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Workplace Issues Today

The government is having a difficult time attracting talent due to the month-long shutdown that ended on January 25. House interns have not been paid yet because many departments, namely the Administration Committee, are still backlogged from its recent hiatus. To increase their talent pool the government realizes it has to expand the opportunity to include individuals who need to work for a wage, and not just limit it to those who can only work for free. The issue of recruiting and retaining talent may be further exacerbated should another shutdown occur later this year.

See Patricio Chile, Bloomberg Law, Feb 8 2019

Pilots part of the Taoyuan Union of Pilots has gone on strike to protest for better and safer work conditions. The union's main issue is that their members are being overworked. It not only affects their performance but also the safety of the passengers. The union is asking for four pilots and co-pilots instead of the usual three that are assigned for flights over 12 hours, and for three crew members instead of two. China Airlines refused, stating that operating costs would be too high and would negatively affect their ability to compete in the industry. Ho Nuan-Hsuan, Chairman of China Airlines has requested a face-to-face meeting with the union representatives but was rejected.

See Jason Pan, Wu Liang-Yi, Jake Chung, Taipei Times, Feb 8 2019

US District Court for the District of Arizona voted in favor of Carol Whitmore, former Walmart employee regarding her rights under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. In the recent case, Walmart fired Whitmore, a customer service supervisor, for testing positive on her drug test. Whitmore was a marijuana card-holding employee who smoked marijuana the night before. According to the Arizona Drug Testing of Employees Act, employers are protected from discrimination lawsuits brought under the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act if they can show they believed in good faith that the worker used or was impaired by marijuana on the job. Walmart failed to do so, as their discovery of the drug test result was due to company policy upon injury on the job, and no scientific evidence was provided to prove Whitemore’s impairment on the job.

See Patrick Dorrian, Bloomberg Law, Feb 8 2019

The government is having a difficult time attracting talent due to the month-long shutdown that ended on January 25. House interns have not been paid yet because many departments, namely the Administration Committee, are still backlogged from its recent hiatus. To increase their talent pool the government realizes it has to expand the opportunity to include individuals who need to work for a wage, and not just limit it to those who can only work for free. The issue of recruiting and retaining talent may be further exacerbated should another shutdown occur later this year.

See Patricio Chile, Bloomberg Law, Feb 8 2019

Pilots part of the Taoyuan Union of Pilots has gone on strike to protest for better and safer work conditions. The union's main issue is that their members are being overworked. It not only affects their performance but also the safety of the passengers. The union is asking for four pilots and co-pilots instead of the usual three that are assigned for flights over 12 hours, and for three crew members instead of two. China Airlines refused, stating that operating costs would be too high and would negatively affect their ability to compete in the industry. Ho Nuan-Hsuan, Chairman of China Airlines has requested a face-to-face meeting with the union representatives but was rejected.

See Jason Pan, Wu Liang-Yi, Jake Chung, Taipei Times, Feb 8 2019

Even though spring training for baseball is a week away, sports agents still have around 100 players who have not yet signed nor are affiliated with a team. Due to high performance and profit being generated, the Major League Baseball association along with Baseball commissioner, Rob Manfred are more concerned with speeding up the game rather than determining placement for unsigned players. Suggestions such as having pitchers face at least three batters in an inning, reducing six mound visits to four mound visits, and implementing a 24-second shot clock have the union and the MLB in disagreement.

See John Delcos, Forbes, Feb 7 2019

Instacart made an adjustment to how they pay workers by keeping tips and compensation separate. Previously, tips made on the Instacart application would not go directly towards the worker as it was being used to offset the minimum payment per job. Additionally, if workers make over a certain amount in tips then they would be paid less. Workers expressed their concern over the pay system and as of yesterday, Apoorva Mehta, the Chief Executive Officer, announced that a new pay system will be in effect. The new pay system will raise the guaranteed pay for some jobs and will also compensate workers for previous jobs in which their tips were used to offset the minimum payment.

See Ellen Huet, Bloomberg Law, Feb 7 2019

Trading tariffs have limited Volvo’s plan to export cars to China and as a result, sales have decreased dramatically, affecting the firm’s financial performance. As a way to cut costs, Hakan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo, said that year-end financial bonuses will not be distributed. This change will affect 43,000 employees. China is also experiencing their first decline in the auto sales industry and according to Samuelson, perhaps the entire car industry will need to refocus their attention towards cost reduction and savings.

See Niclas Rolander, Bloomberg Law, Feb 7 2019

Approximately six months ago, Philadelphia rolled out a new sexual harassment policy that included an online reporting system, new guidelines, and training procedures. However, some city employees fear that this new policy is insufficient. There are still no disciplinary guidelines, or a way for management to handle all of the allegations that are received via the online system. Of the 31 complaints that have been filed since July, only nine have been found to be true and of those nine the discipline ranged from suspension to verbal warnings. In the past six years, sexual misconduct claims have led to more than $2 million dollars in settlements being paid out by the city.

See Michael D'Onofrio, The Philadelphia Tribune, Feb 6 2019

Following a union vote, 201 art gallery employees are on strike and picketing. Employees have been bargaining for eight months, and have yet to come to an agreement with management. Their primary concerns are regarding working conditions and wages. As a result of the ongoing strike, all tours have been cancelled; however, the art gallery gift shop and café will remain open.

See Kevin Griffin , The Vancouver Sun, Feb 6 2019

Teachers at four charter schools in Chicago are on strike again, after bargaining did not result in a satisfactory contract. Chicago educators have been negotiating for many months, and just recently rejected a new contract proposal which means that they are going back to the picket line. The strike has negatively impacted 2,200 students by disrupting classes. While there are substitute teachers, the school is largely understaffed and not entirely operational.

See Juan Perez Jr., The Chicago Tribune, Feb 6 2019

Union membership rates have been declining over the past few years with significant drops in the private sector. Contributing factors for the decline include changing composition of jobs and laws that make it challenging to unionize. Although the decline in unionization is heavily apparent in the US, unionization rates in Europe reveal a similar trend. Recent research from economists at Princeton and Columbia University suggest that unionization rates are correlated to income inequality.

See Dan Kopf, Quartz, Feb 5 2019

Norway is experiencing a double bind as a result of the EEA accord, which came to fruition as a compromise in not joining the European Union. The EEA agreement allows Norway to have access to markets for goods and services, however, has been faced with legal scrutiny from labor unions who are concerned with its impact on wages and labor laws. Having access to the EU’s markets means Norway has to accept incoming workers and inadvertently adopt EU laws. Mette Nord, head of Fagforbundet, stated that the union isn’t in opposition with the EEA accord, however, they want to ensure that Norwegian collective bargaining agreements, labor laws, and ILO conventions take precedence over EU laws.

See Sveinung Sleire, Bloomberg, Feb 5 2019

French public workers participated in a walkout today against President Macron’s policy to seek for a fairer tax system and higher salaries. The movement had slowed over the past few weeks, however, was reignited as negotiations are still in progress 12 weeks in. Higher education and research unions, along with commuter rail unions have mobilized for a mass walkout, disrupting planned service in Paris and regions outside the city.

See Laura Mowat, Daily Express, Feb 5 2019

A lawsuit brought by delivery drivers has brought up the question of what the employment status is of drivers- specifically, should drivers be considered independent contractors or employees. California, in this case, implemented the ABC test; a worker is an employee if the company controls their actions, their tasks are central to core business needs, and workers do have their own independent businesses that are facilitating their work. This case will be decided in the California state Supreme court and this ruling may have huge implications for the gig economy companies that rely on independent contractors.

See Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle, Feb 4 2019

Immigration attorneys have been helping firms file complaints against the government regarding employee visa decisions. Thus far, many of the suits have been decided in favor of the employer. Most of this litigation is focused on the denial of H-1B visas. The denial is a result of jobs not being classified as “specialty occupations,” and thus being interpreted by the USCIS as not qualifying for the visa. It may be the case that the definition of what kind of work does/does not qualify for the visa is being either interpreted incorrectly, or needs to be updated.

See Laura D. Francis, Bloomberg Law, Feb 4 2019

During a recent bargaining session, Harvard university negotiators suggested that student employees should be allowed to “retain the right” to choose whether or not they become members of the university’s new union. Union organizers do not support this idea, and have expressed feelings that this proposal is more reminiscent of an “open shop” as opposed to the “agency shop” that the union is trying to establish. An agency shop which utilizes a “union-security” clause would require all members of the bargaining group to pay union dues. Harvard contests the union operating as an agency shop because leaders feel that it might compromise the university’s mission.

See James S. Bikes & Ruoqi Zhang, The Harvard Crimson, Feb 1 2019

Pfizer employees in Ireland are currently planning two 24 hour walkouts, and banning overtime indefinitely because of changes to their pension plans. The union has been negotiating with management regarding their pension plan since 2014, with no success. Workers feel now that they have no choice but to engage in industrial action. Management claims that changing the pension plans was a necessity, however, workers do not accept this.

See Martin Wall , Irish Times, Feb 1 2019

Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL) workers will soon be voting regarding whether or not they should engage in industrial action in response to management’s rejection of their pay increase proposal. Prior to the holidays, the union had reached a tentative agreement with management regarding wage increases and a plan to address staff shortages. However, since then, ministers have decided to reject that plan. If HIAL workers go out on strike, seven airports will be negatively impacted.

See BBC Scotland, Feb 1 2019

While the players at this Sunday's Super Bowl all have union representation, as do the technician's responsible for broadcasting the game, workers behind the scene such as vendors, security and concessions are non-unionized. The contrast in unionized workers can largely be attributed to Georgia being a right-to-work state. Based on data from 2018, only 4.5% of workers were part of a union. According to the Vice President of National Right to Work Foundation, Patrick Semmens, unionization rates in Georgia are low because unions have a difficult time mustering the initial support to organize amid worker apathy.

See Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg Law, Jan 31 2019

Wage negotiations between the government of Zimbabwe and Apex Council, an organization of the country's public sector unions, are stymied as both parties were not able to come to an agreem have decided not to take action as tensions are high. Unions that have previously gone on strike has had a poor outcome, and security forces are reverting to strong-arm tactics turning strikes violent. In a joint statement, however, the Zimbabwe Teachers Union (ZIMTA) and the Progressive Teachers Union said that their members will not be reporting for duty from next Tuesday, marking a significant break from their parent organization. This means over 550,000 workers will be abstaining from work, creating a gap in the education sector.

See MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters, Reuters, Jan 31 2019

Due to a massive labor shortage in Japan, officials have decided to create a visa system that will allow foreign laborers to work in the country. An estimated 345,000 workers will enter Japan within the next five years as a result of the new labor policy. According to the Council of Municipalities with Large Migrant Populations, accepting foreign workers into the homogenous country will be a challenge. Local government leaders are asking for financial assistance, as well as Japanese language education programs and other social services that will help foreigners become accustomed to living in Japan.

See Japan Times, Jan 30 2019

Between 2016 and 2018 over 200 federal contractors have received violation notices from the labor department following audits. The notices cover a wide range of violations, the most extreme being discrimination allegations. Most of the violations received by firms were regarding record-keeping obligations. However, there were over 40 hiring discrimination allegations, as well as many pay discrimination allegations. The agency intends to continue conducting audits with 3,500 planned for 2019- this is nearly double the number of audits that occurred in 2019.

See Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Jan 30 2019

Workers at Eskom Holdings, a state-owned electricity utility, in South Africa intend to strike during election week. The union is striking to protest job cuts and share sales. The managers of the utility decided to sell shares in order to help lift Eskom out of debt. However, the President has come up with numerous alternative proposals that may be pursued if the utility decides against selling shares.

See Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg BNA, Jan 30 2019

Unions representing construction workers and retail workers in New York City have voiced their concerns over Amazon's planned headquarters in Queens. The Teamsters and the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union have demanded that Amazon's plans be delayed over the company's history of perceived anti-union activity. Although Amazon has shown a sign of good faith by agreeing to use union workers to build and maintain its facilities, unions are still not satisfied. Head of the Teamster union, George Miranda, states that proper labor practices need to be put in place, especially at a large company like Amazon, in order to maintain labor standards across industries.

See Ginger Adams Otis, New York Daily News, Jan 29 2019

Amidst a nation-wide shortage for construction workers, legislators and industry officials are making an effort to recruit more women. Currently women make up only nine percent of the construction workforce. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates a 12% employment growth in the industry, and local officials and union representatives are actively looking to fill these roles with women despite it being a male dominated field. Currently, the largest percentage of women working in the construction industry work in sales, office, and management roles. Organizations such as Nontraditional Employment for Women (NEW), for example, are working to train primarily low-income women for opportunities in construction and other trades.

See Courtney Connley, cnbc.com, Jan 29 2019

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided that the Age Discrimination in Employment Act exclusively covers current employees, meaning that it does not apply to individuals who are seeking work, externally. The ADEA is meant to protect workers over the age of 40 from age-based discrimination. Currently, people are living longer and are participating in the labor market beyond the usual age of retirement. However, the court’s decision reduces the size of the population that is eligible for protection under the act.

See Ruth Umoh, Forbes, Jan 28 2019

Technology has created an atmosphere where employers can reach their employees at any time. Employees may feel obligated to respond to phone calls, even if they are not “on the clock.” Starbucks and ADM industries recently faced lawsuits where workers alleged that they were not being paid for work-related calls that took place when they were not actively on duty. These scenarios bring into question what counts as “compensable time” and also may necessitate new laws that allow employees to disconnect outside of the workplace.

See Genevieve Douglas, Bloomberg Law, Jan 28 2019

Irish nurses are preparing to strike due to low wages. Serious concerns have arisen regarding the level of healthcare that could be provided if a strike were to occur. However, the government has yet to propose new initiatives or incentives that might prevent the industrial activity from occurring. If a strike does take place, it will involve an estimated 40,000 nurses- this would result in the cancellation of thousands of patient appointments.

See Martin Wall , The Irish Times, Jan 28 2019

Japanese authorities recently discovered that Mitsubishi and Panasonic have violated labor laws by making foreign interns perform tasks outside of what is specified within their employee contracts. Due to this violation, both firms have been banned from hiring foreign trainees for the next five years. This discovery comes right as Japan is planning to implement a new foreign labor system that is intended to help address a widespread labor shortage. However, because these firms have had their foreign labor accreditation taken they may not be able to participate in this new system.

See Magdalena Osumi, Japan Times, Jan 25 2019

Museum workers are unionizing at much higher rates than before. There are more than 40 museums that have unions in the United States, now including the New Museum in New York City. It seems that workers are engaging in unionization in order to achieve higher wages. This trend is interesting because museum workers are well educated and individuals who partake in their type of labor usually do not engage in collective activity.

See Paige Smith & Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg Law, Jan 25 2019

Teachers in Denver recently voted to authorize a strike. However, their employer contacted the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment for “intervention” which means that it could take up to 180 days for teachers to legally be allowed to participate in the strike that was authorized by the union. Despite not being allowed to strike, teachers are protesting in order to make their discontent known. The collective activity is occurring as a result of low wages and many years of unsuccessful bargaining.

See Elizabeth Hernandez, The Denver Post, Jan 25 2019

The department of labor recently discovered that the tech company Oracle has been “systemically” discriminating against employees based on their gender and race. According to the DOL, the firm has “shorted” minority groups by $400 million by paying them less than other employees with similar positions, and hiring immigrants who have visas who may accept lower wages. Additionally, the company intentionally placed minorities in lower-paying positions within the firm. A random audit in 2014 led to allegations of race and gender based discrimination, which the DOL further investigated and found to be true.

See Chris Opfer & Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Jan 23 2019

According to a study conducted by Human Rights Watch, millions of factory workers in Pakistan are experiencing abuse in the workplace. Worker mistreatment takes place in a variety of ways; ranging from physical beatings, to being denied wages, to a lack of clean drinking water. Following a 2012 factory fire that killed approximately 300 workers, Pakistan attempted to reform its labor laws. However, despite laws that make it easier for unionization to occur, employees continue to face abuse at the hands of their employers who fear that treating employees fairly will result in higher production costs.

See Zofeen Ebrahim , Reuters, Jan 23 2019

Union members in Los Angeles recently voted to end nearly week-long teachers strike. Teachers will return to work on Wednesday. The strike occurred after two years of unsuccessful negotiations. However, the tentative agreement reached by the union includes a 6 percent wage increase for teachers, additional support staff, full-time nurses in all schools by 2020, and smaller class sizes by 2021.

See Elissa Nadworny & Clare Lombardo, NPR, Jan 23 2019

With 20 states increasing their minimum wage levels in 2019, restaurants are increasingly eyeing technology and retention programs to help with both a tight labor market and increasing bottom lines. Turnover in the hospitality industry can be volatile, with 72 percent of workers leaving their positions in 2017. The low unemployment rate, with fewer teens entering the workforce, has not helped staffing issues, and restaurants have either been forced to raise wages to encourage applications, cut labor-intensive menu items, or have turned to technology to either help with distributing labor towards the kitchen rather than front registers, or with tracking employee performance in order to reward them for good productivity. Other kinds of retention programming have included college tuition assistance, improved parental leave benefits and sick days for part-time employees, and clustering delivery areas closer together for in order for employees to do more runs and earn more tips.

The Los Angeles teachers strike is now in its fifth day, and parents of special needs students have had quandaries over whether to send their students to school. Some parents stated that they didn't know whether their students would be accommodated; special needs students can have a variety of staff members that they rely on, including speech and occupation therapists, in addition to special education teachers. The Los Angeles Unified School District has more than 60,000 special-needs students, more than 12% of overall enrollment. The school district had stated that communications to students and families had been sent prior to the strike, asking for parents to call or reach out to find out which employees would be working on any given day. School district attorneys had sought a court order prior to the strike to impel employees who work with students with disabilities and special needs to come to work, stating that the district has operated under a consent decree since 1996, after a student was denied services required under federal law.

See Los Angeles teachers' strike, now in 5th day, is particularly hard on special needs students, Matthew Ormseth, Leila Miller, Los Angeles Times, Jan 18 2019

Labor unions representing federal employees suffered a setback Tuesday as a federal judge ruled against compelling the government to pay workers during the ongoing shutdown. Employees at numerous federal agencies have been forced to work without pay since the shutdown began, which the unions say violate labor laws. The judge rejected the unions' arguments, however, stating that the order would cause "chaos and confusion", leaving federal employees at home from jobs essential to keep the country running. A separate suit by unions seeking a preliminary injunction against the government will be heard at the end of the month in the same court.

See Ann E. Marimow, Deanna Paul, Katie Zezima, Spencer S. Hsu, The Washington Post, Jan 16 2019

The Chicago Teachers Union submitted its demands for a new contract Tuesday in advance of a new city administration. The teachers are seeking a 5% increase in pay and a mandated maximum classroom size, as well as more complete staffing of librarians and nurses. While the teachers' contract does not expire until the end of June, the union is hoping to begin negotiations with the current mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, in order to have the process well under way by the time he leaves office in the spring. Although the demands come at a time when public school teachers in Los Angeles are striking, under Illinois law, the teachers are prohibited from striking over many of the issues raised. Representatives of Chicago Public Schools have not yet commented on what counter-proposal they may make.

See Juan Perez Jr., Chicago Tribune, Jan 16 2019

Predictive scheduling laws require that employers post employee schedules well in advance. Such laws are present in four cities and the state of Oregon. However, restaurant management feels that the laws have created a host of challenges because there are such high rates of employee turnover taking place in the food industry. Management and restaurant owners also argue that predictive scheduling has resulted in higher labor costs, where in many cases labor costs are around 50 percent.

See Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg Law, Jan 14 2019

Following the Google walkout that took place in November, more employees within the technology sector are joining together in protest of forced arbitration. Tech workers intend to post information to various social media sites in order to spread awareness of forced arbitration and its harmful impact. While this activity is being initiated by Google employees, those who are participating believe that their work is important to the sector as a whole.

See Nitasha Tiku, Wired, Jan 14 2019

The President of South Korea stated on Thursday that South Korea shouldn’t “politicize” the issue of south Koreans being forced laborers for Japan during World War Two. Relations between the two countries have been strained since a South Korean court decided that a Japanese Steel firm should compensate former forced-laborers. However, Moon made his stance that an issue occurring so long ago should not impact the current ties between the two countries. He also urged Japan to be more respectful regarding wartime issues.

See Joyce Lee , Japan Today, Jan 11 2019

The owner of a company that makes dog bones is claiming that he cannot owe employees back pay because he does not have any employees. The New Hampshire Department of Labor produced a report that shows the owner of the firm owing more than $28,000 to three employees. However, the owner of the company has stated that the report is false because he claims that he did not hire anyone. The owner acknowledges that those individuals would come and work after hours, but does not agree that they were employees. As of now, the owner of the firm has a month to respond to the Department of Labor’s findings.

See Damien Fisher, New Hampshire Union Leader, Jan 11 2019

The most prominent teachers union in Scotland intends to hold two days of meetings, to discuss whether or not to engage in strike activity. The strike follows the employer’s refusal to grant a 10% wage increase. Teachers would like to see their pay increase in order to match the value of their work. However, their employer claims that management is unable to give a 10% wage all at once- the best management is willing to do is to stagger the wage increase over a three-year period.

See Jamie McIvor, BBC Scotland, Jan 11 2019

As the partial government shutdown stretches into its third week, leaving hundreds of thousands of federal employees still working but unpaid, one union leader describes the current circumstances as "involuntary servitude". The Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 prevents federal employees from striking in order to prevent work stoppages that would debilitate the U.S. government, but the act probably did not foresee a situation where federal employees were required to still work without getting paid. The shutdown affects roughly 800,000 federal employees; half are on leave, while the other half - whose jobs are considered necessary to public health and safety - must report to work even though Congress has not released the funds to pay them. This category of workers includes Secret Service agents, TSA, pilots, air-traffic controllers, the corrections officers who staff federal prisons, and border patrol agents. TSA employees have reportedly called in sick at higher rates since the shutdown, but by and large federal employees have been at work. Workers who don't show up are considered absent without leave and may justify disclipinary action and termination. The American Federation of Government Employees has filed a lawsuit alleging that by requiring employees to work without pay is in violation of the 1938 Fair Standards Labor Act, but has stopped short of telling employees not to go to work.

Job openings throughout the U.S. continue to exceed the number of unemployed workers, a phenomenon first seen in the Midwest since early 2017, but is now being seen in broad areas across the country, particularly the South. The surge in Midwest job openings in 2017 came about due to strong demand for U.S. factory goods, which may be hampered this year by the recent U.S.-China trade friction, while the South's recent surge has been due to strong growth in the construction and retail sectors. The combination of increasing job openings and low unemployment around the country may convince the Federal Reserve to increase interest rates despite a slowing global economy, if labor shortages continue to prove a tight U.S. labor market, which may lead to the higher inflation that the Fed has been working to avoid.

See Job openings continue to outpace unemployed workers throughout U.S., Jason Lange, Ann Saphir, Reuters, Jan 9 2019

On a flight, if a passenger purchases a food or beverage item they must pay with a credit card. In 2016, Frontier Airlines began offering flight attendants the ability to have their tablets prompt their customers to give a tip. When this practice began, all of the tips that were collected were split equally amongst the attendants providing service on a flight. However, starting this year, instead of splitting tips, flight attendants will only receive the tips that they earn individually. The Association of Flight Attendants was not in favor of using flight attendant tips to supplement income when the idea was introduced in 2016. AFA President, Sara Nelson, has stated that some suspect that management introduced tipping as a way to create tension amongst employees to dissuade unionization. Unions have been trying to negotiate a new contract with Frontier Airlines for two years, with no real success.

See Justin Bachman , Bloomberg, Jan 7 2019

Los Angeles’ public school teachers are planning a walk out on Thursday, following months of unsuccessful union negotiations. The LA public school system employs approximately 30,000 teachers and serves over 600,000 students. California spends much less money per student than other states, despite having such a large population (82%) of students coming from low-income households. A lack of school funding has led to large class sizes (45 students in some schools), an inadequate number of support staff, and relatively low wages for teachers. Low funding makes it difficult for teachers to provide for their students’ needs, and many have noted that it is low-income students who suffer the most when public school funding is cut. The impending strike in LA appears to be part of a larger teachers’ movement taking place in the United States.

See Jennifer Medina and Dana Goldstein, The New York Times, Jan 7 2019

The labor union representing over 51,000 Broadway performers and stage managers is encouraging its members to strike. The strike comes following two years of unsuccessful negotiations with management. Actors’ Equity is particularly displeased with the salaries being offered to developmental lab participants. Developmental labs are used to test material that is being created for new shoes- actors and writers create and evaluate material in labs before bringing a final product to the stage. The strike currently has no end date, and may negatively impact musicals and plays that are currently being produced.

See Mark Kennedy, The San Diego Union-Tribute, Jan 7 2019

Shortly after Amazon opened its first New York-based fulfillment in December, workers at the Staten Island location are urging unionization, saying that the retail giant has been unresponsive to poor working conditions. Workers have teamed up with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union to protest long hours, overtime, unpaid hours, shortened breaks, and pressured conditions to produce hourly quotas - such as picking 400 items an hour, roughly one item every seven seconds - that, if not met, would justify job termination. The push to unionize follows protests during the summer at a Minnesota fulfillment center that forced management to the bargaining table; rallies there have continued as recently as December. Amazon continues to maintain that it has an open-door policy to problems brought by employees and that the complaints at the Staten Island site do not represent the majority of workers.

See Amazon workers continue advocating for unionization, Michael Sainato, The Guardian, Jan 4 2019

New York City recently opened the Freelancers Hub in Brooklyn - the first freelance-focused workforce training program of its kind in the country - in order address the needs of a changing workforce. The Hub will provide free classes, tax and legal advice to a group of workers that is rapidly growing. Freelance and contract work is growing faster than full-time employment, but freelancers don't receive benefits, on-the-job training or other services that traditional employees normally receive. The Hub is targeted towards those in the creative professions where competition and stress is mostly likely; it has signed up 4000 members in three months.

New state laws have taken effect in California that will improve the lot of many workers in 2019, including those earning minimum wage, port truckers, farm laborers, sexual harassment victims, nursing mothers, high-powered female executives and workers injured on the job. A bevy of laws were passed which implemented gradual minimum wage increases, prevents businesses from requiring non-disclosure agreements for sexual harassment cases, and requires publicly traded California companies to have at least one woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019, with more by the end of 2021 for boards of five members or more. California businesses are less pleased, saying that the new laws will significantly impact them financially and may lead to more businesses being sued.

See California workers gain increased pay, benefits as new state laws take effect, Margot Roosevelt, Los Angeles Times, Jan 2 2019

The White House issued an executive order on Friday that would freeze pay increases for federal civilian workers, a move that President Trump had been seeking for a year, citing the critical state of the federal budget, which has reached over a trillion dollars in deficit. Military personnel will continue to receive a 2.8 percent wage increase, and in previous years, civilian wage increases were at par with military wages, but this has decreased steadily over the last two years. For the 800,000+ federal employees that are currently on leave or working without pay due to the government shutdown, this is an added blow. There is still a chance that federal workers may receive an increase; the Senate has approved a 1.9 percent raise for federal workers, with the House expected to follow suit, but the administration would have to sign the measure.

See White House freezes wages for civilian federal workers, Scott Horsley, Doreen McCallister , NPR, Jan 2 2019

While the AFL-CIO gained some victories on picket lines and during the elections, the world's largest worker union faces a quandary over whether to focus on broad reformist issues or more essential work policy issues. The quandary is not new, but reached critical mass after the Democrats had regained the House during the recent elections. In one state, some of the ALF-CIO member unions had supported a Democrat that had opposed raising the minimal wage, while also helping a Republican over a liberal environmentalist in another race. Member unions were also split over the Dakota Access Pipeline issue, whether to support a former union member for Maryland's governor race, and other contentious issues. The ALF-CIO admits that it does not have a unified agenda for the future, which can be difficult with having over 12.5 million members. The internal conflict is whether to work towards making more alliances with environmental and health care groups in order to obtain better trade deals, or whether to fight on behalf of more traditional goals such as benefits and wages in the face of pro-business regulatory measures introduced by the Trump administration.

2018's most important labor issues ranged from Supreme Court decisions that struck a blow against public section unions, to the increasing sexual harassment awareness brought about by the #metoo movement playing a bigger part in the labor movement, to growing labor unrest against deportation policies, poorly funded schools and prisons, and corporate behemoths such as Amazon. The Supreme Court ruled in the Janus v. AFSCME decision that fees couldn't be collected from non-members in public sector unions, dealing a blow towards public union finances. However, unions have continued to seek and grow membership by utilizing protective measures and engaging in proactive union recruitment. The nation's largest prison strike, which lasted 19 days across 15 states, brought to light the poor wages inmates earn while working dangerous jobs as well as their lack of voting rights. The increasing plight of families and children separated by the Trump administration's deportation policies was brought to light by Microsoft employees who protested against work contracts with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, while flight attendants protested against having to work flights that carried children being deported and separated from their families. Sexual harassment awareness, kept to the forefront by the #metoo movement, became a strong component of labor unrest against poor working conditions, as seen in strikes and protests against McDonald's and Google. While Amazon has successfully fended off unionization attempts so far, increasing protests and criticism against the retail giant indicate this may change in the future; in contrast, UPS workers suffered a setback when their Teamsters union sided with management in ratifying a UPS contract that they had voted down. Poor funding and budget setbacks at many of the nation's schools - a long standing problem - has resulted in a wave of teacher strikes across the country, including the nation's first charter school strike, with more to come in the year ahead. Lastly, the labor movement has found new grounds for protest by being active against the oil and gas industries in order to combat climate change and fight for new job opportunities. Teachers in Baton Rouge threatened to strike to protest a tax break for Exxon, while Oklahoma teachers successfully gained a tax hike on oil production that would fund educational budgets.

Pregnant employees face discrimination in all sectors of the economy; what can be surprising is that discrimination on the job can exist even in organizations that support women's issues, such as Planned Parenthood, which has been accused of obstructive work environments for pregnant employees that prevent them from taking adequate breaks or from coming back to work. It has also played a role in making hiring decisions. Two employees at Naterra, a company that makes pregnancy tests, were demoted during their maternity leaves, while a marketing executive at Avon - which has titled itself as the "company for women" - was fired four days after announcing her pregnancy. At Walmart, three women who are suing the retailer reported, respectively, that they were pressured to return early from maternity leave, were fired after asking to postpone a performance review during maternity leave, and were questioned about their childcare arrangements during their performance review. Planned Parenthood plans to respond to investigate the allegations reported by the New York Times, and will conduct an analysis to see if it can offer paid maternity leave to 12,000 employees nationwide.

See Discrimination against pregnant employees widespread, includes female-friendly organizations such as Planned Parenthood, Natalie Kitroeff, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, The New York Times, Dec 21 2018

In 2017 the World Economic Forum had reported that it would take 217 years to close the global gender pay gap; this has narrowed slightly in 2018, to 202, but that the number of women in the professional workplace has decreased, and more generally that efforts towards gender equality remain slow. By and large, women across the world are paid 63% of what men earn. Laos, in south-east Asia, comes closest to parity with women earning 91% of what men are paid. Yemen, Syria and Iraq have the largest gaps with women being paid less than 30%. In politics, it will take 107 years until there are as many female politicians. From the 149 reporting countries, 17 have women as heads of state, with 18% as ministers and 24% as parliamentarians. Iceland has the most females in politics, but the gender gap of 33% has increased since last year.

See World Economic Forum reports it will take 202 years to solve pay gap, Rupert Neate, The Guardian, Dec 19 2018

The 2016 election results, and the subsequently introduced immigration policies, have made some employers audacious in threatening their guest workers with deportation if production isn't satisfactory. At the same time, working conditions have deteriorated for many undocumented workers, such as long shifts without breaks in hot conditions - with the workers not complaining due to being afraid of "la migra" (immigration), and being told to "go back to Mexico" if they did. For example, workers for Munger Brothers in California, the nation's largest blueberry grower, came back for the season to find harsher, more demanding managers; spoiled food and inadequate water and bathroom facilities; and shifts without lunch until 3pm. Since January 2017, the California Labor Commissioner's office received at least 172 complaints about employer retaliation; from 2014 through 2016, there were only 29 such complaints. Yet berry growers are the leading source of demand for foreign workers who are here on agricultural work visas, making up more than 10% of the 200,049 positions that were certified in 2017 and the 242,762 in 2018. After the 2016 election, immigrant arrests increased 41%, and became worse in 2018 at 55%. Employers have been fined anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 for threatening to send guest workers back to their home countries. The U.S has traditionally been a sanctuary from labor trafficking abuses, with immigrant workers being allowed to apply for a four-year "T" (temporary) visa that allowed them to seek permanent residency, but in June, the current administration announced that anyone who did not receive a T visa must appear in court for deportation proceedings, while making qualification for T visas more difficult.

See Strict immigration policies have made some employers bold with guest workers, with poor working conditions, deportation threats, Kartikay Mehrotra, Peter Waldman and Jonathan Levin, Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, Dec 19 2018

Student workers at Grinnell College in Iowa have withdrawn plans to expand their union over fears that the NLRB, appointed by President Trump, would strike down their petition. The students worry that the board in its ruling could make sweeping changes that would threaten student unions across the country. The union, which covers only food service workers, had hoped to expand its representation to all student workers at the college. Grinnell administrators have fought the union's expansion plans, arguing that the union could jeopardize student's education by placing a barrier between students and faculty.

See Scott McFetridge, Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, Dec 17 2018

Thousands of people took to the streets Sunday in Budapest, Hungary to protest a new labor code they describe as a "slave law". The new law, under right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Urban, would allow companies to demand as much as 400 overtime hours per year by employees. In addition, Orban's administration passed a law establishing administrative courts that would answer to the government, by extension abolishing independent courts. The protest, which hit a peak of 10000 people in the streets, is part of a larger wave of discontent over what Hungarians see as Orban's attempts at autocratic rule.

See NBC News, Reuters, Dec 17 2018

Job growth for women has occurred fastest in male-dominated industries, a phenomenon that occurs when unemployment remains low, creating tight labor markets that force employers to look beyond traditional applicants. Historically, women have been more willing to move into new occupations, even if they are male-dominated. In contrast, men have been more reluctant to move into female-dominated fields like nursing or teaching. Research from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte suggests that while employers discriminate against women when they apply for male-dominated working-class jobs, men are discriminated against when they apply for any female-dominated jobs, whether blue-collar or white-collar. The three fastest growing sectors since December 2016 have been mining, construction, and transportation and utilities, and during this period women's employment rates rose as well due to moving into these fields. It remains to be seen whether this recent trend in is a temporary measure related to unemployment levels, as was true in 2000 when the proportion of women being hired in male-dominated fields fell as unemployment levels increased, or whether women's share of positions in male dominated industries will continue to rise. The job growth in these sectors will not be permanent, however, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment in male-dominated occupational sectors will grow 4.1 percent between 2016 and 2026, half the rate of mixed- and female-dominated sectors. While lean times are helping women find jobs now, their future job prospects will likely remain in female-dominated industries.

See In lean labor market, women's job growth fastest in male-dominated industries, Jed Kolko, Claire Cain Miller, The New York Times, Dec 14 2018

More than 50 protesters prevented debate at the Los Angeles Board of Education meeting on Monday, as they shouted to show support for teachers and their unions. It highlighted the tensions felt throughout the district due to the looming strike and the undisclosed plan by the district superintendent to restructure the school system, which supports 640,000 students. The superintendent has received criticism for proposing to decentralize the school district into networks of schools that are operated independently, essentially privatizing the district and weakening the teacher unions. The United Teachers Los Angeles union has set forth contract demands, including a 6.5 percent pay raise and more money for schools; an editorial in the Daily Californian at the University of California at Berkeley noted that California ranks in the bottom fifth of states in public education spending, and "45th in percentage of taxable income spent on education, 41st in per-pupil funding, 45th in pupil-teacher ratios and 48th in pupil-staff ratios."

Warehouse Workers Stand Up - a coalition of local labor, community and advocacy groups - is calling for greater worker protections in New Jersey after an incident last week at an Amazon warehouse that sickened workers. New Jersey is one of the fastest growing regional distribution centers in the nation, due to strong e-commerce growth which is increasing new warehouse development near the New Jersey Turnpike and the Port of New York and Jersey, the hustling apex maritime gateway on the East Coast. Storage and warehousing companies have hired an additional 50,000 workers in the past year, with an additional 6,200 jobs in November due to the holiday season. Due to increasing pressure to meet retail volumes, often via same-day or overnight shipping, the coalition reported that warehouse jobs lack appropriate compensation for jobs that are often unsafe and demanding. The Laundry Distribution and Food Service Joint Board of Workers United union, which supports warehouse workers, said in a meeting earlier this week that employees have to meet "unrealistic production quotas" and that permanent jobs were being replaced with part-time jobs, seasonal jobs, or temporary jobs.

Whether student employees at private universities have the right to unionize has been a contentious issue at the National Labor Relations Board, whose rulings over the years have varied depending on the political composition of the board. In 2016, the board had ruled in favor of graduate student workers unionizing at Columbia University. Now, Grinnell College administrators have filed an appeal to that decision, as they face the prospect that their undergraduate students are asking for the right to be unionized for all student employees, not just the dining student workers which had voted to unionize in 2016 . As with previous cases before the NLRB, college administrators question whether student teaching assistants can be considered employees when their work is considered part of their financial aid package and part of their educational experience. The Grinnell case is unusual because previous attempts at unionizing at various universities have been over whether graduate students had rights to unionize, and Grinnell College is an undergraduate learning institution. The school's administration did not have a problem with the student dining workers unionizing, but is against the prospect of negotiating with most of the student body, which would negatively affect their educational mission.

The Justice Department has filed a 100-page brief to appeal a U.S. District Court ruling in August that denied the current administration's attempts to make it easier to fire federal employees, set time limits on collective bargaining negotiations, and restrict the use of official time by union employees. The brief argues that the District Court lacked jurisdiction, that the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) had sole purview, and that the judge had misconstrued “goal-setting provisions" as edicts. The judge's ruling in August had reviewed the trio of executive orders and determined that, as a whole, they went against the spirit of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act that good-faith labor-management negotiations are “in the public interest.” The ruling also opined that the FLRA can only hear cases regarding specific unfair labor practice complaints, and that appeals can only be brought for how regulations are applied, not against constitutionality.

Japan's aging society and low birth rate have forced lawmakers to write legislation making it easier for foreigners to enter, live, and work in the traditionally insular country for up to five years. The legislation, which goes into effect in April, is seen as a desperate measure to address shortages in 14 industries, including restaurants, nursing, construction and agriculture. Two types of workers will be accepted, with conditions that will discourage permanent immigration, and will affect as many as 345,000 less-skilled workers who cannot bring in family members. Highly skilled employees may enter with families for 10 years and be allowed a path to Japanese citizenship. Japanese language competency will be required for both types of employees. Japan has tried addressing its labor shortage by encouraging more women and older workers into the workforce, as well as introducing more automation. The country's population is expected to decrease from about 127 million to about 88 million by 2065, and that currently one in five people in the nation is older than 70.

Employers are increasingly using 5-year awards to retain and reward workers, particularly in tech companies. According to a survey conducted earlier this year, over 60 percent of companies are rewarding employees with anniversary-related compensation, which can include paid sabbaticals or cash awards. Tech firms such as Facebook provide 30-day paid vacations at employees' five-year mark as a way of retaining employees in an increasingly competitive job market, as well a means to prevent burnout among workers in high-pressure jobs. Companies are embracing these awards as a means to increase employee retention without hiking up wages.

See Chris Taylor, Reuters, Reuters, Dec 10 2018

The first-ever charter school strike in the country ended Sunday with a new contract for teachers and support staff of Chicago-area charter schools. Over 500 faculty and staff at Acero Schools had gone on strike last week for a new contract, supported by the Chicago Teachers Union. The new contract will result in improved pay for teachers, with more manageable hours and class sizes, as well as sanctuary protections for the schools' students, largely Latino. Union officials hail the victory as a warning for charter school companies not to compromise education goals for financial profit, and to place student interests at the center of their focus. Meanwhile, charter school officials claim teachers are being manipulated by the Chicago Teachers Union for political motives, and that the new contract will limit innovation in charter schools city-wide.

See Elyssa Cherney, Chicago Tribune, Dec 10 2018

The NLRB recently ruled that by refusing to recognize/engage with student library workers who are represented by the Student Library Employees Union (SLEU), the University of Chicago violated federal labor law. Students first voted to unionize a year and a half ago. However, the University has refused to bargain with students in hopes that the NLRB would overturn its previous rulings. An attorney representing the SLEU has stated that it’s unlikely that the University would be successful, should it attempt to appeal the NLRB’s decision. According to a University spokesperson, the University is currently reviewing the NLRB’s decision in order to determine how best to move forward.

See Lee Harris, The Chicago Maroon, Dec 7 2018

The Canadian labor market has grown in the past month, despite economists’ concerns for the oil sector. Employment increased by 94,100 in November; most of these new positions are full-time, and span a wide variety of industries. This is the largest recorded job growth in the country since 1976. Unemployment dropped to 5.6 percent, and labor force participation increased by 77,200. Wage gains were only 1.7 percent this month, the slowest wage increase in more than a year, making wages the only negative number in the report.

See Theophilos Argitis, Bloomberg, Dec 7 2018

The Professional Pilots Union, which represents around one third of Virgin Atlantic pilots, claims that its members are planning to strike over the holidays. According to the union, the strike is in response to the union not being included in talks regarding changes to pilots’ benefits. Pilots plan to strike from December 22nd to Christmas day. This strike would be the first of many that the union will engage in, in order to attempt to resolve the issue. A union spokesperson has claimed that the employer has repeatedly refused to recognize the union and include its members in decision-making processes.

See BBC, Dec 7 2018

A group of full-time and contract workers at Google have written their CEO to ask that the internet giant treat its contract workers fairly. Temporary, vendor, and contract workers - known internally as TVCs - now make up more than half of Google's workforce, but lack many of the benefits given to permanent employees. TVCs can't own stock, have inadequate health coverage, and were not included in the company's overhaul last month in changing the way the company handles sexual harassment allegations. The letter the employees wrote has also asked for access to companywide emails, town hall staff meetings, better healthcare/benefits, and a clearer process for applying for full-time jobs. This marks another example of Google employees speaking out as the company has come under criticism in recent months for its handling of sexual harrassment cases as well as some of its controversial projects involving the military as well as building a censored search engine for China. TVCs often experience behavior that makes them feel inferior to permanent employees, even though their involvement and quality output is the same. One contractor felt that TVCs were expendable because they can be hired and fired on short notice to help reach business goals cheaply.

See Google workers call upon CEO to treat contract workers equitably, Gerrit De Vynck, Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg, Dec 6 2018

The Philadelphia City Council passed the Fair Workweek bill, which, besides raising the minimum wage to $15 for city workers and those working for city contractors, will institute fair scheduling regulations for those in the service industries. It will become the second biggest city to do so after New York. It will affect approximately 130,000 workers, including unionized workers and hotel workers. Philadelphia would be the only city to pass a “Fair Workweek” law that covers the hotel industry, although the state of Oregon has a similar bill. The scheduling components of the Fair Workweek bill has received opposition from business supporters that say it will hurt tourism and business growth (in contrast, the minimum wage hike has received little protest). The bill will ask employers to pay “predictability pay” to workers for shift changes involving time or location, and to make the rules clear so that employees are aware of their rights. The bill's supporters argue that unpredictable scheduling can keep workers in poverty. Support for the bill has been notable for the combination of labor unions along with groups who support non-union workers.

The country's second largest school district, in Los Angeles with more than 640,000 students, will be facing a teacher's strike this January since it appears unlikely that contract negotiations will be resolved by then. The United Teachers Los Angeles union is asking for a 6.5 percent pay increase; increased staffing for counselors, nurses, social workers and librarians, increased funding; reductions in standardized testing; an expansion of community schools, and more accountability for charter schools. The district superintendent says it will be unable to afford all of the demands, and is currently working on a plan to create 32 school networks overseen by regional headquarters, with the resources for the central office being decimated. The union is planning a “March for Public Education" on December 15, with a strike tentatively scheduled for the first half of January. 2018 has been notable for labor unrest for the country's educators in various states, including West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Colorado, Arizona, North Carolina, and Washington. Chicago is facing the most recent round of protests, both in suburban Geneva and in downtown Chicago with the country's first charter school strike on its second day. Further mobilization is expected in Virginia, Texas, and Oklahoma again in 2019.

Sharp Corporation, which produces iPhone sensors, moved the production of these sensors from its Japanese plant to China. Following this shift, Sharp terminated the contracts of around 3,000 foreign workers. The firm’s hiring is completed by subcontractors. This allows Sharp to end contractual relations with employees whenever it is convenient for the firm, thus putting workers at a disadvantage.

See Japan Today, Dec 5 2018

Teachers within a network of charter schools have decided to strike due to issues related to pay, class sizes, protecting undocumented students, and much more. This is the first time in U.S. history that charter school teachers have gone out on strike. More than 500 teachers from 15 charter schools are participating in the strike, most of whom are represented by the Chicago Teachers Union. The teachers intend to stay out on strike until their employer presents them with a more reasonable contract, according to the union’s president.

See Laura Meckler, The Washington Post, Dec 5 2018

Unionized workers employed by Hyundai Motors in South Korea are planning to strike. This development has occurred following the talks that Hyundai had with the local government, regarding the creation of a low-cost carmaking facility. The proposed strike will take place on Thursday for four hours. Workers intend to protest Hyundai’s plan to create a low-cost factory, because it has negative implications for workers’ wages.

See Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters, Dec 5 2018

Companies looking to attract and keep talented workers are finding it easier if their locations are near public transit areas. Recent examples include Amazon’s choice of New York and Washington, D.C., for their second and third corporate headquarters, as well as McDonalds, who moved their Oakbrook, Illinois headquarters to a location in downtown Chicago near the subway and regional rail lines, even though 97% of their employees at that point were arriving to work by car due to the rural location. They made the move after finding during the recruitment process that some applicants confessed they shouldn’t have applied due to lacking a car, which can be common among millennial applicants. Current employees at the new McDonald’s headquarters have adjusted and approximately 90% arrive to work via other means besides a personal vehicle. Chicago's Metropolitan Planning Council had recently done a report which found that 60% of all new jobs created in Chicago since 2005 are in areas with high-quality transit. Within a quarter mile of a subway or regional rail station, jobs grew at a rate of 20 percent, more than twice the growth rate in the whole region. The nation’s transit systems as a whole, however, are aging and in need of repairs and upgrades, and this may limit economic growth.

San Francisco workers in seven Marriott properties have agreed to a new contract that will give housekeepers a $4 wage increase over a four-year term, improved pensions, preserved lifetime health care benefits, as well as protections against sexual harassment. It ends a 9-week strike in that city, as well as a nationwide Marriott worker protest that involved 7,700 workers in several states, although the strike in San Francisco had been particularly adversarial with more than 100 union employees arrested since October 4. Housekeepers will also receive a reduced workload that increases over the life of the contract. In terms of protections against sexual harassment, employees now have the choice of not having further contact with the guest, and if the report is credible the hotel will evict the guest. All employees who deal with guests alone will receive a silent GPS-enabled panic button to summon help in unsafe situations. While the financial agreements have varied with the hotels in different cities, the sexual harassment terms are included in all contracts.

While a new national study suggests that there is increasingly broad support for gender equality at work over time, it has also determined that approximately a quarter of people surveyed had more complicated views about gender equality and whether that differs between work and home. The General Social Survey, conducted by a research group at the University of Chicago, is an ongoing study that has collected responses from 27,000 people over four decades, regarding whether it is better when a man is a breadwinner and a woman takes care of the home and family; whether children suffer when mothers work; and whether men are better suited for politics than women. While it is not surprising that people in successive generations are likely to become more egalitarian, some of the researchers were surprised that millennials weren’t more equable, with other recent studies finding young people relying on traditional gender roles more than would be expected, particularly after having children. Paid family leave, subsidized child care and flexible schedules are not widespread in the U.S., where American parents were found to be the most unhappy when compared with non-parents, in another study that measured happiness in 22 English-speaking and European countries. Women, people with college degrees, African-Americans, and people who lived in the Northeast were most likely to believe in gender equality at work or home.

Teachers in Ireland are planning to engage in collective activity following the offer of a 3% pay increase. Teachers’ unions would like a 10% pay increase, and have been petitioning for a raise since October when a national rally for teachers was held. At least 30,000 are believed to have attended the rally in favor of the pay increase. The largest teachers’ union, EIS, plans to begin pay negotiations on Monday and intends to vote on a strike in January if an offer for better wages is not reached.

See BBC News UK, Dec 3 2018

The South African union, NUM, which represents Gold Fields Ltd.’s employees is now urging members to end a strike that began last month. Workers went on strike following the firm’s decision to lay-off 400 contractors and over 1,000 employees. The union recently stated that the strike is counterproductive- it “threatens” the mining jobs that remain. The South Deep mine has suffered from over a decade of “poor performance.” However, a spokesperson for Gold Fields has stated that the firm would be willing to offer workers a settlement offer if they agree to end the strike.

See Paul Burkhardt, Bloomberg, Dec 3 2018

Last week, the Thai government ratified the ILO Convention on work in fishing- making Thailand the first Asian country to ratify Convention number 188. The convention creates requirements for working conditions in the fishing trade, in order to eliminate worker exploitation. The executive director of the International Labor Rights Forum has stated that Thailand’s ratification of Convention number 188 is a step in the right direction, however, there is still work to be done. If Thailand would like to create sustainable change in an industry that is susceptible to labor abuse, the country must also ratify conventions 87 and 98 which protest workers’ rights to organize, form unions, and bargain with their employers. Additionally, Thailand must allow migrant workers to form their own unions, as this population tends to be especially vulnerable.

See Asia Times, Dec 3 2018

An investigative panel in Malaysia recently looked into claims made by the Wall Street Journal that accused palm oil producer, FGV Holdings, of engaging in exploitative labor practices. The investigation revealed that the firm has been employing contractors to recruit and hire foreign laborers, which is against Malaysian immigration law. Workers endure poor living conditions- they lack access to food and other necessities. Additionally, their contractors are not transparent regarding wages and take workers’ passports, thus limiting their mobility. In response to the investigation, FGV Holdings has stated that it intends to hire workers, if possible, and better their conditions immediately.

See A. Ananthalakshmi and Emily Chow, Reuters, Nov 30 2018

The English Shipbuilder, Cammell Laird, claims to have lost £1.5 mil as a result of union strikes. The strikes occurred following the firm’s decision to eliminate nearly 300 jobs. Chief executive John Syvret has expressed his opinion that the strikes have been counterproductive because they have threatened the future of the business. Customers do not want to engage with the company when it is struggling to resolve labor unrest. However, Syvret has also expressed a commitment to working with the union in order to protect jobs, secure more contracts, and produce joint gains. Union representatives’ opinions are not present in this article.

See BBC News, Nov 30 2018

In China, two union officials have been detained for attempting to help workers at Jasic International organize a union. This is the latest development in the Communist Party’s attempts to repress labor activism in China; the government does not approve of grassroots movements or protests. Earlier this year when Jasic workers tried to unionize, the company proceeded to fire workers who had been engaging in collective activity. This incited protests from activists and students alike, many of whom have since been detained for their involvement.

See Christian Shepherd, Reuters, Nov 30 2018

Marriot International has reached a settlement to end strikes by hotel workers at seven locations across the United States. Nearly 8,000 workers, represented by the UNITE HERE union, went on strike in October demanding a living wage, among other goals. Representatives for UNITE HERE are withholding details of the agreement until a remaining strike at Marriott Hotels in San Francisco is resolved, but described the wage increases won as "historic". The settlement is encouraging for the union as contracts at an additional 25 non-Marriott hotels expire this week. Although those contract negotiations are ongoing, the union retains the option of asking workers to go on strike in the next month.

See Hugo Martin, Los Angeles Times, Nov 29 2018

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has sued the NLRB challenging the so-called "settlement bar" restricting workers' ability to decertify their union. Under the rule, the NLRB is still obligated to process a petition decertifying a union on behalf of employees, even if a settlement agreement has been reached with the employer. The rule, in place since 1951, is meant to stabilize relations between workers and management, according to labor experts. Conservative groups such as the National Right to Work Foundation, however, charge the "settlement bar" precedent goes against the intentions of the National Labor Relations Act, which they state only applies to unions that have the support of the majority of workers. The NLRB itself has not commented on the lawsuit.

See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Nov 29 2018

Hungary officials wrote a bill that would increase the amount of overtime that employees can be forced to work in an attempt to address the country’s labor shortage. The bill would increase the number of extra hours that employers can force their employees to work from 250 to 400, annually. The proposal has not been well received by the opposition, who has called it a “slave law.” On Tuesday night, the proposal was debated in a parliament meeting where labor unions threated to plan a nationwide protest unless the bill was modified. In response to this warning, officials have agreed to alter the bill so that the extra hours are voluntary rather than mandatory.

See Zoltan Simon, Bloomberg, Nov 28 2018

The Seventh-day Adventist church is attempting to bring a member’s religious accommodation case to the Supreme Court after it was dismissed by a lower court. The plaintiff is a former Walgreens training instructor who was fired for refusing to work on Saturday, the Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath. The plaintiff’s case was presented in front of a federal appeals court, which ruled in Walgreen’s favor stating that the employer had provided reasonable accommodations to the best of their ability. Additionally, the court decided that employing someone who was unable to work on Saturday created an undue hardship for the employer. In approaching the Supreme Court with this matter, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is contesting Title VII’s definition of “undue hardship,” and has received support from numerous religious groups in this endeavor.

See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Nov 28 2018

The graduate and postdoctoral unions at Columbia have recently voted 1035 to 720 to ratify a bargaining framework created by the University. The ratification of this framework means that the unions will be able to start bargaining, following four year of waiting for recognition. Additionally, the strike that the unions were planning for December will not be taking place. A few concerns have arisen regarding Columbia’s bargaining framework; one is that according to the terms set forward by the University, the unions are not allowed to strike or halt labor in any capacity until 2020. Additionally, the framework states that the University has the “exclusive right to manage its academic decision-making and educational and research mission.” Ultimately the unions are eager to commence bargaining.

See Karen Xia, Columbia Daily Spectator, Nov 28 2018

General Motors announced yesterday it would be cutting nearly 15,000 jobs at five North American factories it intends to close, due to declining sales for traditional motor engine cars, as it seeks to switch gears to hybrid and electric car production. This would be the biggest restructuring the company has faced since its bankruptcy in 2009. President Trump, who has advocated for increased manufacturing and for whom Ohio is a key state in the 2020 presidential election, was critical of the move. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union promised to fight the labor cuts as while some GM workers will find jobs at other factories, most will be facing uncertain futures. The salaried workforce, which includes engineers and executives, will also shrink by 15 percent, roughly 8,000 jobs.

Poultry workers at large chicken processing plants in the U.S. face working conditions that allow little or no time for bathroom visits outside official breaks, often requiring permission from absent supervisors who hold discretion over such requests. Bathroom facilities can be located far from processing lines, resulting in shorter official breaks. Workers at the third-largest company, Sanderson Farms in Texas, as well as representatives from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents poultry workers in Texas and Louisiana, confirm that employees sometimes go to the bathroom on themselves rather than leave the processing line, and that working conditions/break availabilities improve whenever OSHA is conducting an inspection. The industry’s high turnover rate results in poor staffing that can prevent adequate coverage for breaks. Poultry workers often belong to demographic groups that may fear employer retaliation due to their vulnerable socio-economic status.

In its 2017 audit of state-run OSHA programs, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) identified Kentucky to be more deficient in workplace safety standards than any other state. Kentucky is one of 28 states which the federal agency has authorized to run its own worker safety program. The federal agency runs a yearly audit on the 28 state plans to ensure that their programs are equivalent to federally-supported states. Kentucky was determined to be understaffed, with particular shortcomings in investigating deaths on-the-job, as in one case where the Kentucky OSH inspector didn’t interview the sole eyewitness, failed to document employee interviews and missed possible safety violations at the worksite. The Department of Labor is working with Kentucky on a corrective action plan.

Over 100,000 travelers were impacted Monday by an Austrian transportation strike. Trains did not run for two hours, following union negotiations wherein the union did not feel that its waged-related demands were being met. The union has described this transportation disruption as a “warning strike.” Presently, it is unclear whether or not more strikes are to occur. Austria is geographically situated between eight countries, thus making it an important travel center; it is important for many people that rail transportation operates consistently.

See Francois Murphy, Reuters, Nov 26 2018

Nurses at Indiana Regional Medical Center went out on strike at 7am this morning, and plan to remain on the picket lines for the rest of the day. On the 19th of this month, the union presented management with their final offer, and then proceeded to plan a strike. The union has demanded a 3% wage increase every year and increases to health insurance, in response tp management’s plans to decrease nurses’ take home wages. In response to the strike, hospital management has brought in replacement workers to maintain normal hospital services. The replacement workers and the costs associated with their travel and lodging is estimated to cost the hospital around $1.5 million, which management intends to deduct from their initial budget for nurses’ wages.

See Chauncey Ross, The Indiana Gazette, Nov 26 2018

Laborers at an oil refinery in Normandy, owned by Total, have begun to halt production in response to a dispute over pay and bonuses that began last week. This industrial activity is contributing to an ongoing strike in the oil sector. Workers at Total’s other refineries are also engaging in protests and work stoppages. It is unclear when the strikes will cease, and the firm has refused to comment on the issue.

See Bate Felix, Reuters, Nov 26 2018

Foreign ramen noodle shop workers have decided to form a union in Japan. The ramen noodle chain restaurant employs approximately 9,000 employees, with 3,000 of them now becoming union members. Many of the members of the newly formed union are part time. The chain’s management has expressed a firm belief that the union will be positive for the firm as it will allow for better communication between management and workers. Additionally, a spokesperson for the chain’s management stated that the firm believes that workers unionized in an attempt to secure greater protection of their rights, and the firm acknowledges that foreign workers may need greater support as they adjust to the Japanese work style.

See Magdalena Osumi, The Japan Times, Nov 21 2018

There may soon be a nationwide teachers’ strike taking place in the UK. The leaders of the largest teachers’ union in the country, the National Education Union (NEU) recently encouraged their members to strike. Both leaders expressed their belief that the government will not respond to anything but strike activity. The unions’ upset is in response to government funding plans- teachers do not feel that the government is offering schools enough financial support.

See Kevin Rawlinson, The Guardian, Nov 21 2018

1,700 county employees in San Luis Obispo may strike as early as December. If these employees do go on strike, this will be the first government employee strike to ever have occurred in this county. County employees are displeased because they received a wage increase that did not meet their needs and did not seem to take into consideration the increasingly high living costs in their area. Employees recently told county officials that they intend to strike unless their demands are met, which include a 2.5% wage increase.

See Monica Vaughan, The Tribune, Nov 21 2018