At the largest Amazon air hub in the world, located in Kentucky, workers are attempting to unionize in response to inadequate wage gains this year. Workers at the site have expressed frustration with being cross-trained in many roles and the expectation of operating dangerous, heavy machinery without any additional compensation. Additionally, this air hub experiences extremely high turnover rates with employees quitting, which is related to the low pay and demanding hours. In response to this unionization effort, Amazon has continued its aggressive, anti-union campaign, and the union organizers at this Kentucky air hub have already filed two unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB against the company for violating labor laws.
See Michael Sainato, "Workers at Amazon's largest air hub in the world push to form a union", The Guardian, November 28, 2022
The tech industry is not the only industry experiencing layoffs and precarious job markets right now; there are other areas of the US economy struggling financially as well. Last week, the entire workforce from United Furniture was fired overnight via texts or emails. As a result, the workers are suing the company in a class-action suit for violating the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN), which requires employers to provide at least 60 days of written notice before engaging in mass layoffs. The lawsuit is aimed at winning the backpay and benefits these workers are entitled to.
See Aimee Picchi, "United Furniture sued after firing 2,700 workers while they slept: "Stress and despair"", CBS News, November 28, 2022
Despite the Biden administration's assistance with the railroad contract negotiations in September, four of the twelve unions have rejected the proposed collective bargaining agreement. As a result, the railroad companies and unions have resumed negotiations. If no agreement is made within the coming weeks, there is the potential for a freight railway strike in December. Various business groups, including the National Retail Federation, have called on Congress to block the strike in the wake of the busy holiday season for consumers and businesses alike. There are also fears that such a strike would further exacerbate current inflationary pressures.
See Walter Loeb, "Railway strike threatens more economic disruption on December 9th", Forbes, November 28, 2022
In China, workers at iPhone's largest factory, Foxconn, protested the government's 'zero-COVID' policy that has led to a surge in quarantine restrictions amidst a rise in infections. Workers have expressed frustrations with these restrictions as it has resulted in "closed loop management" practices that force them to live at the factory without contact with their families or friends. Furthermore, Foxconn recently turned back on its pay raise offer used to recruit new workers, which has also contributed to the protest. Protesting workers were met with police presence and violence, reflecting the high tensions in China surrounding COVID cases and people's economic livelihoods.
See Joe McDonald and Zen Soo, Associated Press, "Workers beaten, detained amid 'zero-COVID' protests at Chinese iPhone factory", PBS News Hour, November 23, 2022
In the UK, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) recently rejected the pay offer that Royal Mail claimed was its final offer. As a result, delivery workers will go on strike throughout the holiday season, starting with Thursday and Friday of this week and continuing with various single strike days throughout December, including Christmas Eve. The union claims that Royal Mail is not offering enough in the proposed contract given the large profits the company amassed during the pandemic and the essential role the workers played. However, the company has stated its desire to reach a timely compromise, citing that negotiations have spanned for months, and the union has been the one to be inflexible by rejecting their improvements and pay raise suggestions.
See Joe Middleton, "Royal Mail workers to go ahead with strikes before Christmas after rejecting pay offer", The Guardian, November 23, 2022
Amidst the recent large-scale layoffs sweeping the tech industry, tech workers have had to learn how to navigate the newly oversaturated job market. Furthermore, workers who previously thought working for large tech giants would provide job security have been surprised with the chaotic layoffs at Meta that even removed top talent. Some workers are taking these layoffs as an opportunity to pursue passion projects and explore other career options, such as in the e-commerce business. Meanwhile, others are either competing in the competitive tech market to find better-fit roles or taking a break and waiting to see how this downturn plays out.
See Julia Love and Michael Tobin, "As job cuts roil Silicon Valley, workers confront post-boom reality", Bloomberg, November 23, 2022
Recently, there has been a rise in unionization amongst cannabis workers in the US as more states make cannabis legal. As a result of the increased demand for both cannabis and dispensaries, many cannabis workers have seen an opportunity to unionize and fight for competitive wages and benefits. The United Food & Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) has been working to organize cannabis workers since 2010 and now represents thousands of workers across the US. UFCW states that its mission extends beyond unionizing cannabis workers for better pay though; it also aims to de-stigmatize cannabis in communities of color and increase the diversity of dispensary owners.
See Richard Fowler, "As more states legalize cannabis, more cannabis workers push for unionization", Forbes, November 22, 2022
Unsatisfied with the proposed salary raise offered by the government, thousands of public sector workers in South Africa marched to the national treasury to demand larger pay gains today. The public sector unions and South African government have been struggling to compromise on contract negotiations, which has resulted in the government announcing a no-work, no-pay policy for the workers who choose to strike. However, this policy did not deter the demonstrations as workers are motivated to organize and make the government meet their demands. South Africa is currently facing very high unemployment levels and economic strains from the pandemic which have also exacerbated the precarity of this wage dispute.
See Mogomotsi Magome, Associated Press, "South African government workers demonstrate for higher pay", ABC News, November 22, 2022
At the recent Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit, panelists discussed the various challenges women are facing in the workplace. As workplaces become more intergenerational, female leaders in business discussed the importance of fostering transparent relationships between employees and management as well as fostering mentorship relationships between older and younger employees. The intent of this conference is to help women not only enter into leadership positions but also help them lead effectively.
See Stephanie Cain, "Intentionality and humility drive connections in the intergenerational workplace", Fortune, November 22, 2022
Since Elon Musk took over Twitter, there have been many changes and a severe reduction of the company's staff. Earlier this week, Musk delivered an ultimatum to the remaining workforce demanding "hardcore" work, and this caused some workers to quit voluntarily. However, there is a population of foreign workers who cannot leave the company even if they wanted to because doing so would force them to leave the US due to the nature of their high-skilled employment visas, known as H-1B. As the tech industry overall grapples with mass layoffs, workers with temporary employment visas are the most vulnerable to being cut and have a limited, 60-day window to seek new employment once they have been let go.
See Donie O'Sullivan, Priscilla Alvarez, and Oliver Darcy, "Why foreign workers in the US are especially vulnerable to the Twitter turmoil ", CNN, November 18, 2022