On Thursday, industry leaders gathered in Washington, DC to discuss the ever-growing retirement crisis older workers are facing. Over time, the retirement system in America has shifted from employers providing pension plans to the onus being on workers to save for their own retirement with 401(k) plans. Furthermore, there are a number of employers that do not offer retirement plans at all, such as small businesses and restaurants. As a result, there are many Americans that do not have any retirement savings, and this issue is felt more acutely amongst people of color. To address this labor issue, the US Secretary of Labor has called on Congress to create an incentive-based federal mandate that requires employers to provide retirement plans for their employees.
See Lorie Konish, "'This is a crisis.' Why more workers need access to retirement savings", CNBC, December 2, 2022
On Friday, Biden signed into law a bill that blocks railroad strikes and enforces a labor contract agreement on the railroad unions that does not include paid sick leave days. As a result, some railroad workers are extremely frustrated and upset with Biden, who has championed himself as a pro-labor president. They fear this will set a dangerous precedent that will undermine their ability to negotiate fair contracts with the railroad companies in the future. As a result of this new contract, railroad workers will receive back pay and bonuses in the immediate future along with pay increases. However, it is still unclear if the lack of paid sick days will cause an exodus of railroad workers from the industry.
See Andrea Hsu, "Some rail workers say Biden "turned his back on us" in deal to avert rail strike", NPR, December 2, 2022
On Friday, the US Department of Labor released its November jobs report, which has indicated resilience within the job market despite high interest rates. There was strong job growth and wage gains in November, especially in the leisure and hospitality sectors. While some experts have noticed small signs of a weakening economy, overall, fears of a recession have been put at bay. As high prices persist though, the Fed will likely continue to hike interest rates up in its attempts to curb inflation.
See Lucia Mutikani, "US labor market shrugs off Recession fears; keeps Fed on tightening path", Reuters, December 2, 2022
In the US, there is no national paid sick leave legislation, and this disproportionately affects low wage workers in the service, farming and construction sectors. As a result, and combined with the pandemic, the lack of paid sick days has been a large topic of discussion recently amongst US workers. These frustrations have manifested in the railroad industry, as rail unions have been fighting for paid sick leave days to be added to their labor contract. However, it is unfortunately unlikely that the paid sick leave provision will be passed by the Senate, who will likely vote to impose the original contract on the unions instead and block any strike actions. Ultimately, the railroad workers' demands for paid sick leave days reflect a need for national legislation granting that worker protection.
See Tami Luhby , "Railroad workers aren't the only Americans without paid sick days ", CNN Business, December 1, 2022
The World Cup has brought attention to many global labor issues, including the poor work conditions and pay at the South Asian garment factories producing apparel for the sporting event. The majority of Western companies outsource their production to the Global South where labor is cheaper in order to lower business costs. However, garment factory workers have been experiencing extremely low wages since before the pandemic, and their socioeconomic struggles have only worsened over time as inflation has risen and the currency has weakened in countries like Myanmar. As a result, there has been recent criticism of companies, like Adidas, that outsource their production due to the many reports of widespread violations of human and labor rights in these factories.
See Elizabeth Paton, "Who made your World Cup jersey? ", New York Times, December 1, 2022
Post-pandemic, there have been shifts in how workers feel towards their work, and these shifts have manifested into trends within the US labor force like quiet quitting and the Great Resignation. In particular, young professionals have been examining their relationship with work. As a result, many workers have taken to the online platform Reddit to share these ideas according to reports of "antiwork" and "act your wage" trending on the site. This reflects the general dissatisfaction many workers are experiencing in the workplace today as well as the desire to seek stress relief and community through online platforms.
See Goh Chiew Tong, "From 'antiwork' to 'act your wage' -- more disgruntled workers flocked to Reddit in 2022", CNBC, December 1, 2022
Tensions between railroad unions and companies have been high recently after four unions rejected the contract and caused a return to the bargaining table. However, the House of Representatives approved legislation today to impose the tentative contract deal made in September onto all twelve of the rail unions, as well as mandate paid sick leave benefits to workers. This decision will effectively block any potential railroad strikes and was encouraged by President Biden in order to avoid the supply chain disruptions that would ensue from such a strike. Some labor leaders have spoken against the government's intervention in this matter though, fearing it may undermine the collective bargaining power rail unions wield in the future.
See David Shepardson , "US House votes to block rail strike, mandate paid sick leave", Reuters, November 30, 2022
Recently, there has been an increase in organizing efforts amongst graduate student workers on college campuses which aligns with the Democratic majority taking over the NLRB in 2021. In addition to the massive academic worker strike occurring across the UC campuses, thousands of graduate workers at Yale University will vote this week on whether to unionize. These graduate students have expressed the desire for union support to establish clear grievance procedures where they can voice concerns regarding work conditions.
See Robert Iafolla, "Yale union election is latest move in campus labor renaissance", Bloomberg Law, November 30, 2022
Across England and Wales, thousands of ambulance workers are planning to go on strike over pay disagreements with the government. This impending industrial action reflects both the job role pressures and cost of living pressures that are weighing on healthcare workers in the UK. Ambulance workers have also voiced concerns regarding unsafe staffing levels, which is also a factor contributing to their decision to strike. However, the impact of this strike is not likely to be very large because there of the emergency care requirement laws.
See Andrew Gregory, "More than 10,000 ambulance workers vote to strike in England and Wales", The Guardian, November 30, 2022
The strike action of thousands of academic workers across the UC campuses has continued into its third week, reflecting the determination of these workers, represented by the United Auto Workers union, and the universality of their demands. While the university argues that it already offers competitive salaries compared to other higher education institutions, workers claim that they are significantly overworked and underpaid. Furthermore, their salaries have not kept pace with the increasingly high cost of living in the areas surrounding the colleges. This conflict reflects a larger issue across higher education, as fewer faculty members are receiving tenure and there are more university employees being paid less to maintain the same level of instruction. As such, the strike has garnered popular support across the state and country, and it has initiated a dialogue around the affordability and accessibility of graduate school.
See Katie Reilly, "How the University of California strike could reshape higher education", TIME, November 29, 2022