Lawyers for the Southern Poverty Law Center will argue that the firing of almost a dozen protesting workers at a South Carolina poultry processing plant was most likely illegal. The NLRA protects workers from retaliation for conducting protected concerted activity questioning pay and working conditions. The workers had approached their union representative and then their supervisors for a month without getting a response to their concerns that their jobs were increasingly hazardous due to the Covid-19 situation and that it warranted better protections at work along with hazard pay. While the company had agreed in talks with the union to a $1 increase the week of the protest, the workers did not find that sufficient. More than 10,000 workers have fallen ill across 170 meat packing plants in the United States with at least 45 deaths; there were over a 1000 cases at a plant in South Dakota, making it one of the most concentrated outbreaks in the U.S.
See David Travis Bland, "Lawyers: Firing protesting workers at West Columbia chicken plant likely illegal ", The State, May 27, 2020
As Covid-19 restrictions in various regions of the U.S. begin to loosen, employers may face the prospect that some of their employees may not want to return to work because of potential health risks. Employees may feel that they have the right to refuse to work in hazardous conditions; from an OSHA perspective, they would be protected from retaliation if they can prove that the hazard would involve "imminent danger." While it is not clear Covid-19 is an imminent danger, a 1980 case allows employers to not pay employees who refuse to return to work. From an NLRA perspective, employees who refuse to work to work, or go on strike, may be protected if the conduct constitutes "protected concerted activity" - conduct that is based on behalf of a group, not for individual concerns.
See C. Thomas Davis, Ruthie L. Goodboe, and John F. Martin, "Can Employees Refuse to Return to Work Because of COVID-19?", National Law Review, May 27, 2020
Nonprofit union campaigns that have gone public have all been successful in the past two years, and as crises continue to build in the Covid-19 era, union drives in the nonprofit sector have continued to flourish. The Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU) has been vigorously attracting new nonprofit members for the past two years, successfully encouraging labor organizing in white collar professions. Run as a volunteer operation, it now represents 27 workplaces, including The Center for American Progress, Open Markets Institute, and J Street. In April, the NPEU announced seven successful union drives, boosting their number by a third. The surge in organizing has been attributed to an increased aggressiveness of a younger generation of workers who are experiencing the second economic crisis of their careers. Employees at nonprofits have nonetheless struggled over how public the labor battle is portrayed, as they feel torn between being protective of their employer's reputation and mission, even while fighting for their labor rights.
See Hamilton Nolan, "A Quiet Frenzy of Union Organizing Has Gripped the Nonprofit World", In These Times, May 22, 2020
The Covid-19 health crisis has left employers with stability issues that a fixed labor model is no longer suitable for. With many companies forced to cut back on labor, but still needing to hire new talent for specific work needs for varying lengths of time, Texas start up company Veryable's mobile app helps employer post "Ops" for workers, known as "Operators" who match specific criteria. The company's name reflects their efforts to help “variablize” labor costs, allowing companies more flexibility based on fluctuating output, by creating a place for on-demand labor in the manufacturing, warehousing, supply chain, and transportation industries. For each Op completed, the Operator receives a performance rating, which - if positive - would improve an Operator’s chances of getting future Ops. Removing hiring companies as the middleman would help employers, who had been struggling to recruit talented labor that they could not afford full-time, find employees who weren't able to work full-time.
See Jim Vinoski, "In The Brave New World Of Talent Acquisition, This Startup’s Virtual Labor Marketplace App Could Help", Forbes, May 22, 2020
New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has suggested employers consider a four-day working week and other flexible working options as a way to boost tourism and help employees address persistent work/life balance issues.The prime minister’s informal comments have excited New Zealanders, many of whom are questioning whether seismic, systemic change will result from the pandemic or whether life will return to normal.
See Eleanor Ainge Roy , "Jacinda Ardern flags four-day working week as way to rebuild New Zealand after Covid-19", The Guardian , May 20, 2020
Lawmakers and business owners are currently weighing the desire for a broader reopening of the economy, with concerns about safety and litigation. Legislators have proposed plans that could possibly limit liability for businesses. Even so, lawyers say they expect a wave of employment-related litigation as more businesses open up.
See Ellen Sheng, "As America reopens, prepare for a flood of coronavirus workplace lawsuits", CNBC News, May 20, 2020
Hollywood studios and leaders of the Writers Guild of America are starting master contract negotiations Monday on a remote basis due to the coronavirus pandemic. Representatives for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers asserted that the current global health crisis underlines the need for a deal to be reached. The two sides are facing a June 30 expiration of the current film and TV contract.
See Dave McNary, "Writers Guild Contract Negotiations Starting Remotely Amid Coronavirus Pandemic", Variety, May 18, 2020
More than 200,000 cruise ship workers have been stranded on ships for 2 months due to the COVID-19 outbreak. While companies work through a thicket of shifting rules on returning workers to their home countries, recent deaths of crew have shook the industry and underscored concern about mental health. Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruises said Sunday a 39-year-old crew member from the Ukraine was killed after leaping off its Regal Princess in the port of Rotterdam.
See K. Oanh Ha and Jonathan Levin, "Nightmare at sea ends in death for some cruise ship workers", Financial Post, May 18, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has painfully highlighted how small of a voice many American workers have in their workplaces. Essential employees, such as grocery store workers and garbage collectors have been forced to do their jobs without necessary safety measures that they’ve demanded. Gig and domestic workers have had to choose between going to work, at the risk of their own and others’ health, or be forced to go without any income at all. The increased spotlight on theses issues has sparked inspiration for new fights for worker power.
See Kristin Toussaint , "Companies’ bad response to the pandemic is leading to greater support for worker power", Fast Company, May 14, 2020
Organizational culture is central to the performance of any organization. It is a collection of the beliefs held by an organization’s members, and the actions that an organization takes to uphold those beliefs. In an effort to acknowledge culture’s pervasiveness and fluidity, management and organizational scholars are now regarding organizational culture as composed of an open, varied, and malleable “toolkit” of resources. This trend represents a significant shift from how it has been described in the past as an internal code that leaders establish and that becomes entrenched over time.
See Jennifer Howard-Grenville, Brooke Lahneman & Simon Pek , "Organizational Culture as a Tool for Change", Stanford Social Innovation Review, May 14, 2020