Workplace Issues Today
While most of the nation has steadily regained their labor force since the 2009 recession, Wyoming's labor force has decreased by 5.1% during this time period, followed by West Virginia at 4.5%. Both states had previously relied heavily on coal production as their economic driver. Jobs have been lost in the coal industry as natural gas becomes a cleaner alternative. Both states lack economic diversity to offer workers other alternatives. Businesses that offer high wages are unlikely to be attracted to states that lack a highly skilled workforce; as a result, workers are leaving to look for jobs elsewhere. From 2016 tot 2017, Wyoming's population dropped by nearly 6,000 while West Virginia’s population decreased by almost 13,000. Other obstacles include high opioid use, and an aging population that is unlikely to seek other opportunities if they are close to retirement.
See Wyoming, West Virginia share declining labor force and population drops as coal industry jobs falter, Sarah Chaney, The Wall Street Journal, Nov 20 2018
Dining workers, students, staff, and faculty members at Tufts University gathered to participate in a rally to protest the poor working conditions that dining workers have to endure. Union negotiations began in August following the workers’ vote to unionize, and a contract has yet to be reached as management refuses to make adequate concessions. Dining workers do not feel that what they are asking for is unreasonable; they would like job security, shorter hours, better treatment, and affordable health care. Interestingly, students have noted that a year ago dining workers were afraid to speak out against their conditions- now they are leading their own rallies. It seems that being part of a union has empowered workers to advocate for themselves.
See Ryan Shaffer, Tufts Daily, Nov 19 2018
The largest nurses’ union in Ireland is encouraging nurses to strike over low wages. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) has claimed that low wages are preventing health centers from adequately recruiting nurses, which has caused a nurse shortage. This shortage of staff inhibits nurses’ ability to treat their patients. If the union ballot is passed, nurses will strike for 24 hours and will continue striking until conditions improve. During strikes, nurses will only provide necessary and life-saving care. The government has attempted to intervene to better nurses’ conditions, however nurses have expressed that the government is not adequately listening to their complaints.
See Martin Wall, Irish Times, Nov 19 2018
Unionized dinner ladies (cafeteria workers) at a primary school in Grimethorpe, England have been engaging in strike activity since September over unfair wages. Most recently, the dinner ladies’ upset has been fueled by the purchase and costly training of a school dog, named George. The dog, who was intended to be a calming companion for the children, has cost the school £2,170 in training fees. Dinner ladies are paid between £2,000 and £2,500 annually. The school’s supposed reason for not raising cafeteria ladies’ wages was a tight budget. It is understandable that the dinner ladies would be upset to learn that the school has spent thousands of dollars on a dog.
See BBC News, Nov 19 2018
Federal female prison employees have faced harassment and demeaning working conditions long before the #MeToo movement lifted the curtain on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment. In a 2010 Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report, it was found that the Bureau of Prisons, which employs over 10,000 female employees, had fumbled the ball on harassment claims and that retaliation was high; women who report problems can find themselves stalled on career opportunities. In one extreme case, a case manager who had been raped was charged with raping her attacker. In 2017, the Bureau of Prisons agreed to pay a $20 million settlement to female employees at the Coleman prison complex in Florida, with plaintiff awards higher than any other Title VII gender discrimination settlement in the ten past years. Managers at Coleman had ignored complaints about inmates masturbating - "gunning" - in front of female employees, and male officers who favored inmates treated gunning as a reward.
See Federal female prison employees face harassment, retaliation from inmates, colleagues, Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times, Nov 19 2018
After years of delays, Columbia University has agreed to recognize the rights of graduate students to unionize - with some provisions. The agreement may have come when it did due to a planned strike on December 4, which would have affected the grading of final exams, and the university noted that the union may not strike until at least April 2020. The university also noted that any bargaining agreement must not impose on decision-making... "consistent with our educational and research mission." The United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents the students, have until November 28 to ratify the agreement, and talks with the students cannot begin later than February 25.
See Columbia finally recognizes graduate students' right to unionize, Verena Dobnik, U.S. News and World Report, Associated Press, Nov 19 2018
In California, thousands of inmates volunteer to fight fires as part of a state-run rehabilitation program. While this program is valuable for participants, activists are concerned that incarcerated individuals are not being fairly compensated for their work and are discouraged from using their skills after they are released from prison. Inmates who fight California’s fires are paid a measly $2 a day, with a $1 an hour bonus when fighting active fires; this is not nearly enough given the dangerous nature of this work. Six inmates have died fighting fires in California since 1983. Despite being trained firefighters, incarcerated firefighters are discouraged from applying for positions with fire departments following their release. Many fire departments refuse to hire applicants who have previously been imprisoned.
See Mihir Zaveri, The New York Times, Nov 16 2018
Marriott hotel workers in San Francisco continue their six week strike. Earlier this week, the union representing the hotel workers engaged in negotiations with management for three days, but was unsuccessful in reaching an agreement. Workers are striking for higher wages, with the union claiming that the current wages are not livable, given that the Bay Area is so expensive. The strikes are anticipated to continue last the holidays, and will continue to cause event cancellations and reduced amenities.
See Ronald Li, San Francisco Chronicle, Nov 16 2018
Law360 has placed an inflatable rat outside of the Law360 offices in New York City in an attempt to draw attention to their ongoing labor dispute. Scabby the rat is frequently placed in front of buildings in NYC as a tactic used by unions to publically shame employers. Law360’s employees formed a union in 2016, and have been trying to negotiate a contract for two years with no success. Dozens of employees walked out of the office on Thursday to protest next to Scabby. The union has been increasing its activity over the past few months, and is prepared to go out on strike if an agreement is not reached soon.
See Daniel Marans, Huffington Post, Nov 16 2018
Teachers in at least 27 Iranian cities are holding sit-ins and protest signs for the second straight day to protest poor pay and working conditions, as well as pressure the government for necessary educational reforms. This is the second protest in a month; the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates, which encompasses the teachers' unions, said the strike was not associated with any domestic or foreign political faction. Iran’s Human Rights Activist News Agency has released a report in September that indicate the country had cracked down on labor unions in recent years, especially those representing teachers, with some activists serving multi-year jail terms.
See Iranian teachers strike for second day to protest poor pay, working conditions, Michael Lipin, Voice of America, Nov 15 2018
Senator Bernie Sanders will be introducing a bill today that would require large companies with more than 500 workers to pay their workers at least $15 an hour in order to allow stock buybacks. Sanders has been a vocal critic of unethical business practices and a supporter for raising the minimum wage. The legislation, called The Stop Welfare for Any Large Monopoly Amassing Revenue from Taxpayers Act (Stop Walmart), is co-sponsored by California Representative Ro Khanna and would also require giving workers up to seven days of paid sick leave for themselves or to care for a family member, as well as limiting executive compensation at 150 times the median employee wage. Sanders had proposed a similar bill in September aimed at Amazon; the company then raised the minimum wage for its employees a month later. The new bill is unlikely to gain traction in the Republican Senate, but is seen as a sign of testing the campaign waters for the 2020 presidential election.
See Senator Bernie Sanders to introduce bill that prevents stock buybacks unless companies like Walmart pay $15 minimum wage, Karen James Sloan and Ylan Mui , CNBC, Nov 15 2018
The Seattle City Council voted to approve a tentative contract with the Seattle Police Officers Guild, giving police officers wage increases of over 17 percent over the six-year term, retroactive to 2015. The new contract will include reforms such as body-worn cameras and a civilian inspector with oversight powers, but community groups remain concerned that the contract will override a 2012 decree to address Department of Justice findings that Seattle police officers used biased policing and excessive force. U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over the decree, had recently expressed concerns over the contract, which is subject to his review to make sure it doesn’t conflict with the spirit of the decree.
See Seattle City Council approves new police union contract, despite local concerns that it will override excessive force reforms, Steve Miletich, The Seattle Times, Nov 15 2018
Unionized riggers working for Rhino Staging have begun to protest their work conditions. Safety is of the utmost importance for riggers, who are frequently working dozens of feet above the ground as they prepare venues for performances by hanging props and adjusting lights. The union has alleged Rhino of failing to train new employees properly, and making them purchase their own safety equipment. Additionally, union members claim that the company retaliates against employees who speak out against their poor working conditions, by denying them work opportunities. While the union works to negotiate a new contract that includes a safety plan, workers will continue to protest at concerts.
See Melissa Hellmann, Seattle Weekly, Nov 14 2018
More than 500 teachers are preparing to participate in the first strike against a charter school in U.S. history. The union has made numerous demands of their employer including higher wages, smaller class sizes, and more classroom resources. Additionally, the union has demanded that the charter schools become “true sanctuary schools” because they serve a large number of Latinx students. A spokesperson for the union has stated that teachers would prefer to continue teaching, however, they will strike if that’s what is required to negotiate a fair contract.
See Michael Bologna, Bloomberg Law, Nov 14 2018
A pair of jeans produced by a social enterprise that employs people who formerly worked as slave laborers, sold out after being worn by the Dutchess of Sussex. However, this trend of marketing clothing as ethically produced has critics concerned regarding the efficacy of company claims that products are, in fact, slave-free. Consumers today are more aware of the negative impact that “fast fashion” has on the environment and on the laborers who are tasked with producing such items. While companies are eager to advertise their products as slave-free, it is incredibly difficult to prove that no worker abuse has taken place at any point in the supply chain.
See Kieran Guilbert , Reuters, Nov 14 2018
Several former and current USPS temporary workers are alleging that their work climate is biased against injured employees, with their requests for light duty ignored or with terminations after being injured on the job. More than 130,000 USPS workers are “non-career” employees – temporary workers who do not receive federal benefits. The federal agency, which has reduced its staff by 20,000 since 2005 due to budgetary constraints, has one of the highest rates of workplace injury in the country. In 2017, 42,000 USPS employees had compensation claims accepted for on-the-job injuries, and 12 workers died on the job. Earlier this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in favor of a class-action lawsuit that accused the USPS of discriminating against injured employees; the lawsuit is still pending.
See USPS temporary workers allege poor treatment, terminations after being injured, Michael Sainato, The Guardian, Nov 13 2018
Steelworkers in Trenton, Georgia, a small town of 2,200, disagree that the White House's 25% tariff on steel imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico have helped American workers and businesses. While managers at one steel company, Caparo Bull Moose Industries, think that the tariffs, meant to discourage the purchase of foreign steel, have been helpful, workers say that the benefits have not filtered down to employees. They believe that as soon as the tariffs were announced, the company stockpiled cheap steel and then, with negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement at a standstill for six months, locked workers out for five weeks, leaving workers on unemployment rates of $8.25 an hour when the normal hourly rate is $22.59. The lockout was the first in Georgia in 30 years, and the workers may be in for a another lockout if negotiations for the same contract initiated eight months ago continue to stall.
See Khushbu Shah , The Guardian, Nov 13 2018
With 51.5% of ballots counted as of Monday, voters in Anaheim, California, appear to have passed Measure L, which would require hospitality businesses that get a city tax break to pay workers an hourly wage of at least $15 starting in January. The wage would increase $1 an hour each year until 2022, when wages would be tied to the cost of living. Over $7 million was collected in campaign contributions for and against the measure, with Disney being out-paced by labor groups. Business opponents warned that the higher wage would deter future hospitality ventures.
See Anaheim voters appear to pass living wage bill, gives hospitality workers $15 an hour , Hugo Martin, The Los Angeles Times, Nov 13 2018
Primary school teachers in Belfast are planning six days of strike activity due to unresolved disagreements with school management. About half of the 20 teachers at St Patrick’s Primary School are represented by the NASUWT union. The union’s secretary claims that teachers have chosen to engage in collective activity as a result of management “undermining their wellbeing.” Ultimately, teachers do not feel respected by management and have expressed that despite numerous attempts to resolve their issues, they have no choice but to strike.
See Robbie Meredith, BBC, Nov 12 2018
A recent analysis of 100 major companies revealed that most large companies are failing the U.N.’s human rights test. The test requires companies to prove that they are committed to human rights issues, such as eliminating child and forced labor and ensuring equal treatment of women. Of the 100 companies analyzed, Adidas had the highest ranking- scoring 87 of 100 points. Most firms scored less than 30 points. Starbucks, Prada, and Hermes were among those with the lowest scores. It is important to note that a low score does not mean that a company is engaging in poor practices, but that information regarding how the company plans to address human rights issues is unavailable.
See Umberto Bacchi, Reuters, Nov 12 2018
12 Chinese labor activists have gone missing in the past few days- most of them students or recent university graduates. Following a demonstration in August, police stormed an apartment where some of these students lived and detained them. After this incident occurred, Cornell University ended ties with a university in Beijing which was complicit in punishing students involved in organized activity. Now, 12 of these students have been taken by authorities. Individuals who are close to these students believe authorities have abducted them in an attempt to silence the movement they have started.
See Sue-Lin Wong, The Japan Times, Nov 12 2018
A North Korean worker has filed a complaint against a Dutch shipbuilding company, alleging the company of knowingly benefitting from forced labor. The worker claims to have been forced to work in unsafe, inhumane conditions for 12 hours a day at a shipyard that the shipbuilding company contracted with. Additionally, the worker claims that most of his wages were taken by the North Korean government. Interestingly, Dutch law explicitly forbids companies from benefitting financially from exploitation- even when that exploitation is indirect. This landmark case highlights weaknesses in the EU’s protections against slave labor and further discourages companies from utilizing slave labor.
See The Japan Times, Nov 9 2018
The Professional Pilots Union (PPU) is preparing to ballot its members to gauge interest in a strike against Virgin Atlantic for its refusal to bargain over benefits. The PPU represents half of the Virgin Atlantic pilots in Britain. The airline, which has refused to bargain, according to the PPU, does engage in negotiations with the PPU’s “rival” union, BALPA. A spokesperson from Virgin Atlantic has stated that the airline refuses to negotiate with the PPU because the union has demanded that the airline derecognize BALPA.
See Sarah Young, Reuters, Nov 9 2018
Employees at a Coca-Cola distributor in West Virginia went out on strike for a day to protest the company making “unilateral changes.” The union representing the Coca-Cola employees filed a complaint with the NLRB, alleging the company of violating federal labor laws. A spokesperson for the union stated that the strike was intended to encourage the company to “honor the law.” Evidently, the strike comes following many months of negotiations that have failed to result in a bargaining agreement. The employer is allegedly attempting to make drastic changes to the employee health insurance plan which would result in employees paying more for their healthcare plans.
See John Dahlia, West Virginia News, Nov 9 2018
Nestlé plans to colloborate with Sime Darby Plantation in Malaysia in setting up a pilot project that will help palm oil workers report working conditions, safety and other labor issues, using Laborlink mobile worker survey technology. The program aims to assess human rights issues and track effectiveness of actions taken. The helpline is the first of its kind in the palm oil industry; workers will be able to problems via SMS, Facebook Messenger, and a toll-free number available seven days a week. The move is the latest in Nestlé's attempt to improve its palm oil supply chain; it also recently commissioned a report along with members of the Consumer Goods Forum in assessing the forced labor situation in Malaysia and Indonesia - one of the findings was to ensure that workers have access to grievance mechanisms.
See Nestle to launch helpline for palm oil workers in Malaysia, Gaynor Selby, Food Ingredients 1st, Nov 8 2018
Staff members at the National Labor Relations Board protested and handed out leaflets outside the American Bar Association conference in San Francisco today, which had been attended by Board chairman John Ring. The employees are protesting further cuts to pay and benefits despite the agency having a budget surplus, along with the termination of two collective bargaining agreements in order to renegotiate terms. Staff members are also protesting the direction of labor policy under General Counsel Peter Robb, saying that recent moves by President Trump's appointees would diminish the NLRB and hamper the ability of American employees to file charges for unlawful workplace activities. The leaflets accuse Robb and Ring of a systemic attack on employees and the agency as a whole, pointing out federal employee surveys that indicate a drop in confidence in leadership at the NLRB.
See NLRB staff protest for a second time this year over pay and labor policy direction, Hassan A. Kanu, Bloomberg Law, Nov 8 2018
Nigerian trade unions went on strike and were successful in their attempt to withhold their labor in order to raise the minimum wage. On the fourth day of the strike, the Nigerian government agreed to work with the unions to increase the wage. By working with a committee, the government has decided to raise the monthly minimum wage from 18,000 naira to 30,000 naira ($98). Some states already find it difficult to meet current wage requirements, and many economists fear that higher wages may cause inflation. Nonetheless, the government is actively working to push the proposal through as quickly as possible, to avoid additional labor disputes.
See Camillus Eboh, Reuters, Nov 7 2018
Rotating strikes have taken their toll on the Canada Post over the past few weeks, with the Toronto mail processing center being hit for the second time in three weeks. The Toronto mail processing center is the largest mail center in Canada, and currently has 4,500 of its workers out on the picket lines. The union continues to shut down major processing centers, which is having a severe impact on mail deliveries. The three processing centers that are closed currently process close to a million parcels per day, so the strikes have created a considerable backlog of parcels that need to be processed. The strikes come as a result of the failure of the union and management to reach a new agreement, following 10 months of negotiations.
See Financial Post, Nov 7 2018
Voters in Arkansas and Missouri have chosen to approve minimum wage increases. In Arkansas the wage will increase gradually from $8.50 to $11 by 2021. The minimum wage in Missouri will increase from $7.85 to $12 by 2023. The wage increases in both states will impact around 930,000 workers. Business owners fear that wage increases will have a negative impact on the overall number of people who are employed. Voters also weighed in in other labor issues related to unpaid prison labor, health-care workers, and dialysis clinics.
See Jaclyn Diaz, Bloomberg Law, Nov 7 2018
Google’s walkout last week, which included 20,000 workers globally that organized within less than a week, was more significant for taking place in a work culture known for individualism, and for reaching out to acknowledge worker struggles in other industries, such as the Marriott hotel workers that were striking in the same city. Individualism has been the Silicon Valley ethos for decades, where a single engineer could change the world, class struggles were a thing of the past, and unions were anti-innovation. The walkout symbolized a feeling that individual workers, no matter how well-paid, could not address Google’s recent issues alone. While rare that well-paid workers will protest working conditions, it is not without precedent. Two historical cases include the 2014 strike at Market Basket which included managers and executives, and when Major League baseball players hired Marvin Miller, a steelworkers union official, to represent them in what would become one of the strongest unions in the country.
See Google walkout a symbol of broader worker struggle in individualistic Silicon Valley, Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, Nov 6 2018
The governor's race between incumbent Governor Tom Wolf and Republican Scott Wagner will affect the outcome of public sector unions in Pennsylvania, as the two candidates are polar opposites in their views towards unions. Wolf supports unions, saying that they negotiate for better wages and benefits for union employees such as teachers, whose unions are big supporters of Wolf's campaign. Federal research shows that unionized workplaces earn more money than those without unions; however, only 12% of Pennsylvania workers are in a union. Wagner supports the right-to-work mandate, which would prevent fees from being collected from non-members, and says that unions haven't helped with pension reforms, and that unions were power-hungry entities that have used dues for politicking.
See Governor's race will impact the power of labor in Pennsylvania, Sarah Anne Hughes, BillyPenn, Nov 6 2018
As artificial intelligence, robotics, and big data makes inroads into blue-collar industries, employees will see their jobs changing to require core competencies that are distinctly human. Employees will need to possess social and emotional intelligence, complex reasoning and problem solving, creativity, and even forms of sensory perception. While there appears to be nostalgia for high-paying blue collar jobs, with President Trump seeking to bring jobs back to American soil by rewriting trade agreements, increasing automation will change the way employees spend their time. In addition to knowing how to program and provide machine maintenance, employees need to know how to be part of a team process, with supervision over a variety of activities, including overseeing machines that are stymied by non-standard events. Positions will require more mental engagement, flexibility, and the ability to talk through conflict.
See As automation increases, jobs will require human ingenuity, Craig Torres, The Los Angeles Times, Nov 5 2018
The Labor Department is seeking to roll-back an Obama-era regulation that prevented 16-17 year olds from operating power lifts in nursing home and hospitals, citing an employer survey and letters from industry groups that stated that the rule was hurting employment opportunities for younger people in a field that suffers from labor shortages. About 56,000 teenagers ages 16 to 19 work as nursing, psychiatric or home health aides; the move would add 23,000 jobs. Critics say that the rollback will increase injuries, citing government research that concludes that 16 and 17 year olds cannot safely operate power lifts by themselves.
See Labor Department seeks to rollback child labor rule, allowing teenagers to operate power lifts in nursing homes, Suzy Khimm, NBC News, Nov 5 2018
The report released by the Labor Department Friday morning revealed that the labor market has remained strong. 250,000 jobs were added in October alone, and unemployment is at 3.7 percent- nearly a 50 year low. While labor force participation has increased by 711,000 there are more open jobs than people willing to participate in the labor market. Wages have grown by 3.1 percent over the past year. However, nearly a quarter of Americans still do not earn enough money to cover their basic living expenses. Although the overall trends in the labor market are positive, there is still much work to be done.
See Patricia Cohen, The New York Times, Nov 2 2018
On Thursday, hundreds of Google employees staged a walkout to protest how sexual misconduct cases have been inappropriately handed by top execs. Google has been accused of giving multimillion dollar exit packages to execs involved in cases of sexual misconduct. Workers in Asia, Europe, and the U.S. participated in a mass walkout that included employees from 47 offices around the world. Employees documented the walkout on twitter using the hashtag Googlewalkout. The employees who arranged the protest have made demands that include greater transparency, producing public sexual harassment reports, employee representation on the board, and not forcing cases of sexual misconduct and harassment to go to arbitration.
See Olivia Carville, Bloomberg Law, Nov 2 2018
On Friday, India’s Prime Minister presented measures intended to support small and medium-sized businesses. Last year, the implementation of the Unified Goods and Services Tax (GST) put small firms out of business and causes hundreds of thousands of people to lose their jobs. As a result of the negative impact of the tax, Prime Minister Modi has fallen out of public favor- it seems these new measures are an attempt to regain voter support prior to next year’s elections. Some of the new measures that will attempt to strengthen small businesses include easier access to loans, loan discounts, and making it easier to comply with various labor laws and standards.
See Manoj Kumar & Krishna N. Das, Reuters, Nov 2 2018
Unionized employees at UPS Freight (the industrial shipping unit that handles heavy shipments) will be voting on the company's latest contract offer next week and the company has warned its customers that a work stoppage may occur. The contract had been extended until November 12th. The company is preparing for a disruption in services, and has warned that the last day for freight pickups is next Wednesday and that it aims to clear its network of all freight by the end of that week The contract had been rejected by 62% of voters with about two-thirds of ballots cast. The union wants tighter restrictions on subcontracting out work, higher wage increases and getting rid of restrictions on qualifying for pension and vacation benefits.
See UPS warns customers of possible work stoppage as contract extension expires, Paul Ziobro, Wall Street Journal, Nov 1 2018
L3 Technologies has agreed to settle an employment discrimination lawsuit that claims the company - whose major customer is the Department of Defense - favored employment applications of those were not active U.S. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve members. The company denies the allegations, but has agreed to settle the suit for $2 million, while committing to scheduling policies that would accommodate active reserve members. A 1994 federal law prevents employers from discriminating against active Guard and Reserve members, who become temporarily ineligible to work when they are deployed, leaving employers with unfilled positions. The lawsuit claims recurring discrimination not only during the hiring process but during operations as well, where reservists are seen as "always trying to get out of work."
See Military tech giant L3 settles class-action suit claiming employment discrimination against military reservists, Aaron Gregg, The Washington Post, Nov 1 2018
The top court in South Korea has decided that a Japanese company must compensate 4 people who were forced to work for the firm during World War II. Leaders in both South Korea and Japan are concerned that this ruling will encourage other forced laborers and their families to come forward, thus creating anti-Japan sentiment that will weaken the alliance between the two countries. During WWII an estimated 15,000 South Korean laborers were forced to work for Japanese firms. South Korea has not fully recovered from these war-era crimes, and some feel that Japan has not done enough to mend the wounds of the past. Japanese leadership would prefer to move on from WWII era issues and are displeased by the recent court ruling. Currently, Japanese leaders are waiting to see what South Korean officials do in response to this ruling but have stated that they may seek international arbitration.
See Linda Sieg & Hyonhee Shin, Reuters, Oct 31 2018
The National Nurses United union has filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that Johns Hopkins Hospital management has been engaging in anti-union activity. The union claimed that management prohibited nurses from discussing unionization while at work, and prevented nurses from coming in to work on their days off to talk to their colleagues about unionization efforts. The NLRB agreed with the union that the hospital has been discouraging unionization in ways that directly violate federal labor law. While the hospital claims to disagree with the NLRB’s findings, the board intends to file a formal complaint if the hospital doesn’t decide to settle.
See Andrea K. McDaniels, The Baltimore Sun, Oct 31 2018
In September, the NLRB proposed a new regulation that would change who is defined as a “joint employer." While Obama held office, the rule was changed to include employers who had direct or indirect control over an employee. The new definition would exclusively define joint employers as firms that have direct control over an employee. Democratic senators and large unions have asked the board to extend the comment period by 60 days, and to hold public hearings as well. While the board has refused to hold public hearings, the comment period will be extended by 30 days. The board is intent on passing the new regulation and will not be “derailed” by “political distractions.”
See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Oct 31 2018
A forthcoming study to be published in the Industrial and Labor Relations Review revealed that women in unionized workplaces are more likely to use maternity leave than women in nonunionized workplaces. Only 4 out of 10 women use maternity leave in the U.S., often due to financial hardships. Even when states provide paid maternity leave, many female workers choose not to take it, in order to avoid losing overtime or bonus pay, or because there’re not aware of the benefit. The study found that the likelihood of a working woman using available maternity leave depends on four factors – affordability, awareness, availability, and assurance. Union women are more likely to have access to a variety of benefits and to be aware of those benefits, due to the presence of union representatives who serve as educators and advocates.
See Union employees 17% more likely to use maternity leave than in nonunionized workplaces, study shows, Jonathan Timm, The Atlantic, Oct 30 2018
The National Labor Relations Board announced recently that unions should be required to show that established, systems are in place in order to track grievances and communicate their status to workers. Unions that do not do so may be liable and at fault for poor representation if failing to process worker grievances in a timely fashion. Prior to the new policy, unions were only at fault if they had acted in bad faith. The labor board said that there had been an increasing number of cases where the union had defended itself due to negligence rather than it had acted in bad faith.
See NLRB implements new policy to make it easier for workers to sue unions for negligence, Sean Higgins, The Washington Examiner, Oct 30 2018
Dissatisfied with CEO Sundar Pichai’s reaction to a report detailing Google's response to alleged sexual harassment by company executives, more than 200 Google workers are planning to walk out later this week, with a list of requests for the company to consider. Pichai had attempted to reassure employees on Friday after a New York Times story was publishing that revealed that the company had paid a $90 million exit package to Android chief Andy Rubin after he was accused of sexually harassing a worker in a hotel room in 2013. On Thursday Pichai had sent an email to staff indicating that policy had been updated so that all vice presidents and senior vice presidents were required to disclose any relationship with a co-worker, and that 48 people had been terminated for sexual harassment in the last two years.
See Google employees plan to protest handling of sexual harassment claims, Bloomberg, The Los Angeles Times, Oct 30 2018
As the newly formed Harvard graduate student union prepares to bargain for the first time, they are tasked with determining who will be part of the bargaining unit. This is particularly challenging because the bargaining unit is complex due to the unpredictable nature of student employment. The union members will be undergraduate employees, graduate students, and research assistants. However, when these students begin and end their teaching varies by program and department need. Job descriptions and titles vary by department as well so it is difficult to determine who should be considered part of the bargaining unit.
See Shera S. Avi-Yonah & Molly C. McCafferty, The Harvard Crimson, Oct 29 2018
There have been five days of flight cancellations as a result of baggage handlers at Brussels airport going out on strike. 660 flights have been cancelled since Thursday due to the labor dispute between baggage handlers and management. The baggage handlers are on strike because they are under excessive pressure attributable to being short-staffed. While the strike did not receive prior authorization from the union, the workers plan to continue their protest until Tuesday.
See Jan Strupczewski & Philip Blenkinsop, Reuters, Oct 29 2018
Cornell’s ILR School has decided to end its research and exchange program with Remnin University in Beijing. This decision comes after students at the university who were attempting to organize to fight for workers’ rights were punished, intimidated, and detained against their will. The Communist Party in China views collective activity as a threat and has required universities to subdue these kinds of activities. An assistant professor in the ILR School, Eli Friedman, explained that the tactics used by Remnin University officials are a “major violation of academic freedom,” which is why Cornell has chosen to discontinue its relationship with the University.
See Javier C. Hernández, The New York Times, Oct 29 2018
Transportation services were disrupted for 24 hours while multiple trade unions were out on strike. Milan experienced the worst of the strike, with no buses or trams in operation outside of morning and evening rush hours. Transportation personnel was protesting poor working conditions, being understaffed, and an overall low financial investment in public transportation services. Currently, the government is responsible for the funding and management of transportation services. However, in November a vote will take place to determine whether or not transportation services should be eligible for privatization.
See Cristiano Corvino, Reuters, Oct 26 2018
The Papua New Guinea Government recently purchased 40 luxury vehicles in preparation for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference. It is the first time that Papua New Guinea will host the conference, which will involve many economic leaders attending conferences in the country throughout the year. The fleet of Maserati that the government purchased is intended to shuttle economic leaders to and from their meetings. However, this purchase has caused a lot of upset- many transportation workers went on strike for a day to protest the excessive spending. Other citizens who were questioned claim that the protest is due to discontent with unreliable, “self-serving” political leadership.
See Helen Davidson & Kate Lyons, The Guardian, Oct 26 2018
Following the release of a New York Times story that alleged that Google had protected employees from allegations of sexual assault by offering them severance packages, Google’s CEO sent an email to his staf in order to offer clarity regarding the firm’s sexual assault policies. In the email, Pichai explained that 48 Google employees have been fired over the past two years due to sexual assault allegations. He reported that none of the employees were offered “exit packages.” The CEO and VP of People Operations reminded employees of the anonymous reporting mechanisms that are available, in the event that harassment does occur. Additionally, the execs explained the company’s policy that requires all vice presidents and senior vice presidents to communicate with HR personnel if they are in a relationship with a co-worker. Pichai stated that the company remains committed to creating a safe workplace and holding employees accountable for inappropriate conduct.
See Nivedita Bhattacharjee, Reuters, Oct 26 2018
Two of the three coal mines in Colorado’s Delta county, which used to employ thousands of full-time miners, closed between 2014 and 2016, leaving roughly 800 miners out of work. Rather than see family and friends leave the community in search of new jobs, schools consolidate and other businesses close, a couple that owned a start-up tech company decided to open up their barn into a training facility, where 80 miners so far have learned how to splice fiber. Local utility companies were anxious to expand broadband internet, and rural residents have often suffered from a lack of fast internet that leaves communities behind compared to bigger cities. In a recent nationwide survey of 1300 adults living in rural communities, rural Americans said the key to finding new jobs close to home was easy access to training opportunities. Besides finding jobs closer to home, rural Americans would prefer to have friends and family nearby, including children who would normally move away to find jobs. Fiber optics have helped Delta county move on from coal mining and its population, rather than declining for the first time in years, is attracting those who want the small-town life.
See As coal mines close in Colorado town, unemployed miners find tech training close to home, Kirk Siegler, NPR, Oct 25 2018
The current Progressive Conservative government in Ontario, Canada, holding to its campaign promise to treat businesses better, has revised some of the previous administration’s Bill 148, which had determined that the province’s minimum wage would rise to $15 this year and that 10 personal days would be granted to employees (two of them paid). The current government will freeze the minimum wage at $14 until 2020, whereupon it will be raised annually with ties to inflation. It’s also cutting personal leave days to 7 days, all of them unpaid. Part-time employees will be paid less than full-time employees doing the same job. Businesses had complained that the passage of Bill 148 led to great hardships that required cutting staff and raising prices; the current administration thus ran on the platform to (make) “Ontario Open for Business”. Labor groups and some business owners were not happy with the decision that “removes workers’ rights”.
See Ontario, Canada diminishes labor-friendly Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act by freezing minimum wages until 2020, cutting personal leave and paying part-time employees less, Brenda Bouw, The Globe and Mail, Oct 25 2018
Two years after voting to unionize and with no contract yet in place, the employees of Law360, a Lexis-Nexis unit, have voted 141-11 on authorizing a strike. The notable legal news website joins a wave of unionizing activities amongst online media outlets in recent years, including the Guardian, Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, in part due to greater sensitivity to anti-union campaigns and workplace controversy. Prior to the vote to unionize, the company had brought in anti-union specialists to tell employees that union dues were expensive and the unions might approve contracts that weren’t favorable to employees. Law360 officials commented that they wanted employees to hear both sides in order to make an informed decision. The vote to strike had been prompted by stalemates with the company on issues involving job security and paid holidays.
See Law360 workers authorize strike after two years with no contract, Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg Law, Oct 25 2018
Following an investigation that revealed that Microsoft had been discriminating against female employees, the Department of Labor had nearly reached an agreement with Microsoft officials- and then the DOL rescinded the agreement. The DOL found that Microsoft was not compensating female employees fairly, and was promoting women less frequently than men. Initially, the DOL intended to simply let Microsoft compensate the women who were found to have been impacted, and avoid disclosing to the public the findings that make it clear that the company was engaging in discriminatory practices. However, In July the DOL decided that this agreement was not sufficient and that it is necessary to enforce a harsher penalty in this case. In recent years, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has begun to focus more on fair compensation and holding tech firms accountable. While the OFCCP is unable to comment because the details of this case are confidential, a Microsoft spokesperson has stated that the company remains committed to employing a diverse workforce.
See Chris Opfer & Paige Smith, Bloomberg BNA, Oct 24 2018
A federal appeals panel recently overturned a ruling that took place last year that dismissed a suit brought against Nestle and Cargill by six former child slaves- meaning the foreign plaintiffs will finally get their day in court. The former child slaves involved in this case were kidnapped and forced to work up to 14 hours per day, without pay. Nestle and Cargill are being accused of “aiding and abetting” slave labor in the cocoa fields that they purchase from. Judges found that the US companies were aware that slave labor was involved in the production of the cocoa that they use to make their products, and they also found that the companies were giving personal spending money to cocoa farms investigated by US officials. These payments were intended to ensure that the companies would continue to receive cocoa at low prices- prices that are only achievable when labor is not compensated.
See Erik Larson, Bloomberg, Oct 24 2018
AFSCME Local 3299, the University of California’s largest union, is picketing for the second time in six months. Union employees are fighting for higher wage increases, and greater job security. The strike began with the medical center’s patient-care technical unit, however, the service employee unit has agreed to join the strike in solidarity. The employer has agreed to reveal details of the dispute to the media, and has reported that the union has requested a 36% wage increase over a period of four years. UCD officials have made it clear that they offer wages and benefits that are greater than those of competitors in the industry. Additionally, the union is displeased that management has made the decision to outsource labor. University officials have made it clear that they are committed to ensuring that patients receive high quality care during this time, despite the union activity that is taking place.
See Cathie Anderson, The Sacramento Bee, Oct 24 2018
A New York Times investigation has found that many female workers in strenuous jobs may be denied their requests for lighter duty work, even when accompanied by a doctor’s note, as denying a request to accommodate the worker isn’t necessarily illegal. The 40-year-old Pregnancy Discrimination Act is the only federal law created to protect expectant female workers; companies have to accommodate pregnant employees’ requests only if it is already doing so for other workers who are “similar in their ability or inability to work.” Pregnancy discrimination can take several forms – limited promotions or raises, termination in lieu of maternity leave – but workers in physically taxing jobs have an additional worry. Several female workers have miscarried at a Tennessee warehouse owned by XPO Logistics, a contractor for Verizon that manages packing and shipping phones, and last year one woman had cardiac arrest while on duty. Verizon is investigating in response to the NYT report. The warehouse was already known for hard working conditions due to temperatures that reach over 100 degrees with no air-conditioning; regular work duties include moving boxes up to 45 pounds. Medical research have established a link between physically demanding work and fetal death; a peer-reviewed study from 2013 found that the risk of fetal death increased as women lifted heavier objects more frequently.
See Pregnancy discrimination delivers fatal toll on women denied lighter duties, Jessica Silver-Greenberg and Natalie Kitroeff, The New York Times, Oct 23 2018
Thousands of council workers in Glasgow, Scotland, proceeded with their plans to conduct a 48-hour strike today, closing hundreds of schools and nurseries, and affecting the availability of home care services. Museums, leisure services and libraries will remain open but cafes and cleaning services could be disrupted. At issue are approximately 12,000 claims of unequal pay, despite a job evaluation plan introduced more than a decade ago that was supposed to alleviate pay inequality. Instead, jobs that were declared to be of equal value are still being paid inequally between female-dominated and male-dominated industries. The local authority had announced in January that it planned to reach a negotiated settlement to the claims, but local unions say there have been no progress despite 21 meetings in the past 10 months. Activist group Action 4 Equality estimates that backdated claims and pay increases could eventually cost between 500 million and 1 billion euros; the council disputes that number but admits that financial challenges exist.
See 8,000 Glasgow council workers strike today to protest pay disparities; hundreds of schools closed and home care services disrupted, BBC News, BBC News, Oct 23 2018
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have continued with enforcing White House administration priorities to detain illegal immigrants, with the latest raid in northeast Texas, reducing the supply of welders by half at a trailer processing plant in Tigertown. Turning raw steel into trailers is hard physical labor involving cutting heavy metal, dragging it into place, and arc-welding it, amidst strident noise and sparks — but Load Trail has always had difficulty in getting American workers to do the welding work, which can result in broken fingers and burns amongst other injuries. 300 ICE agents descended and rounded up over 150 undocumented workers on August 28th, with criminal investigations into the company continuing. Tigertown is a tiny community where several trailer manufacturers have set up shop – all of whom employ unauthorized immigrants to do the work. While the strongly conservative state voted for the current presidential administration in 2016, locals are in agreement that guest workers are needed and are sympathetic to the uprooted welders. In 2018, ICE agents have struck at 7-Eleven stores, a meatpacking plant, dairy and vegetable farms and a feedlot.
See ICE raids depletes welder supply in Tigertown, Texas, John Burnett, NPR, Oct 23 2018
The UK government plans to implement a scheme to address the labor abuse and slavery that is taking place at hand car washes across the country. Individuals coming from Eastern Europe to work at hand car washes are frequently subject to poor working conditions, violence, and debt bondage. Most workers at these small firms are estimated to be victims of exploitation, according to modern slavery experts. The responsible Car Wash Scheme will attempt to combat worker slavery and abuse by auditing hand car washes, recognizing those that operate legally, and increasing investment into the anti-slavery drive so that more investigations can take place.
See Kieran Guilbert, Reuters, Oct 22 2018
An investigative panel recently found that Japanese ministries have been falsifying their records regarding their numbers of employees with disabilities, in order to meet legal quotas. In Japan, public employers must ensure that employees with disabilities make up at least 2.5% of their workforce. Japanese ministries included thousands of people in their numbers of employees with disabilities who did not have documented disabilities-many people included in this number were retired, while some were even dead. All of the ministries denied intentionally falsifying numbers, however the panel assumes that they intended to inflate numbers to meet quotas. In response to these findings, the government has announced plans to employ over 4,000 people with disabilities and strategies to prevent this kind of misconduct from taking place in the future.
See The Japan Times, Oct 22 2018
Three trade unions in Nigeria are threatening to continue their strikes indefinitely if the government does not make an immediate effort to meet their demands for higher wages. The minimum wage in Nigeria is currently 18,000 naira ($49.59) per month. Unions compromised with government officials to come up with a new minimum wage of 30,000 naira ($82.64). However, unions have yet to see the new minimum wage agreement become law. The unions have stated that if they do not see that the government has made progress towards increasing the minimum wage by November 6, they will go back out on strike.
See Camillus Eboh, Reuters, Oct 22 2018
A Marriott owned hotel is under investigation by the California Labor Commissioner’s office after the union, representing cleaning staff, brought numerous allegations against hotel management and its third-party staffing agency. Marriott workers in multiple cities are currently on strike. In Chicago, the company is being sued for not paying workers properly. In California, the union has made claims that Marriott is exploiting undocumented workers. Hotel management insists that the allegations being made by the union are false, and are an attempt to increase bargaining power.
See Paige Smith, Bloomberg Law, Oct 19 2018
Over 350 students and staff members participated in a pro-labor walkout at the University of Chicago on Thursday. Last year, graduate students voted to unionize in an NLRB election but decided not to move forward due to apprehension about the NLRB’s new Republican majority using the case to change their position regarding graduate students’ right to form unions. Students at the walkout rallied to protest low wages, and inadequate benefits- echoing the concerns of other graduate students across the country. When asked to comment, the University expressed continued support of free speech and a commitment to working with graduate students to resolve this issue.
See William Yuen Yee, The Chicago Maroon, Oct 19 2018
Ryanair is making progress towards labor agreements with pilots in numerous countries, following costly strikes. The airline agreed to recognize unions for the first time almost a year ago, and has struggled to manage labor relations since then. This agreement led to a multitude of strikes that have put the company in a poor financial position- ultimately encouraging the firm to make concessions and agree to bargain. The company has reached agreements with both Portuguese and Italian unions, is making progress in Britain, and it appears that Spanish pilots will be up next for union recognition. While there is more work still to be done, it appears that Ryanair is making progress and will continue to do so in order to better the firm’s financial position.
See Padraic Halpin, Reuters, Oct 19 2018
Two senators are taking Amazon to task on work environments that prevent workers from voicing concerns as well as pursuing union activities. Amazon had recently raised its minimum wage for US workers, following a campaign spearheaded by Senator Bernie Sanders to reproach the company for low wages. Now, Senators Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are reproving the retail giant over an Amazon video that was sent to managers at Amazon’s Whole Food Markets, warning them of union organizing “signs” such as workers who mention “living wage” and “steward”, and who hand out fliers and wear union shirts. The video also stated that unions were not “in the best interest of our customers”. Under federal labor law, managers are allowed to predict what happens were workers to unionize, but they cannot make threats if they were to do so. The two senators are also bringing up reports that workers have been retaliated against when voicing concerns over low pay and stressful work environments.
See Senators criticize Amazon over possible anti-union behavior, Jeff Stein, The Washington Post, Oct 18 2018
The Walt Disney Company and labor unions in Anaheim have been contributing well over half of all contributions towards election campaigns that will determine the fate of a disputed initiative – Measure L - as well as the majority of seats on the Anaheim City Council, giving the two entities more say in Disney’s hometown. Measure L, an initiative that labor unions helped place on the ballot, would require large hospitality companies that receive a city subsidy to pay their workers a living wage. Disney is the largest employer and economic driver in Anaheim, with approximately 30,000 employees; its three hotels along with other hotels generate occupancy taxes that comprise 46% of the city’s $330 million general fund budget. Disney’s relationship with the city has been less comfortable since 2014, when an ACLU lawsuit was filed that gave Latino residents more say in city politics by changing the way city council members were elected. Labor unions who represent Disney workers have out-donated Disney, with $1.5 million in contributions – about 34% of campaign funds so far. Opponents to Measure L say that the higher salaries would impede new hotels from being built in Anaheim and thus affecting the construction industry and its workers.
See Disney and labor unions contributing large sums to election campaigns that will decide living wage initiative, Hugo Martin, The Los Angeles Times, Oct 18 2018
The thousands of undocumented workers who staff Louisiana’s seafood industry not only have to contend with physically dangerous work, but many have to duck sexual harassment as well. The workers remain quiet, because the owners of large seafood processing plants located in rural areas are often on good terms with local police, and they fear being reported to the police and being deported. They also fear police brutality, reportedly common against “guest” workers. One owner threatened violence against workers if they spoke about poor working conditions. The recently formed Seafood Workers Alliance – currently comprised of hundreds of members from 15 different plants in Louisiana – is helping workers organize to address these issues by suing employers and building community alliances – particularly with the African-American community - to help workers push back when abuses occur. Some low wage employers have tried pitting African-American workers against Latino workers, saying that guest workers have come to Louisiana to take their jobs. The Alliance has built enough momentum to help reinstate seven workers who had lost their jobs, including the president of the Alliance who had lost his job when trying to convince management to raise the wages from $9 an hour to $12 an hour.
See Undocumented workers in Louisiana fish for ways to right workplace wrongs in $2 billion seafood industry, Mike Elk, The Guardian, Oct 18 2018
Union employees of the South African weapons manufacturer, Denel, are protesting pay cuts and reduced working hours. The employee upset began after the company failed to pay managers their full wages last month and owners revealed that they may not be able to pay full employee salaries in the future as a result of their dire financial situation. While protests continue, a company spokesperson claims that there is no dispute between labor and management. However, the protests taking place currently are not legally protected, so there is nothing to prohibit management from dismissing striking employees.
See Nomvelo Chalumbira, Reuters, Oct 17 2018
A UPS union wants to change part of a labor contract that was recently ratified. While 54.2% of union members who participated voted to reject the contract, the contract was ratified because less than half of the bargaining unit voted. When this occurs, the union must have two-thirds of members voting no in order to reject the agreement. Some union members are upset because they feel that this vote is not representative of their opinion of the contract. Members take issue specifically with part of the contract that will create a new class of drivers who work on the weekends for a lower starting salary. According to a Labor Education Program Director at the University of Illinois, the outlook for the union is grim- even if the union is allowed the opportunity to re-vote and the contract is rejected. The director believes that the union lacks leverage, and the employer is unlikely to make concessions regardless of whether or not the contract is ultimately ratified.
See Andrew Wallender, Bloomberg Law, Oct 17 2018
A group of Harvard undergraduates, graduate students, and union members are protesting the dismissal of Harvard University Health Services employee, Malyi Shing. The group held a demonstration on Thursday where they went to confront the University’s Director of Labor and Employee Relations, in his office. Shing was dismissed by the university after making allegations of racism and sexual harassment in her workplace. While the University claims that Shing was terminated because of “insubordinate conduct,” she insists that her dismissal was retaliation against her for making said allegations. Additionally, it wasn’t until five months following her dismissal that she began receiving unemployment benefits, which resulted in significant financial hardship for Shing. The Harvard activist group is ultimately fighting for the University to reimburse Mayli Shing for the five months she endured without benefits, and reinstate her as an employee.
See Molly C. McCafferty, The Harvard Crimson, Oct 17 2018
Over 8,000 council workers in Glasgow, many of them women who have never been on picket lines, are planning to strike for two days next week to protest long-standing pay disparities. The strike will affect homecare, schools, nurseries, cleaning and catering services across the country, which is estimated to be the biggest pay-related strike seen in the United Kingdom. The issue stems from a 2006 decision by the Glasgow council to introduce a job evaluation plan that would address gender pay disparities, but female workers say that it furthered discrimination because despite female-dominated jobs (such as catering and cleaning) being declared of equal value to male-dominated jobs (such as trash pickup), those positions were still paid less due to a complex system that was detrimental to people who worked split shifts and irregular hours. Critics have accused the unions of favoring male workers with labor relations disputes over female workers for decades and of only using the current pay dispute to curry favor with the current Scottish National Party administration.
See Over 8,000 council workers in Glasgow plan two-day strike to protest pay disparity, Libby Brooks , The Guardian, Oct 16 2018
U.S. Steel reached a provisional agreement with the United Steelworkers union for a new collective bargaining agreement for their 14,000+ workers that would break the previous agreement’s three-year wage freeze. In ironing out the terms of the proposed four year contract, the Pittsburgh-based steelmaker suggested raising wages for those in the lowest tier by approximately 21% by September 2023. The union has pointed out that increased costs for the health insurance coverage would counteract much of that raise. The contract still needs to be ratified and voted on by workers.
See U.S. Steel hammers out tentative agreement for over 14,000 workers with union, averts strike, Micah Maidenberg, The Wall Street Journal, Oct 16 2018
The choice of CEOs to choose lightening-rod celebrities in order to market products, or who limit current product supply lines to align with personal beliefs, are altering taboos of having politics at work. Corporate managers, who have traditionally declined to choose sides on sensitive topics at work, are increasingly making their positions known. For example, Levi Strauss’s CEO, who made a $1 million donation on behalf of the company towards preventing gun violence, experienced hate mail and threats towards him and his family, with some of the angry responses coming from employees, who felt that the company’s donation was hostile towards their gun ownership rights. CEO-sourced activism has increased since 2014, when Apple CEO Tim Cook openly supported gay rights, while the then-CEO of Starbucks shared an open letter about racial tensions in the country. Since then, Nike has chosen NFL quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick to represent the brand, while Dick’s Sporting Goods has chosen to raise the age for buying a gun to 21, while also pulling assault-type guns from store shelves. Society in recent years has become increasingly polarized, enabled by social media amplifying the ability to spread passionate opinions towards influencers. Corporations who choose to be influencers may play up their partisan identities, which can impact recruitment of younger workers.
See CEOs who market activism transform politics at work, Yuki Noguchi, NPR, Oct 16 2018
The graduate student union at the University of Iowa has struggled to reeducate members and establish a new system for collecting dues, following the implementation of new laws that impact the collective-bargaining rights of public employees. Public-sector unions must now be re-certified every time their contracts expire. More than 50% of the members in a bargaining unit need to vote in order for re-certification to take place. Members are counted as voting “no” if they do not vote. Additionally, unions in the public sector are no longer allowed to collect dues via payroll deductions. The graduate student union leadership is concerned that members will not show up to vote for re-certification, and is struggling to become stable financially as a result of the new laws that have significantly diminished union power.
See Aadit Tambe, The Daily Iowan, Oct 15 2018
The management of an Indian rock quarry has been convicted of holding employees in debt bondage, and using violence to enslave workers. In India, “bonded labor” has been banned since 1976, but remains prevalent due to poor enforcement mechanisms. Typically when survivors are rescued, their cases are not pursued by the legal system; less than 2% of these cases result in a conviction. However, the court that oversaw this specific case sentenced the employers involved to over 11 years in jail. The hope is that this strict sentence will send a message to employers, and set a new precedent for cases involving slave labor.
See Anuradha Ngaraj, Reuters, Oct 15 2018
The Janus v. AFSCME decision stated that unions cannot require employees who are not union members to pay dues, unless they consent to doing so. Following this decision, employees have filed five lawsuits against unions in an attempt to recover more than $150 million in union dues that were paid previously, but are now considered unconstitutional as a result of Janus. Although courts have rejected many of these lawsuits, fighting them in court is a huge expense. Unions are already suffering from a loss of revenue as a result of no longer receiving dues from nonmembers, who will inevitably benefit from union negotiations.
See Robert Iafolla, Bloomberg Law, Oct 15 2018
Members of a Chicago orchestra have gone on strike, following their employer’s new contract proposal. The company, Lyric Opera, would like to reduce the size of the orchestra and the number of performance weeks due to financial pressures. In just four years, the amount of donations and grants that the orchestra receives annually has decreased by nearly half. However, orchestra members argue that reducing the orchestra size and number of performances will only exacerbate the problem by further decreasing interest in the opera.
See Howard Reich and Hal Dardick, Chicago Tribune, Oct 12 2018
The New York City teachers union and city officials have peacefully reached a tentative agreement, several months before the old contract expires. The new 43 month contract includes compounded wage increases, and financial incentives to fill openings at schools with high employee turnover rates. Critics are displeased that the deal will not address large class sizes, or the expenses related to the pool of educators who are not teaching but remain on the payroll due to school closures or disciplinary action. The contract still has to be approved by union members, however it appears that both sides are content with the agreement.
See Leslie Brody, The Wall Street Journal, Oct 12 2018
The prime minister of Japan intends to pass a bill this year that will allow foreign workers entry into the country, in response to blue-collar labor shortages. Japan is struggling to find people to fill positions in industries such as agriculture and construction. This foreign labor policy would have separate tracks for unskilled and skilled workers, with the latter being allowed to stay in the country indefinitely. In the past, Japan has restricted immigration due to a desire to keep the population more homogeneous in order to retain cultural values. However, as employers struggle to fill positions in key industries, policy makers appear to be more open to letting immigrant workers in.
See Peter Landers, The Wall Street Journal, Oct 12 2018
Due to high operation costs and price fluctuations for milk and feed, it has been easier for large-scale dairy farms to stay in business as they can spread production costs over large herds, such as 15,000-20,000 cows at farms in the West and Southwest. Small scale operations in the Northeast and Midwest, such as the Tullando farm with their 480 cows in New Hampshire, are finding automation and high tech advances necessary in order to reduce labor costs as well as fight the problem of finding labor to begin with. Farms often are unable to compete with wages offered elsewhere. Milking robots, such as the Astronauts developed by Dutch company Lely, help small dairy farm stay efficient in troubled economic times; one robot can replace four full-time employees. Four years ago, the demand for U.S. milk dried up in Europe as a quota limiting the amount of milk European farms could produce was removed; at the same time, milk drinking had decreased in the U.S population, leading to a disruption in the three year cycle of price and demand fluctuations that dairy farmers had come to rely on and creating a milk glut where in some cases, unused milk had been dumped. Trump's recent trade deal with Canada and Mexico will open up new avenues for U.S. dairy farmers in Canada, but it increasingly appears that automation will reduce human capital concerns and expenses for struggling dairy farmers, even if the initial cost for automation is high. Currently 4.5% of U.S. dairy farms are using robotic milkers.
See Milking robots help small U.S. dairy farmers stay in business as demand for milk dries up, Elodie Reed, The Atlantic, Oct 11 2018
The majority of Greece's 275 tourist attractions were shuttered Thursday, potentially losing about 100 million euros in revenue as over 3,000 members of the Vafiadis union, representing cultural ministry workers, participated in a one day strike over fears that more and more of the country's prized architectural sites were being placed on the list for privatization according to the terms of bailout lenders. A superfund was created in 2016 to manage and sell state assets for the next 99 years, as part of the bailout terms the country had to accept in order to remain in the EU. The finance minister denied that architectural and heritage sites would wind up on the list, but Greece is still well short of the funds it has said it would raise from privatization in order to pay its third and final bailout; the country has the highest debt load of any EU state and received 288 billion euros in rescue loans since 2010. The cultural minister has conceded that mistakes may have been made on the list and has asked the finance minister to release the list of properties that would be exempt from privatization in order to assuage fears.
See Greek tourist sites such as the Acropolis, the Parthenon close as over 3,000 cultural ministry workers strike against privatization fears , Helena Smith, The Guardian, Oct 11 2018
Observers are concerned that, despite Amazon receiving praise for raising the minimum wage for its US and UK employees last week, that broader issues surrounding the company will be ignored. While Amazon’s recent wage hike received praise from future presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders, minimum wage increases in the US have still failed to keep pace with inflation. The Economics Policy Institute estimated that a full-time minimum wage worker in 1968 should have earned $20,600 a year; in 2017, the figure earned by a federal minimum wage worker was $15,080. While the figure that Amazon’s low-wage workers earn will increase, concerns remain that they will still struggle to earn further wage increases in a timely fashion, unless changes are made to the current federal minimum wage. The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) cited concerns over Amazon’s broader impact on the economy in at least two areas - the company’s increasing use of automation has resulted in half the employees needed to run brick-and-mortar stores, and the company’s increasing monopolization of the marketplace means that the opportunity for small and medium businesses to succeed has disintegrated.
See Amazon’s minimum wage increase will divert attention from its impact on the economy, critics say , Dominick Rushe, The Guardian, Oct 11 2018
Massachusetts State Police troopers have been accused of payroll fraud following a financial review conducted within the department. Troopers who are union members have negotiated a benefit that allows them to take paid time off when engaging in union activity. A colonel revealed that union members have been taking advantage of this benefit on days when they are not scheduled to be on duty. The union has stated that they are prepared to take action against the misuse of this benefit. Unfortunately, the police department is planning to eliminate the practice of paying for union positions due to union members’ abuse of a taxpayer funded benefit.
See Matt Rocheleau, The Boston Globe, Oct 10 2018
Unionized AFL-CIO employees voted unanimously to strike, following management’s proposal of a new contract. The proposed agreement included reduced sick leave, insufficient wages, and diminished layoff protections. A spokesperson for the union expressed that accepting an inadequate contract would send a poor message to the other unions represented by the organization. The AFL-CIO has been under significant pressure in recent months due to the activities of an unsupportive administration, and a steady decline in membership. If union members do strike, the Washington-Baltimore News Guild at the AFL-CIO will refuse to work as well.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Oct 10 2018
Food industry workers are turning towards non-traditional unions and organizing tactics in order to attain greater wages and working conditions. In the past, food industry workers have struggled to organize and to make gains due to public perception of their positions being temporary, and primarily held by young people. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, around 1% of food workers are union members compared to around 10% of the general workforce. Now, the IWW and the Fight for 15 have emerged as key players in this renewed movement that uses aggressive tactics, such as salting, to secure benefits for these employees.
See Teke Wiggin, Huffington Post, Oct 10 2018
The U.S.'s largest home healthcare union, which represents approximately 385,000 in-home healthcare workers in California, is now offering debit cards as a way for workers to easily deposit union dues without having to write a check, due to a proposed new rule by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that would prevent the ability of states to send Medicaid money to "third parties" (such as unions). Medicaid funds the salaries of home health aides, which would prevent unions such as Service Employees International Union Local 2015 from collecting union dues as part of employee paychecks. Many of SEIU Local 2015 members are Medicaid-funded home health aides who were already used to the idea as a 2014 Supreme Court case had already banned mandatory fees for Medicaid workers. The debit cards are an example of how unions are struggling to find ways to continue to be funded, with the Supreme Court case in June preventing public sector unions from collecting fees from non-members and with July's proposed rule affecting the ability to collect voluntary dues as well.
See U.S.'s largest home healthcare union offers debit cards to counter Trump administration's plan to stifle union dues, Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Oct 9 2018
The world's largest hotel chain continue to experience a multi-city work walkout as nearly 3,000 additional workers went on strike in Hawaii on Monday. Unite Here, which represents hospitality workers, said 7,700 members were on strike in seven cities, including Detroit, Boston, San Diego, San Jose, Oakland, and San Francisco, for the hotel chains Marriott, Westin, and Sheraton. About 12,000 Marriott workers are currently working without a contract, thus more strikes may be expected in the near future. A local union president in Detroit commented that the workers had gone through a wage freeze and years of minimal wage increases due to the Great Recession, and now that the economy is recovering, are expecting more from Marriott's improved profits, which were up 25% from the previous year's second quarter. Besides pay raises, the union is also seeking "panic buttons" for housekeepers, in order to prevent sexual harassment and assault, as well as better scheduling for housekeepers, whose work schedules can be erratic when guests choose to skip room cleanings for conservation.
See Marriott strike continues, expands to seven cities as 3,000 workers go on strike in Hawaii, Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, Oct 9 2018
On Friday, workers at UPS and UPS Freight had rejected the proposed collective bargaining agreement on the table by a ratio of 54 to 46 percent, which was a triumph for the “vote no” movement that had been instigated by the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and activists from the Teamsters United coalition. Due to a loophole in the constitution of the Teamsters, however, union officials for the Teamsters declared the contract ratified. The union officials and company leaders had pushed hard for the contract, and prior to the vote, Teamsters Package Division Director Denis Taylor had said the contract would be enforced even if workers voted against it. The loophole in the Teamster constitution states that contracts could be ratified even if members voted it down, unless voter numbers went over 50% or “no” votes were over 66%. Although it wasn’t clear post-vote whether the union would follow through with the loophole, TDU activists weren’t happy and are calling for Taylor’s removal as negotiator and for the union to return to the table to re-negotiate. At issue is the fact that Amazon, as UPS’s biggest customer as well as rival, raised their minimum wages last week to $15, while UPS was still offering only $13. Other concerns on the table include excessive overtime, surveillance, and supervisory harassment.
See UPS employees reject proposed contract; Teamsters constitutional loophole may force contract on workers anyway, Alexandra Bradbury, Labor Notes, Oct 9 2018
A British union is encouraging Uber drivers to strike on Tuesday. In recent months, Uber drivers around the world have been protesting their working conditions. Drivers in the UK plan to avoid signing into the app for 24 hours, in order to protest low fares and minimal workplace rights. Additionally, drivers plan to hold protests outside of Uber’s offices. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain is anticipating that hundreds of drivers will participate in the upcoming strike.
See Costas Pitas, Reuters, Oct 8 2018
A Best Buy in North Carolina, impacted by Hurricane Florence, is offering employees full pay for volunteer work, while the store is undergoing repair. Many employees in regions impacted by the hurricane have been unable to work, due to structural damage caused by the disaster and thus are experiencing financial pressure due to a loss of wages. Fortunately, Best Buy has established the Richard M. Shulze Family Foundation, which is intended to help employees financially during emergency situations. The Foundation will allow employees at the Wilmington location to receive full pay while they assist their community in recovering from the hurricane.
See Michael Praats, Port City Daily, Oct 8 2018
Approximately 30,000 Toys ‘R’ Us employees were laid off with no severance pay, following the retailer’s closure. However, some of the company’s former employees have contacted the private equity firms that funded the toy retailer, asking for financial assistance. Many former Toys ‘R’ Us employees are facing financial hardship as a result of the abrupt store closures that took place this summer. Those employees who have been in contact with investment firms, have been successful; over $20 million has been raised for a hardship fund so far. The closure of Toys ‘R’ Us has led to major criticism of private equity, which is already facing widespread condemnation.
See Michael Corkery, The New York Times, Oct 8 2018
Nearly 2,500 hotel workers walked off jobs at seven Marriott properties in San Francisco, joining striking Marriott workers in Boston, Oakland, and San Jose – all of whom were calling for higher wages, workplace safety and job security. The strike in San Francisco comes during a busy convention season and did result in the cancelling of at least one event with 550 attendees - the annual gala event for the non-profit Shanti Project which supports serious or terminal illness patients. 98.6 percent of the more than 8,000 hotel workers represented by Unite Here Local 2 voted in late September to strike. The city’s biggest hotel employer is Marriott, which employs approximately 2,300 workers. Strikes were also authorized in Detroit, Honolulu, Maui, San Diego and Seattle to allow staff to join the picket lines.
See 2,500 Marriott workers walk off jobs in San Francisco, joining others in Boston, San Jose, Sarah Ravani, SF Gate, Oct 5 2018
A Microsoft engineer, hoping to bring a lawsuit against the tech behemoth on the behalf of approximately 8,000 female employees, will have the 2011 Supreme Court case Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes to contend with as precedent against filing suit using class-action status. A female engineer was given a lower performance ranking, despite being told she had an outstanding year deserving of a higher performance rating, due to company policy that caps top rankings. In addition, she was passed over for promotion in favor of less qualified men and was paid less than her male peers; overall, women at Microsoft earn a “significant” 8.6 percent less than men. The Walmart case in 2011 had ruled that there wasn’t enough “commonality” among plaintiffs being evaluated by thousands of managers to justify a class; the Microsoft plaintiffs believed that the forced ranking system made it an issue of corporate culture. While a U.S. District judge ruled in favor of Microsoft in July, due to the Walmart precedent, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has agreed to review the case.
See Female Microsoft engineers bringing class action suit for discrimination face Walmart case as precedent , Joe Nocera , Bloomberg Businessweek, Oct 5 2018
While many employees dream of the benefits of a freelance life – flextime, flexplace, being one’s own boss – the challenges – primarily financial and administrative – can be beyond what’s imagined. Freelancers are part of the expanding contingent workforce, which is estimated to make up one-third of U.S. employees. The challenges are that an employer is no longer contributing toward Social Security, health insurance, retirement, or paid vacations; women may find putting off maternity plans due to the uncertainty of income and lack of provided paid leave. Some may find that lack of training, the complexity of meeting tax requirements, and unfamiliarity with current demand has led them to undercharge for their services, but charging more in a gig economy may not be possible in low-paying fields or where competition for services is fierce. Financial insecurity makes it difficult for independent workers to save money; only 8 percent are able to save for retirement, compared to 42 percent of those with an employer.
See Rapidly growing contingent workforce face financial challenges, complications , Yuki Noguchi , NPR, Oct 5 2018
The USMCA trade deal involving Mexico and Canada, introduced on Tuesday as an update to NAFTA by President Trump, received circumspect reactions by labor leaders, who, while appreciative of the administration’s attempts to seek input and answer queries, stated that they wanted to see more specific language regarding worker protections in the final version. The sticking point for House Democrats and labor officials is that while the deal does guard the workers’ right to strike, expands the definition of the minimum wage, and addresses violent intimidation of workers, it lacks a detailed plan as to how these will be enforced. The text of the trade deal was meant to be the final version, but union presidents are hopeful that enforcement mechanisms will be implemented in the bill that Congress will use to ratify the deal; labor officials are also waiting to see whether Mexico adopts its own labor law reforms.
See Labor leaders reactions remain guarded to proposed USMCA trade deal, seek systematic plan for enforcement of worker protections, Tory Newmyer, The Washington Post, Oct 4 2018
With the apparent decline of union power evidenced by the decreasing numbers of union members and strikes per year, as well as by the enactment of right-to-work laws in five states since 2012 and the Supreme Court ruling this year against required union fees for public employees in the Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the labor movement appears to be struggling against current political climates. A new book, A History of America in Ten Strikes, suggests that what unions need to do to revitalize what characterized the powerful labor movement during its heyday years after the New Deal is to re-emphasize to employees that the labor movement is more than about wage and benefit protections, but that involvement in labor movements gives workers a stronger say in societal conditions and the politics that may prevent respect and fairness.
See New book shows labor movement's history and heyday lies in appealing to more democratic conditions, David Sessions, The New Republic, Oct 4 2018
In the face of setbacks to public sector unions due to the Supreme Court ruling against required union fees earlier this year, one union in Peoria, Illinois is trying a different approach to increasing membership and needed funds – by working on community outreach and visiting employees at home to find out what employee’s concerns are. The 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers union is seeking to spread the message that the union is interested in members being involved with their union from the ground up, giving members more say and power in how the union operates. Giving union members more say in what agendas the union should pursue will hopefully increase membership and allow the union to be a more effective ally for its workers.
See Illinois teachers’ union tries home visits as community outreach to reconnect with and recruit union members, Dave Jamieson, Huffington Post, Oct 4 2018
Professor Lois Gray, a leader in the field of labor management relations, passed away recently at the age of 94. She joined the ILR School shortly after it was founded, where she worked as the director of extension. In her role, she mentored union leaders- thus bringing an academic field into the real world through education. Professor Gray was a researcher, author, and a member of the New York State Employment and Training task forces, whose contributions to the field of labor relations will not be forgotten.
See Sam Roberts, New York Times, Oct 3 2018
In order to address a shortage of skilled workers, Denmark leaders have proposed a policy that would reduce work permit requirements for foreign workers from specific countries. The country’s economy has grown tremendously over the past nine years. However, this economic growth and accompanying low unemployment rates has led to a labor shortage in several fields- especially those involving construction and technology. This specific policy is unique in that it will encourage workers from outside of the EU to immigrate to Denmark, and as a result it will likely face backlash from the more exclusionist Danish People’s Party. In order for this policy to be ratified, it will have to be approved by parliament.
See Peter Levring, Bloomberg, Oct 3 2018