Workplace Issues Today
Georgetown University recently announced it’s decision to privately negotiate with graduate student worker organizers. The decision to engage in private negotiations deviates from their refusal late last year to negotiate with the organizers, leaving some worried about the university’s intentions as it skirts NLRB jurisdiction. The legally-binding agreement says that both parties will negotiate without the board’s oversight. Other catholic colleges are looking at Georgetown’s approach as a possible alternative to dealing with the national labor board.
See Menachem Wecker, National Catholic Reporter, Apr 11 2018
The office of United States Senator Lamar Alexander, a republican from Tennessee, made a press release on April 9th stating that management-side labor attorney John Ring is expected to be confirmed this week as the newest member of the NLRB. If the Senate confirms Ring, it will give republicans a 3-to-2 majority on the board and likely begin a series of reversals of Obama-era labor board decisions. It will also be the first time since December that the board will be at it’s full membership, after previous Chairman Philip Miscimarra’s term expired.
See Howard M. Bloom and Philip B. Rosen, Lexology, Apr 11 2018
Bank employees in South Korea are demanding that branches close between 12:00 and 1:00 pm for lunch. The Korean Financial Industry Union reportedly said on Monday that the proposal is intended to guarantee a fair lunch for bank clerks. Fifty-two other demands were made alongside this on March 29th and will be addressed in upcoming bargaining talks.
See Son Ji-hyoung, Korea Herald, Apr 9 2018
Roughly 80% of high-speed trains were out of service in France today as the country’s rail workers carried out their fourth day of strikes that will continue periodically through June. A quarter of trains traveling in and out of France were also affected. On Friday, the workers’ will carry out their next round of walk-outs. The unions’ strike schedule is set to last two to four days per week. The workers are vehemently protesting President Macron’s plans to revoke the rail driver’s special status that allows them to retain their jobs and certain benefits for life. The CEO of France’s national rail authority reported that the strikes have already resulted in a cumulative loss of $123 million since they began last week.
See Associated Press, The Washington Post, AP, Apr 9 2018
GM workers in South Korea are losing public support as the automaker accumulates massive losses as a result of strikes. The cost of shares in Korean companies are typically undervalued on the market due to their history of strong labor unions and high employment costs, something known as the “Korea Discount”. Now, investors are now looking to move their production to countries with cheaper labor which is putting Korean unions are under pressure to make concessions or face widespread layoffs. Many South Koreans are beginning to turn against the GM workers’ fight to preserve their benefits as employment prospects become increasingly scarce.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Apr 9 2018
Georgetown University administrators agreed to allow graduate students to vote this spring on joining the American Federation of Teachers union; the agreement allows the students to proceed without the involvement of the National Labor Relations Board. While a 2016 NLRB ruling grants teaching and research assistants the legal protection to unionize, there had been concern that a partisan shift of the NLRB would overturn the ruling. The university’s decision signals an acceptance towards graduate students being able to participate in collective bargaining regardless of what the NLRB decides. Previously, the university had refused to support unionization attempts under the rationale that the work students did was part of their education, and that they were not employees. The Georgetown Alliance of Graduate Employees proposed that the election could be administered by a neutral third party rather than the NLRB, which the university on Monday agreed to. The university would also consider proposals on wages, benefits, leave policies and hours of work should the election decide in favor of a bargaining unit.
See Georgetown University will allow graduate students to vote on unionizing this spring, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post, Apr 6 2018
A San Francisco judge ruled last week on allowing two class-action lawsuits to proceed against Google. One class-action lawsuit had accused the tech giant of systematically undercompensating women as well as diverting them into lower paying jobs and promoting them at slower rates. The other lawsuit being brought alleges that Google permits a “bro-culture” which allowed a female engineer to experience daily harassment in the form of pranks, lewd comments, and in one case, physical violence. The female engineer is also claiming wrongful termination. In the latter case, Google had argued last week that the matter should not be resolved in court but in private arbitration, a means which has received criticism in recent months due to the #metoo movement. The engineer’s attorney refiled the case as a class-action suit in order to force Google to face the allegations in open court rather than in private arbitration.
See Class-action lawsuits will proceed against Google for pay disparity, sexual harassment , Sam Levin, The Guardian, Apr 6 2018
Oklahoma teachers have been on strike since Monday, with some making 110 mile walks to the state capital where substantial demonstrations have taken place, leaving half a million students out of school as they seek $200 million in increased funding to compensate for education cuts and low salaries. The Senate did pass an internet sales tax bill and a tribal gambling bill on Friday, but still left to deliberate are measures asking for a hotel lodging tax and a repeal of a capital gains income tax deduction; both face fierce opposition. Oklahoma elementary and high school teachers have the lowest median pay in the nation, and while they had received a $6000 increase in wages in a measure passed last week, they walked out on Monday, calling for $10,000 in increased wages over three years. The Oklahoma strike follows recent teacher strikes in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arizona, and have accentuated teachers' increasing frustration with low salaries and education budgets. Although some teachers have returned to work, it is expected that the state’s two largest school districts will continue to be on strike next week.
See Oklahoma teachers’ strike reaches 5th day as lawmakers deliberate tax hikes, revenue bills, Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, Reuters, Apr 6 2018
By the end of today’s date, April 4, Britain will have required all businesses with more than 250 employees to report pay discrepancies between male and female workers as they actually exist, without the use of control variables that may whittle the appearance of pay disparity. The 2017 law will affect approximately 9,000 companies and 15 million employees, with companies required to report unadjusted mean and median hourly wages, bonus pay for all employees, as well as percentages of men and women in each pay quartile. Without strict legal guidelines, most companies would prefer to analyze their salary data within strict parameters. Microsoft, for example, had reported in 2016 that women employees were paid 99.8 percent of what men working in the same roles at the same level received. The number didn’t show whether women were assigned to the correct pay level or were promoted as often as males. Princeton University economics professor Henry Farber had analyzed the data provided in a 2015 pay disparity lawsuit against Microsoft and found that, in contrast to the company’s claimed 0.2%, pay disparity occurred at 2.8% for people with the same job title; 6.3% when accounting for all previous factors within a department; 7.4% when accounting for age, tenure, location, and performance; and 8.6% when based on gender alone. Farber believes that the strict reporting required by the British law will, even if limited to U.K. work forces, provide insight into company structures around the world - revealing that higher paid divisions are dominated by males, and that women’s careers move slower, peak at a lower level, and ultimately pay a lot less than men’s careers.
See April 4 deadline for British law requiring unadjusted pay disparity reporting reveals salary gap is real, Claire Suddath , Bloomberg Business, Apr 4 2018
Chicago was one of only four U.S. cities cited in Pricewater Cooperhouse’s 2016 edition of “Cities of Opportunity”, its periodic analysis rating cities on “economic innovation and common wellbeing”. The city had earned the distinction based on a low employment rate and the fact that almost one-fourth of Chicago households in 2016 earned more than $100,000 a year; in addition, since 1970, the number of wealthy census tracts had increased four-fold. A common belief today is that rural areas in America are suffering from lack of economic opportunity, with resources and talent being driven towards large urban areas that are reaping the benefits of globalization and technological advancement. Those same two forces are applying great pressure on prosperous large cities such as Chicago, however – resulting in an equally large if not larger divide between the wealthy and the poor. In theory, each new job for an educated worker in a city should result in five jobs for less educated people, but it hasn’t happened in Chicago, where large sections of the population have been unable to get ahead, due to the compounded effects of two forces – the legacy of segregation and the decline of industrial jobs in factories and steel plants. Middle class African Americans have been leaving the city in droves between 2000 and 2010, and those left behind in segregated, decimated ghettos are unable to find nearby educational or job opportunities to help them leave; they often lack the necessary transportation to find jobs in the suburbs. While low-income whites in economically depressed rural areas are told to move to big cities, or areas that are booming such as Texas, the reality is that global cities like Chicago have their own poverty issues, with 34 percent of African Americans living in relative poverty and with worse economic outcomes than African Americans living in less prosperous cities.
See Urban-rural divide continues to attract rural job seekers while cities struggle with existing poverty, Alana Semuels , The Atlantic, Apr 4 2018
A recent report bu the OECD posits that only 10% of US jobs, and 12% of jobs in the UK, are at high risk of being automated over the next two decades. This contrasts with a 2013 report form Oxford University, which forecasted those numbers to be 47% and 35%, respectively. The OECD credits the differing results to the way that earlier studies grouped jobs together broadly by similar job title, hiding differences in susceptibility to replacement.
See Leo Kelion, BBC News Online, Apr 2 2018
Workers at the French state railway, SNCF, are set to begin a strike Monday evening that could lead to three months of train stoppages in that nation. This is the latest in a series of strikes that have protested French president Emmanual Macron's efforts to alter public sector working conditions, following last months walkouts by rail staff that were joined by teachers, nurses, and other public sector workers. Similar strikes last fall were unsuccessful in stopping Macron's government from passing laws easing restrictions on hiring and firing.
See BBC News Online, Apr 2 2018
Labor relations at Tesla’s Freemont plant in California have are becoming increasingly tense. The UAW has filed an unfair labor practice complaint, alleging rampant employee discrimination, and illegal intimidation tactics against pro-union employees, forcing them to sign nondisclosure agreements prohibiting any discussion of conditions at the plant. The conflict garnered national attention in February of 2017, when an employee published a blog post detaining the harsh working conditions, even reporting on-site injuries. In February, the UAW filed it’s most recent complaint against Tesla, who they say has been terminating employees over the last six months for engaging in union activities.
See Katie Burke, Automotive News, Mar 30 2018
The president of GM Korea, Kaher Kazem is urging its workers to accept wage freezes, saying that the company won’t be able to cover costs for the month of April unless the union agrees to these conditions. The company says that they need $561 dollars to cover severance packages for 2,600 workers who are retiring. The union says that GM Korea must forego their plans to close one of its factory’s before they agree to wage freezes and foregoing employee bonuses. To make matters worse, Korea’s National Development Bank (BDB) is refusing to extend any financial aid unless they see active participation from all parties involved.
See Jennie Oh, UPI, Mar 30 2018
Governor Cuomo has called upon the NLRB to investigate reports from nurses at Albany Medical center alleging threats and coercive behavior by management. More than 2,000 nurses will be eligible to vote in an upcoming representation election on April 12th. The allegations include warnings directed toward Filipina employees who are in the country on work visas that their union activities might effect their immigration status, tearing down posters advertising the organizing campaign, and holding one on one meetings with nurses to dissuade them from unionizing.
See Bethany Bump, Times Union, Mar 30 2018
On March 26th a complaint was filed against Duke LifePoint by the NLRB after the Michigan Nurses Association filed three charges on behalf of U.P. Health System nurses in Marquette, Michigan. The complaint includes illegal threats and intimidation by supervisors against nurses who participated in a two-day strike urging safer staffing. A hearing will take place on July 24th.
See Alissa Pietila, Upper Michigan Source, Mar 28 2018
Former cook of 13 years Isaac Perez filed a federal lawsuit against the Brooklyn-based Italian restaurant L&B, alleging that the restaurant’s owners have been skirting overtime compensation laws. According to labor law attorney Lou Pechman, who has about a dozen cases pending against Brooklyn restaurants, this is a common occurrence in New York City restaurants. Pechman says that a big part of the problem is that restaurant employees are often unaware of their rights. To help combat this issue, he created a website called waiterpay.com that outlines the legal rights of restaurant workers. Isaac Perez says that despite working up to 75 hours a week, he was consistently paid a flat wage between 2011 and 2016, and the complaint he filed in Brooklyn’s federal court claims that there are around 16 other L&B employees in basically the same situation as Perez. Pechman Law Group specializes in workers rights violations, and although much of their attention has been aimed at Manhattan restaurants, Lou says his firm is taking on an increasing number of cases against Brooklyn employers, where he says the number of violations is growing. Many of the victims are undocumented immigrants, but if the employer doesn’t keep records of hours worked, then the employee is assumed to be trustworthy in the court’s eyes, according to Pechman.
See Paul Frangipane, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Mar 28 2018
On Monday, the Illinois Labor Board ruled it is legal for the state to bargain with officers over holiday pay and overtime compensation and is not a violation of federal law. The Decatur Police Benevolent and Protective Association was unhappy with the ruling, although one of their attorneys, Shane Voyles, said that it ultimately means very little. Decatur police officers have been working under an expired contract for almost three years. Procedural disagreements during arbitration have delayed contract resolution. Both sides filed complaints with the state labor board for bad faith bargaining, which culminated in Monday’s ruling.
See Tom Lisi, Herald & Review, Mar 28 2018
A Geneva-based international labor federation, IndustriALL, condemned working conditions at Glencore mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo owned by commodity giant Glencore. The company responded to the criticism defensively, saying that the accusations were unfounded and factually inaccurate. Glencore is one of the biggest suppliers of cobalt and has multi-million dollar contracts with Apple, Volkswagen, and other multinational corporations. It accounts for roughly 40% of the world’s cobalt supply, a key component of the batteries needed to power electric cars and other electronics. The incident reflects growing scrutiny towards mining companies that are increasingly desperate to market their products as being ethically-sourced.
See Thomas Wilson, Bloomberg Markets, Mar 23 2018
Widespread strikes across France’s transport and public sectors took place on Thursday in response to President Emmanuel Macron’s labor code overhaul. Less than half of all long-distance high-speed TGV trains and fewer than a third of all commuter trains were not operating. Moreover, 30% of flights leaving Paris airports were canceled. Civil servants, teachers, and hospital workers also participated in the roughly 140 rallies across the country. Macron’s sweeping labor reform agenda includes plans to eliminate jobs-for-life guarantees for civil servants, reductions in retirement packages for public-sector workers, and cuts to government employment levels by 2022. Thursday’s protests marked the beginning of a three-month wave of strikes by France’s transport workers. They plan to strike two out of every five days between April and June.
See Lauren Said-Moorhouse and Jim Bittermann, CNN, Mar 23 2018
Teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky are taking action just weeks after West Virginia teachers succeeded in securing wage and benefit increases through a 13-day state-wide strike. In Oklahoma, a movement is garnering support among teachers that are planning a sick-out on April 2nd, the day that state-wide testing is scheduled to begin. In Arizona, 30,000 joined the “Arizona Educators United” Facebook group within the first 10 days it was created. On March 21, sick-outs closed nine Phoenix elementary schools. Arizona teachers are planning a march on the Capitol for March 28 alongside the grassroots movement Save Our Schools Arizona and the Arizona Parent Teacher Association. On March 21, teachers at seven school districts in Kentucky, coordinated with superintendents to close schools in an attempt to mobilize their state capital, where legislators have been pushing to cut cost-of-living adjustments for teachers and other employees.
See Dan DiMaggio and Jonah Furman, Labor Notes, Mar 23 2018
Earlier this month, the NLRB issued a complaint against the Cesar Chavez charter school network in Washington, D.C. The board found that all four of the public charter schools had unilaterally changed teachers’ working conditions without engaging in the collective bargaining process and also implemented rules that interfered with and restrained employees’ from exercising their rights. In June of last year, Cesar Chavez middle school became the first charter school in the nation’s capital to unionize, and its administration has been under investigation by the labor board since last August. Since then, the American Federation of Teachers has filed two additional complaints on behalf of Cesar Chavez teachers in December and early February. The board has yet to substantiate these new complaints. According to teacher Christian Herr, who sits on AFT’s collective bargaining board, it is unclear how the administration will respond to the NLRB complaints at this time.
See Rachel M. Cohen, Washington City Paper, Mar 21 2018
Duquesne University in Washington D.C. has to recognize its’ adjunct faculty union, according to an NLRB ruling this month. The University’s McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts voted to form a union in 2012. The NLRB’s regional D.C. office validated the union’s legitimacy, but Duquesne appealed the decision, arguing that their religious affiliation exempts them from coverage under the National Labor Relations Act. After the national labor board upheld the regional office’s decision, the university said that it plans to file an appeal in federal court.
See James Dearie, National Catholic Reporter, Mar 21 2018
An NLRB judge ruled in favor of Giant Eagle employees who filed a complaint against the company for urging workers to get their union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23, to sign waivers allowing them to release information about upcoming wage and benefit information before the representation election. These claims have been outlined in official NLRB documents that were released to the press. In a separate issue, Giant Eagle announced it would not consider openly pro-union employees for promotion opportunities unless the union supplied a waiver promising not to file complaints with the labor board if they offered that employee a promotion.
See Stacey Federoff, Pittsburgh Business Times, Mar 21 2018
A group of nurses at Johns Hopkins Hospital are seeking to unionize, claiming that they are overworked and underpaid. They argue that shortages of nurses are putting the quality of patient care at serious risk. National Nurses United is working with these nurses and trying to rally enough support for a representation election. They would need a majority of the 3,200 nurses to sign cards expressing their interest in holding an election in order for the NLRB to approve their petition. The union’s regional collective bargaining director said that despite the hospital’s world-renowned reputation, turnover among their nursing staff is high, which she said has led to fewer experienced nurses and is a safety risk for patients. In 2014, the hospital dealt with a different labor conflict among their service workers, who staged a four-day strike following a negotiation impasse. The strike was ultimately successful, and Johns Hopkins agreed to phase-in a $15 minimum wage for longtime employees. The nurses do not yet have a timeline for their labor action, and it is unclear at this time when they hope to collect enough signatures for an election.
See Andrea K. McDaniels, Baltimore Sun, Mar 19 2018
On March 19, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), which indirectly represents 38,000 pilots in the European Union, signed a protocol agreeing to represent pilots at Irish LLC Ryanair across the EU countries. They are creating the Ryanair Transactional Pilot Group (RTPG) by bringing together the Ryanair company councils of ECA’s pilot-union members. They will pool legal, political, and technical resources to achieve their goals including direct permanent employment contracts bound to local laws, equal and transparent career opportunities across the network, and collective bargaining represenataion for all Ryanair pilots regardless of country or base. Ryanair has not yet commented on whether they plan to officially recognize RTPG.
See Victoria Moores, Air Transport World, Mar 19 2018
According to JNESO, the labor union representing more than 1,400 nurses at Virtua hospitals in New Jersey, their nurses have reached an agreement with hospital management and are calling off their plans to strike. The sticking point that almost led to the nurses' strike was not wages, but low staffing levels and patient acuity— the number of patients assigned to each nurse and the level of care that they need. JNESO filed a complaint last fall with the New Jersey Department of Health, alleging violations of state licensing standards related to nurse-to-patient ratios. In February, the state department of health cited Virtua after investigating the allegations. Since negotiations began in January, the health system has hired 63 new nurses and is actively recruiting 100 more. Virtua has also agreed to purchase an acuity system to be phased in over the next several months. In the meantime, the hospital is forming a workgroup with bedside nurses to determine an effective method for measuring patient acuity before the system is in place.
See Danielle DeSisto and Kelly Kultys, Burlington County Times, Mar 19 2018
Several labor unions including the SEIU, UAW, Unite Here, and the American Federation of Teachers announced this week that they are working together on an initiative to persuade private colleges and universities to bargain collectively with graduate student workers. Despite the NLRB’s 2016 Columbia University decision that expanded the definition of “employee” to include graduate student workers, several private universities have refused to collectively bargain with elected unions. Recently, some unions have been withdrawing their petitions pending before the labor board to avoid being denied by the current Republican-controlled NLRB. In-line with the new initiative, graduate students at several universities including University of Chicago, Yale, Boston College, and others delivered letters to their administrations urging them to begin the collective bargaining process.
See Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Mar 16 2018
The University of Pittsburgh’s administration is challenging a petition to hold a graduate student union election. The university is seeking to reverse a Pennsylvania Labor Board decision from February of this year that included graduate students at state universities in the definition of employee. According to a Facebook post made by a Ph.D. student organizer on Wednesday, the administration hired a law firm that is known for union busting. An upcoming labor hearing has been scheduled for both sides to argue their cases.
See Janine Faust andJohn Hamilton, Pitt News, Mar 16 2018
Almost a thousand union members convened in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday at the AFL-CIO’s first Workers’ Congress in four years. Workers shared stories, brainstormed strategies, and swore in the AFL-CIO’s new executive board, the most diverse leadership in the organization’s long history. Speakers addressed issues including the growing connection between unions and social justice campaigns, the current supreme court hearing in Janus v. AFSCME, and other topics concerning contemporary labor groups.
See Eric A. Gordon, People’s World, Mar 16 2018
After spending months negotiating with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the Education Department left the bargaining table and said that it will implement its own terms. They will not be implementing previously agreed on policies regarding training and disability exceptions, telework, and others. The Education Department will be implementing a new grievance procedure and restrictions on the union’s use of office space and supplies. The contract began on March 12 and spans a 7-year duration. AFGE said that they did not agree to the new terms. According to a union spokesperson, their primary concern is to return to the bargaining table.
See Nicole Ogrysko, Federal News Radio, Mar 14 2018
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) Local 1943 ratified a two-year contract with AK Steel, the third largest employer in Butler County, Ohio. Seventeen hundred workers at AK Steel’s plant in Middletown will be covered under the new contract, starting on March 15. CEO Roger Newport said that the company is pleased with the settlement and that it provides a competitive labor contract and will be beneficial to both labor and management.
See Eric Schwartzberg, Journal News, Mar 14 2018
On Wednesday, BHP’s Escondida copper mine in Chile invited a powerful union to start talks for a new contract. The copper mine is the largest in the world, and last year a labor dispute ended after a month-long strike that lead to the workers’ contract being extended through July 31, 2018. Negotiations for a new contract are scheduled to begin in June, but the company wants to start early. The union ruled out the possibility of early talks in February, while they were dealing with the formation of a competing union. However, according to their website the union called for an assembly to decide whether they will accept the invitation.
See Fabian Cambero, Reuters, Mar 14 2018
An Australian Labor Union called the Labor Council of New South Wales (NSW) has begun a national campaign to push for greater regulation of the gig economy. The push for regulation began after people were hired without the necessary license to perform an asbestos removal job through the website Airtasker. One worker was reportedly paid $50 to illegally remove five sheets of asbestos with only a safety mask for protection. A representative from NSW said on Friday that web-based employment opportunities and on-demand job hirings are occupying a growing portion of the labor market, and these jobs are operating largely outside the scope of current health, safety, and minimum wage enforcement. Airtasker’s CEO insists they work with a number of different regulatory bodies and denies allegations of wrongdoing.
See Byron Connolly, CIO, Mar 9 2018
Prosecutors in Brazil have filed a lawsuit to shut down an Evangelical Church with ties to the U.S., alleging a wide range of abuses including physical abuse of school children and extensive labor exploitation. Leaders of the Ministerio Evangelico Comunidade Rhema church allegedly coerced children and adults to work 12 hours at a time for very little pay, threatening them with social isolation and physical punishment. Last July, the Brazilian authorities opened several investigations following an AP press release reporting that World Faith Fellowship, the parent organization of Ministerio Evangelico Comunidade Rhema, was operating a pipeline funneling young Brazilians to a church in rural North Carolina, where they were forced to work under similar conditions. The civil case was filed on March 1 and seeks damages and back pay of $15,000 for each victim.
See Peter Prengaman, Sarah Dilorenzo and Mitch Weiss, Times Union, Associated Press, Mar 9 2018
New Mexico district court judge David Thompson scheduled a hearing on Friday for public testimony on an agreement that would protect workers against wage theft. The agreement is part of a settlement in a case against New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions, which has been accused of dismissing several wage-theft complaints amounting to more than $10,000 in lost wages and not holding employers liable for their breach of minimum wage laws. The settlement stipulates that the Department force offending employers to pay back wages three times the amount that they initially failed to pay their employees.
See The Associate Press, The Seattle Times, AP, Mar 9 2018
The NLRB directed Reed College to permit a union election for their housing advisors, known as HAs. The college initially opposed an election, arguing that the HAs did not meet the legal definition of an employee and that an election for student workers would need to encompass a broader bargaining unit. The NLRB rejected these claims and concluded that the HAs were entitled to a union election after applying the Columbia University test to determine whether the workers’ were protected under the National Labor Relations Act. An election date has not been set yet.
See John R. Merinar, Jr. and Allison B. Williams, The National Law Review, Mar 7 2018
According to union officials and the Greek government, the country may sell 51% stake in Hellen Petroleum, it’s biggest oil refiner, in order to meet a condition necessary to secure it’s next EU bailout. Athens agreed to launch a series of privatizations as a stipulation for the 86 billion euro bailout that they are set to receive. The country has been sustaining itself on EU bailouts since it’s economic collapse in 2011, and stability would be severely undermined if they fail to secure the next sum.
See Angeliki Koutantou, Reuters, Mar 7 2018
Members of the Zentrum Automobil union and labor representatives at automobile company Daimler’s headquarters in the Untertuerkheim plant in Germany have been accused of aligning themselves with neo-Nazism and using the union as a venue for proliferating their speech. This issue has recently escalated as the union allegedly harboring neo-Nazis has gained two more seats during the election of new representatives for Daimler’s works council, furthering their influence and power among other trade unions and their employer. The German media’s assertion that top labor leaders at Daimler have expressed xenophobic and anti-Semitic views has been met with severe scrutiny, especially given that the company was closely affiliated with the Nazis during World War II, resurfacing Daimler’s dark history. In addition, the political climate in Germany, fraught with xenophobia and concerns of “intruders” taking German employment, has made the public more sensitive to these kinds of accusations. Many fear that giving this union more power signals a seal of approval on neo-Nazis and may help spread their ideology.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 6 2018
Railway workers in Greece who are opposed to privatization and taxi drivers who are opposed to ride-sharing services siphoning away their traditional market both demonstrated in Athens on March 6. Railways workers, along with many laborers in Greece, have been hit particularly hard by the Greek government’s attempts to adhere to austerity measures imposed by organizations bailing them out of their dire economic situation. Privatization has been a major tenet of these reforms, leading to frustrations and ultimately demonstrations like the one at hand, in which all Athenian intercity trains were halted for 24 hours. Meanwhile, taxi drivers demonstrated over companies such as Uber or Lyft, which lead to unemployment for licensed, professional taxi drivers, claiming that the Greek government’s creditors have contributed to the proliferation of these ride-sharing services in Greece.
See The Washington Post, Associated Press, Mar 6 2018
Volkswagen’s plan to combine the MAN and Scania truck brands and potentially have an initial public offering (IPO) of Volkswagen Truck & Bus has been halted in its tracks by the company’s works council. In light of Volkswagen’s 2015 diesel emissions scandal, the company has been urged by investors to undergo some serious structural change in order to continue appealing to investors and consumers, including the streamlining process which is currently leading to conflict. Works council representatives of MAN, Scania, and Volkswagen have demanded that the company demonstrate what value this structural shift would have for workers, if any; additionally, the works councils refuse to allow the plan’s initiation unless Volkswagen can assure all laborers involved that their rights will be respected.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 6 2018
Workers at a Boeing aircraft factory in South Carolina are petitioning for union representation for the third time in the last three years. They are seeking to be represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The vice president of Boeing South Carolina said that the company plans to fight the petition, based on a recent NLRB decision that made it more difficult to organize workers into smaller bargaining units. The workers will not get an election date until the legal issue is resolved.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 5 2018
On March 1, about 130 YMCA “Head Start” program workers in Chicago went on strike, alleging the company engaged in unfair labor practices. The childcare and support staff have been represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) since 2012, and the union is saying that the Chicago YMCA retaliated against unionized employees by withholding information during negotiations. Some workers have described taking out pay-day loans and driving for Uber in order to make ends meet. The SEIU is has been highly critical of the fact that the company’s CEO Dick Malone makes $300 an hour, asserting that the YMCA has plenty of funds to pay their support staff higher wages.
See Rebecca Burns, In These Times, Mar 5 2018
Australian Airlines, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, has canceled more than 140 flights that were scheduled on March 5th and 6th, as the airline collectively bargains with Vida, the union representing cockpit and crew members. Vida vehemently opposes the company’s offer of a 2.1% inflation compensation and a one-time bonus of 1.4%, calling it “unacceptable”. The union also said that they haven’t ruled out going on strike if management refuses to level with them. The two sides will meet next on Tuesday and again on Wednesday to resume bargaining.
See Kurt Hofmann, Air Transport World, Mar 5 2018
Public school teachers in all 55 counties in West Virginia have been on strike for more than a week now, one of the few state-wide teachers strikes in history. They are the third least paid teachers in the country, and they pay among the most in medical insurance. The state wanted to offer them a 1% annual raise over the next five years, and the teachers responded by shutting down every school in the state. Thousands flooded the state Capitol building on Friday to make their presence known by the state senate, as they convened to discuss whether to approve an amended bill that would secure a 5% pay raise. The teachers, however, are adamant about securing both lower insurance payments and higher wages. The Senate has yet to approve the bill, despite its endorsement by the governor, Republican-controlled house, and the state’s superintendent. For the striking teachers, this is truly an all-or-nothing battle.
See CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and JESS BIDGOOD, New York Times, Mar 2 2018
For the last five days, 42,000 professors at 64 different public universities across Britain have been on strike. Students have been attending the faculty rallies in solidarity with their professors. In the late 1990s, tuition at Britain’s public universities was completely free for citizens, today, they pay about $12,000 US dollars a year to attend school. At the same time, the number of part-time faculties has increased tremendously, and tenured professors face constant threats to their pay and benefits. The sticking point in this round of negotiations is a threat to their pension plans in their next contract. If the issues are not resolved soon, the strike could last a total of 14 days over 4 weeks.
See Steven Parfitt, Labor Notes, Mar 2 2018
Given the years of wage stagnation plaguing low-wage Australian workers, Brendan O’Connor, a Labor employment spokesperson, has announced that the party will be working towards establishing industry-wide collective bargaining as the nationwide norm as opposed to enterprise-level bargaining. This change was proposed by Labor in January, with leaders supporting the shift of the minimum wage towards a living wage in order to support low-wage workers who have been struggling as the average Australian household is making less real income than it did in 2013. After the Australian Council of Trade Unions began its Change the Rules campaign, government attention was forced onto the issue of the country’s consistent low wage growth, which industry-level bargaining will hopefully address.
See Paul Karp, The Guardian, Mar 1 2018
President Mauricio Macri of Argentina has announced a labor amnesty for the nearly one third of Argentinian laborers who are working informally, allowing them to register as employees with no negative employment repercussions. The Argentine president has had a term full of doubt regarding his campaign promises to boost economic growth in the country and hopefully attract foreign investors. Macri’s government has had run-ins with union leaders in the past when Macri’s proposal of making the firing of employees easier for corporations was met with organized labor’s outrage. Due to controversy regarding Macri’s presidency, it would appear that the government is now taking a “piecemeal” approach to introducing legislative change, achieving a medium ground between their preferred gradualism and their attempts at drastic and fast-paced labor law change.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Mar 1 2018
Members of Service Employees International Union of Illinois and Indiana (SEIU) working at ten different YMCAs across Chicago took to picketing alleged unfair labor practices outside their respective workplaces this Thursday. Workers at the YMCAs claim that YMCA has been underpaying them for their skills, forcing them to work multiple jobs just to maintain a living wage. According to Greg Kelly, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, the over 100 workers joining in on the protests are arguing that the YMCAs have been using intimidation tactics to quiet their workers, and that these unfair labor practices are the motivation behind these demonstrations. The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago has presented a calm front in light of these allegations, stating that it plans to reach a fair agreement with its employees and claiming surprise at their demonstration.
See Mike Lowe, WGNTV, Mar 1 2018
On Monday, NLRB overturned its own recent decision that made it easier for workers at franchises to go after large corporations in unfair labor practice cases. The decision to overturn the decision was made on the grounds that the recent Trump appointee who cast the decisive vote on the issue had a conflict of interest because the case involved his own former law firm. T The reversal means that the law is now reverted back to the Obama-era precedent that expanded corporate liability for employee’s wronged by franchise owners and operators.
See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Feb 28 2018
A survey at Disney’s Anaheim theme parks showed that 73% of workers report not being able to afford basic living expenses. The survey was taken only weeks after Disney reported greater than expected profits. Eleven percent of employees at the resort reported being homeless or not having their own place in the last two years, according to the survey that is funded by labor groups fighting for higher wages.
See Hugo Martin, LA Times, Feb 28 2018
On Wednesday, the NLRB said they made an initial finding of merit to the unfair labor practice complaint that the SEIU filed on behalf of nursing assistants, housekeepers and dietary workers employed by the Christian Care Home nursing home in Ferguson Missouri. Sixty-five full time and 25 part time employees have been on strike since December first. The union says that the company refuses to offer raises in the workers’ new contracts, who make an average of $9.65 an hour.
See Leah Thrones, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Feb 28 2018
In light of General Motors’ struggles to turn a profit in South Korea, the labor union which represents employees of GM’s factories is fighting intense pressure from conservative media and policymakers to make serious concessions to the company in order to keep GM from having to leave the country. Given serious attempts by GM to lower costs at South Korean plants by primarily targeting employee benefits and salaries, labor leaders have attempted to defend workers’ rights and contracts as much as they possibly can. As a result of the suspension of negotiations between management and labor, both parties appeared unwilling to compromise and the fate of GM appeared sealed. However, union representatives have felt the pressure of politicians and businesspeople around the country to keep GM from failure. Now that negotiations have been reinitiated between the parties, it appears that the union is willing to make necessary concessions, hopefully without an abuse of power on GM’s behalf.
See Hyunjoo Jin, Reuters, Feb 27 2018
Disney’s soaring profits in its theme park division have been a double-edged sword as employees seek a share of the company’s rising earnings. The union workers who man the theme parks have recently filed complaints with the NLRB alleging that Disney was withholding bonuses from employees during contract negotiations. These same workers are now demanding higher wages for all employees in light of the 21 percent increase in Disney’s profits in the past quarter, asking for a $15 minimum wage like countless other workers across the country. Workers who have been with the company for significant portions of their lives note the lack of empathy Disney seems to demonstrate towards employees given its recent financials.
See Josh Eidelson and Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg, Feb 27 2018
Following decades of legal debate and ambiguity, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and that protection against discrimination on the basis of “sex” encompasses sexual orientation. The decision in Zarda v. Altitude Express has been enthusiastically received by the LGBT community and hailed as a welcome, if not delayed, push for legislative action. Given that there is currently no legislation to protect members of the LGBT community from employment discrimination in the US on a national level, this ruling follows in a tradition of courts finding more and more that sexual orientation is a basis for a Title VII violation, hopefully indicating a trend in accepting a broader definition of discrimination.
See Julie Moreau, NBC News, Feb 27 2018
The Supreme Court today heard arguments in the potential landmark labor case Janus v. AFSCME. If the court rules in favor of Janus, it would seriously undermine unions’ economic stability by making it illegal on the Federal level to collect fair-share fees. A divided Supreme Court debated fiercely during today’s hearing, asking hard-hitting questions. However, Trump Appointee Neil Gorsuch, who will cast the decisive vote in the matter, remained silent during the hearing. A decision is expected by late June.
See Mark Sherman, The State Journal Register, Associated Press, Feb 26 2018
Two Wisconsin unions, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 139 and 420, filed a law suit against Gov. Scott Walker, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, and the chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, James Daley, over a 2011 law that significantly reduced workers’ rights in collective bargaining. Wisconsin Act 10 bars employees from bargaining over anything other than wages, and stopped the practice of union dues being automatically taken out of their paychecks. The Operating Engineer’s two chapters are claiming that the Act violates their first amendment rights, and filed a law suit in Milwaukee federal court on Friday.
See EMILY ZANTOW, Court House News Service, Feb 26 2018
Graduate student workers in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, went on strike on Monday after 11 months of unsuccessful bargaining with the University of Illinois-Champaign. The university wants to give unilateral decision-making power to the president and has refused to bargain in good faith over wages and tuition-waivers, leading the Graduate Employees’ Organization to strike and file an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB. The major sticking point in negotiations is UIUC’s refusal to maintain existing language in the graduate student’s contract that ensures tuition waivers. Graduate workers are paid about $17,000 a year, and their tuition is $30,000, and the GEO argues that doing away with tuition waivers will eliminate accessible graduate education and diminish the quality of undergraduate education as well.
See Patrick Singer, Smile Politely, Feb 26 2018
A Virginia congressman is urging Congress to review whether a Trump-appointed NLRB representative was qualified to cast the decisive vote to overturn an Obama-era ruling that made it easier for employees of franchises and contractors to go after large corporations in labor law violation cases. NLRB Inspector General David Berry issued a report on February 9th that identified what he called a “serious deficiency” in the handling conflict-of-interest issues, specifically with regard to board member William Emmanual’s decisive vote to overturn a decision in which his former law firm, Littler Mendelson, was on the losing side of. The report was shared with Congress on February 15th, along with a letter from NLRB Chairman Marvin Kaplan stating the agency was reviewing the possible conflict of interest and considering recusing Emmanuel’s vote in the matter. On Friday, Virginia Congressman Bob Scott (Dem.) wrote a letter urging North Carolina chairman Virginia Foxx (Rep.) to schedule a hearing for Emmanuel and the other board members to review the agency’s conduct in this matter.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Feb 23 2018
In anticipation of an anti-labor ruling in the potentially landmark Supreme Court Case Janus v. AFSCME that is set to be decided on Monday, an Illinois union is suing Gov. Bruce Rauner over an Illinois state law. The Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus will determine whether it is constitutional for unions to collect so-called “fair-share” fees. A decision in favor of Janus will overturn a more than 40-year-old law that allows labor unions to collect dues from all employees it represents, regardless of whether they favor of union representation. Local 150 of the Operating Engineers expects that the current Supreme Court Justices will rule in favor of Janus, and thus make the entire country right-to-work. The local has filed a suit against Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, in order to try to undo unions’ legal duty to represent all workers within a bargaining unit, and instead make it so that they will only have to represent workers who pay union dues.
See Brian Mackey, Peoria Public Radio, Feb 23 2018
The Imperial Counties of Labor Council is planning to hold a rally on Saturday outside of the Democratic Party Convention in San Diego. The protest is part of a “Working People’s Day of Action”, scheduled two days before the landmark Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSME is set to be decided. Prominent speakers from the AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, NextGen America, and other unions are scheduled to be at the rally. Similar protests will be held in 27 cities across the country as part of the Working People’s Day of Action.
See Times of San Diego, City News Service, Feb 23 2018
In light of significant shows of power by IG Metall, the largest industrial union in Europe and the most prominent metalworkers’ union in Germany, Volkswagen has announced that they will be offering over 100,000 employees more flexible schedules, improved wages, and better pension options. Following their first strikes in over a decade and various 24-hour strikes by IG Metall throughout the country, the European car manufacturer has reached an agreement with the union to raise wages by 4.3 percent from May and to give workers extra payments of 27.5 percent of their monthly wage once a year from next year onwards. This change has been met with optimism from both sides as Volkswagen is becoming a more attractive employer and its employees feel that their concerns are heard and acted upon.
See Maria Sheahan, Reuters, Feb 22 2018
As the inflation rate steadily increases in Argentina, workers are eagerly demonstrating against President Mauricio Macri and his government’s austerity measures. Argentinian workers are losing purchasing power as layoffs increase, wages decrease, and prices soar. Frustrations with the conservative leader and his government have reached a peak as tens of thousands of union members, primarily truckers’ union members, participated in a massive demonstration in Buenos Aires. Protestors decried the negligence of the government in caring for the most vulnerable members of the community, claiming that the inability of Macri’s policies to help starving workers across the country will have grave effects on today’s children and tomorrow’s leaders. Union leaders have threatened to hold nationwide strikes should Macri refuse to meet their needs in the near future.
See The Washington Post, Associated Press, Feb 22 2018
After Bankia, a Spanish bank, made the controversial decision to fire a pregnant employee, Jessica Porras, in spite of her legal protections in 2013, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has finally declared a ruling in its favor. The EU’s Directive 92/85/EEC, which concerns itself with the basic rights of people before and after pregnancy in the European Union, explicitly prohibits firing pregnant workers with specific exceptions. The ECJ, the top court in the European Union, has just ruled that businesses are allowed to dismiss pregnant workers as part of staff cuts. Bankia claimed to have dismissed Porras due to low scores on work evaluations and her poor performance alone, but many, including Porras, were dubious about the company’s sincerity. The ECJ’s ruling in this case has broad implications for the treatment of pregnant workers in the future throughout the EU, leaving questions of job insecurity for those who might become pregnant.
See BBC News, Feb 22 2018
In light of near constant debate surrounding the question of whether or not ‘gig economy’ workers are truly self-employed, the UK Supreme Court has taken on the case of an allegedly self-employed plumber who claims he is entitled to workers’ rights. Gary Smith, who worked for Pimlico Plumbers between 2005 and 2011, was dismissed after attempting to reduce his hours. Smith took his case to the Employment Appeal Tribunal, where a judge ruled that he should be considered a worker as Pimlico Plumbers obligated him to work a certain number of hours per week and placed restrictions surrounding what kind of work he could do. The firm has unsuccessfully attempted to appeal this decision and the case made its way through the Court of Appeal, now landing in the Supreme Court, where a final decision is expected to be made within six months. The Supreme Court’s decision would ultimately apply to all self-employed persons in the UK, leading to high anxieties and fears among gig economy employers like Uber and Deliveroo.
See Costas Pitas, Reuters, Feb 20 2018
Following the reversal of a 2015 pro-labor ruling by the NLRB, questions of conflicts of interest surrounding Trump-appointed NLRB member William Emanuel are being raised by NLRB Inspector General David Berry. The 2015 ruling made it easier for workers to hold large corporations liable for the actions of their franchisees and staffing companies, as it broadened the definition of a “joint employer”. This ruling effectively made it so that the union-busting or abusive actions of a joint employer would imply legal liability for the larger corporation behind the layers of employment, understandably leading to a lot of concern from massive companies that often avoid accountability in these situations. NLRB Inspector General Berry has claimed that the reversal of this ruling was corrupt as William Emanuel, a former attorney for Browning-Ferris, the joint employer that lost the 2015 ruling, was one of the deciding votes on the matter. It is argued that Emanuel should have recused himself from the vote given that the matter would clearly benefit a past client. The issue of Emanuel’s vote poses a critical question regarding how to deal with conflict of interest in NLRB rulings to come.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Feb 20 2018
As the popularity of electric cars soar in Europe and North America, so do the mining efforts of companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where two-thirds of the world’s supply of cobalt originate. The practices of Congolese mining companies have been under fire for years now in connection with the rampant and unreported use of child labor, the unsafe and at times lethal working conditions, and the generally unethical treatment of workers. As recently as 2016, Amnesty International published a report showing how children as young as seven were mining cobalt under life-threatening conditions for use in Apple and Microsoft technologies. Automakers such as Tesla and Volkswagen are anxious to divorce themselves from ethical scandals such as those faced by the tech giants only two years ago, but regulating cobalt mining in the Congo has proven incredibly difficult given unchecked smuggling and a surge in the output of artisanal mines which escape regulation more easily than large producers.
See Thomas Wilson and Jack Farchy, Bloomberg, Feb 20 2018
After the Trump administration’s tax reform was passed in January, Disney announced that it would deal out $1,000 bonuses to over 125,000 eligible employees. However, the union representing Disney World cast members said that on Monday the entertainment giant decided to withhold the bonus from unionized employees who do not approve their proposed contract. The contract Disney is pushing was voted against by 93% of employees in December, and 38,000 cast members in Orlando are having their bonus’ withheld in lieu of approving the contract. The union plans to file an unfair labor practice complaint, charging that the company is discriminating against unionized cast members exercising their collective bargaining rights.
See Chip Skambis and Ken Tyndall, WFTV9 ABC, Feb 19 2018
Pilots for the Dutch budget airline Transavia have gone on strike after months of contract negotiations with little progress. Dozens of flights have been canceled or delayed, and the disruptions are expected to last until noon on Monday. The pilots are seeking greater stability in their work schedules and a slight increase in pay. The airline said that the pilots association rejected their latest amendments to the contract proposal over the weekend.
See Times Union, Feb 19 2018
The president of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, is urging the government to intervene after General Motors announced it’s plan last week to close a factory in Gunsan, 270 miles south of Seoul. To save some 2,000 local jobs, Jae-in is calling for a special task force to respond to the crisis and wants the central government to inject money in order to prevent the factory from closing. General Motors has three other factories in South Korea, but the company has recently been pulling out of certain markets and reducing their global operations. They said negotiation talks with unionized workers will begin on Wednesday.
See Jennie Oh, United Press International, Feb 19 2018
Seven months after Wendt Corp.’s manufacturing plant workers in Cheetowaga, New York voted in favor of being represented by the Iron Workers Shopmen Local 576, they are still struggling to settle the terms of their first contract. Members have drawn attention to their negotiation standstill with lunch-break rallies outside of the plant, even attracting the attendance of political leaders. Earlier this month, ten workers at the plant were placed on temporary layoff that can last anywhere from 6-8 weeks. James Wagner, one of the union’s negotiators working on the case, said that pro-union workers were targeted for layoffs. Wagner claims that the company has used various intimidation tactics to dampen morale and drag out the negotiation process, but Wendt Corp. denies any intimidation and said the layoffs were a result of slowdowns in production that are typical of this time of year. Neither side was able to predict when they will finally be able to settle negotiations.
See Matt Glynn, The Buffalo News, Feb 16 2018
After a nearly decade-long impasse, the New York City District Council of Carpenters finally settled negotiations with the city for a 12-year contract that spans from 2008-2020. The sticking points during negotiations dealt with restoring leave time that the city took from some employees and backpay for annuity payments that the city failed to disperse. The union is suing the city for using unfair tactics to reduce paid time off and annuity payments. A coalition of some 150 unions has endorsed their lawsuit, fearing that Mayor de Blasio’s failure to honor NYCCC’s previous contract terms after it expired while new contract negotiations are still going on will set a precedent that will have spillover effects for all New York City unions. The terms of NYCDCC’s new contract provides that workers will receive an average of $10,000 in back annuity payments and 39 days of paid time off that was taken from them during the 10-year long impasse.
See Jeffery C. Mays, New York Times, Feb 16 2018
On Monday, Mexican school teachers representing the La CNTE (the National Coordinating Committee of Education Workers) movement held demonstrations in Mexico City as well as several states across the country to protest an education reform law the Mexican government passed five years ago. The legislation has led to growing privatization and widespread school closings. La CNTE is pushing its own education reform plan that calls for greater emphasis on math and logic, opening community libraries, and reviving traditional wisdom by teaching about medicinal plants in schools. The teacher’s movement is continuing the fight despite some grave risks. In 2016 at least 8 people were killed and more than 100 wounded at a teacher’s protest in the small town of Nochixlan.
See Jane Slaughter, Labor Notes, Feb 16 2018
Graduate student organizers at Yale University have withdrawn their petition to unionize with Unite Here. The organizing drive began last year, and included eight different departments at the University. In a statement, a union representative said that the NLRB has become increasingly hostile towards unions under the Trump administration, leading them to withdraw the petition. In December, the NLRB ruled against what is dubbed “micro-unit organizing”, where unions organize more narrowly-defined groups of workers employed by a given employer at the same workplace. Graduate students at other campuses across the country have expressed similar concerns about the increasing hostility towards union interests by the labor board.
See Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Feb 14 2018
On February 13, the Federal Labor Relations Authority reported in a congressional budget justification that it will close two regional offices in Boston and Dallas. The agency has promised that the sixteen FLRA employees from those offices who are directly affected by this decision will be offered different positions within the agency. The FLRA’s regional offices are responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases for over two million non-postal federal employees.
See Louis C. LaBrecque, Bloomberg BNA, Feb 14 2018
On Tuesday, the SEIU endorsed Gavin Newsom for California governor. The union’s president Roxanne Sanchez said in a public statement that Newsom will be a visionary leader and a partner of working people. The SEIU plans to spend at least hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting his campaign, focusing on reaching minority voters in Los Angeles and other urban areas.
See Seema Mehta, Los Angeles Times, Feb 14 2018
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, thousands of low-wage workers, especially service workers, took to demonstrations around the country, demanding union representation in the workplace and a living wage for all. Workers in Memphis, with the support of the Fight for $15 campaign, led a march through the city, much like their predecessors half a century ago. Unfortunately, participants in these demonstrations and onlookers alike were quick to note that many of the grievances cited by discontent workers were identical to those from the 1960s, showing a lack of progress for labor. Many demonstrators were individuals working several jobs who still could not afford to adequately provide for themselves and their families but opponents of the demonstrations claim that these protests actually hurt the hiring prospects of individuals in similarly dire economic conditions, ultimately backfiring.
See Paul Davidson, USA Today, Feb 13 2018
Following the discovery of the horrific murder of Joanna Demafelis, a Filipina worker who moved to Kuwait in hopes of finding employment, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has extended an invitation to return to the Philippines to any and all Filipino workers in Kuwait. This news comes in the wake of years of abuse accusations and corresponding evidence of the Gulf states’ violations of migrant workers’ human rights. President Duterte expressed exasperation with the conditions to which his compatriots have been subjected abroad, with various government officials urging the Kuwaiti government to intervene and guarantee at least basic human rights to migrant workers within their borders. With thousands of Filipinos in Kuwait rushing to get their travel documents and flights arranged and the ever-growing number of Filipinos working abroad, the issue of the abuse of migrant workers has been steadily escalating.
See Joshua Berlinger and Jinky Jorgio, CNN, Feb 13 2018
As the Trump administration continues to cut back Obama-era policies and rules, officials have decided to target “project labor agreements” (PLAs). These collective bargaining agreements were put in place in the construction industry to ensure that unionized workers were given priority in large infrastructure projects. Given Donald Trump’s bleak history with trade unions and his business backers’ general distaste for the clauses, as they disadvantage non-union bidders, it has not come as a surprise that the Trump administration would challenge the 2009 executive order by the former president. While most Democrats support PLAs, which almost always include a no-strike clause in favor of the employers, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget was the chief sponsor of a bill aimed at ending all PLAs in federally-funded infrastructure projects. White House representatives claim that the issue will be solved on a bipartisan basis.
See Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner, Feb 13 2018
The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board ruled last Friday that Penn State graduate students working as teaching and research assistants have union rights under the Pennsylvania Employee Relations Act. The final decision came well after a week-long hearing in September where the University argued that graduate students are not employees. Unlike the other grad student organization drives at private universities across the country that happened in response to the September 2016 NLRB ruling that expanded the definition of a “worker”, Penn State graduate assistants are not covered under that ruling due to the fact that it is a public university. The Coalition of Graduate Employees is celebrating the decision by the Pennsylvania Labor Board to include Penn State grad students as protected workers under the Pennsylvania Employee Relations Act, CGE says they are confident they will win the representation election.
See Kelsey Thomasson, Centre Daily, Feb 12 2018
Multiple railroad workers’ unions representing over 13,000 Union Pacific and BNSF workers in Nebraska have cast their votes on the latest bargaining contract with the national train companies. More than 70 percent of the union workers have voted in favor of the contract, which puts monthly health and welfare contributions at around $225 a month, and are scheduled to freeze in 2019. Some additional votes still need to be cast before the contract is solidified, but so far the railroad workers’ have been approving the settlement terms by huge margins.
See Russell Hubbard, Omaha World-Herald, Feb 12 2018
A hearing is scheduled for the landmark Supreme Court labor case Janus v. AFSCME on February 26th. The issue at hand are the “fair share” laws in 22 states that require workers covered under a collectively bargained employment agreement to pay union dues. In 2016, a similar case ended in a 4-4 tie after Justice Scalia’s passing. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Janus, labor unions will be forced to take a massive economic loss, and the entire U.S. will be subject to right-to-work laws.
See Editorial Board, Washington Post, Feb 12 2018
In a debate that began on Wednesday night and lasting into Thursday morning, unions and the conservative Freedom Fighters group clashed over Senate Bill 6199. The proposal can be traced back to an incident that occurred last year where the Freedom Foundation sued SEIU Local 775 in order to get home health care workers' contact information so they could tell members that they weren’t required to pay dues. The SEIU sponsored a successful ballot measure in response that shielded certain information about their employees from Washington State’s public-records law. After a grueling debate, the bill ultimately did not receive a floor vote.
See Joseph O’Sullivan, Seattle Times, Feb 9 2018
On Friday, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) filed a complaint with the Canadian labor board against the airline WestJet for ignoring their duty to consult the union before hiring their new low-cost carrier, Swoop. WestJet has been expanding their international service and launching the low-cost carrier Swoop as a completely separate carrier. The key issue the APLA is pushing is that they believe Swoop pilots should be compensated the same as WestJet pilots.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Feb 9 2018
On Friday, the Human Rights Watch released a report highlighting the extent of discrimination faced by HIV positive employees in the Philippines. The report stated that despite the fact that it is illegal to not hire, fire, or terminate an employee based on their HIV positive status under the Philippine law, workers are facing massive amounts of discrimination and harassment for being HIV positive. The Philippines currently has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region. About 83% of the 49,733 cases of HIV in the country were reported in the last 5 years.
See Deutsche Welle, Feb 9 2018
After nearly a year of failed contract negotiations between graduate student workers and university administration at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Graduate Employees’ Organization union has declared a strike for February 26. The main issue of contention throughout the talks, which began in spring of 2017 and continued through the expiry of the previous contract in August until now, has been university officials’ plan to introduce flexibility into their tuition waivers for graduate student employees. Union members claim that a majority of their members can only afford to attend school due to their tuition waivers and that, without these, none of the graduate students would make enough money to pay tuition and survive. In addition, union members assert that U of I is attempting to create a system in which graduate students must compete with each other to earn tuition waivers, creating an allegedly dystopian environment. U of I claims that the change in contract language will not negatively impact student employees and their tuition waivers, but the workers themselves remain skeptical and believe organized action will show their steadfastness.
See Dawn Rhodes, Chicago Tribune, Feb 8 2018
Following a week of striking on behalf of members of Teamsters Local 174, who work as bus drivers under First Student for the Seattle public school system, a federal mediator will be presiding over reinitiated negotiations between First Student and union drivers. A vast majority of union members have remained resilient in picketing First Student, even as their employer offers individuals crossing the picket line extra pay and other benefits to mitigate the surge in student absences caused by the drivers’ strike. The union members’ main demands appear to be affordable health care and better retirement plan options, with First Student claiming that they have given workers generous and comprehensive coverage on both accounts. Both sides have expressed a desire to reach an agreement as the consequences of the strike escalate with a growing number of unexcused absences for nearly 200 students.
See Paige Cornwell, The Seattle Times, Feb 8 2018
After seven months of bargaining and with the support of the Tompkins County Workers' Center and Workers United, the newly-unionized baristas of Gimme! Coffee, an Ithaca-based chain of coffee shops, have successfully ratified their first contract with their employer. In light of an overwhelmingly pro-union response to union organization within the workplace, baristas and local workers’ rights advocates have worked tirelessly to spearhead not only the formation of a union but also the creation of a contract within one year. Gimme! Coffee owner Kevin Cuddeback has expressed a total willingness to work towards making sure employees’ voices and concerns are heard, describing the formation of the union as “people coming together to build a better world”, a message which he and his company fully endorse. Union members believe that the contract is a critical milestone in their journey to represent their interests and forge an improved relationship with management.
See Kelsey O’Connor, Ithaca Voice, Feb 8 2018
Due to upcoming budget cuts in 2019, the NLRB is drawing out a plan to scale back it’s size and scope in the near future. According to General Counsel Peter Robb, the board has between 70 to 100 excess full-time employees that were never approved by Congress. Robb plans to minimize operations in field offices across the country, inevitably leading to a steady decline in cases that the board will handle in the coming months and years.
See Chris Opfer, Bloomberg BNA, Feb 7 2018
On Wednesday, the Spanish labor union SEPLA announced it will take legal actions against the Irish airline Ryanair for hiring Spanish pilots under what they say were illegal contracts according to Spanish law. The union plans to file two lawsuits on behalf of 500 Ryanair pilots based in Spain. Ryanair denies the allegations that they failed to bargain in good faith, although it only recently decided to bargain with unions, striking its first recognition agreement last week with the British pilot’s association.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Feb 7 2018
The German industrial worker’s union IG Metall struck a deal this week with more than 700 companies in Southwest Germany that secured more flexible working hours for a large number of their 2.3 million workers. The negotiated deal will give workers’ the option to choose to work 28 hour weeks for up to 2 years before going back to the standard 35-hour workweek. The deal also gives employees the option of working 40 hours a week if they want to make more money. The deal is widely expected to influence other contract negotiations throughout Germany.
See Alanna Petroff, CNN, Feb 7 2018
In light of weeks of grueling negotiations and days-long walkouts stemming from unionized German factory workers’ demands for better work-life balance in the workplace, a landmark decision has been reached in favor of German labor, translating into an immense economic boom for Germany as factory orders are higher than ever. The aforementioned German factory workers belong to IG Metall, the country’s largest and most powerful trade union. IG Metall was able to win its members a 4.3 percent pay increase as well as more free time, which was the most important objective of the workers’ grievances from the onset of their dissatisfaction. The end of employers’ battle with IG Metall representatives over bettering employees’ working conditions seems not only to have furthered the union’s interests, but also the companies’ as well as the country’s economic interests.
See Carolynn Look, Bloomberg, Feb 6 2018
Following the wrongful termination of a unionized employee in Dallas, Southwest Airlines is under fire for attempting to avoid giving full backpay by claiming that the money earned by the former employee via a GoFundMe donation page should be subtracted from the amount Southwest must pay. In February of 2016, Ken Hackett was fired after a supervisor reported hearing Hackett, then a shop steward for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, allegedly persuading coworkers not to take overtime hours. At the time, Southwest and the mechanics’ union were in heated battle over a perceived boycott of overtime, leading to Hackett’s dismissal. After an arbitrator was brought into the mix, she ruled in favor of Hackett, deciding that his termination was illegal and ordering backpay on Southwest’s behalf. A spokesperson for Southwest has recently claimed that the company will no longer be pursuing Hackett’s GoFundMe page as a component of his backpay.
See David Koenig, The Washington Post, Feb 6 2018
As the Trump administration continues its aggressive rollback of Obama era labor policies, seventeen attorneys general around the country have asserted a united front against efforts to overturn a 2011 Obama rule mandating that tipped workers keep their tips. In addition to stirring controversy due to the possibility that employers could take the tips earned by their employees, this news has led to the initiation of an investigation by the Labor Department’s Office of the Inspector General due to suspicion that officials within the Labor Department are hiding studies showing the detrimental effects withholding tips will have for workers. While supporters of the change claim that this tip-sharing would decrease the gap between the pays of front of house and back of house workers, opponents claim that this change will just lead to further exploitation of labor by management through the pocketing of workers’ tips.
See Greg Trotter, Chicago Tribune, Feb 6 2018
Faculty at the University of Vermont orchestrated a rally last Thursday to protest the administration’s decision to cut several courses from the College of Arts and Sciences’ roster last fall. More recently, plans were announced to reduce the number of full- and part-time lecturers on staff. United Academics, the union representing UVM faculty criticized the greater emphasis on marketing and expensive physical infrastructure the university is making while sacrificing academic quality.
See Kelsey Neubauer, VT Digger, Feb 5 2018
After several 24-hour strikes, progress is being made in negotiations between IG Metall, a German industrial workers’ union, and their employers. The union is demanding a 6 percent raise this year for roughly 3.9 million workers, as well as greater flexibility to work shorter hours in order to care for children and family members. Last week’s strikes resulted in a nearly $200 million euro loss of revenue for several large automakers, including BMW and Airbus. According to IG Metall’s chief negotiator, talks are set to resume this evening.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Feb 5 2018
Last Thursday, nearly 100 UC San Diego students marched in solidarity with university workers to protest low wages and meager pension plans. Two organizations, the Labor Commission of Associated Students (ASUCSD) External Affairs and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 protested at two separate locations. Following the expiration of the service workers’ contract last June, the AFSCME proposed the new contract include an 18% over three years and the maintenance of their pension and health care plans, which the university wants to cut.
See Matthew Rom-Toribio, The Triton, Feb 5 2018
The Communications Workers of America are seeking to jointly organize employees from Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobil in a new association called “Wireless Workers United”. The initiative is the first nation-wide network of both union and non-union employees working together for greater job security as well as quality customer service. Workers from the three companies will stand in solidarity at a rally in downtown Orlando as part of the association’s launch. AT&T and Verizon employ a significant number of unionized employees, but T-Mobil, on the other hand, saw the number of represented workers fall from 30 to 0 in 2016 during the same period that the company created it’s own worker group, called T-Voice. T-Voice was subsequently under investigation by the NLRB for suspicion of being an employer-controlled union. The launch of Wireless Workers United is just the latest in a string of recent efforts by the CWA aimed at boosting the salaries and benefits of unionized wireless employees across the country.
See Mike Dano, Fierce Wireless, https://www.fiercewireless.com/wireless/verizon-at-t-t-mobile-employees-to-jointly-organize-under-cwa-s-wireless-workers-united, Jan 31 2018
On Tuesday, a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled to block arbitration over a clause in Watertown Fire Fighters’ employment contracts that requires a minimum of 15 firefighters on duty at all times. The issue led to a three and a half year impasse in contract negotiations between the city and the Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 191. The judge cited precedent that gives elected officials the authority to control city budgets through cost management, including salaries and wages paid to public employees.
See Craig Fox, Watertown Daily Times, Jan 31 2018
In a campus-wide email sent to faculty and students on Tuesday, Columbia University announced their intent to file an appeal to contest the September 2016 NLRB decision that expanded the definition of a worker to include graduate students. The letter states the administration’s refusal to collectively bargain with the graduate student union that was formed shortly after the decision, in December of 2016. Typically, labor board election rulings like this one are not appealable in the courts, but Columbia is raising objections to the union certification and requesting a court test of the union certification. The letter indicates that Columbia is seeking to prove that the board erred in its 2016 ruling when it found that graduate students are considered workers under federal law.
See Josh Eidelson, Lawrence E. Dubé, Bloomberg BNA, Jan 31 2018