Workplace Issues Today
Unionized teachers at the Shrewsbury Colleges Group staged a two day walkout. Members went on strike in response to the way the colleges group intends to assess lessons. Management intends to combine two lesson assessment policies, where teachers are observed and then graded on a scale from one to four. This assessment plan was rejected by the union because members felt it was “subjective and unreliable.” As of now, another strike is planned for the beginning of May.
See BBC News UK, Apr 10 2019
Brain Rotherberg, UAW Public Relations chair, filed a petition with the NLRB to grant an election for all production and maintenance workers at Chattanooga's Volkswagen plant. The union first filed for the petition in 2016, but it was rejected on the grounds that it lacked substantial issues for review. The company has made it clear that they do not support the workers unionizing and has tried to placate the issue by raising the minimum wage to $16 an hour. However, workers are still unsatisfied and are frustrated that they lack the right to bargain.
See WTVC, WFTV9 ABC, Apr 9 2019
SEIU 49 has recently added 800 new members to their roster after a vote by Providence Portland Medical Center. There was an issue with tallying the number of votes, however, after much scrutiny, it was determined that the final number of votes (384-383) favored unionization. Workers felt that executives were obtaining high salaries at the expense of workers, which sparked their need for union representation.
See Oregon Business Report, Apr 9 2019
The Elgin Area School District U-46 has been in negotiations with the Elgin Teachers Association in renewing a new multi-year contract for over nine months. Contract negotiations have ranged from compensatory items, such as health insurance and rates of pay, to issues related to school programs, parent-teacher communications, along with other educational programs. Discussion on other issues is still in session, however, progress is slowly being made.
See Madhu Krishnamurthy, Daily Herald, Apr 9 2019
Thai government officials recently amended a law in order to “crack down” on slave labor and trafficking. Under newly amended legislation, offenders who are found guilty can be jailed and fined, with additional penalties reliant on whether or not the victim of forced labor was harmed. Human rights specialists believe that this legislation shows that the Thai government is taking forced labor seriously, and intends to protect migrant workers. Thailand was the first country in Asia to ratify the International Labor Organization’s forced labor protocol. However, in Thai legislation the definition of forced labor remains unclear and victims’ advocates are hesitant to praise legislative improvements until they are proven to be enforced consistently.
See Rina Chandran , Reuters, Apr 8 2019
The U.S. law that disallows slave-made goods from entering the country, has only captured $6.3 million worth of goods. It is estimated that every year, $400 billion in goods made by slave-labor enter the United States market. While the U.S. strives to be a leader in the fight against slave labor, it has become clear that the agency that enforces the law regarding what goods may enter the country, is underfunded. Of the 62,450 Customs and Border Protection workers, only six of them are tasked with preventing slave-made goods from entering the country.
See Jason Fields, Reuters, Apr 8 2019
A law has been proposed in Texas that would allow companies to dodge unemployment taxes by classifying gig economy laborers as independent contractors. This proposal has upset advocacy groups, as well as small business owners who fear that tech companies will become more difficult to compete with if they are able to avoid the costs associated with employee classification. The owner of a small cleaning service company explained that he provides numerous benefits to his employees, including health insurance and paid vacation. Tech companies would be able to avoid all of the aforementioned costs if their employees were to be classified as independent contractors, thus allowing them to charge their customers lower fees.
See Erin Douglas , The Houston Chronicle, Apr 8 2019
Many amazon workers who suffer injuries on the job, often due to repetitive stress impacts while fulfilling demanding hourly quotas, have to deal with delayed or denied workers compensation benefits, or are denied light duty even recommended to do so by their physicians. One employee's surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome was delayed over a year due to the workers compensation insurance delaying authorization; the same employee had to return to work earlier than the doctor had recommended, and was not granted work place accommodations until a year later when the court date against Amazon drew near. The same insurance company initiated short-term surveillance to determine the employee's activity level. Another employee was denied workers compensation pay and light duty, and was then terminated for finishing her route late, due in part to her injury as well as a faulty delivery truck. In April 2018, Amazon was listed on the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health’s list of most dangerous places to work due to the company’s pattern of unsafe working conditions.
See Amazon employees with workplace injuries often struggle for income, benefits, support, Michael Sainato, The Guardian, Apr 5 2019
The Department of Labor is reviewing several complaints filed by the Communication Workers of America union which is alleging that almost $100 million in back pay is owed to employees of General Dynamics, a federal contractor that operates several call centers across the country. Wage theft generally occurs due to unpaid overtime or mis-classification of employees into lower-paying jobs. The suit has energized employees to seek unionization in order to improve wages and working conditions. An October 2018 report found properly classifying call center workers in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, alone would infuse $9.7 million into the local community through wage increases, and create nearly 200 jobs over the next four years. Currently, minimum prevailing wages are set for federal contractors based on location and job duties.
See Communication Workers union seeks $100 million in back pay in largest wage theft case involving federal contract work, Michael Sainato, The Guardian, Apr 5 2019
Labor unions are eyeing the upcoming 2020 presidental race with wariness and a plan to do things differently, with several big unions having been burned during the contentious 2016 campaign when union leaders backed Hillary Clinton over the more stridently pro-union Bernie Sanders, causing dissension among union members. As Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination met early this week in Washington with union groups to seek endorsements, union leaders were working behind the scenes to generate unity and to stress that input from front-line/rank and file union members was important in selecting which candidate to back. There may be less controversy this time around due to the number of presidential contenders aiming for office, and unions may opt to forego endorsements until after the primaries have completed. The eight presidential candidates who met with union groups on Monday were nonetheless eager to propose various agendas favoring labor interests, from restricting corporate power and corporate mergers, to being critical of laws scaling back the collection of union dues, to raising salaries and fighting poverty under today's minimum wage levels.
See Labor unions will approach 2020 presidential race carefully to avoid 2016 pitfalls, Evan Halper, The Los Angeles Times, Apr 5 2019
Earlier in March Google cut short the contracts of temporary workers who were part of the personality team for Google Assistant, Alexa. These workers have been integral to the development of Alexa and ending their contracts abruptly struck a nerve among not only those that were affected but also the full-time workers; a general sentiment is shared among employees that a wrong against the TVC’s is a wrong to all, especially with the growing labor movement taking place within the company. The TVC’s created a coalition asking Google to respect the terms of their contract and to pay out the remaining length of the contracts that were shortened. The letter has over 900 signatures from Google workers, and the letter raises concern for how the company treats its temporary workers.
See Julia Carrie Wong , The Guardian, Apr 3 2019
Japan is giving everyone a 10-day vacation at the end of April in honor of coronating its new emperor. Although some people are happy with the extra vacation time, 45% of respondents in a survey conducted by a Japanese newspaper felt unhappy with the extra time off. Women felt burdened with the increased household chores, hourly paid workers will forgo income for those 10 days, and investors are horrified that they won’t be able to trade in the stock market for 6 business days. The 10 day holiday is an opportunity for workers to take a break as Japan has a non-stop work culture. The Japanese government has already attempted to address the issue by putting into effect new labor laws that cap the length of the work week.
See Alexandra Ma,, Business Insider, Apr 3 2019
Norwood Jewell, former Vice President of United Auto Workers, and representative of Fiat Chrysler plead guilty yesterday in Detroit Federal court to conspiracy to violate the labor-management relations act. Jewell was involved in a multi-million dollar bribery scheme in which Fiat Chrysler executives bought the influence of union leaders through gifts and bribes disguised as funding for a training center to benefit workers. UAW spokesman, Brian Rothenberg, made a statement promising to ensure transparency and accountability in the future. In exchange for pleading guilty, Jewell is subject to face a year and fifteen months in prison.
See Gus Burns, MLive, Apr 3 2019
Teachers in Morocco went on strike at the end of March to protest the government’s education policies and their lack of response to their contractual demands. Ninety percent of the teachers, many of which are represented by one of the five unions in the education sector, was involved in a consecutive three-day strike. The government has penalized strikers by deducting sums from the protester's wages. Union representatives claim that this practice is a violation of Moroccan Labor law, as the law guarantees them the right to protest peacefully and maintain the freedom of unions. The unions are urging teachers to march before Parliament on Tuesday at 4 PM to protest against the introduction of the framework law on education.
See Hamza Guessous, Morocco World News, Apr 1 2019
Teachers at Chavez Prep Middle School in Columbia Heights went on strike this past week after the charter network announced that it would close its middle school campus. Teachers believe the campus closing is a retaliatory act against unionization effort, which is a clear violation of federal labor laws. However, the charter network states that the school is closing due to decreased enrollment; it plans on merging schools in its network, as well as closing another middle school the following year. The Chavez network denies the teachers allegations, saying that it is projected to lose 5 million dollars across all four of its campuses. Union representatives are skeptical and claim the closing of the campus can be attributed to poor allocation of funds, and the inability to reach an agreement between the teachers and management in negotiating a contract. The National Labor Relations Board is set to review the case.
See Perry Stein, The Washington Post, Apr 1 2019
The Philippines and China have a growing number of illegal workers. There is a growing concern for the number of Chinese workers in the Philippines, and natives are saying that they are taking jobs away from the locals. The Chinese ambassador to the Philippines, Zhao Jianhua, stated that although it does not condemn any of their citizens to work in a foreign country illegally, in the circumstance that this is the case, they would want the foreign government to treat their citizens in a “professional” manner. China has many illegal workers from the Philippines and has handled their cases “professionally, in the spirit of their friendship and cooperation.”
See Dharel Placido, ABS-CBN, Apr 1 2019
Previous employees of the General Motors plant in Ohio are now trying to determine next steps, following the closure of their workplace. In 2017, union members agreed to make $118 million annually in concessions in an attempt to save the plant- only to have the plant shutdown a year later. Union members are disgruntled because they feel that they did everything that management asked of them to save the plant, “And still, we don’t have a product to build.” Management claims that the issue stems from a lack of demand for the vehicle that the plant was producing, not high employee wages.
See David Welch, Bloomberg, Mar 29 2019
Iceland’s economy has relied heavily on its tourism industry, following the banking collapse that occurred just over a decade ago. However, unionized tourism industry workers who are dissatisfied with their wages and hours have decided to go on strike in order to achieve better working conditions. Many employee contracts between unions and the Confederation of Icelandic Enterprise expired at the end of 2018, which has sparked an increase in collective activity and has inspired workers to participate in strikes. Negotiations are intended to continue, with a general strike starting on May 1 if satisfactory agreements cannot be reached before that date.
See Iceland Review, Mar 29 2019
Several thousand hospital support workers will soon be balloted in order to determine whether or not they will go on strike to protest low wages. A recent job evaluation completed by Irish government officials confirmed that workers were not receiving adequate annual pay increases. Paul Bell, an organizer for the union, expressed that employees should receive increased wages within eight weeks of a job evaluation. Unfortunately, nothing has been done in response to these findings in regard to increasing employee wages. Additionally, chefs employed in the healthcare sector will also be balloted as it was determined that their wages are not being increased appropriately.
See The Irish Examiner, Mar 29 2019
Prominent companies in the financial industry, such as JPMorgan, Nomura, and Goldman Sachs, are cutting jobs due to processes being automated. Many jobs are at risk as companies are identifying ways to lean out and become agile, one of the main outlets is through reducing headcount. JPMorgan Chase & Co. plans to dismiss hundreds of workers in the asset and wealth management line of business upon reviewing staffing levels; Nomura Holdings is planning to cut jobs on a global scale from its trading and investment banking businesses because it’s struggling to make a profit overseas. Goldman Sachs may also eliminate close to a hundred positions due to economic strains. A dozen other financial institutions plan on making similar reductions.
See Steve Dickson, Bloomberg Law, Mar 28 2019
The Kansas trial court convicted Ramiro Garcia and Donaldo Morales, both of whom are undocumented immigrants, for using someone else’s social security number which is a violation of the state’s identity theft laws. The trial court’s decision was overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court as they found it to be an improper effort to enforce federal immigration law. The case will now be heard by the US Supreme Court early next year. If the US Supreme Court overturns the decision, it would grant more leeway to prosecute undocumented immigrants for identity theft or other crimes.
See Laura D. Francis, Bloomberg Law, Mar 28 2019
McDonald's will no longer be lobbying against pay increases at the local, state, or federal level. The federal minimum wage, which has not changed since 2009, is still $7.25 an hour. In a recent press communication, Genna Gent, McDonald’s vice president of government relations said, “the conversation about wages is an important one; it’s one we wish to advance, not impede.” Gent further stated that pay increases should start phasing in. Notably, the average wage in corporate-owned stores exceed $10 an hour, however, for franchise stores, McDonald’s doesn’t have control over what their franchisees pay.
See Kate Gibson, CBS News, Mar 28 2019
Following an investigation conducted by the Thomas Reuters Foundation, some tea plantations certified by Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade were found to be mistreating their workers. The expose revealed that tea estates had been illegally deducting wages and fees from workers’ paychecks. These deductions meant that some workers were only earning 14 U.S. cents a day. Rainforest Alliance and major tea companies have stated that they are currently investigating the findings of the expose.
See Lisa Fuller , Reuters, Mar 27 2019
At a conference in London, government representatives made the case that governments should use their buying power to combat slave labor. To date, most efforts to prevent “supply chain slavery” have come from large companies. However, at the conference representatives argued that states have a responsibility to be involved in ending slavery, too. Speakers noted that governments are consumers and have the ability to tackle supply chain labor abuse by consuming ethical goods.
See Kieran Guilbert , Reuters, Mar 27 2019
Unionized dining workers at Tufts are preparing to strike over wages. Workers have received support from students, who recently attended an information session regarding the current state of contract negotiations. Union leaders have told students that they would prefer to avoid a strike but feel that it is necessary, unless University administration takes action soon. A significant portion of the session was devoted to informing students of what they can do if the strike does take place.
See Alexander Thompson, The Tufts Daily, Mar 27 2019
Lyft is planning to have its initial public offering (IPO) this Thursday. Subsequently, the company held an IPO roadshow yesterday, which led many Lyft driver to protest outside the Omni hotel. Despite being at the wrong location due to a last minute venue change, the drivers made their sentiments known. Lyft drivers wanted potential investors to know that the company's treatment of workers is poor and that their wages are constantly being cut, making it hard for them to earn a decent living. The protest yesterday coincides with the driver’s strike in Los Angeles and San Diego.
See Olivia Zaleski, Eric Newcomer, Bloomberg Law, Mar 26 2019
An NLRB judge ruled that arbitration confidentiality pacts are illegal in reviewing Pfizer Inc. v Rebecca Lynn Olvey. In May 2016, the company announced to its employees that they are subject to arbitration disputes and the confidentiality clause, which restricted parties from speaking out about the arbitration proceedings. Judge Locke held that while arbitration proceedings are legal, it is illegal, according to Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to restrict employees from discussing terms and conditions of employment, including arbitration.
See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Mar 26 2019
Senator Kamala Harris released her initiative to use federal money to raise teacher’s salaries. This initiative is part of her 2020 presidential campaign and is labeled as the largest investment in teachers in American history. The average salary increase is estimated to be around $13,500 or 23%. The education sector has been a major issue as it is hard to attract and retain teachers. Harris’ teacher pay proposal has the potential to strongly resonate with Democratic voters and give her an edge in seeking a nomination.
See Erik Sherman, Fortune, Mar 26 2019
In South Africa, the power utility, Eskom, has increased electricity prices immensely. As a result, the operating costs of gold and platinum mines are increasing- which is projected to result in nearly 90,000 jobs being lost over the next three years. In Africa’s industrialized economy, nearly a quarter of the labor force is unemployed. As a result, job losses are highly politicized- especially in an industry like mining that has been struggling over the past decade.
See Nailed Mashishi & Onke Ngcuka, Reuters, Mar 25 2019
The findings of a new survey managed by the Health, Labor, and Welfare Ministry show that around half of the home care workers in Japan have experienced harassment while at work. 81 percent of participants who reported being harassed, stated that they had experienced psychological abuse. Abuse and harassment of home care aids is an issue- around 42 percent of respondents who reported abuse, reported physical abuse. When asked why harassment is occurring, respondents reported that their clients misunderstand the services that they provide, or simply devalue their work. Last year, the Nippon Careservice Craft Union, petitioned the labor ministry for better legal protections against harassment for domestic care workers.
See The Japan Times, Mar 25 2019
Analogic was recently found to be guilt-free in a pay discrimination suit, where the firm had been alleged of discriminating against female employees by paying them less than male counterparts. Analogic is a corporation that produces healthcare and security technology- the firm is based in the Boston area. The judge who ruled on the case noted that the agency who brought the suit failed to find an employment practice that would cause a wage inconsistency between men and women. Further, there was no statistically significant difference between men and women’s wages in assembler positions.
See Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Mar 25 2019
The convenience store Seven-Eleven is beginning a trial of shorter business hours in some of its Japan locations. Rather than staying open 24 hours a day, stores will remain open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 6a.m. to 12 a.m., or 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. The trial will run for a few months in order to allow the company to determine which hours are best suited for various Japanese locations. While the difficulties that the firm faces have raised issues regarding the labor shortage, critics feel that convenience stores in Japan may continue to suffer due to an aging population and competition from online markets.
See The Japan Times, Mar 22 2019
Musicians who play for the Chicago Symphony have gone on strike to protest low wages and inadequate pensions. Nearly 100 musicians have been on strike since the middle of March- their picket line has garnered support from local citizens and politicians. As a result of musicians striking, the Symphony has had to cancel over a dozen concerts. While the Symphony’s management is concerned about the strike, a fear of putting the financial future of the Symphony at risk has caused hesitation regarding raising wages.
See Caryn Rousseau, The Times Union, Mar 22 2019
Workers at South Korea’s Hankook Tire plant in Hungary reached an agreement with management on Thursday, following a 10-day strike over low wages. A labor shortage has impacted the car industry heavily in the country, which has led to an increase in strikes for improved wages over the past few months. The Hankook plant has over 3,000 employees. Management has just agreed to a 13.6 percent wage increase in order to end the strike.
See Sandor Peto, Reuters, Mar 22 2019
Justin Rashad Long was fired last month from Amazon after speaking out about the work conditions in the Staten Island warehouse. Rashad, along with other Amazon workers claim that the long hours and work conditions are dangerous. Two days after Rashad was fired, Amazon abandoned their plan to move to Long Island City due to resistance from labor unions and concern for a fair process for workers. Rashad claims that his getting fired was in retaliation for his activism, and is filing charges for unfair labor practices.
See John Annese, NY Daily News, The New York Times, Mar 21 2019
Tesla, the car manufacturer, and one of its contractors are in violation of federal and state human trafficking laws. The company allegedly used contractors to mistreat immigrant workers on the B-1 business visitor visa, and have threatened to withhold pay to incentivize employees to continue working. The company was trying to bypass paying for employment-based visas, which is more costly. Notably, Judge Lucy H Koh of the US District Court for the Northern District of California stated, Tesla and Eisenmann Corp. are not liable under the False Claims Act.
See Laura D. Francis, Bloomberg Law, Mar 21 2019
Based on a Gallup poll taken last month, American’s view on trade is fairly split. 51% of American’s believe trade has a positive effect, whereas 42% believe trade has a negative effect on jobs for U.S workers. Despite the close split, American’s perspective has gradually become positive. From the poll, it was revealed that an increase in trade led to benefits in the US job market. Importantly, union membership does not strongly relate to how one assess the impact of trade on job opportunities, although this varies by gender and age.
See The Financial, Mar 21 2019
Japan recently expanded its foreign labor policies due to a shortage of blue-collar workers. As a result, Vietnamese workers are increasingly moving to Japan by acquiring technical trainee visas, in order to find work. However, once in Japan, Vietnamese workers are compensated poorly, forced to work long hours, and experience violence in the workplace. Additionally, laborers are charged high fees in order to acquire visas- by the time workers arrive in Japan, they frequently owe money to recruiters who helped them find jobs.
See Linda Sieg & Ami Miyazaki, The Japan Times, Mar 20 2019
Migrant laborers moving to Britain in order to find temporary blue-collar work are at risk of exploitation. Currently, the government is in the process of implementing two labor schemes in order to combat labor shortages. The first is for migrants from non-European Union countries who will work on farms for six months, and the other scheme is intended for workers from “low-risk” countries who may work for up to a year. Critics fear that the schemes may create “expendable workforces” that can be easily exploited. Additionally, visa and travel costs associated with moving to Britain can lead migrant workers to become trapped in debt to recruiters. Migrant workers also lack access to benefits associated with full citizenship such as unemployment benefits and housing.
See Kieran Guilbert , Reuters, Mar 20 2019
Illinois has just proposed a $15 minimum law; however, this legislation does not promise higher wages for workers with disabilities. Federal labor law allows some businesses to pay workers with disabilities less than the minimum wage. In Illinois, some workers earn less than $1 per hour. Lawmakers would like to change this by no longer allowing the 14(c) certification that enables employers to pay subminimum wages. In doing so, lawmakers believe that more than 10,000 workers with disabilities would benefit from increased wages.
See Dana Vollmer, NPR Illinois, Mar 20 2019
Three women who work at Organogenesis claim that management fired them on the basis of sex discrimination. Their supervisor, Oscar Ferrer, has repeatedly inquired about their plans for having children and told one of the women that he planned on firing a saleswoman before she got pregnant. Around the same time the comment was made, Ferrer placed the three women on performance improvement and objective setting plans. Acknowledging that the company was going through a workforce reduction, the women believed they were preselected for the pool of employees to be let go from the company based on these biases.
See Patrick Dorrian, Bloomberg Law, Mar 19 2019
Fiat Chrysler workers at the Ram Plant in Michigan found a noose hanging in the workplace, leading to a second investigation into racism at the factory. Nooses are typically understood to be a threat of violence towards African Americans, and this wasn’t the first account the plant has experienced racial aggression directed at a certain group of workers. The company has taken action by hiring a third party to look into who is responsible for hanging the noose.
See Gabrielle Coppola, Bloomberg Law, Mar 19 2019
Trump shared his opinion about General Motors idle car plant in Ohio over a series of four tweets yesterday, demanding that GM reopen the plant to create jobs for Americans. Trump’s campaign was founded on the idea of keeping jobs in America and discouraged outsourcing labor. General Motors and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union is scheduled to discuss next steps in September. Trump made his impatience known over his tweet, saying that the two parties should discuss the issue now, and included the current unemployment rate in his message.
See Neal E. Boudette, Tiffany Hsu, New York Times, Mar 19 2019
Currently, workers who make over $100,000 per year are exempt from overtime pay. The Department of Labor is proposing a higher salary cutoff in order to increase the number of employees who are eligible to receive time-and-a-half pay for working more than 40 hours a week. The DOL’s proposal is that the overtime pay cutoff is raised to $147,000. Due to this large increase, some businesses may be placed in a difficult situation where they have to increase salary levels or pay a substantial amount of overtime.
See Jaclyn Diaz , Bloomberg Law, Mar 18 2019
Unionized bus drivers in Scotland are voting to determine whether or not they will strike against Lothian Buses management for creating a “hostile” work environment. Union leaders have alleged that the company culture is hostile, workers are “bullied” by management, and face job insecurity. In December, an employee was fired and ten others were placed on suspension as the result of a Facebook group that was created by disgruntled workers. Following the ballot that workers hold themselves, employees feel confident that they will have to hold a legal ballot in order to be granted permission to strike.
See Ian Swanson, The Scotsman, Mar 18 2019
A former UPS employee filed a complaint with his local Occupation Health and Safety Administration regarding blocked exits at the warehouse where he worked. Soon after reporting hazardous workplace conditions, he was fired from his job. OSHA’s data shows that UPS is cited for blocking exits twice as much as competitors. Additionally, UPS has faced numerous lawsuits due to employees alleging that they have faced retaliation after reporting unsafe conditions.
See Fatima Hussein & Jasmine HanYe, Bloomberg Law, Mar 18 2019
The owner of a casino in Hong Kong has been accused by construction workers of labor trafficking. Individuals who have alleged that they were forced to work, are seeking compensation for their labor, as well as the hardships that they experienced while being forced to work. Interestingly, the island of Saipan where this incident has occurred, is controlled by the United States. Imperial Pacific is the only entity that is allowed to run a casino on the island. There have been numerous labor incidents related to this project that have caused scrutiny.
See Farah Master , Reuters, Mar 15 2019
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in South Africa submitted a request to strike to the South African labor court- this request has been rejected. The AMCU has been on strike since November, however, the union wanted to extend the strike- making it “industry wide.” The union is surprised that the request was denied, and intends to appeal the labor court's decision regarding secondary strike activity. Labor union judge, Connie Prinsloo, stated concerns that an industry-wide strike would threaten the South African economy.
See Tanisha Helberg & Mfuneko Toyana , Reuters, Mar 15 2019
On Thursday, dining hall employees at Tufts voted to authorize a strike. Workers voted to strike following over eight months of negotiations that have not resulted in a new contract. If the strike does occur, it will involve 175 employees. The workers unionized last spring in order to try to achieve benefits that are similar to those experienced by unionized dining hall employees at other universities.
See Katie Johnston, The Boston Globe, Mar 15 2019
Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are in the midst of finalizing their merger. Employee and Labor representatives are not in support of the merger as they believe the cons would outweigh the pros. The purpose of the merger is to strengthen the company's financial standing as they both have been struggling in recent years. However, thousands of positions may be at risk should the merger go through, which will severely harm the company. Labor representatives from Deutsche bank estimate that 30,000 positions may be cut as a result.
See Steven Arons, Nicholas Comfort, Bloomberg Law, Mar 14 2019
AFL-CIO, along with other labor groups are opposed to the New Green Deal proposed by Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandra Ocasio Cortez. In their letter to Markey and AOC, the union agrees that there needs to be change in order to address climate change, but the Green New Deal lacks specific solutions that address the job security of union members. They strongly feel that the reforms can cause “immediate harm,” and will not accept the proposal. Despite their sentiments on the issue, they are willing to discuss the issue in depth and seek a compromisable solution.
See Jessica Chasmar, The Washington Times, Mar 14 2019
The Supreme Court will address whether construction workers should be paid prevailing wages for the time period of hauling equipment to the public works jobs. The grinding crew members brought a case against their employers saying that their overtime rate should be based on the higher prevailing wage, rather than the standard wage. The state labor code mandates prevailing wages for workers involved in public works; However, a federal judge in San Francisco stated that California’s prevailing wage law does not cover transporting equipment to public work sites. The case has advanced and the California Supreme Court will deliver their opinion.
See Joyce E Cutler, Bloomberg Law, Mar 14 2019
Teachers engaged in more strike activity in 2018, than in the past three decades. Additionally, the first charter school strikes occurred. However, charter school teachers may lose their ability to strike if the NLRB allows states to determine whether or not teachers can legally go on strike. In 12 states, public school teachers are allowed to strike- if the NLRB decides to “decline jurisdiction” over charter schools, it may become much more difficult for teachers to engage in collective activity.
See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Mar 13 2019
Near the end of this week, workers at Colorado grocery store chain King Soopers may vote to authorize a strike. Workers will decide between accepting the current contract proposal, or authorizing a strike. According to management, the new contract includes wage increases and no increase in health care costs. However, according to the union, the contract would cause workers’ wages to remain stagnant over the next three years, reduce hours, and increase health care costs. In anticipation of a strike, the grocery chain has begun hiring temporary employees.
See Joe Rubino, The Denver Post, Mar 13 2019
Due to the instability of the economy, large Japanese firms have begun offering small wage increases in an attempt to “beat deflation.” In the face of economic uncertainty, firms prefer to offer small wage increases in order to avoid committing to paying increased wages long-term. The spring labor offensive set expectations regarding wage increases intended to increase consumer spending and diminish the negative impact of inflation.
See The Japan Times, Mar 13 2019
Adelante, a non-profit organization that assembled gift bags for events such as the Oscars and the Grammys, is facing a lawsuit brought by their employees. The employees are claiming discriminatory action because they segregated disabled employees from the non-disabled, and pay disabled employees less than the federal minimum wage-- a violation of Albuquerque and New Mexico wage laws. Adelante claims that their mission is to support people with disabilities and empower them. However, by placing workers in a segregated environment and having them perform repetitive tasks, they feel as if they are at a dead-end job with little to no opportunity for advancement. The employees will be challenging the national minimum wage laws, which was set in 1938, allowing employers to pay disabled employees less than the minimum wage.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Law, Mar 12 2019
Members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra went on a weeklong strike as a result of failed negotiations to renew their contract. The musicians are seeking long term sustainability through salary, benefits, and pension structure. The musicians claimed that management has asked them to take a reduction in salary and benefits despite the increased revenue from sales. Now that the strike has ended, both parties have reached a consensus, which involves the orchestra downsizing by four players, and management agreeing to a pay increase.
See Business Times, Mar 12 2019
The lawsuit between Uber and the state of California has been finalized, where Uber is set to pay $20 million in settlement. The issue of the original lawsuit tackled the status of the drivers and whether they should be considered employees or independent contractor. The lawsuit was consolidated and granted class-action status from a San Francisco judge. However, because Uber made their workers sign arbitration agreements, the case then focused on the validity of Uber’s arbitration agreement. Yesterday, the judge found in favor of Uber stating that their arbitration was valid and enforceable—making class action lawsuits null and void.
See Jose Rosenblatt, Bloomberg Law, Mar 12 2019
A new bill proposal intended to protect fast-food workers would define “just cause” for dismissal as an “employee’s failure to satisfactorily perform job duties or misconduct that is demonstrably and materially harmful.” This bill is intended to protect a group of workers who face low wages, difficulty organizing, and lack job security. Unions have yet to make their opinions of the proposal known publicly. In the past, unions have disliked similar proposals because unions often use their ability to secure “just cause” protection in unionization campaigns.
See Jaclyn Diaz & Hassan A. Kanu, Bloomberg Law, Mar 11 2019
The N.C.A.A. does not allow colleges to pay student athletes for their labor- anything that is outside of tuition or costs related to college attendance cannot be paid for. This rule was brought into question during a “landmark” antitrust case where the N.C.A.A. claimed that student athletes do not receive additional compensation due to “amateurism.” U.S. District Court Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that it is inappropriate for college athletes to not receive compensation for their labor. However, despite this decision athletes will continue to labor without pay because additional legislation is required to remedy this issue.
See Marc Tracy, The New York Times, Mar 11 2019
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a well-known human rights lawyer has been sentenced to 38 years in prison and 148 lashes. This disciplinary action comes after her being arrested for spying, insulting Iran’s supreme leader, and circulating propaganda. In 2010, she was imprisoned for a six-year term, but was released after serving only three years. Following her release, she was given the Sakharov human rights prize, from the European Parliament. The U.N. is currently investigating human rights violations in Iran.
See Babak Dehghanpisheh , Reuters, Mar 11 2019
Currently, 27 states have right-to-work laws that restrict unionization. Last month, a town in Illinois petitioned the Supreme Court to decide whether or not states should be allowed to establish right-to-work laws. One side of the argument is that local officials know what is best for their region economically, and should be able to decide whether or not to allow unionization to occur easily. The other side believes that right-to-work laws ultimately hurt workers and local economies.
See Robert Iafolla & Hassan A. Kanu, Bloomberg Law, Mar 8 2019
The Harvard Shop, which is managed by Harvard Student Agencies, was recently ordered to pay employees nearly $47,000 following claims that the employer had failed to pay employees in a “timely” manner. The HSA claims that its mission is to manage businesses that employ students in order to help students cover the costs associated with obtaining a Harvard education. This recent case, has many doubtful that the HSA is accomplishing its stated goals.
See The Harvard Crimson, Mar 8 2019
Unionized Southwest baggage handlers in Illinois do not wish to have their claims regarding biometric law violation be decided through the arbitration process. The workers claim that because Southwest keeps their work time through a fingerprint-based system, the Illinois biometric law has been violated. However, because their collective bargaining agreement does not mention the timekeeping system, the workers do not want this issue to go to arbitration.
See Daniel Wiessner , Reuters, Mar 8 2019
Algerian protesters are unhappy with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika plan to stand in the upcoming election next month. Hundreds of lawyers, along with members of the Algerian labor union UGTA, dressed in black robes to protest to re-election plan. Some officials from Bouteflika’s ruling FLN party were also at the demonstration, and public figures have resigned as a response to his candidacy. President Bouteflika has not spoken in public since his stroke in 2013, however, due to recent events, he issued his first warning to protesters saying that the unrest could destabilize the country.
See Lamine Chikhi, Reuters, Mar 7 2019
The Communications Workers of America New Jersey reached a favorable outcome this week with Governor Phil Murphy, in their four-year contract renewal. Around 32,000 state-worker-members will be paid 2% more annually under the new agreement, and improvements for employee health care plans are in place. The insurance savings would result mostly from a change in out-of-network reimbursements which may equate to as much as 3% of annual pay.
See Elise Young, Bloomberg Law, Mar 7 2019
This past week, the DOL administrative law judge announced his decision that Oracle is liable for back pay for their women, Black, and Asian workers. The company underpaid these minority groups and steered them toward lower level positions within the company. The company’s pay records reveal that they showed an extreme preference for immigrant visa holders, of which they compensated less than their citizen counterparts. Oracle, along with other technology companies are facing litigation for equality issues.
See Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Mar 7 2019
This past week, the DOL administrative law judge announced his decision that Oracle is liable for back pay for their women, Black, and Asian workers. The company underpaid these minority groups and steered them toward lower level positions within the company. The company’s pay records reveal that they showed an extreme preference for immigrant visa holders, of which they compensated less than their citizen counterparts. Oracle, along with other technology companies are facing litigation for equality issues.
See Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Mar 7 2019
In Kerala, India, workers will now be given a three-hour break in the afternoon in an attempt to avoid extreme heat, in order to improve labor conditions. Most of the 3 million migrant workers in Kerala work in construction, agriculture, and other industries that require that they work outside. The labor commission is implementing a variety of labor initiatives in order to improve conditions for laborers. The focus on protecting workers from the heat comes after numerous reports of heat strike, and sunburn.
See Roli Srivastava , Reuters, Mar 6 2019
Many flights were cancelled in Kenya on Wednesday, grounding thousands of passengers, as aviation workers were out on strike. The strike was initiated following a proposal to have Jomo Kenyatta International Airport manage the airport, instead of the current management team. Riot police were summoned to end the strike- bringing clubs with them and arresting union leaders. Breaking up the strike was a priority for the government, as Kenya relies heavily on tourism.
See Thomas Mukoya & Omar Mohammed , Reuters, Mar 6 2019
The EEOC recently finalized a court ruling that will require companies with more than 100 employees to disclose information regarding how much workers earn by sex, race, and ethnicity. This obligation may begin as soon as this spring. This decision comes as companies are pushed to demonstrate that their compensation systems are fair. Employers already submit some demographic data to the EEOC- however, the new ruling would require even more intensive demographic reporting.
See Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Mar 6 2019
NetJets is facing an impending lawsuit for adverse employment action based on racial discrimination by a former pilot, Bachir Abdouni. The lawsuit was incited because one of Abdouni’s colleagues, Charles Hake, called him a “Jihadist.” This was not the first conflict the two had with one another. Three years ago, Hake had to evaluate Abdouini’s flight training and Hake was so critical of his performance that he not only berated and questioned Abdouini’s competency, but he made him sit in the passenger cabin for the remainder of the flight. The incident was reported, however, NetJets didn’t respond in support of Abdouini and as a result, made him sign a “last chance” agreement in order to return to work. The agreement includes a provision in which the employee must waive any bias claims they have against the company. NetJets is trying to seek for summary judgment because of the “last chance” agreement, and that the “Jihadist” comment didn’t stem from racial discrimination. The two parties have representation and will go to Court in the near future.
See Patrick Dorrian, Bloomberg Law, Mar 5 2019
Many technology companies in Silicon Valley are faced with pressure to address gender issues and pay inequity. Particularly, gender inequality has been a controversial issue at Google and upon their recent study to evaluate compensation for women and employees in minority groups, they discovered that men were paid less than women for doing comparable work. Critics of the study say that it is flawed as it did not control for employee’s starting salaries, which largely affects the findings. The company acknowledges that a mere comparison of salaries across similar job titles is a poor measure of equity, and will be undergoing an internal review to ensure processes are fair and equitable.
See Daisuke Wakabayash, New York Times, Mar 5 2019
The employment status for exotic dancers, for a long time, were classified as independent contractors. Recently, their status has been updated to qualify as employees due to the recent judgment from the California Supreme Court. Clubs and various institutions that employ exotic dancers have been slow in granting workers their full rights and benefits. Workers claim that they are subject to vulnerabilities as they have no legal protection or recourse, and thus are looking to unionize in an effort to protect their labor rights.
See Samuel Brawlow, Los Angeles Magazine, Mar 5 2019
Businesses in Australia have reported minimal growth in the last quarter, which has meant that incomes have stagnated as the economy has failed to expand over the past few months. A weakened economy has resulted in more cautious consumers- which only serves to exacerbate the problem. While the housing market has begun to suffer the labor market has remained strong.
See Wayne Cole, Reuters, Mar 4 2019
According to India’s chief economic advisor, the next government will need to reform the land, labor, and finances sectors in order to improve India’s economy. The advisor feels that restrictive land and labor laws discourage investors from building new manufacturing plants in the country. This sentiment is backed by the fact that manufacturing has grown only 1.5 percent in the past three years. Additionally, India’s economic growth has slowed significantly which has been cause of concern for policymakers.
See Manoj Kumar , Reuters, Mar 4 2019
Air traffic controllers who work for Highlands and Islands Airport Limited will be going on strike in order to protest insufficient wages. Last week it was stated that strike action will begin in April and is intended to continue through the summer. While union representatives and Hial management have been engaging in talks in order to come to a solution, an agreement has yet to have been reached. In the upcoming strike, seven of Hial’s airports will be impacted.
See BBC News, Mar 4 2019
Southwest Airlines has decided to sue the union that represents its mechanics. The company is alleging that the union has caused slowdowns that have resulted in flight cancellations. Additionally, the company has alleged that mechanics have been unnecessarily deeming planes unsafe, in order to ground them and disrupt flights. As of now, the union has not responded to comment requests.
See Zach Wichter, The New York Times, Mar 1 2019
Bin workers in Birmingham who decided to pursue a strike, were recently granted permission to continue engaging in industrial activity. The workers are managed by the Birmingham City Council, which petitioned the court for an injunction against the strike. However, the request for an injunction was not granted because the court deemed industrial action to be appropriate. Currently, the workers are striking two days a week.
See BBC News UK, Mar 1 2019
Ryanair recently resolved a wage dispute with its German pilots union. The airline has been struggling to reach an agreement with its pilots for nearly a year. The union has been particularly focused on the issue of wages. However, the four-year agreement that the pilots reached with management includes a salary scale. Additionally, the agreement includes a "social" plan.
See George Varghese & Conor Humphries & Douglas Busvine, Reuters, Mar 1 2019
Jose Martin Paz Flores, an undocumented worker, reported a workplace injury and as a result, was retaliated against by his employer, Tara Construction. Paz fell from a ladder while working on a drywall taper and the incident was reported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA gave Tara Construction a serious citation, which is when an employer knows of or should know of a situation that has a definite chance of causing serious injury or death, as well as a monetary fine of $4,000. A few weeks later, Pedro Pirez, CEO of Tara Construction, contacted police to look into Paz’s identity and consequently, Paz was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The Labor Department brought a lawsuit against Tara Construction claiming that Pirez engaged in retaliatory action, violating Section 11 of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
See Fatima Hussein, Bloomberg Law, Feb 28 2019
Companies in the United States are increasingly beginning to use robots to automate tasks. According to data from the Association for Advancing Automation, shipments of robots increased by 16% from 2017. As companies look to cut labor costs, automation is becoming an attractive solution. Jobs that were done by workers, such as driving forklifts, can now be replaced by machines. Companies are now considering to reduce their labor outsourcing, and may even bring work back to the states despite higher cost US workers.
See Timothy Aeppel, New York Times, Reuters, Feb 28 2019
Nokia is set to meet with the National Labor Relations Board in late April regarding the shutdown of its Ohio factory in December 2017. Nokia will be outsourcing jobs as a result of the shutdown and did not discuss this with union representatives prior to the factory closing. The Communications Workers of American Local 4390 had an ongoing agreement with Nokia that was set to expire in May 2018. The union claims that the company did not provide relevant information that was requested and failed to negotiate alternative work options for the employees, resulting in 187 jobs that were affected.
See Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg Law, Feb 28 2019
24-hour convenience stores in Japan, such as Seven-Eleven, are struggling to stay open late at night due to an ongoing labor shortage. A dispute between Seven-Eleven and a Japanese franchise recently brought this issue to light. Convenience stores are a large industry in Japan, and over 90 percent of them are open 24 hours a day. These stores meet the needs of consumers who desire the ability to shop at all hours, and also emphasis the role that they play in preventing crimes that occur at night. However, as a result of the labor shortage these stores are forced to adjust their hours.
See The Japan Times, Feb 27 2019
Following unproductive contract negotiations, faculty and staff of Community College Philadelphia voted to authorize a strike against their employer. 91 percent of union members voted to authorize the strike. The union is not planning to strike yet, but can do so if its demands are not met. The key issues in this dispute involve improving accessibility of support services for students, hiring more diverse staff, providing employees with a greater voice, and increasing wages appropriately.
See Ryanne Persinger, The Philadelphia Tribune, Feb 27 2019
Recently, law enforcement visited a support group for exploited domestic workers in the UK and demanded information regarding one of the group’s members. The Voice of Domestic Workers, an entity that provides support to domestic workers who have faced abuse at the hands of their employers, is concerned that this visit may deter workers from seeking help in the future. Foreign domestic worker abuse in the UK is an issue that is difficult to address because victims typically do not come forward to report abuse, and are fearful of police involvement.
See Kieran Guilbert , Reuters, Feb 27 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio will be ending his Renewal education initiative. The initiative was an attempt to improve low-performing, struggling public schools with additional support through extending school hours, supplemental courses, and the like. Teachers around the country had hoped that the program would be successful however, it was impeded by bureaucratic procedures and uneven academic results since the program’s inception. In an interview with Mr. de Blasio, he stated that the program was a sensible approach at the time, however, if he could do it over again, he would act differently. Looking at the statistics, the Renewal program was only 25% effective. As the program begins to phase out, the city will engage in comprehensive school support where they will directly fund and provide academic support to schools that need it the most.
See Eliza Shapiro, New York Times, Feb 26 2019
Australia is taking an enormous effort in tackling modern day slavery. According to the Global Slavery Index by Walk Free, Australia holds 15,000 human trafficking victims. Last month, the Australian Border Force (ABF) detained and deported dozens of people from their raids. Many victims come from overseas, predominantly from the Southeast Asian region. Upon each raid, victims are interviewed by ABF officials to determine who the ringleader is. The Australian government is offering support and extended stay before they return home, or obtain an alternative visa.
See Michael Taylor , Reuters, Feb 26 2019
The United Auto Workers union filed a lawsuit against General Motors last Tuesday to prevent the closing of plants in three different states: Ohio, Maryland, and Michigan. UAW alleges that doing so is a violation of their current contract. The plant in Lordstown, Ohio is set to seize production this upcoming week on March 8th. Earlier, in November, GM made an announcement stating that the three plants will be “unallocated.” UAW representatives state that the company purposefully chose that word, to avoid contract breach, however, it has the same meaning as idle or close. The two parties have attempted to reach a solution but were unfruitful. UAW representatives are determined to ensure their contract is honored.
See The Washington Post, Feb 26 2019
In-N-Out has been trying to ban employees from wearing buttons that read “Fight for $15.” The Firth Circuit ruled that banning employees from wearing buttons violated workers’ rights to communicate and improve their workplace conditions. The fast-food company petitioned this decision, where it was rejected by the Supreme Court. Attorneys for the firm believe that due to the Janus v. AFSCME decision, the high court should hear their argument- however, some attorneys believe that the justices may be allowing lower courts to define the confines of the Janus decision.
See Robert Iafolla & Hassan A. Kanu, Bloomberg Law, Feb 25 2019
Australian fast-fashion companies are employing workers who are engaged in a “system of entrenched exploitation,” in countries such as Bangladesh and Vietnam. According to Oxfam Australia, nine out of 10 workers who make clothing for fast-fashion companies are unable to earn a living wage. This means that they are often unable to afford food and medical care, some workers are unable to live with their children because they cannot pay for childcare. Recently, Australia became the second country to adopt an anti-slavery law, which allegedly worsened the conditions for garment workers because the policy encouraged garment company owners to decrease wages in order to remain competitive.
See Beh Lih Yi & Naimul Karim , Reuters, Feb 25 2019
Following an appeals court ruling in favor of a woman’s claim that her employer had paid her less than her male counterparts, the judge deciding the case passed away prior to the decision being officially issued. The ruling was issued 11 days after the death of the judge, which led the Supreme Court to determine that the decision should not stand because a deceased judge should not have been allowed to participate in the decision. This case may return to the high court following the appeals court’s new ruling.
See Lawrence Hurley , Reuters, Feb 25 2019
Scotland’s largest teachers’ union, the EIS, has rejected a 9% wage increase. The union intends to start a strike ballot, and then engage in a walkout if management does not offer a more favorable wage increase. This pay dispute has been ongoing, with management only having a fortnight to offer a better wage plan before the strike ballot will occur. In order for the teachers to strike, 50% of the members in the bargaining unit need to be present for the vote and at least 40% of the members of the unit must be in support of the strike.
See Jamie McIvor, BBC News UK, Feb 22 2019
In California, a casino alleged of violating federal labor laws has petitioned the Supreme Court in hopes that they will rule that federal labor laws do not apply on tribal land. Previous cases have resulted in a precedent that makes it easier for casino workers to organize- many feel that NLRB involvement in tribal-owned businesses and casinos is necessary in ensuring that workers’ rights are preserved. According to the AFL-CIO, approximately 600,000 individuals are employed by tribal businesses. However, tribes have expressed that they would like sovereignty, and the ability to govern their businesses without federal oversight.
See Tyrone Richardson & Hassan A. Kanu, Bloomberg Law, Feb 22 2019
Domestic workers in Guinea-Bissau are subject to extreme physical abuse, sexual abuse, and exploitation as a result of being excluded from national labor laws. Many domestic workers are girls under the age of 13, and 80 percent of them work more than 14 hours each day. There are few jobs available for women in this country, many women are forced to engage in domestic labor in order to be fed and housed. Lawyers and activists are trying to establish better protections for domestic laborers, but face a lot of obstacles in doing so.
See Nellie Peyton , Reuters, Feb 22 2019
Labor laws in Germany are being revised so that its policy on employee protections will become less stringent. By loosening the job protections for high earning employees in banking institutions, the government is able to safeguard against individual actions that can result in a company fallout. This change is also supposed to attract foreign talent, making it easier to recruit non-EU staff, and buffer against market chaos should Britain leave the EU without a compromise.
See Iain Rogers, Steven Arons, Bloomberg Business, Feb 21 2019
Yesterday, the U.S Court of Appeal for the Seventh Circuit ruled that in a racial harassment claim under Title VII, who the alleged harasser is, determines whether illegal conduct has occurred. Fred Gates, a black building engineer claimed that the Chicago Board of Education subjected him to a racially hostile work environment. Gates’ supervisor constantly threatened him and used derogatory language and racial slurs. The court affirmed that toxic language engaged by a supervisor is more severe than if similar misconduct was done by a coworker.
See Patrick Dorrian, Bloomberg Law, Feb 21 2019
The number of applications to receive unemployment benefits has decreased over the past week. However, the four-week moving average, which indicates the average number of initial claims, has risen to a one year high, indicating that the labor market is slowing down. According to the Labor Department, the number of claims for four states had to be estimated because of the recent holiday, which may have contributed to the decreased number of applications.
See CNBC, Feb 21 2019
Yesterday, Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff decided that police records were to be made public under a landmark transparency law. Open government advocates saw Beckloff’s decision as a move towards the right direction since keeping old records private would prevent agents who were involved in misconduct from being punished. However, the issue is whether or not something that was agreed to under confidentially be later made to the public.
See BEN POSTON, MAYA LAU, Los Angelous Primes, Feb 20 2019
Hospital employees at USC voted 118-107 to disband a union that they formed three years ago. Following the results of the vote, the union brought claims to the NLRB that management had inappropriately influenced the election. Those claims have been negated, and the vote has been approved of by the labor board. Evidently, the union failed to follow procedural rules in regard to communicating disapproval of the vote with management on time. The union has until nearly the end of February to request that the NLRB’s decision be reviewed.
See Lila Seidman, The LA Times, Feb 20 2019