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Workplace Issues Today

Vox Media journalists staged a walk out on Thursday, in order to secure a new collective bargaining agreement. The journalists became unionized fairly recently, and the walk out is their most prominent display of labor activism. Despite becoming organized, the Vox employees have not yet been able to finalize a bargaining agreement. Vox management has declined to comment on the walk out, and has not addressed on the media website.

See Paul Farhi, The Washington Post, Jun 7 2019

Currently, Norway’s unionized energy workers have reached an impasse while negotiating wages. The union has stated that if an agreement is not reached by June 27, all 667 members will join rig workers on strike. In addition, the union has claimed that rigs could be negatively impacted by the strike. Also, Norway’s largest oil workers’ union intends to take nearly 1000 members on strike if an agreement is not reached via mediation.

See Reuters, Jun 7 2019

Germany’s service sector continues to grow, which is a sign that domestic labor is still contributing to growth in the economy. Currently, manufacturing is slowing down which has brought about concerns for the German economy. In the labor market specifically, job growth is at a three year low. The lagging labor market has just started to impact workers, with increasing unemployment for the first time in two years.

See Joseph Nasr, Reuters, Jun 5 2019

According to a report present in the journal Health Affairs, in 2017 immigrants made up more than 18% of U.S. healthcare workers. There is currently a shortage of elderly and disabled workers, and limits on immigration would likely increase this shortage. It is predicted that the elderly population will have doubled by 2050, making this an even more pressing concern. According to Dr. John W. Rowe, in the future the U.S. may be in a similar position as Japan due to a projected low birth rate and large elderly population.

See Linda Carroll , Reuters, Jun 5 2019

Currently, employees at the Nutella factory in Normandy, France are on strike. Not only has production ceased, but people have been blocked from entering or exiting the factory. A Nutella spokesperson has reassured customers that there is a large enough reserve to prevent a shortage. Employees are striking due to stalled wage negotiations- workers are demanding salary increases, bonuses, and better conditions.

See THERESA BRAINE , The New York Daily News, Jun 5 2019

Unionized Kaiser Permanente mental health workers decided to go on strike Monday, indefinitely. The strike is taking place as a result of patient care concerns that employees feel have not been addressed appropriately. The union representing the workers is currently negotiating a new contract that would ensure quicker wait times and additional access for patients who are seeking mental health services. Thus far, it appears that Kaiser has shown a willingness to negotiate with the union and has already taken steps to solve staffing issues and appointment scheduling constraints.

See Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, Jun 3 2019

According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation, 80% of canned tuna brands do not know where their fish is coming from- which puts workers at risk. Only seven firms are able to identify the entirety of their supply chains. Slavery is far too common in the fishing industry. Tuna companies are now being pressured to identify where their fish is coming from, and are failing to do so. The canned tuna industry is growing, and so is the slavery and violence associated with it.

See Lin Taylor, Reuters, Jun 3 2019

On Monday, graduate students at the University of Chicago officially began their strike for union recognition. As a result of the strike, some classes have been canceled. The Chicago Maroon encourages undergraduate students to support the strike by avoiding crossing the picket line, joining the strike, signing petitions, and avoiding telling the university which professors are supporting the strike. Additionally, undergraduate students have been encouraged to contact administration to encourage recognition of the graduate student union.

See Maroon Editorial Board , The Chicago Maroon, Jun 3 2019

The head of an oil workers union in Libya was released Thursday, after being held by security officials for nearly a month. The union leader was held for a “routine interrogation.” A week ago, the oil firm NOC, requested that he be released. The oil firm is based in Tripoli, which is still controlled by the country’s government.

See Ayman al-Warfalli & Ahmed Elumami, Reuters, May 31 2019

A Spanish company that produces leggings, recently had to pay more than $84,000 in fines related to violating compensation and child labor laws. Additionally, the firm was penalized for firing the employee who reported the violations to authorities. The owner of the firm, Legg-A-Licious, insists that the violations stem from a misunderstanding, and asserts that the employee was fired due to “performance issues.” The company’s owner also stated that she was unaware that employing individuals who were 13 years of age, was illegal.

See The Salt Lake Tribune, May 31 2019

Next week, members of the graduate student union at the University of Chicago are planning a work stoppage and protest in hopes of gaining University recognition of their organization. Graduate Students United voted to authorize the action last Monday. As of now, there is little information regarding strike specifics. Graduate students have cancelled their classes for the coming week due to the strike. Students have stated that during the strike, they will not be completing any of their typical tasks such as grading, answering emails, or engaging in research.

See Matthew Lee, The Chicago Maroon, May 31 2019

A nationwide “anti-austerity” strike is taking place in Argentina. This strike has grounded flights and brought grain ports to a standstill. Major transportation systems, schools, banks, and other public services are closed as the strike takes place. The economic crisis in Argentina has meant rapid inflation, accompanied by job losses. Unions representing public sector workers are demanding that the country increase wages in order to keep up with inflation.

See Nicolás Misculin , Reuters, May 29 2019

A union representing around 200 Norwegian oil workers has announced that workers intend to strike on June 4 if an agreement is not reached with management. A strike would stop halt production at two of seven offshore fields, at least. In accordance with Norway’s labor laws, a mediator is scheduled to work with the union and management and has set a deadline for negotiations. Norway is the largest oil producer in Western Europe, this strike would lead to significant losses if it were to occur.

See Terje Solsvik, Reuters, May 29 2019

The union representing Harrisburg School District teachers and negotiators for the district intend to meet in order to avoid a one-day strike at the end of this week. The union has decided to strike for one day, due to constraints regarding the amount of time teachers are allowed to engage in a work stoppage. Negotiations over the newest contract began around 17 months ago, and since then the union has accused management of not bargaining in good faith. The last time teachers in this district went on strike was in 1976.

See Jana Benscoter, Penn Live, May 29 2019

A family that owns a 7-Eleven franchise in Japan struggles to keep their business afloat. The owner of one store has stated that the works 500 hours each month. When his wife is at work with him, their children play in a backroom. As a result of the labor shortage in Japan, many franchise owners are struggling to keep their stores open. Less workers means less time spent with family members, and for one business owner it means long hours and frequent illness.

See Chunichi Shimbun, The Japan Times, May 27 2019

Reception and security workers at the Louvre went on strike Monday, in order to protest overcrowding and inadequate staffing. A rise in tourist numbers has occurred rapidly- with 20 percent more visitors touring the Louvre each year since 2009. As tourist numbers have increased, staff numbers have actually decreased. Louvre employees, many represented by a union, are demanding that the museum employs more people and introduces regulations that limit the number of people who can tour the museum at a time.

See The Local France, May 27 2019

This year workers at three different college campuses in Chicago went on strike. Currently, another strike is being authorized by graduate students at the University of Chicago. In an attempt to explain the increase in industrial activity seen amongst this population, some turn to statistics regarding unionization rates on college campuses. Since the 1970s, unions have grown in academia- university instructors have stated that they are starting to view themselves as laborers. Additionally, graduate students are starting to organize in order to secure higher wages and greater benefits. Many feel that unionization leads to greater accountability for colleges because it makes labor practices more visible.

See Dawn Rhodes, The Chicago Tribune, May 27 2019

Thailand has long struggled to protect workers in the fishing industry. In order to combat labor abuses, the government introduced a law that mandates basic rights for workers. However, labor activists are concerned that the law has loopholes that will make it difficult for the law to be enforced. One of the major complaints is that worker benefits are not well defined, it is not yet known how the adequacy of benefits will be assessed.

See Matt Blomberg , Reuters, May 24 2019

On Thursday, hundreds of McDonald’s workers staged a walkout in order to protest low wages and sexual harassment complaints. As a result of the walkout, some franchises have had to close temporarily. The strike was staged at this time in order to catch the attention of McDonald’s execs who are meeting with company shareholders in Dallas. Interestingly, the strike has gained the support of three Democrats who are running for presidential office in the 2020 election.

See Alexia Fernández Campbell, Vox, May 24 2019

A proposal sponsored by Lorena Gonzalez, that would allow striking workers to collect unemployment benefits, was just passed by the Assembly. Gonzalez, a former official of the AFL-CIO, recognizes that the longer a strike lasts, the more power the employer has. The bill would allow workers to collect benefits from weeks four through 26 of a strike. A letter written by the Chamber of Commerce raised many concerns about the bill. However, those who agree that the bill should be passed have stated that strikes are a “last resort” for workers- the bill should give employees greater leverage to avoid strikes.

See Wes Venteicher, The Sacramento Bee, May 24 2019

After nearly seven years of negotiations, Southwest Airlines mechanics have ratified a new contract. The new contract will give mechanics approximately $160 million in back pay, increase pay by 20 percent, and includes annual raises. The union has stated that the ratified agreement was approved of by more than 90 percent of union members. The major concession that the union made in order to achieve the desirable contract was allowing the firm to continue outsourcing some work to foreign contractors.

See Zach Wichter, The New York Times, May 22 2019

The New Haven teachers strike is entering into its fourth day, with summer break just around the corner. Students have not been attending school, due to classes being conducted by substitutes and administrators. On Tuesday, it is estimated that only 15 percent of the district’s students attended class, due to the strike. Some students have joined their teachers, out on the picket lines. Teachers are striking for a 10 percent wage increase- the union has stated that it is ready to bargain when management is ready to make a desirable offer.

See Joseph Geha, The East Bay Times, May 22 2019

Twenty-three new complaints of sexual harassment have been filed against McDonald’s. Most of these complaints have been filed with the EEOC, and three have been filed as civil rights suits. The complaints include inappropriate touching, and retaliation for reporting inappropriate conduct. Employees have stated that upon reporting sexual harassment, their scheduled work hours were reduced by managers. As a result of the company failing to take a strong stance against sexual harassment, inappropriate conduct continues. The firm has stated that it is committed to preventing sexual harassment, and is working to strengthen its current policies.

See Richard Gonzales, NPR, May 22 2019

British Ryanair pilots will hold a strike ballot to determine whether or not the union will engage in industrial action in response to an ongoing dispute regarding pilots’ wages. In 2017, Ryanair recognized unions for the first time. Since then, the firm has experienced increased industrial action as more pilots begin to organize. The firm has reached agreements with numerous unions, but has failed, thus far, to reach an agreement with British pilots. The union has even accused the firm of using “stalling tactics” in order to delay negotiations.

See Padraic Halpin & Conor Humphries, Reuters, May 20 2019

Japan has requested that an arbitration board be assembled to assist in the resolution of South Korean labor compensation issues. Japan ruled over South Korea from 1910-1945. A pact was forged between the two countries in 1965 that was intended to cover any issues that might arise from Japan’s former rule over the Korean Peninsula. Last year, South Korea’s courts ordered Japan to compensate South Korea for wartime labor. Japan is now asserting that South Korea has violated the pact, and is requesting arbitration in order to settle the dispute.

See Reija Yoshida, The Japan Times, May 20 2019

Amplats, the world’s largest platinum company, fired 643 workers at the Mototolo mine after an illegal strike. The workers, represented by General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa, went on strike following a dispute over benefits. A court indictment was issued that was intended to prevent the strike, yet it went ignored by the union and striking workers. Following the strike, workers were dismissed. The union intends to speak to labor courts regarding the case.

See Tanisha Heiberg, Reuters, May 20 2019

A large union in Lebanon is threatening to strike if the government decreases wages as part of its new 2019 budget. The cabinet has been meeting frequently to create a budget that will address the country’s large deficit. Employees fear that wage and benefit cuts will be part of the new budget, and are threatening to go on strike and protest if that is the case. Protests have already occurred in the public sector, as bank employees have gone on strike.

See Ellen Francis, Reuters, May 17 2019

Nearly 4,000 mental health workers at Kaiser have authorized a strike that will begin in June if a new contract is not finalized. The strike that has been authorized is “open-ended” meaning that it has no set end date. Union members have stated that they do not wish to go on strike, but feel that it has become necessary. Management believes that this strike is a tactic that the union is using to encourage management to meet their financial demands.

See Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, May 17 2019

On Thursday, executives from global retailers stated that as artificial intelligence becomes more advanced, stores will offer more training to employees. Many fear that automation and AI are taking away jobs- retailers “played down” this threat by stating that the jobs are not gone, and retailers intend to train employees to do other things as jobs are automated. Execs have stated that AI’s strength lies in completing repetitive tasks. However, robots are not good at interacting with people and so employees will still be needed for customer-facing work.

See Emma Thomasson , Reuters, May 17 2019

Three restaurants in the Bay Area, in California will be required to pay almost a quarter-million dollar to employees in back pay due to minimum wage, overtime, and recordkeeping violations. In addition to back pay, restaurant owners must pay nearly twenty thousand dollars in civil penalties. Not only did restaurant owners fail to pay employees appropriately, a lot of employees were paid in cash- which resulted in the aforementioned recordkeeping violations.

See George Kelly, The East Bay Times, May 15 2019

More than two million workers will benefit from legislation that was passed on Tuesday, that expands the rights of domestic laborers in Mexico. Many of these laborers are women, who were not recognized as part of the labor market or receiving protections. Now, domestic laborers will have legal rights, written contracts, and benefits including minimum wage and maternity leave. Additionally, the new legislation regulates teen labor by banning domestic work for individuals under the age of 15 and limiting the amount of time that older teenagers can work per day.

See Paulina Villegas, The New York Times, May 15 2019

On Tuesday, the NLRB released a memo regarding the classification of Uber drivers’ labor. The NLRB has decided that Uber drivers should be classified as independent contractors, rather than employees. This means that Uber drivers are not entitled to benefits or employee protections. As a result of drivers being classified as independent contractors, Uber does not have to award workers access to healthcare, pensions, or other benefits which would cost the company a lot of money.

See Megan Cerullo, CBS News, May 15 2019

Amazon has created technology that packages customer orders, a job that has previously been completed by human employees. The new technology is intended to replace workers, which could result in more than 1,000 job losses across the country. The order-packaging machines cost $1 million each, and pay for themselves in less than two years. These machines are another example of how Amazon is attempting to automate warehouse tasks in order to reduce labor costs.

See Jeffrey Dastin , Reuters, May 13 2019

Facebook announced that it will be raising the minimum wage for all contract workers, with the highest wage coming to $20 per hour in the Bay Area. The pay increases are in response to scrutiny over employee wages and increasing costs of living. The last time Facebook raised minimum wages was in 2015, the new wages are intended to reflect Facebook’s commitment to treating contractors better. Additionally, the company has committed to paying content reviewers $22 per hour in the Bay Area.

See Akanksha Rana & Arjun Panchadar , Reuters, May 13 2019

Unionized Macy’s employees have just authorized a strike, in response to more than four months of negotiations. The union has stated that it is hoping to achieve higher wages and less expensive healthcare. It is clear that the union, which represents more than 1,000 Macy’s employees, intends to strike if an agreement is not reached in a timely manner. The union representing Macy’s employees is the same union that represents the Stop & Shop employees that recently had a successful strike.

See Aviva Luttrell, Mass Live News, May 13 2019

The U.S. Consumer Price Index rose very little in April, meaning that the Federal Reserve will not intervene by changing interest rates. The Fed has may receive pressure to lower interest rates in response to low inflation. Economists believe that “temporary” factors may be halting inflation, as rent and healthcare costs have steadily increased. Another factor contributing to low inflation is high worker productivity that has kept labor costs stable.

See Lucia Mutikani , Reuters, May 10 2019

The United Nations refugee agency has opened a camp that serves Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia in order to escape the crisis occurring in their home-country. Hyperinflation in Venezuela has made basic necessities, such as medicine, unaffordable for most citizens. The camp is temporary, and is intended to allow migrants to be housed while they look for jobs.

See Steven Grattan, Reuters, May 10 2019

As a result of delayed negotiations between teachers and the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, teachers are considering going on strike. A mediator has been invited to try to help teachers and management come to an agreement, if this doesn’t work the teachers have stated that they are prepared to go on strike in order to achieve better conditions. Teachers would like increased wages, smaller class sizes, and additional support staff as part of the new bargaining agreement. The district has stated that it cannot afford the wage increase that the union is requesting.

See Annie Sciacca, The East Bay Times, May 10 2019

Teachers in Clark County, Las Vegas, will vote this week to determine whether or not to strike at the beginning of the upcoming school year. The proposed collective action is in response to the lack of a state plan to give teachers higher pay and greater resources. According to the union president, teachers are currently facing excessively large class sizes, and a lack of school supplies. Additionally, teachers are dissatisfied with their wages which they believe to be stagnant.

See Miranda Willson, The Las Vegas Sun, May 8 2019

Little Big Burger in Portland, Oregon has fired an employee following a strike. According the union, workers walked out in response to unsafe workplace conditions and understaffing. The day after the workers walked out they were suspended by management, and then one of them (a union member) was fired. The Little Big Union has stated that the fired employee had no past history of misconduct and was given no reason for her termination.

See Brooke Jackson-Glidden , Eater Portland, May 8 2019

Historically, upward mobility within the Japanese labor market was largely reliant on age. This meant that young people were unable to develop their skills at work until they were older. Now, due to a labor shortage, firms are facing far less competition for their job openings which has resulted in faster career advancement for young people. Additionally, some employers allow workers to work from home, take more vacation days, and create their own goals.

See Stanley White & Kaori Kaneko, Reuters, May 8 2019

The Tide Is Turning For Teachers Unions

Randi Weingaerten, President of American Federation of Teachers labor union, is altering its endorsement process. Weingaerten is ensuring that the enforcement process will be slower and more transparent so that members can have time to hear about the party’s white House contenders. She wants her union members to feel empowered by the organization’s 2020 endorsement process.

See Daneil Marans, HuffPost, May 7 2019

Christine Cieplinksi, Director of Labor Relations at UConn Health is claiming a gender discrimination case against UConn Health. Cieplinkso says not only was she was paid less than her male counterparts but she is suffered retaliatory action for a case she handled in the past regarding fraud and sexual harassment which led to the subject’s resignation. Cieplinksi filed her discrimination case in federal court and is awaiting next steps.

See MARC E. FITCH, Yankee Institute, May 7 2019

Japan’s back-breaking work culture is slowing changing as the new generation attempts to reshape it. Chihiro Narazaki used to work in sales for a Japanese Bank where she would stay late to complete routine paperwork because that was the norm of the organization. Narazaki left that company for Cybozu, a technology company where she sells software. She has a lot more autonomy, flexibility, and freedom to do her job. In her previous job, everything was hierarchical, so it reduced her exposure to certain tasks and projects. Although Narazaki loves the culture at her new job, she realizes that this shift in workplace culture hasn’t become the norm yet in Japan.

See Stanley White, Kaori Kaneko , Reuters, May 7 2019

The AFSCME Local 3299, which represents UC employees, has filed an unfair labor practices charge against the UC system. The employer has allegedly been engaging in negotiations that would allow low-wage employees to be replaced by contractors via outsourcing companies. The union represents more than 25,000 employers- many of whom have service jobs on UC properties. If UC is, in fact, engaging in negotiations regarding outsourcing service jobs, this would be in violation of the requirement of the employer to discuss this potential decision with employees and their representatives.

See Vanessa Arredondo , The Daily Californian, May 6 2019

Drivers across the globe are planning on a strike, the day before Uber goes public, in order to protest poor wages and treatment. Over the past week, the strike has been advertised and has received numerous signatures from drivers in major cities. Additionally, politicians have supported the decision to strike. Rideshare Drivers United- Los Angeles has been organizing the strike, and managing the various time zones that it will be taking place in.

See Janet Burns , Forbes, May 6 2019

In Taipei, flight attendants who work for the airline, EVA Air, held a protest yesterday to pushback against unfair labor practices. Employees have alleged that their employer released a report that states that another employer with unionized employees, pays the same wages to flight attendants. This report was released by the company right before a union vote. It appears that the report released by the company does not contain entirely valid information, and thus gives employees a “one-sided” view of the situation. Ministry officials have encouraged the company to negotiate fairly with the union and not do anything to disrupt union activities.

See Ann Maxon , The Taipei Times, May 6 2019

Scandinavian Air pilots went on a strike that led to thousands of flights being canceled, leaving passengers stuck. Fortunately, on Thursday the airline and unions in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were able to meet an agreement, thus ending the strike. Union leaders negotiated an agreement that includes higher salaries and greater job security. The new agreement will last three years, and the airline appears convinced that the agreement is competitive in the Swedish labor market.

See Rob McLean, CNN Business, May 3 2019

In Colorado, a union representing thousands of grocery store workers has reached an agreement with King Soopers and City Market. The agreement came just in time, as workers were intending to strike over low wages, high health care costs, and other issues. Additionally, following the agreement that King Soopers workers reached, employees at Albertsons and Safeway were able to reach new agreements. These wins for unions are exciting as they come after months of negotiations.

See Joe Rubino, The Denver Post, May 3 2019

Boeing in South Carolina has been accused of firing three employees for union organizing. The employees who were fired were accused of failing to report a strike to the company. Allegedly, Boeing has impeded unionization efforts by attempting to halt elections from occurring, and leading an anti-union campaign. Additionally, once the union was able to get support- Boeing decided to appeal the election results with the NRLB. In response to the appeal, Boeing has been accused of anti-union activities.

See Michael Sainato, The Guardian, May 3 2019

Olecia James, a recent high school graduate at Cleveland Central High, had her grade point average tampered with to avoid giving her the salutatorian title due to her race. The school administration internally reduced James’ quality points from the school she attended prior to the high school merger, claiming that those classes were less rigorous. James originally had a 4.41 GPA, however, the Salutatorian distinction was given to a white male student with a 4.34 GPA, and consequently, James’ GPA was reduced to 4.33. The suit alleged that the school officials lowered quality points of black students who took classes at East Side while not altering the quality points of white students who took classes at Cleveland High School, actions indicative of racial discrimination.

See Minyvonne Burk, NBC News, May 2 2019

Over 200 women hockey players have organized together to show interest in creating a sustainable professional league for Women’s hockey. The group includes many of the world’s best hockey players, and they have decided to withhold participation from in any North American league under the current conditions. The group is demanding proper resources and investment. Players have complained that they do not make a sustainable living playing professional hockey, and monetary compensation is as low as $2,000 per season. The NWHL officials said they are open to negotiating and plan on offering increased salaries and a 50-50 revenue split from sponsorship and media rights deals.

See Rick Maese, The Washington Post, May 2 2019

Luke Paper Mill in western Maryland will be closing the mill in response to reduced customer demand and increasing input costs. Maryland state agencies are working with affected workers by providing state and federal funding, and grant options. The state’s labor and commerce departments are also partnering with local economic development offices to help displaced workers find employment.

See Associated Press, The Washington Post, May 2 2019

Employees at President Trump’s country club were told by managers to clock out, and then complete hours of “side work” before going home. All of the side work that employees were asked to complete was done off the clock, meaning that employees received no compensation for this extra labor. One employee who worked at a restaurant at the club, was allegedly told by managers to clock out and then stay to vacuum, polish utensils, and prepare the restaurant for the following day- sometimes he would stay past midnight to complete side work that he would not be paid for. Due to these allegations, the country club is now under investigation- so far, investigators have interviewed more than 20 former employees.

See Joshua Partlow & David A. Fahrenthold , The Washington Post, May 1 2019

The union that represents over 3,000 Stanford nurses has reached tentative bargaining agreements with management, just in time to avoid a strike that had been authorized. A union spokesperson has stated that the agreements include increased wages, “workplace-violence prevention provisions,” and protection of other benefits. A hospital spokesperson has stated that the hospital is glad to have come to an agreement. The union will vote on the agreements on May 8.

See Catherine Ho , San Francisco Chronicle, May 1 2019

Taxi drivers at Luton Airport have decided to go on strike for 24 hours in order to protest low wages and unfair conditions. Members of the union that represents drivers have expressed that they do not feel that they are earning minimum wage. Workers have also expressed that prior to the strike, they have attempted to communicate their concerns with the company, and they have tried protesting- striking is their last resort. While the employer has stated that it regularly evaluates driver pay, the union has expressed that driver wages have decreased due to the employer taking a larger commission out of drivers’ earnings.

See BBC News, May 1 2019

Uber’s upcoming initial public offering is estimated to be around 9 billion dollars, the largest IPO in history. Although early investors can expect to gain a lot from this IPO, the drivers that make the company possible won’t be gaining anything. Uber drivers are planning to go on strike on May 8th in seven US cities. Drivers find it difficult to earn a living wage as an app-based driver, and two-thirds of drivers depend on Uber as their largest source of income. In February, New York City passed a law that required ride-hailing companies to pay their drivers at least $17.22 an hour after expenses, a figure that's meant to account for idle time as many drivers spend half of their time waiting for their next job. Unions in other large cities are looking to push for a similar law, as well as ways to appeal the deactivation of a driver's account.

See Michelle Rodino-Colocino, International Business Times, Apr 30 2019

Google employees are lobbying to end forced arbitration altogether. The employees have organized a massive phone bank to inundate Congress with calls tomorrow. They’re demanding Congress to pass the legislation so that employees who bring sexual harassment or discrimination claims can have a fair trial in front of a jury. The organizers of this phone bank are also in communication with other tech companies and beyond, such as PayPal and Starbucks. It hopes to bring about change so that all workers have the same rights under the law. Companies such as Uber, Facebook, and Microsoft have changed their policies on forced arbitration during the height of the MeToo movement in 2017.

See Cat Zakrzewski, The Washington Post, Apr 30 2019

Philippine unionist are planning to protest at the presidential palace in Manila tomorrow for an increase in minimum wages among other issues. The nation’s police chief, Oscar Albayadlde warned the public from joining in on the protest, stating that these demonstrations are causing joblessness and will discourage investments from foreign companies. However, the Kilusang Mayo Uno, May 1st movement (KMU) are not wavering and will continue their plan to strike. They are lobbying for a national wage hike to address the rising costs of living and fundamental human rights in the workplace. An employee at a packing plant in the Philippines’ south saw one of their members shot and killed under police orders due to a strike last year.

See Michael Beltran, South China Morning Post, Apr 30 2019

The Labor Department decided on a case recently regarding the classification of gig workers, at an unnamed company. The question of whether or not gig workers are considered contractors or employees has become especially relevant since companies such as Uber and Lyft emerged, and made it easier for employees to enter the gig economy. In the case that the Labor Department decided on this week, the Department classified workers as contractors- thus, “…offer[ing] further insight into the nexus of labor law and innovations in the job market.” Critics have argued that it was inappropriate for the Labor Department to issue this decision via an opinion letter.

See Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, Apr 29 2019

Bangladesh government officials have produced a website, or a job portal, that is intended to help migrant employees by connecting individuals to licensed recruitment agencies. Evidently, there are “unofficial middlemen” who impose high fees on migrant workers, and otherwise abuse them as they attempt to gain employment. The job portal is intended to eliminate the need/ use of middlemen in order to combat these abuses faced by vulnerable migrant laborers. Additionally, on the job portal, workers will be able to identify jobs that best match their skills- which will aid employers in acquiring employees who have desirable skills.

See Naimul Karim , Reuters, Apr 29 2019

A new report produced by the New York Times discusses the abusive labor conditions that Syrian refugees experience as laborers on hazelnut farms in Turkey. Thousands of Syrian refugees work on Turkish hazelnut farms- the work is dangerous because it involves being attached to rocks by rope for most of the workday. Additionally, employers are frequently dishonest with workers regarding how much laborers can expect to be paid. Turkey’s labor laws do not apply to agricultural businesses with less than 50 employees, so hazelnut farm workers are especially prone to abuse due to a lack of legal protection. Other common abusive practices occurring on hazelnut farms, according to this report, include a lack of labor contracts, and “between-harvest loans” that create a system of indentured servitude.

See David Segal, The New York Times, Apr 29 2019

Following an industry-wide strike led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the South African government’s Registrar of Labour Relations threatened to deregister the union. The union has decided to pursue legal action in an attempt to remain registered, insisting that it remains in compliance with the law. The President of the union considers the deregistration threat a “political attack” and intends to meet with the Registrar on Tuesday.

See Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg, Apr 26 2019

Mexican government officials have decided to create a special minimum wage for domestic workers in order to combat labor abuse. There are nearly 2 million domestic workers in the country whose rights have largely been overlooked, according to officials. In Mexico, there are different minimum wages for many different industries- however, many domestic workers do not even have labor contracts. The lack of government regulation of domestic labor places workers at risk of exploitation and abuse. This week, in order to address these challenges, the Supreme Court has banned the hiring of workers who are younger than 15 and required written labor contracts.

See Christine Murray , Reuters, Apr 26 2019

An unidentifiable individual has filed a claim against Google with the NLRB accusing the company of retaliation. The case accuses the company of retaliating against individuals who have been involved in collective action. As of now, the identity of the complainant has not been revealed- the attorney representing the individual who filed the suit has refused to reveal any information. This week, leaders from the walkout that took place recently accused Google of retaliation. Google has refused to comment, but previously stated that the company prohibits retaliation and has asserted that no retaliation has been taking place.

See Josh Eidelson & Mark Bergen, Bloomberg, Apr 26 2019

The Chevrolet Corvette factory in Kentucky will produce the next-generation sports version of its iconic sports car. The company will reveal the Corvette on July 18, 2019. In preparation, General Motors will be adding 400 workers to the site from plants that are at risk of shutting down. Notably, there are a total of 3,000 workers who will be displaced and the company is doing its best to transfer them to different locations.

See David Welch,, LA Times, Bloomberg, Apr 25 2019

This past Tuesday, Andowah Newton, former VP of legal affairs and litigation counsel at LVMH sued the company for sexual harassment and retaliation. Newton claims that she was sexually harassed by a male colleague who made suggestive comments, leered at her, tried to kiss, and even lunged his body across hers to thrust his pelvis and genitals into her face. Newton has reported his behavior informally to LVMH personnel, but her case was not further as he worked for the legal department. Newton then took matters into her own hands and told him to stop harassing her through email which led to her manager to officially file the incident. The issue was escalated, however, at the expense of Newton’s treatment at the workplace.

See Amanda Robert, ABA Journal, Reuters, Apr 25 2019

The New England Health Care Employees Union has called off their strike against nursing homes planned for May 1st. Unions are requesting for a 4% raise for all nursing home caregivers and a reassessment of contracts to account for inflationary costs. Albeit in the middle of negotiations, the governor has acted in good faith by proposing additional state funding for nursing homes. Though it is unclear whether or not additional funding will be provided, potential work stoppage has been deferred for two weeks.

See Keith M. Phaneuf, CT Post, Apr 25 2019

The South African mining union, AMCU, that recently organized a successful industry-wide strike is facing deregistration. The labor registrar has stated that the union is “not a genuine trade union,” because it is not “function[ing] in terms of its constitution.” This decision comes just before the union prepares to enter wage talks in the platinum-industry. If the union is removed from the register, it can still organize strikes but companies would be allowed to forgo giving the union its fees.

See Felix Njini & Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg, Apr 24 2019

The fast-fashion clothing company H&M has begun listing supplier information for each item of clothing that it produces. H&M is the first brand to do this, and the move is intended to provide greater transparency for consumers who do not wish to support labor abuse in the clothing industry. While advocates believe that this is a positive step forward, concerns have been raised regarding what this information may mean for consumers- more context may be necessary in order for this information to be useful. As of now, customers are able to view where their clothing was produced, as well as supplier/factory names, number of employees, and addresses.

See Sonia Elks , Reuters, Apr 24 2019

Nearly three million Americans over the age of 55 have entered the workforce over the last three years. Older workers joining or rejoining the workforce have helped the economy immensely, however, experts believe that this growth may be slowing down. Many companies are currently struggling to find employees due to a labor shortage. As a result of less available laborers, companies have had to increase wages- however, the wage increases may not be profitable for much longer.

See Howard Schneider , Reuters, Apr 24 2019

Kim Jung Un is looking to strengthen economic ties with Moscow while his nuclear negotiations with Washington are at an impasse. Kim is expected to meet with Vladimir Putin in Russia on Wednesday or Thursday for the first summit between the leaders of North Korea and Russia since their past meeting 8 years ago. Labor will be a primary subject for Kim as it is one of the North's key exports and sources cash.

See The Japan Times, Apr 23 2019

Late last month, Ford announced that they would be ceasing production of all passenger cars in Russia due to inadequate returns on invested capital. Over 900 employees will be let go due to this business disruption. Many employees are unsure of what to do once the plant closes as they have limited education and have been working at the plant for over 10 years. Ford has offered workers severance packages equal to up to 12 months’ salary, but union representatives are unhappy with it as workers in other plants have received up to 2 years’ salary. The union has organized demonstrations, pickets, and work to rule at the Vsevolozhsk factory and will halt productions if its demands are not met in the months before it closes.

See Daniel Kozin, Moscow Times, Apr 23 2019

Chinese workers in the technology industry have spoken out about the grueling “996” work standard. The 996 work standard is a philosophy endorsed by tech billionaire and Co-Founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma. It’s based on the idea of working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. Workers have been voicing their complaints through a Microsoft owned platform which lead to Microsoft’s involvement. Microsoft workers have published a letter on Github in solidarity with tech workers in China; in the letter, they pushed Chinese tech companies to comply with local labor laws, which limit workers to 40 hours a week, with a maximum of 36 hours per month of overtime. Over 150 companies have been listed to comply such as Huawei, Bytedance, and Ant Financial.

See Kari Paul, The Guardian, Apr 23 2019

Following the unionization of Mighty Good Coffee baristas, the coffee chain has decided to shut down. This means that the newly unionized employees are negotiating a cessation contract with their employer, following the news that they are all being laid off. After receiving news of the layoffs, employees held a demonstration outside of the coffee chain’s location- then met with employers to discuss severance pay. Employees are now discussing opening their own coffee shop where workers receive good pay and working conditions.

See Leah Graham , The Michigan Daily, Apr 22 2019

Following an 11-day strike, unionized Stop & Shop employees and management have come to a tentative agreement. Employees at over 240 locations returned to work on Monday, after the deal was established the day prior. The three-year agreement has not been made public yet, however, employees have stated that their demands regarding wages and benefits have been met. A spokesperson for the grocery chain stated that the first priority following employees returning to work, will be “restocking our shelves,” in order to continue serving customers.

See Sandra E. Garcia, The New York Times, Apr 22 2019

Norwegian airlines’ cabin crew at Charles de Gaulle airport is planning a strike from April 24 to April 26. While a formal strike vote has not taken place, union members generally seem supportive of the idea of engaging in collective action. 70 percent of the cabin crew is represented by the union. A cabin crew strike would likely disrupt the airline’s ability to engage in normal operations.

See The Daily Times, Apr 22 2019

Harley Davidson employees in Wisconsin have just finalized a new five-year labor contract which includes a 14 percent wage increase over the next five years. In addition to the wage increase, employees will receive a signing bonus, new incentive plans, and better pensions. This month the employees vetoed a different proposal due to issues like job security, and temporary workers. Fortunately, the union was able to work with management to come to an agreement to create the new contract which will ultimately impact over 1,000 workers.

See Sanjana Shivdas, Reuters, Apr 19 2019

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction union in Africa just ended a five-month strike by signing a wage agreement that will last for three years. The violent strike resulted in at least nine deaths, halted production, and negative financial outcomes for the company. The AMCU went on strike in November following its refusal to approve of a wage agreement that the company had negotiated with other unions. As a result of the strike, employees will now receive greater wages and benefits.

See Felix Njini & Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg, Apr 19 2019

Security guards at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant in Cumbria have decided to delay their plans to start the first of two strikes. The union has expressed that they have decided to postpone the strike in order to allow the company more time to make concessions. Union members are primarily motivated to strike due to a desire to achieve higher wages. Currently, the company only recognizes the GMB union- so workers are also fighting for recognition of the Unite union.

See BBC News UK, Apr 19 2019

Britain, hailed as a global leader in the anti-slavery initiative, is undergoing a review of its landmark 2015 law due to criticism that it is not being used effectively. Critics claim the law wasn’t being used to jail traffickers, nor was it enforced on firms to cease forced labor, or help victims. Currently, victims are able to enter the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) program in which they would have access to support ranging from healthcare to legal aid, while the British government determines whether or not to recognize them as victims. Once they’re recognized as a victim, support through the NRM program ends. Activists claim that the short period of support is problematic as it leaves victims at risk of homelessness, destitution or being exploited again. Two trafficking survivors have challenged the court on this policy.

See Kieran Guilbert, Reuters, Apr 18 2019

The Alaska State Employees Association has filed paperwork to halt the privatization of the state's main psychiatric hospital. The privatization was a result of a merger and would result in a potential loss of over 200 jobs. The union representative claims there may have been a breach of labor laws as the employer did not give employees a chance to show that the can do the job for cheaper. Arguments will be heard next week.

See Stamford Advocate, Apr 18 2019

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO) has informed its subcontractors that foreigners coming to Japan for employment can engage in decommissioning work at the plant. Decommissioning work raises several concerns, particularly with radiation exposure. To prevent excess exposure, TEPCO has required foreign workers to have Japanese language abilities in order to accurately understand the risks communicated to them. Due to the new visa system, in which its goal was to bring in mainly blue-collar foreign workers, Japan is trying to increase its number of subcontractors. However, concerns about labor exploitations were raised; the Justice Ministry issued an ordinance requiring employers to pay wages equivalent to or higher than those of Japanese national. Notably, other major utility companies will not be following suit due to the risk of quality control, terrorism and information leaks.

See Japan Today, Apr 18 2019

Unionized part-time faculty at Columbia College are dissatisfied with their union’s lack of communication regarding bargaining issues. The union was preparing workers to strike- some members chose not to participate in the strike authorization vote because they did not have an understanding as to why the strike was deemed necessary. Members have expressed being, “…disappointed in the communication between union leadership and the rank and file…” In addition to issues present within the union, faculty say that they are not treated appropriately by management as a result of their union membership.

See Alexandra Yetter, The Columbia Chronicle, Apr 17 2019

Rutgers University was able to avoid a faculty strike by achieving an agreement with the faculty union late Tuesday night. The union has stated that the new agreement promises equal pay for female faculty members, and for members of color. Additionally, the union expressed that the lowest paid union members will be receiving a significant pay increase as a result of the new agreement. The new contract will also provide increased protections for graduate students, and allocate funding towards diversity hiring.

See Kelly Heyboer, NJ.com, Apr 17 2019

The fashion company PVH, the owner of both Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, is investigating reports of labor abuse. Reports revealed that the Ethiopian workers who produce clothing for high-end stores have been subject to verbal abuse, low wages, and discrimination. Additionally, employees are forced to work overtime without compensation, and are not allowed to drink water at their workplace. PVH has vowed to conduct an investigation and “…take appropriate action if any violations are found.”

See Amy Woodyatt , Reuters, Apr 17 2019

The United Auto Workers were in negotiations with the Volkswagen unit back in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Originally it had intended for the company to negotiate a contract with a group of skilled trade workers, however, they have moved to withdraw the case. Prior to reaching its current state, the UAW representative had accused the automaker of illegally refusing to bargain with a unit of about 160 workers who voted to join the union in 2015.

See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Apr 16 2019

PVH, the parent company of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein are facing labor charges for worker misconduct. The company’s supplier factories in Ethiopia are being investigated for workplace violations. Workers were subject to verbal discrimination, overtime without pay, and fined for drinking water at their work stations. Ethiopia's labor market is heavily unregulated as it is one of the poorest nations in Africa. It does not have a minimum wage for workers and labor rights abuses are common in the manufacturing industry. The Workers Rights Consortium is monitoring the situation and will take appropriate action if violations are found.

See Amy Woodyatt, Reuters, Apr 16 2019

The Yale Law Women’s group has identified the top 10 law firms for gender equity and family friendliness. The student organization was created to advance women at the university, and in the profession. In creating the top 10 law firms, members of the organization examined over 50 law firm’s policies around family leave and gender equality. They also had firms complete surveys, from which they discovered that the issue of gender inequality has not improved Last year 36% of women made equity partner promotion, however, this year only 29.8% of the women did.

See Meaghan Tribe, Law.com, Apr 16 2019

The unemployment rate in Turkey recently rose to 14.7 percent in response to the currency crisis that occurred last year. This unemployment rate is the highest that the country has experienced in almost a decade. The government recently produced a campaign that is intended to create jobs for 2.5 million people. However, unemployment is expected to continue to rise as the economy recovers from the crisis.

See Behiye Selin Taner, Reuters, Apr 15 2019

Amazon employees are currently on strike at four different locations in Germany. Employees are attempting to achieve a collective bargaining agreement that will include higher wages and better conditions. Management at Amazon argues that employees earn wages that are higher than the industry average. Additionally, management argues that the firm is not part of the retail and mail order industry, but the logistics industry. Strikes will last until Thursday in some locations, and deliveries will most likely not be affected.

See The Local Germany, Apr 15 2019

The Irish government employs hospital support staff, and may face a nationwide strike over an ongoing wage dispute. The trade union that represents support staff, Siptu, stated that it will be balloting nearly 20,000 workers to determine whether or not a strike will occur. Previously, the union intended to ballot fewer workers- recent developments have encouraged Siptu to expand the strike to 36 hospitals across the country.

See Martin Wall , The Irish Times, Apr 15 2019

At a recent conference for game developers, workers participated in roundtables to discuss ways to organize and increase worker power. Game Workers Unite is a group that emerged last year that is advocating for unionization in the game development industry. Workers who develop video games frequently work long hours without overtime, experience layoffs, and earn minimal wages while company executives take home millions. While white-collar activism has been increasing in the tech space, game developers may be the first group to organize due to their long hours and the prevalence of cyclical layoffs.

See Sam Dean, The LA Times, Apr 12 2019

Cabin crew at Stobart Air threatened to strike- a move that would have grounded regional flights and negatively impacted customers. The airline spoke to the union and agreed to negotiate wages and workplace conditions in order to keep the strike from occurring. Management had been resistant towards beginning talks to discuss wages until the cabin crew voted to strike on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the airline has since stated that management is pleased with how negotiations are proceeding thus far, and is committed to fostering a collaborative relationship with workers.

See Barry O'Halloran, The Irish Times, Apr 12 2019

On Thursday, thousands of Stop & Shop workers went on strike to protest low wages and inadequate benefits. Union contract negotiations reached a standstill, even with the help of federal mediators, which began the strike. Many Stop & Shop locations have been forced to close. Stores will not be reopening until the company is able to recruit temporary workers. It is estimated that over 30,000 employees in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island are participating in the strike.

See Nicholas Rondinone , The Hartford Courant, Apr 12 2019

Amazon raised its minimum wage for all workers to $15 an hour. In their recent letter to shareholders, they challenged their top retailers to follow suit. According to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, raising the minimum wage is an investment towards their employees that strongly benefits the company; their intention to raise the minimum wage wasn’t just to gain a competitive advantage, but rather it was “the right thing to do.” Large corporations such as Target and Costco have raised their minimum wage as a result; however, Walmart has not followed suit. Notably, labor union representatives have raised concerns about the potential degradation of the work environment and conditions as a result of increased wages.

See Sarah Perez, Tech Crunch, Apr 11 2019

T-Mobile and Spring have proposed a merger in order to build a 5G network, which will increase connectivity speeds over cellular wireless. Labor unions, particularly the Communication Workers of America (CWA), are unsupportive of the merger. Unions claim that the merger will eliminate over 30,000 jobs in the industry. In defense of T-Mobile, Sprint’s Chairman, Marcelo Claure, claimed that T-Mobile is being targeted by CWA for unfair labor practices, and this is because of the union's contractual relationship with AT&T. The merger between the two telecommunication companies is still on hold.

See Ken Blackwell, CNS News, Apr 11 2019

Pilots from the Northern Kentucky airport who transport amazon packages are prepared to go on strike. Pilots are speaking out about low wages, poor aircraft maintenance, and hindered contract negotiations; they claim that Amazon is driving down their quality of life through poor compensation of wages and benefits, in addition to working excessively long hours. Amazon does not employ the pilots directly, rather Amazon is leasing the aircraft via Atlas Air. Union representatives are hoping that these grievances will encourage Amazon to put pressure on Atlas Air to renegotiate the contract.

See Abha Bhattarai, Kevin Williams , Daily Republic, Washington Post, Apr 11 2019

Volkswagen employees in Chattanooga Tennessee have filed yet another petition to join the United Auto Workers. This is the third petition that employees have filed with the NLRB in the past five years. According to the petition, of the 1,709 employees that make up the bargaining unit, at least 30 percent of them are seeking union representation. Volkswagen management has declined to comment on the issue, and appears to be remaining neutral until the petition has been reviewed.

See The Washington Post, Apr 10 2019

Thousands of unionized hospital employees intend to strike today, in response to alleged unfair labor practices. Union representatives have stated that union members have voiced their concerns over low wages for months- management has responded by illegally silencing complaints. Hospital management claims that the union’s allegations are an attempt to justify “yet another strike.” Management has asserted that they would like to reach an agreement, while the union prefers to go on strike. The most recent strike is intended to last for one day only, and should not have an excessively negative impact on hospital patients.

See Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, Apr 10 2019