multiple states have passed legislation which requires employers to provide reasonable accomodations, such as a chair, water, and additional restroom breaks, to pregnant employees. Pennsylvania currently has no such legislation.

See Justine McDaniel, Philadelphia Inquirer, Nov 18 2019

Company dress codes have recently come under fire for being vehicles of discrimination. In Japan, a recent survey has revealed that over 11% of companies require their female employee to wear heels to the office. In response to the dress code requirement of heels for female employees, the #KuToo campaign was started. The #KuToo campaign highlights the growing global trend of re-evaluating company dress codes.

See Japan Times, Nov 18 2019

South Korea has a culture that is obsessed with success. As a result of the culture's obsession with success, there is a harsh stigma around failure and it is a source of anxiety for many. Currently, South Korea has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. The government hasn't taken note of these statistics and have tried to implement policies to change the public's perception of failure. Moving forward, workplaces in South Korea will have to address how their workplace culture can be adapted to be more accepting of failure.

See Isabelle Steger & Sookyoung Lee, Quartz at Work, Nov 15 2019

This week the "Real Media Salaries" spreadsheet was circulated to employees at various national media outlets. The spreadsheet allowed for people to share their position, company, experience in years, race, gender, job location, duties and previous employment data, in addition to compensation details. Currently, the spreadsheet has received over 1,000 responses. The spreadsheet exemplifies the growing movement towards salary transparency that employees are pushing for in many workplaces.

See Eli Rosenburg , Washington Post, Nov 15 2019

Friday meetings at Google are well known events. The meetings started in 1999 and serve as a forum where employee can discuss topics and voice concerns with management freely. Recently, meeting notes have been leaked from internal sources to the media highlighting the growing tension between employees and executives. Due to persistent leaks Google has decided to cease their weekly friday meetings.

See Jennifer Elias, CNBC, Nov 15 2019

A spreadsheet detailing the salary information of over 900 journalists has gone viral. The “Real Media Salaries” spreadsheet asked journalists to record their title, where they work, race, years of experience, gender identity, and other relevant information which may impact compensation. This spreadsheet is part of the movement towards greater pay transparency. Creators of this spreadsheet hoped that this information could help young journalists who are just entering the field and do not know what a fair salary is might be.

See Eli Rosenberg , The Washington Post, Nov 14 2019

Thousands of French medical professionals working for the public hospital system are marching through Paris to protest cost cuts. Hospital workers are protesting in order to demand greater access to medical resources and more staff. Emergency room workers have been protesting off and on since March- this protest is an expression of anger that has been building up for many years. While the government is currently working on a support plan to help, healthcare workers feel that the plan will not be sufficient to adequately address the issue.

See ABC News, Nov 14 2019

Rembrandt Foods is closing its egg plant in Renville, Minnesota. This closure will result in 52 workers being laid off. The firm has not given a reason for the closure, however, the firm’s president stated earlier this week that the market for eggs is oversupplied. Additionally, the firm is struggling because consumers are beginning to favor cage-free eggs and many states are restricting the sale of products that do not consider animal-welfare.

See Kristen Leigh Painter , Star Tribune, Nov 14 2019

The Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada was recently investigated by USA Today, who discovered that the factory struggles with workplace safety and housing issues. The investigation revealed that a number of injuries have occurred at the factory, many of which have gone unreported despite the legal obligation to report such events. Additionally, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has sent inspectors to the factory more than 90 times in three years- other local factories were visited by OSHA once during that time period. Injuries, including amputations, occur at the factory so frequently that in 2018 there was, on average, more than one 911 call from the factory per day.

See Sergei Klebnikov, Forbes, Nov 13 2019

Workers at Pine State Biscuits, in Portland, Oregon have sought the help of city commissioners in order to resolve a labor disagreement with their employer. Pine state employees claim that their boss promised higher wages and increased health care benefits in 2013 when he testified in favor of earned sick leave and a living wage. Now, workers would like a guaranteed $15 per hour wage, and complete health insurance. Employees claim that their current wages are insufficient and that they avoid seeking medical care due to the costs associated with it. Pine State responded, stating that their intention has always been to provide a living wage, and that they currently provide two different health care plans and subsidize half of the premiums of both of these plans.

See Elise Herron, Willamette Week, Nov 13 2019

A union that represents greater than 500 employees at detention centers in Kentucky has filed an unfair labor practices complaint against Lexington. The union and its membership have accused Lexington of retaliation against leaders of the union and using involuntary transfers as a disciplinary tactic. Additionally, the complaint states that the city has withheld information from the police and failed to comply with procedures that are outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.

See Beth Musgrave , Lexington Herald Leader, Nov 13 2019

United Auto Workers members representing workers at Ford plants in the U.S. have started to report ratification voting information on a new four-year contract agreement. Only one plant has voted against the new contract, making it more popular than the last four-year contract which received a number of “no” votes, initially. The final vote will be available at the end of this week, and while it appears that the contract will pass, some of the larger plants have not yet voted. This tentative agreement was reached shortly after the GM strike. It is assumed that this strike impacted Ford’s bargaining as the firm did not want to face the kind of labor strife that GM experienced.

See Chris Isidore, CNN, Nov 12 2019

A recent study published in the Journal of Community Health revealed that around 50 percent of protective-service workers sleep less than seven hours each night. These workers collectively receive less sleep than any other occupation group studied. The second most sleep-deprived group consists of health-care support workers such as home health aides and nursing assistants. Authors of the study concluded that these findings are concerning because the individuals who are not sleeping enough have jobs that directly impact population health and safety.

See Meera Jagannathan, Market Watch, Nov 12 2019

Employment and pay growth have decreased at the fastest rate in four years in the UK. It seems that a slowing economy due to Brexit uncertainty has begun to impact the labor market. In addition to an unemployment increase, inactivity, or the number of working age people who have stopped seeking employment, has risen. While real earnings are estimated to have increased by nearly 2 percent, some political figures have argued that working families are being squeezed due to a decade of relatively small wage growth.

See Larry Elliott, The Guardian, Nov 12 2019

Hearst Magazines is one of the largest publishing companies in the United States. Hearst Magazines publishes many well known publications such as Cosmopolitan, Elle, Country Living, and many more. Today, employees at Hearst Magazines announced their decision to unionize. The decision was followed by a massive multi-media effort to garner support from print and digital staffers from across Hearst Magazine's 24 differing media brands. The unionizing effort at Hearst follows a trend of rising union participation in the response to the consolidation of the media industry.

See Kerry Flynn, CNN, Nov 11 2019

Research conducted at Sydney University by Professor Marian Baird has revealed a positive correlation between employer secrecy and the gender pay gap. Professor Baird's research also found that women’s average full-time total remuneration across all industries and occupations is 20.8% less than men’s. This statistic means that men on average make more than $25,679 a year more than women. Employer secrecy on wages allows companies to ignore the reality of the stark gender pay gap in the US economy.

See Melissa Davey, The Guardian, Nov 11 2019

The Southern Poverty Law Center has recently announced that it has formed a union. The infamous civil rights organization has made the decision to unionize not only as a political statement, but also to address real workplace concerns. The Southern Poverty Law Center has undergone rapid growth, and numerous scandals this past year, such as the firing of its co-founder Morris Dees. Amidst new leadership, the Southern Poverty Law Center acknowledges the importance of collective bargaining to ensure that the voices of workers are heard.

See Brendan O'Conner, Vice, Nov 11 2019

A former Villanova has filed a lawsuit against the NCAA over minimum wage violations. The filing comes a week after the NCAA announced that it will allow players to receive profits from their name, likeness, and image. The main argument of the lawsuit is that student-athletes are similar to student employees, and should be paid wages. The case denotes a trend of increasing conflict between NCAA and student-athletes over whether student athletes can be considered employees.

See Ely Cosgrove, CNBC, Nov 8 2019

Traders in London have been recently pushed for a shorter work day. Currently, Europe’s trading hours are longer than many other regions in the world. For example, the markets are open for 8.5 hours a day in Europe whereas the markets are only open for 6 hours a day in Asia. Proponents of the shortened work day contend that by decreasing the work day, the trading industry can attract more diverse individuals with differing life responsibilities, such as women who are mothers. Additionally, supporters assert that shorter hours can improve employee well being and mental health.

See Cassie Werber, Quartz, Nov 8 2019

Unconscious bias is a term that many human resource offices are familiar with. Many companies now require employees to take training courses to become aware of their unconscious biases. However, most people fail to realize how bias they are towards another person's accent. Research has shown that people with accents are seen as less intelligent and competent, and therefore struggle to find higher-status jobs.

See Monika Schmid, Quartz, Nov 8 2019

Last spring, more than 50 workers were laid off from their jobs at DePauw University Libraries. Since then, the University has increased its number of work study students, which may be in violation of federal work study laws. At this point, it is unclear how many workers were laid off and what their exact titles and job responsibilities were. However, replacing employees with student workers funded by the federal work study program is unlawful. Library HR has stated that their practices are lawful, and that they stand by their decisions which were made in an effort to establish a more “student-forward” standard.

See Alaina Stellwagen, The DePauw, Nov 7 2019

The Teamsters union will strike on November 16, with its 150 members at Detroit Medical Center. The union has attempted to establish a new contract for the past two years, and has reached an impasse. Steve Hicks, the union president, has stated that the union is planning a campaign against Detroit Medical Center. This campaign will involve encouraging unions to support DMC workers, and discouraging members from using good health insurance at DMC hospitals.

See Jay Greene , Crain's Detroit Business, Nov 7 2019

The legislation that was passed in May to combat workplace harassment makes it the responsibility of employers to prevent harassment within their firms. In order to ensure that this policy is enacted appropriately, it is crucial to define what constitutes harassment. The ministry has produced a draft, which will be reviewed by a number of parties before it passes. In the original draft, the labor ministry describes numerous categories of harassment with each category containing concrete examples of what is and is not considered power harassment.

See Japan Times, Nov 7 2019

Public sector employees intending to march at government offices in order to protest for increased wages were hindered by police in Zimbabwe. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has banned recent protests; this march has been viewed as a test. Public sector employees would like the President’s administration to increase their salaries in order to combat inflation.

See MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters, Nov 6 2019

The productivity of American workers has decreased tremendously in the most recent quarter, with growth in output failing to match hours worked. Nonfarm labor productivity has decreased by 0.3%, the largest decrease in nearly four years. The decrease in productivity was unexpected, and some economists anticipate that the decline will negatively impact an anticipated productivity increase. Economists initially anticipated productivity to increase in the third quarter by 0.9%.

See CNBC, Nov 6 2019

Lufthansa cabin crew members will participate in a two-day strike, following German court approval. Workers are striking over pay and pensions beginning on Thursday, with the potential to extend the strike beyond Friday if necessary. Due to the wide-reaching impact of the strike, the German airline attempted to prevent the strike by filing a claim with the courts. This strike will ultimately result in the cancellation of over one thousand flights, and it will impact nearly 180,000 passengers.

See Arno Schuetze & Tom Sims, Reuters, Nov 6 2019

A jury has just awarded the former operation of a Portland container terminal millions of dollars, after finding that union labor intentionally disrupted shipping traffic. Labor stoppages and slowdowns ultimately led to the terminal’s end. Union lawyers disagree that labor activity led to the closure of the terminal, stating that a variety of other factors led to productivity declines.

See KTVZ News Channel 21, Nov 5 2019

Fiat Chrysler and PSA may merge, which has the potential to impact UAW contract talks. Under the current merger proposal, Fiat Chrysler would give a lot of control to PSA. The merger and associated power shift has some UAW members concerned that the firms will force American workers to compete with European workers for product allocation. However, a larger firm can also mean a competitive advantage which leads to greater benefits for workers in the long run.

See Breana Noble, Detroit News, Nov 5 2019

Instacart shoppers have just begun a three-day protest concerning the firm’s tipping policy. Workers would like the firm to raise the default tip from 5% to 10%, as it was in 2016. Additionally, workers would like the “service fee” removed because it confuses customers. Instacart has been under fire a lot in recent months over pay and labor issues. This year alone, there have been three additional shopper walk-offs.

See Jessica Dumont , Grocery Dive, Nov 5 2019

The 4-day work week has been an idea pitched by many organizational psychologists, that believe that it could possibly lead to more productivity from workers. The theory behind the 4 day work week is that workers will be more motivated and effective at work in gratitude for the reduced work schedule. Microsoft’s Japan branch tested the theory out, with successful results as a positive correlation was found between a 4 day work week for employees and productivity.

See Cassie Werber, Quartz at Work, Nov 4 2019

Balancing work and motherhood is a challenge for many women in the workforce. As women become a larger portion of the workforce, workplaces must adapt to accommodate the needs of mothers. One aspect of motherhood that is particularly stressful for many mothers in the workplace is breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is highly recommended for children up to the age of 6 months. However,due to unsupporting workplaces, many mothers are left in dilemma where they must choose from pumping at work or giving their newborn child formula milk. New research has been produced by the University of Arizona revealing that mothers who aren’t supported to pump at work are less productive at their work tasks and in their ability to pump sufficient amounts of milk. The research is critical as it points to a need to develop more support programs for mothers in the workplace.

See Cassie Werber, Quartz at Work, Nov 4 2019

McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook, has been fired for having an improper, consensual relationship with an employee. McDonald’s swift decision of Easterbrook’s fate at the global conglomerate comes as surprise to many due to how McDonald’s has handled previous incidences of sexual misconduct in the workplace. The firing of Easterbrook is being perceived as a major shift in workplace policy for McDonald’s.

See Lila MacLellan, Quartz at Work, Nov 4 2019

After multiple weeks on the picket lines and 11 days of missed classes, teachers in Chicago are returning to their classrooms. The teacher’s strike in Chicago was the longest strike by teachers in Chicago since 2012. The strike was caused by months of unsuccessful negotiations with city official. Wednesday, union leaders met with city officials to vote on a new tentative deal that ensured pay increases over a five year span for Chicago educators.

See The Guardian, Nov 1 2019

Two pressing issues in the workplace are employee training and development practices and the effects of the workplace on mental health. Training and development practices have been emphasized in many companies due to a growing skills gap in the workforce. Mental health has been prioritized in many workplaces as researchers have identified the effects that the workplace can have on an employees' mental health. Traditionally, both issues have been viewed in isolation of one another. However, experts have contended that the issues must be seen in relation to one another to be solved.

See Marc Zao-Sanders, Quartz, Nov 1 2019

Today marks the one-year anniversary of the Google Walkout. The Google Walkout centered on over 20,000 employees who walked out of their jobs in order to protest how google had handled accusations of sexual misconduct toward employees by Google executives. In response to the protest, Google issued an apology and my substantial changes to their sexual harassment policies. Although, the underlying issues behind the initial walkout have been resolved the walkout remains important today as it marks a significant change in the relationship between labor and management at Google. Since the walkout labor has becoming increasingly critical of management at Google, and have voiced their perspectives.

See Shirin Ghaffary, Vox, Nov 1 2019

Following a letter from U.S. senators regarding blocking cocoa imports due to child labor concerns, a team from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is visiting the Ivory Coast to investigate cocoa production. Banning Ivory Coast cocoa from the United States would have drastic consequences for chocolate companies. For this reason, the U.S. is investigating labor abuse allegations prior to implementing a ban. Ivory Coast should have eliminated child labor from supply chains by 2005, although some progress has been made, it is doubtful that child labor has truly been eliminated.

See Peter Whoriskey , The Washington Post, Oct 30 2019

Journalists and other employees at WHYY, a public media station in Philadelphia, will vote today regarding whether or not to unionize. The vote is in response to poor working conditions, which have led to high turnover. When employees presented management with their intent to unionize, management would not voluntarily recognize the union. Managers opted to have a formal vote, which will take place today.

See Juliana Feliciano Reyes, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct 30 2019

On October 10, TriMet met with union representatives in an attempt to negotiate a new contract for Portland area transportation workers. The new contract will cover almost 3,000 workers. Management came to the bargaining table with a number of proposals, which were not favored by the union. For example, TriMet wants to eliminate a mechanic training program, which is viewed by employees as a way to access a higher skill, higher wage career within the industry. Bargaining is scheduled to continue tomorrow, and if an agreement is not reached soon an arbitrator will choose one side's final offer.

See Don McIntosh, NW Labor Press, Oct 30 2019

Upwards of 300 law students at Harvard have signed a petition, urging the law school Dean to support dining hall staff by extending hours and addressing staffing issues. In the letter, students addressed their displeasure with "hectic" mealtimes, the strain faced by employees, and a list of demands. The list of demands includes re-implementing the former dining hall schedule, scheduling employees for eight hour shifts, and notifying employees of scheduled shifts at least seven days in advance.

See Michelle G. Kurilla, The Harvard Crimson, Oct 29 2019

A nursery in California that specializes in drought-tolerant plants, is known for its focus on innovation and efficiency. In response to the rising minimum wage, the nursery anticipates much higher costs associated with labor. Other nurseries/ growers are investing in automation in order to combat rising labor costs. Takao Nursery has decided that the key to success will be moving plants, not people. The firm is currently working with a company to design trays that can be moved with forklift, in order to increase efficiency and profits through cost reduction.

See Nursery Management, Oct 29 2019

Labor trafficking, which involves forcing or coercing an individual to work, is deemed an "invisible" crime. Frequently, labor trafficking does not involve online "footprints" which makes it difficult for investigators to detect it and ultimately prosecute individuals who are involved. This crime disproportionately impacts vulnerable members of society, such as new migrants to a country. Additionally, law enforcement is often unaware of labor trafficking laws, so these cases are confused with other crimes.

See Julie Dahlstrom, WBUR, Oct 29 2019

In today’s economy, unemployment rates are at record lows. Additionally, job expansion rates are at historic highs, with the quantity of private sectors jobs growing at a rate of 1.7% increase a year. However, job quantity is not a major issue for the US economy, job quality is. Despite the strong job market, only 40% of Americans report that they have good, well-paying jobs.

See Jared Bernstein, The Washington Post, Oct 28 2019

Two newly passed New York state laws are protecting workers from discrimination on the basis of their hairstyles. Choice of hairstyle is a personal issue for most people that include cultural and religious aspects. The new laws protect employees with natural hair textures, braids, dreadlocks, facial hair, or clothing that is worn in accordance with religious practices such as hijabs and turbans. Relaxing restrictions on workplace hair policies is another step towards more inclusive workplaces.

See Jamie Herzlich, Newsday, Oct 28 2019

Student loan debt affects a significant portion of Americans. Student loans have always been known to cause financial stress, but recently studies have been conducted to measure how student loans add to workplace stress. Employers have noticed the severe effects that student loan debt can have on employee morale, productivity, and overall health. For this reason, some companies have started benefit packages which help employee pay off student loan debt and other financial wellness programs.

See Lila MacLellan, Quartz, Oct 28 2019

Recently, Google has made many headlines over its contentious relationship with workers over organizing efforts. Currently, the Google Calendar app is a source of controversy. Employees believe that Google is using the Calendar application as a way to gain information on whether or not employees are trying to unionize. The employees concern is raised by the fact that the Google Calendar app reports any staffer that creates an event that requires more than 10 rooms or invites more than 100 employees. Google contends that the applications reporting system is used as a way to remind employees not to spam their coworkers with event invites. However, the dispute highlights the growing contention between Google and its employees.

See Angela Chen , MIT Technology Review, Oct 25 2019

As teachers continue to strike in Chicago, students have 5 days of school. One teacher, Anna Lane, found a way to incorporate the strike into her lesson plan. Days before the strike, Lane began to implement labor history into her curriculum. She facilitated conversations with her students about the issues at stake, and allowed them to voice their opinions on the matter. Other teachers throughout Chicago’s public schools took actions similar to Lane and used the strike as a tool to teach. As a result many students have taken direct action and joined teachers on the picket lines.

See Jack Crosbie, The Atlantic, Oct 25 2019

Following an earlier National Labor Relations Board decision, workers at Ithaca Coffee Company have been emboldened in their efforts to unionize. Currently, workers at Ithaca Coffee Company have called for a boycott of the Triphammer location of the small, local coffee chain. The effort is being led by William Westlake, an ILR student who formerly worked for Ithaca Coffee Company at their Gateway Commons location. Following the unionization effort of Spot Coffee in Buffalo, NY, the effort to unionize Ithaca Coffee Company shows a trend of unionization efforts amongst small coffee chains in upstate New York.

See Edwin J. Viera, Ithaca Times, Oct 25 2019

As lawmakers in Greece prepare to vote on a new bill intended to make the country more attractive to investors, state workers marched in Athens in protest of new legislation. The bill proposal includes plans to outsource garbage and cleaning services. Workers are concerned about job losses and diminishing bargaining power. The reforms are intended to grow the economy, following the country's third bailout program.

See Renee Maltezou, Reuters, Oct 24 2019

Following inequality protests, state workers and students are striking peacefully in protest of Pinera's reforms. Thousands of workers, including individuals from the healthcare and education sectors, are participating in large strikes. Government officials have imposed a 10 p.m. curfew in order to calm riots. Pinera's proposed reform package includes a minimum wage, increase in state pensions, and stabilization of electricity costs- critics believe this is not sufficient.

See Dave Sherwood & Natalia A. Ramos Miranda , Reuters, Oct 24 2019

Ford has readjusted its profit outlook for the year, following a disappointing third quarter. Losses have been attributed to higher warranty costs, discounts, and poor performance in China. Ford is undergoing a global restructure, which includes cost cutting and changing its products sold in global markets. Now, Ford may also need to face the UAW to negotiate a new labor agreement.

See Ben Klayman & Paul Lienert, Reuters, Oct 24 2019

While Chicago Public School teachers are still out on strike, teachers at a nearby suburb are planning their own collective action. Teachers in the suburb, Addison, have filed their intent to strike notice with plans to strike as soon as Thursday. Addison teachers have not had a contract since the beginning of the academic year, despite union efforts. According to union leadership, Addison teachers are struggling to achieve better pay and benefits.

See Madeline Buckley, The Chicago Tribune, Oct 23 2019

Three years ago, Harvard unions attempted to merge- this move was blocked by the University. Now, the unions are attempting to merge again, and it seems that Harvard intends to reject their proposed combination once more. The request to merge unions was filed with the University nearly a month ago, and Harvard has yet to respond. However, a university spokesperson has stated that a written statement explaining the University’s position will be released soon.

See Ruoqi Zhang, The Harvard Crimson, Oct 23 2019

Earlier this month, sustainability schemes employed by chocolate producers appeared to be at risk when countries stated that they would be reconsidered due to producers’ slow payment of the living income differential. The LID is a program that targets farmer poverty. Now, the countries have stated that the sustainability schemes appear to complement the LID, and will simply be monitored moving forward. The hope is that moving forward, farmer incomes can be improved and chocolate production can become more sustainable.

See Ange Aboa, Reuters, Oct 23 2019

Towards the end of September, the NLRB proposed a change to the rule governing the employment status of graduate students at private colleges and universities. If this rule passes, it would eliminate graduate students’ rights to compensation, benefits, and unionization. The new proposal would essentially strip graduate student workers of their employee status. If passed, this could also mean that graduate students would no longer receive health insurance.

See Alexis Raskin, The Brown and White, Oct 22 2019

After an aluminum manufacturing firm fired a worker for writing a profanity on a company sign-up sheet, the employee pursued their wrongful firing in court- and won. The D.C. NLRB found that the firing was unlawful, and that the employee was protected under federal labor law. Now, the firm will be taking the court to the D.C. Circuit to receive another opinion. The firm’s lawyers will be arguing that the firm had the right to fire the employee on the grounds of vandalizing company property, and making a comment that may have harmed other workers.

See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Oct 22 2019

In the present economy, hourly workers are under more stress, and especially prone to burnout. Currently, hourly workers are in high demand and firms are struggling to fill service job openings. In order to retain shift workers, it is crucial that managers recognize and address employee burnout. This can be done by creating opportunities for more fluid communication, allowing employees to build new skills often, and giving workers greater agency in their scheduling.

See Steve Kramer, Workforce News, Oct 22 2019

Neurodiversity has been a growing issue in workplaces, regarding diversity and inclusion initiatives. Neurodiversity refers to differences in brain functions due to conditions such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD, etc. Many companies, such as Microsoft, have implemented programs to support neurodiverse workers in the office. However, Ultranauts, an engineering firm in New York founded on proving that neurodiversity isn’t a hindrance in the workplace, has completely restructured their business practices to adapt to the needs of the neurodiverse worker.

See Robbie Wojciechowski, BBC News, Oct 21 2019

ASDA, a grocery store chain owned by Walmart, recently informed workers that they must sign the new flexible contract or they will be terminated. The announcement comes close to the holiday season when many workers are financially vulnerable. The proposed contract strips many additional benefits, such as paid breaks and not working on Bank holidays from workers. Management at ASDA asserts that the contract is fair due to the increase in wages that workers will receive when signing the contract.

See Dan Ascher, BBC, Oct 21 2019

Recently, Google has found itself at odds with employees over various workplace issues. Today, in Switzerland, a group of employees met to discuss unionization efforts. The action was done in defiance of Google’s previous attempt to cancel the meeting. Google stated that they canceled the previous meeting due to the fact that the company only hosts meetings planned in conjunction with Google’s site leadership team. The actions of Google workers in Zurich highlights a trend of workers unionizing at Google, and more broadly in white-collar industries.

See Shirin Ghaffary, Vox, Oct 21 2019

Domestic workers, such as nannies, housekeepers, and caretakers, work in a vulnerable industry in the American labor force. Historically, the industry of domestic workers has not been organized. However, in Philadelphia domestic workers have joined forced with the Pennsylvania Domestic Workers Alliance to propose the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights to the Philadelphia City Council. The Domestic Worker Bill of Rights is a piece of legislation that would establish basic legal protections for domestic workers. In July, US Senator Kamala Harris and US Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced a similar piece of legislation on the federal level, the Domestic Worker Bill of Rights Act, that fights for rights to benefits and overtime pay for domestic workers.

See Emily Neil and Lee Nentwig , Al Dia News, Oct 18 2019

The Chicago Teachers’ Union has entered its second day of its strike. Over 300,000 Chicago students are out of school, as the city government continues to negotiate with its teachers. Insiders assert that the union and the city government remain far apart from a satisfactory resolution, and speculate that the strike will continue through the weekend. The Chicago Teachers’ Union is fighting for smaller class sizes, an increase in wages, and more monetary resources for schools. The Chicago Board of Education has asserted that monetary resources are inadequate to meet the full demands of the Chicago Teachers’ Union.

See Dakin Andone and Holly Yan , CNN, Oct 18 2019

Employees at Mack Trucks recently went on strike. The impact of that strike has trickled down to workers at Volvo Trucks North America, as Volvo laid off 3,000 employees due to a lack of engines and transmissions from a Maryland plant that Mack Trucks and Volvo Trucks North America share. The layoffs are temporary, but will still have a severe economic impact on many. The example of Volvo workers conveys the effect that striking auto workers can have on second tier suppliers.

See Alan Adler, Freight Waves, Oct 18 2019