Workplace Issues Today
The Governor-elect of New Jersey Phil Murphy chose some prominent labor leaders to be on his transition team. A team of 81 officials has been assembled to carry out Murphy’s ambitious overhaul, most of whom are minorities and women. President of the New Jersey Education Association Marie Blistan was appointed to co-chair the transition’s education committee, Vice President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America Ray Pocino will co-chair the transportation committee, and other figures from the labor movement have been delegated to important positions on Murphy’s transition team.
See Catherine Carrera, NorthJersey.com, Nov 14 2017
Once known for its “Made in the USA” trademark and commitment to manufacturing clothes in sweatshop-free conditions, clothing producer American Apparel has found it difficult to match its slogans with reality since being acquired by Gildan Activewear nine months ago after years of financial troubles. It has exchanged its “Made in the USA” slogan with “Globally Sourced”, since Gildan Activewear is an American Canadian manufacturer whose factories primarily reside in Central America and the Caribbean. While the uplifting videos on American Apparel’s website still proudly claim that their products remain sweatshop free in its goal to “give more ethical jobs to more people around the world”, organizations such as the Honduran Women’s Collective – which advocates on behalf of women in garment factories, claim that the employees in the six unions from Gildan factories all have health problems due to the long hours and high production quotas – with several employees dismissed permanently due to the health problems they’ve incurred during work. Other complaints against Gildan include mandatory work shifts longer than the legal maximum limit, illegal dismissals of employees involved in unions – including the dismissal of a pregnant woman - as well as consistent harassment targeted at employees. Mass terminations also took place when Gildan shut down its El Progreso plant in order to suppress a unionization effort amongst employees who had banded together to complain about labor rights violations. The company insists that it has a strong labour compliance program and has steadily worked with labor unions to address any issue brought to its attention.
See Clothing producer American Apparel, now globally-sourced, struggles with sweatshop-free claims, Noor Ibrahim, The Guardian, Nov 13 2017
Various initiatives towards changing an entrenched harassment culture in Hollywood continue in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, with a rally held on Sunday on a main Hollywood intersection, where participants from the related #MeToo campaign marched and held aloft signs listing men working behind the scenes on various soap operas who had mistreated women, along with the faces of famous alleged male offenders such as Kevin Spacey. The continued momentum has spurred female executives to direct women into new avenues where they can report cases of sexual harassment easily. Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman is launching a help line as well as a legal-aid service in December for those experiencing unwanted behavior. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy has called for a commission to codify an industry-wide approach to fighting sexual harassment and assault, while California state senator Connie Leyva intends to propose legislation banning secret payouts in workplace harassment cases. The latter would face considerable hurdles in becoming law, but Leyva hopes that it would encourage victims to come forward. Many admitted that it will be difficult to see immediate change in an industry where male power has dominated and where success is wedded to sex appeal. Increasing the number of female executives in power may take time due to the amount of time needed to rise through the ranks, and some of the most powerful companies have limited shareholders and are privately run.
See Anti-sexual harassment rally in Hollywood highlights continued momentum towards reforming a difficult industry, Steven Zeitchik, The Washington Post, Nov 13 2017
A study conducted by Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), an international organization dedicated to improving working conditions in the garment industry, has found that countries in eastern and southeastern Europe are “low-wage havens” for well-known retailers such as H&M, Benetton, and Esprit, as well as luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace. Garments are labeled as “Made in Europe”, such that consumers may assume that clothes were made in fair working conditions, but they are often made by workers living in poverty, due to earning less than minimum wage, as well as working unpaid overtime hours. The garment industry in Serbia, an emerging economy, employs 8% of the country's workforce, paying women workers – who make up the bulk of the garment industry - an average of under 227 euros per month when living wages for a family of four would be 652 euros per month. Well-paid jobs in Serbia are in state institutions and hiring is dependent on connections and political affiliation. Governments are sometimes complicit in creating poor working conditions, as they may provide foreign companies with direct and indirect subsidies, and set very low minimum wages. In Serbia, businesses are given high subsidies, plots of land below market price or even for free, tax breaks and free infrastructure. Workers are afraid of being fired and endure mistreatment including sexual harassment and denial of statutory minimum vacation, primarily because it is a pro-employer environment where unions are weak or non-existent; they may also feel lucky that they have a job, with an overall unemployment rate in Serbia of 16 percent (30 percent for young people). The economic climate in southeastern Europe is such that many impoverished countries are fighting for the same investments, fostering competition over who will offer foreign investors favorable conditions for low-cost manufacturing.
See Global fashion brands rely on low-cost, low-wage havens in struggling eastern European economies, Zoran Arbutina , Deutsche Welle, Nov 13 2017
A U.K. judge ruled that Uber must classify its drivers as formal employees and must adhere to workers’ rights legislation as Uber lost its appeal at an employment tribunal earlier today. With Uber increasingly becoming a household name not only in the U.S. but on an international scale, more and more legal systems around the world have challenged the company’s treatment of its workers, who Uber claims are “self-employed” and therefore not entitled to the minimum wage, accommodations, and the like. As “gig economy” employers like Uber and Lyft expand their businesses on a global scale, the question of what exactly the definition of “employee” is has fallen under greater scrutiny and workers on a now expansive network of allegedly self-employed laborers have made claims against their employers more frequently and in greater numbers than ever before. This ruling represents a monumental victory for workers who feel entitled to protection from possible abuse by employers through the exploitation of legal loopholes. Uber has announced plans to re-appeal this decision through Britain's Court of Appeal or through the Supreme Court, although it appears unlikely that the company will emerge victorious.
See Ryan Browne, CNBC, Nov 10 2017
Republican members of the House of Representatives have introduced a bill which, as a part of greater Conservative efforts to broaden right-to-work laws and similar legislation, aims to emphasize individual rights in the workplace and undermine union control. The Current Employee Representation Act proposes that every time there is 50% or greater turnover in union membership in a workplace, workers have the right to call for a union recertification election. The bill also grants employers the right to request a union decertification vote. In a similar vein, Republican congressmen have also proposed the Employee Rights Act, which goes further than the Current Employee Representation Act in that it makes decertification votes mandatory when membership turnover is higher than 50%. Under the ERA, when the 50% turnover condition is met, employers also have the right to initiate a union decertification vote. While the GOP maintains that these measures would promote greater accountability of union officials for the needs and wants of the rank-and-file, critics feel that this is an attempt to further weaken unions through debilitating their membership and funding.
See Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner, Nov 10 2017
In light of the official opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum to the public this Saturday, human rights groups have denounced the allegedly blatant human and workers’ rights violations which have taken place behind the scenes of the construction of the museum. With over 90% of the UAE’s workforce consisting of migrant workers, abuses of workers’ rights are a salient aspect of the country’s economy. Under the Kafala sponsorship system, individuals who migrate to the UAE to work are essentially allowed to work in the country at the whim of their employers and can be deported and barred from re-entry for demanding their rights. A February 2015 report claimed that museum workers were frequently forced to labor under hazardous working conditions, had their passports confiscated, and were often shorted their wages. While the UAE has faced immense pressure to reform its labor laws and adhere to international human rights agreements, the country’s culture has led to a severe fear of retaliation from the government should activists and laborers speak out.
See Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, Nov 10 2017
In an interview on Tuesday, President Mauricio Macri said that Argentina’s leading labor unions have agreed to a reform that slashes wages in order to attract foreign investment. If approved by Congress, it will reduce severance payments by 40 percent and throw out other benefits as well. For example, in the past, if an employee had the use of a company car then the company was required to give them a car as part of a severance package if they were fired. Macri said that he received word from his chief of Cabinet on Monday night that labor unions had agreed to more than 90 percent of the proposals.
See Charlie Devereux and Pablo Rosendo Gonzalez, Bloomberg, Nov 9 2017
Oceanside district school teachers in San Diego are protesting long delays over labor negotiations. The teachers, who have been working without a contract for a year and a half, have suspended all after-school activities to highlight the extra hours they work and are not compensated for. School board officials have said that they are ready to negotiate, although warns that the budget is currently running a $20 million deficit, and they won’t be able to afford many concessions.
See Deborah Sullivan Brennan, San Diego Tribune, Nov 9 2017
The Wilmington Police Department in Delaware has announced that it will put more officers on the street following a new agreement between the city government and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #1. The three-year contract outlines several changes including providing the city’s 304 rank-and-file police officers with 2% raises this year and the next 2 fiscal years, schedule adjustments, and increasing salaries to $51,445 in order to attract qualified police officers, among other things. The mayor says he is very pleased with the new contract, and the increased number of officers available for daily assignments will help the department’s deployment goals.
See Christina Jerda, Delaware Online, Nov 9 2017
In light of labor unions’ struggle to fight dwindling membership and the resulting decrease in clout in collective bargaining agreements with managements, labor leaders around the world are taking on workers’ rights issues in an effective and new way. With workers on the lower end of supply chains generally suffering the most labor abuses globally, worker advocacy groups have decided to go directly to workers and gather what kind of change they would need in their workplace to feel safe, especially given the massive infrastructure issues many manufacturing plants have in places like southeast Asia. The main components of the groups’ new approach focus on prioritizing the needs of workers, actually enforcing regulatory standards on companies with the help of workers as opposed to letting them “self-regulate”, and imposing tangible market consequences on employers who violate labor and workplace regulations. Massive organized labor groups, such as the AFL-CIO and United Steelworkers, have heartily supported these efforts, noting that innovation and a reinvention of unions’ roles in serving workers are necessary in the modern era.
See Steven Greenhouse, The Guardian, Nov 8 2017
Argentinian President Mauricio Macri has made significant promises to the Argentinian people regarding his plans to reform labor laws in order to stimulate the domestic economy. The most surprising aspect of Macri’s proposed reforms are the significant cuts to severance packages which he claims will make investment in Argentinian companies more attractive to businesses around the world. However bold the proposed cuts appear, union leaders have readily agreed with an overwhelming majority of Macri’s plans for Argentinian labor. Jorge Sola, a spokesperson for Argentinian labor unions’ umbrella organization, CGT, claimed that labor leaders are willing and able to discuss the measures proposed by Macri for legal reform; however, Sola emphasizes that the serious severance payment cuts are something they have yet to agree on. While Macri and his political alliance aim to put foreign investment front and center in Argentina’s policies, labor groups are still fighting to protect workers from potentially harmful reforms.
See Charlie Devereux and Pablo Rosendo Gonzalez, Bloomberg, Nov 8 2017
Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has met considerable challenges not only from Illinois Democrats, but also politicians within his own party, on various pieces of legislation which he has ardently pushed forward during his term. One of the most controversial decision Rauner has taken is his veto of a bill that would prohibit local municipalities to side-step unions by enacting “right-to-work” zones, a veto which the Illinois House of Representative has failed to override for the second time. Because the House can only attempt to override a veto twice, its second failure is the last chance the House had to push the bill through. Rauner has significantly alienated not only organized labor, but also members of his own party which joined Democrats earlier this week to override his veto of a “student loan bill of rights” which would help college students make informed decisions about financing their educations.
See Monique Garcia and Kim Geiger, The Chicago Tribune, Nov 8 2017
Labor unions continue to lead hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico, filling gaps left by federal aid initiatives. Unions across different industries have teamed up to help victims in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Teachers, communications workers, and many others are working to clean up debris and deliver meals to people in remote communities who have largely been neglected. Vice President of New York City Teamsters Local 210 Pedro Cardi, who is originally from the island, traveled to Puerto Rico with a group of 20 volunteers to deliver water and supplies, but t the government offered no advice as to where the supplies were most desperately needed. Hedge Funds and venture capitalists have tried to further exploit the people of Puerto Rico, seeking to capitalize on the devastation by offering exploitative loans for relief efforts. Before the hurricane, the deeply indebted Department of Education tried to shut down 300 schools on the island, but parents and teachers protested in the streets and managed to prevent 140 school closures. Puerto Rico’s labor activists are fighting tooth and nail to resist the privatization of key service sectors including schools, energy, and more.
See Stephanie Basile, Labor Notes, Nov 7 2017
The US labor movement is undergoing a period of reckoning as multiple scandals emerge surrounding sexual harassment among labor union officials. On Monday the AFL-CIO’s chief budget office resigned after allegations of sexual harassment, and the Service Employees International Union is still recovering from its recent harassment scandal that ended with four senior staff members leaving. Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner says that while sexual harassment drives women to organize, it can also stand in the way of collective action. These scandals could not have come out at a more inopportune time, as the US labor movement faces an uncertain future with the current supreme court proceedings.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg News, Nov 7 2017
Former reporters for DNA Info and Gothamist gathered today in New York City to condemn billionaire and former owner of the two news columns, Joe Ricketts. Only a few days ago the protestors lost their job after he shut down operations, claiming that the news sites proved to be economically invalid. But the protestors say that his timing was suspicious, closing the sites a week after the columnists voted in favor of unionizing, and they intend to pursue legal action against Ricketts.
See Arun Venugopal, WNYC, Nov 7 2017
The Time Warner Cable strike that began in March 2017 continues to this day, leaving over 1800 workers still out of work. Prior to Time Warner Cable being bought out by Charter in May 2016, members of the New York City local 3 chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) had a beneficial contract with Time Warner Cable with good retirement and health care benefits. Charter’s attempt to switch employees to its standard contract resulted in the union’s refusal to accept it, countering that the health contract the union is fighting for would give members exceptionally low premiums on health insurance and far smaller medical bills than Charter’s offering. Charter has held firm, continuing to defend its employment package, and insisting that the IBEW is denying their employees the pro-offered 22% wage increase and a competitive health and retirement package that offers a 6% employer match rate. This lengthy stalemate in the private sector is as rare as union membership these days, bringing to mind a previous era when unions were more commonplace, with 35% of the private sector unionized in the 1950s, as compared to only 6.5% today. Public unions are in better shape, with 34.4% of employees in the public sector unionized as of 2016, but face continuing threats - such as Wisconsin’s governor Scott Walker passing a law in 2011 which damaged the collection of union dues, and the more recent case in front of the Supreme Court which would decide whether unions can collect fees from non-members, which union leaders fear that a negative ruling would drive down union membership. The decline of union power is theorized to have an impact on the results of the 2016 election, with the role of unions being more than an economic entity, often acting as a political organization in helping build coalitions of Democratic voters.
See Time Warner Cable strike reaches 7 months as unions struggle to survive, Adam Gabbatt , The Guardian, Nov 6 2017
The subsequent fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandal has given birth in social media to the #metoo movement in Twitter, as scores of women continue to report on unsavory encounters with men in positions of power, as well as the term “Weinsteining”, to indicate that a sexual harasser or abuser has been outed. Some of the many revelations since the Weinstein incident include the resignation of Roy Price, head of Amazon Studios, over a drunken proposition made to a producer at a social event; political journalist Mark Halperin, accused of harassing junior employees while director of ABC News many years ago; former President George H. Bush, criticized for “good-natured groping” that has been described as innocent by some and as sexual harassment by others; and NPR’s news editor, Mike Oreskes, who resigned earlier this week due to multiple accusations of sexual harassment. The fallout in these cases has been at minimum a loss of reputation and public embarrassment, and at worst, loss of livelihood from lost income and lawsuits. The national conversation in the media has had some dissension in the ranks, with many agreeing that there’s no question on the seriousness of long-term sexual misconduct in the cases of Mark Halperin and Harvey Weinstein, while others have pointed out that some of the accused offensive behaviors were a one-time minor incident which did not involve exploitation or job retaliation, often happening in group social situations where the majority present were under the influence of alcohol. The NPR writer who reported the in-house story wrote that the incidents, when “taken as a group…painted an ominous picture, but….when viewed in isolation…may not appear so consequential” – while another NPR editor admitted to being confused as to whether what happened over dinner was truly sexual harassment. Some have questioned the appropriate response to be made in an entire spectrum of inappropriate behavior, with the possibility of overreaction leading to witch hunts over behavior that is not criminal, even if not admirable. Still others would rather have a “better safe than sorry” approach for everyone in the workplace, where while it’s difficult to avoid currying favor with those with perceived power differentials, an atmosphere where continuous “micro-aggressions” (comments and behavior based on attraction) are allowed can belittle a women’s feeling of value in the workplace.
See As Weinsteining enters national lexicon, confusion and uncertainty over what crosses the line, James Doubek , NPR, Nov 6 2017
A week after the New York City editors and reporters of DNAInfo and Gothamist voted to join the Writers Guild of America East, the two digital publications were closed down by their parent corporation, TD Ameritrade, resulting in the loss of 115 jobs – not just in New York City, but in satellite offices which had not unionized in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington. The two publications specialized in local news and attracted more than nine million readers a month, but billionaire founder Joe Ricketts, owner of TD Ameritrade, had lost money every month that DNAInfo had existed. While he praised the work and impact the two publications had on thousands of people, he also stated that as businesses, they needed to be financially successful in order to endure. In September, Ricketts had written a blog post, “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create” that stated “unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed.” Journalism as an industry has continued to struggle to stay profitable , with established New York City publications such as The Village Voice, The Wall Street Journal and The Daily News slashing staff, stopping print publication, or withdrawing from street-level reporting. Print advertising, which publications had relied on, had crashed, and revenues from digital advertising have not been sufficient. The union confirmed that anti-union threats were made to employees during the organizing drive, and is actively seeking recourse for their new members.
See NYC news outlets DNAInfo and Gothamist shuttered after voting to unionize, Andy Newman and John Leland, The New York Times, Nov 6 2017
Nearly 2,000 city workers in Oakland will go on strike at 2 pm on Thursday to protest what they claim are unfair labor practices. A spokesperson for the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 said that charges have been filed with the NLRB after the city allegedly changed the terms of employment without negotiating with the union. The city has been negotiating with the union for nearly six months for improved safety regulations and better wages. Librarians, building inspectors, street cleaners, sewer workers, and parking enforcement officers are among the city employees who plan to picket outside of Mayor Libby Schaaf’s “State of the City” address at the Islamic Cultural Center. Protestors will highlight Oakland’s growing housing crisis and emphasize the city’s reliance on overworked employees in understaffed departments.
See CBS San Francisco Bay Area, Nov 2 2017
In a letter to Georgetown’s president John DeGioia, graduate students have asked the university to voluntarily recognize them as an official labor union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers. The student organizers said that they have majority support for unionization, and cited Georgetown’s “just employment policy” that says workers have the right to free association and that the university will respect the right of it’s workers to vote for or against a union without intimidation or undue delay. Private universities across the country have challenged graduate student associations since the NLRB’s 2016 decision to include graduate students under the definition of a worker.
See Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed, Nov 2 2017
Ronald Coldren, the former financial secretary of the United Steelworkers Local 207-L, has been indicted on one count of embezzlement after taking $30,639 from the union between 2012 and 2016. If convicted, consideration will be given to Coldren’s involvement in the offense and his prior criminal record when the court determines the length of his sentence. The sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and will most likely be less than that once the court considers all the factors in the case.
See 13 ABC, Nov 2 2017
In light of the 110th anniversary of the landmark court decision which became the basis of the national minimum wage system in Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary, Sally McManus, will address the Fair Work Commission with hopes of persuading members of the need to increase the federal minimum wage. McManus hopes to highlight how although a living wage contributes to business interests and the market through giving employees greater purchasing power to contribute to the economy, there is a consistently unbalanced discussion of what form the minimum wage should take. Although lifting many Australians out of poverty and providing them with wages they can realistically subsist and support their families on is a critical social goal, a majority of analysis into what form the minimum wage should take is focused on how a higher wage could negatively affect business competitive advantage and international competitiveness. With Australia having had record low wage growth in the past year and worries of further marginalizing those along the poverty line, concerns regarding providing workers with a living wage are more salient than ever.
See Paul Karp, The Guardian, Nov 1 2017
Democrats throughout the legislative branch have just publicized the labor-focused facet of their “Better Deal” platform, comprised of various policy proposals discussed by party members. The proposals take on a surprisingly pro-labor tone in the face of organized labor’s criticisms of the Democrats’ seemingly stronger allegiance to Wall Street over unions and given the current political climate under the Trump administration. The proposals put forth by the Democrats include a complete ban of state right-to-work laws because of their harmful effects on union membership and, subsequently, wages and employer-provided benefits in the workplace. In addition, Democrats proposed measures that would make the process of staging a strike easier for unions as well as proposing a ban on permanent replacements of striking workers. Although these ambitious plans are far from fruition, the main problem Democrats have faced in rolling out the “Better Deal” has been a lack of public attention seeing as media coverage has focused heavily on Donald Trump’s often erratic political moves.
See David Weigel, The Washington Post, Nov 1 2017
The Harvard Undergraduate Council has called for Harvard representatives to withdraw an appeal of the NLRB decision to invalidate the graduate student union’s certification election. Following a November 2016 unionization election for the Harvard Graduate Student Union, representatives of the union argued that the University failed to generate an adequate voter list and the NLRB mandated a re-vote. University representatives have maintained that the union elections fully met all requirements for necessary laboratory conditions and that the results of the election were legitimate and representative of the wishes of the student body. However, the college’s undergraduate student government recently overwhelmingly voted in favor of holding a re-vote, passing legislation urging University President Drew G. Faust to drop the appeal and allow for the representation of hundreds of students whose votes were not previously sought in a new election.
See Caroline S. Engelmayer and Andrew J. Zucker, The Harvard Crimson, Nov 1 2017
On Monday, progressives gathered to oppose having a constitutional convention, which will be decided in a vote on November 7. New Yorkers can choose if they want to have a constitutional convention every 20 years, and if they do delegates are selected to compile a list of proposed amendments to the state constitution. Environmental and labor activists fear that a constitutional convention would be an opportunity for billionaires to leverage their wealth to help choose the delegates and create policies. Liberal groups have already spent a million dollars in an effort to urge voters to vote against the convention, more money is expected expended in the week leading up to the Nov 7 vote.
See Rick Karlin and Mattthew Hamilton, Albany Times Union, Oct 31 2017
The Bangladeshi government announced that it will extend an agreement protecting garment industry workers past its expiration date in May of next year. The Bangladesh Accord was created in 2013 after the Rana Plaza complex collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people. Bangladesh has promised to incorporate the agreement between global clothing brands and trade unions that establishes fire and safety programs into national regulations, raising safety standards for the 4 million workers in Bangladesh’s textile industry. The accord will stay in place until a national regulatory body is prepared to take over safety inspections.
See Anuradha Nagaraj, Reuters, Oct 31 2017
Sysco has been found guilty of 79 unfair labor practices at their West Michigan facilities, according to NLRB judge Michael Rosas. Most violations dealt with threats, intimidation, and unlawful punishment of workers during a union organizing campaign. The violations culminated in a failed 2015 union vote. Rosas ordered the company to immediately stop threatening employees and start negotiating a contract with the Teamsters Local 406. The issue is now in Grand Rapid’s federal court and could take months or even years to resolve, as the NLRB’s request for an injunction to force Sysco to immediately follow Rosa’s orders is reviewed by the federal agency’s highest board.
See Shandra Martinez , Michigan Live, Oct 31 2017
The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ recent 10-year forecast for the labor market had few surprises, with health care positions – which are difficult to automate or outsource - continuing a long period of growth. The U.S.’s quietly graying population is facilitating a job growth rate that’s 50% slower than between 1996 and 2006, and workers over 55 will double by the mid-2020s. Personal-care aides and home-health aids are projected to create 10% of the 11.5 million jobs expected to be added to the economy by 2026. Clean energy jobs in the solar and wind energy sectors are the only occupations that will double by 2026, while software developers, mathematicians and statisticians fill out the top 10 list. Jobs in manufacturing and retail will continue to fall, as work increasingly becomes automated and e-commerce continues to soar – resulting in slow growth for jobs earning between $30,000 and $50,000. Inequality will continue to grow, showing sharp polarization in income and geography as college-educated Americans in the largest cities continue to thrive while less educated workers in rural areas fall further behind. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted the growth of education and health care accurately in the past, but was unable to predict events such as the Great Recession, which curtailed overall job growth and obliterated construction, or the natural gas revolution, which initiated a mining boom.
See Health care, computing, clean energy lead 10-year jobs forecast; inequality will continue to grow, Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, Oct 30 2017
According to a recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report, Sweden leads the OECD in helping laid-off workers find new jobs—over 85 percent of displaced workers find new jobs within a year because of arrangements between employers and private social partners such as Trygghetsradet (TRR) – a job security council that helps workers with job counseling, financial and psychological support. TRR is funded by employers and is only for workers who are members of a union - about 70 percent of the Swedish workforce. Job-security councils were more effective than government-administered programs because they intervene immediately after a layoff and have financial resources that public re-employment offices can’t provide. While unions in other countries fight against job cuts, in Sweden, unions are more amenable to job losses as they know workers will be retrained to be more productive in other jobs. The idea is that workers should be supported rather than maintaining unproductive positions, while companies also benefit in being able to restructure for long-term success. Companies that have collective bargaining agreements pay 0.3 percent of their payroll annually into the job-security council that works with people in their sector. Companies will alert the job-security council when layoffs are imminent, with workers being matched with a counselor. Depending on their age and length of service, they also receive a stipend from the job-security council that helps defray costs. Failing to help workers find a new job can have negative impacts on the overall health of the economy. The growing number of people who have stopped looking for work in the United States depresses consumer spending, resulting in a less productive economy and a smaller economic pie. Sweden ranks as one of the highest labor force participation rates in the OECD, in spite of generous welfare programs. Its strong economy also provides evidence that powerful unions can have great effect when working cooperatively with companies.
See Job-security council in Sweden, funded by employers, helps the laid-off find jobs, Alana Semuels, The Atlantic, Oct 30 2017
Online retailer Boxed joined the automation ranks last spring when the company decided to open a new robotic warehouse in Union, New Jersey, and, instead of laying off workers as feared, added a third shift in order in order to handle an increasing volume of orders. While automation technologies such as robot arms that pick goods from shelves may replace some workers over the next decade, the increasing number of warehouses needed to deal with that increased volume is expected to generate increased hiring. E-commerce sales are growing roughly five times as fast as storefront retail sales, according to market research firm Forrester, and the surge in e-commerce has left brick-and-mortar stores struggling, with Toys “R″ Us, RadioShack, and Payless Shoesource all filing for bankruptcy this year. The loss of 140,000 brick-and-mortar retail jobs over the last decade has been offset by the growth of 400,000 e-commerce and warehousing jobs, however. Research shows that people spend less time shopping than in the past – 25 hours less per year compared with a decade earlier – as families increasingly outsource shopping to e-commerce employees - such as Walmart’s “personal shoppers” who pick and package orders. Boxed workers at the newly automated warehouse find their jobs less physically taxing than in the past. Their jobs now involve “problem solving” to ensure shelves remain balanced and that the weight of a package matches the requested order – cases requiring human judgment that robots can’t solve. In order to preserve the humanity from traditional shopping experiences, Boxed employees also write thank you notes for each processed order; a customer who orders diapers may receive a congratulatory note, for example.
See Surge in e-commerce helps alleviate automation, job loss fears, Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press, Oct 30 2017
In light of recent attacks on Qatar by international labor rights organizations for their failure to observe the Forced Labour Convention, the country’s leadership has announced that it will take greater measures to ensure a significant decrease in labor rights violations. Representatives of the Human Rights Watch have expressed skepticism regarding whether or not Qatar will actually take any action in enforcing labor laws given the lack of detail regarding exactly what direction the country will take in the coming months. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) have been closely investigating the country’s labor practices, emphasizing the importance of labor reform in Qatar as it might lead neighboring Gulf countries to revise their labor legislation as well. Given that nearly 95% of Qatar’s labor force is comprised of migrant workers, laborers in the country are particularly vulnerable to labor rights abuses from employers who, under a system called “kafala” which is widely used in the Gulf countries, generally control all aspects of migrants’ stays in Qatar. Although the commitments Qatar is currently making to workers are a step in the right direction, the actual implementation of these changes remains to be seen.
See Human Rights Watch Staff, Human Rights Watch, Oct 27 2017
The National Weather Service (NWS) Employees Organization, the labor union representing employees of the NWS, recently released a statement denouncing the NWS for its severe understaffing issue in offices around the country. The union emphasized that the NWS has not had full staffing levels in over seven years and called for management to finally address the hundreds of vacant positions it refuses to fill. Given the slew of catastrophic extreme weather events hitting California in the form of disastrous wildfires and hitting Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands in the form of three deadly hurricanes, the union feels that this understaffing problem is not only unacceptable in terms of how the NWS operates, but also incredibly irresponsible given that an understaffed weather service cannot adequately forecast and alert the public to impending extreme weather. While NWS representatives maintain that they would never jeopardize public safety in operations decisions, the union asserts that management is taking too high of a risk in its inefficient and possibly dangerous hiring practices.
See Julia Manchester, The Hill, Oct 27 2017
Following the filing of formal unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB by Local 100 of the United Labor Unions against the Dallas Cowboys, a meeting between NFL owners and players took place regarding Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones’ incendiary claim that he would bench any player who did not stand for the pledge of allegiance as a form of social justice demonstration. Local 100, as well as many others, viewed this as a threat to NFL players’ freedom of speech and a violation of their labor rights as their manager would be taking adverse employment actions against them should they demonstrate during the national anthem. Following this meeting, Local 100 decided to drop its charges against the Cowboys, promising that should Jerry Jones act on his statement, that they would immediately refile their charges with the NLRB and pursue the Cowboys to the fullest extent possible. While the charges remain dropped for now, union representatives expressed hopefulness that their public pursuit of Jones sends a clear message to the NFL regarding the criminality of such conduct against players.
See Todd Archer, ESPN, Oct 27 2017
Representatives from the UAW announced earlier today that they filed a complaint with the NLRB after the electric car company Tesla fired roughly 400 employees who reportedly wanted to unionize. The terminated employees included supervisors and assembly line workers, among others according to a former Tesla employee. A representation election will be held in February at Tesla’s Fremont plant.
See New York Times, Reuters, Oct 26 2017
Hundreds of protesters rallied outside the Fuyao Glass America factory in Michigan on Wednesday. Workers filed had filed a complaint with the NLRB on October 16, a representation election is set for November 8 for plant workers to vote on whether or not they wish to be represented by the UAW. Frustrated workers have expressed grievances about various practices at the Chinese-owned glass factory, including the wrongful termination of an employee recovering from injury. More than $20 Million tax dollars have invested into the plant through state and local subsidies, leaving many frustrated about the working conditions at the factory.
See Thomas Gnau, Dayton Daily News, Oct 26 2017
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner celebrated a big victory on Wednesday after his veto of a bill that would stop districts from implementing right-to-work laws went through. The House vote to contest Rauner’s veto fell one short of the 71 votes needed to override. Illinois Democrats have expressed concern that the veto is pushing them closer to becoming a right-to-work state. The governor’s office said that the vetoed bill would have restricted local communities’ ability to compete with nearby states and that such laws would be damaging to local businesses.
See Tina Sfondeles, Chicago Sun Times, Oct 26 2017
Graduate students at the University of Chicago became one of twelve universities to vote in a graduate students union after an election was held earlier this week. Despite considerable pressure from the administration to keep the union out, the NLRB election resulted in overwhelming support for the union, with more than eleven hundred votes in favor and less than 500 opposition votes. In an email to all graduate students on October 15, the university’s executive vice provost David Nireneberg warned students about potential problems that could arise following a student union, including issues with research grants and funding for some academic programs.
See Esha Indani, The Daily Pennsylvanian, Oct 24 2017
The SAG-AFTRA reached a settlement with Telemundo on behalf of Spanish speaking performers following a dispute involving multiple unfair labor practices. The contract reclassified the performers from independent contractors to employees, granting them full protection under the NLRA. The network also agreed to stop the practice of prohibiting performers from discussing wages and working conditions among each other, as well as doing away with illegal policies that prohibited workers from filing complaints with the NLRB. The SAG-AFTRA was elected by Telemundo performers in March of this year— the first time in more than 55 years that actors at a major television network sought unionization.
See David Robb, Deadline, Oct 24 2017
Attempts to privatize the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which serves the largest number of customers of any publicly-owned utility company in the US, have escalated after hurricane Maria decimated the island’s electric grid. Prior to the devastation, PREPA filed for bankruptcy earlier this year with $9 Million in debt. The federally appointed Financial Oversight and Management Board is heavily pushing for privatizing the industry, but workers are heavily opposed. The union representing PREPA workers criticized the company for refusing to send repair workers out to fix the grid— a tactic they are using to incentivize private investment in Puerto Rico’s utility sector. In a tweet that garnered widespread recognition, Elon Musk proposed rebuilding Puerto Rico’s grid to be completely renewable through a combination of solar power and batteries. Although many applaud Musks’ proposal, there is concern that his involvement could set the stage for a larger corporate takeover, running the risk that the private companies might leave if the business venture proves to be unprofitable.
See Johanna Bozuwa, Common Dreams, Oct 24 2017
New York City is famous for their yellow medallion cabs; those who want to drive one need to either own or lease a taxi medallion issued by the city. The limited number of medallions skyrocketed their value, from $50,000 in the late 1970s to over $1 million by 2014. Taxi driving in New York City was the go-to occupation for working class immigrants with limited language skills and job opportunities who sought the American dream and who saw stable, long-term income in the investment towards a medallion. But the arrival of Uber in 2011 drove taxi ridership downwards, officially overtaking taxis in 2015, and sinking the worth of a taxi medallion as many drivers left taxi companies to work for Uber and its various counterparts. Those who left taxi companies were sometimes fleeing abusive and corrupt employers, but not all drivers have been happy with Uber due to Uber’s growing price cuts, commissions, and the lack of support towards workers’ rights. Those who continue to drive traditional taxis may find themselves in deep debt as they pay off loans as high as $830,000, with their original plans to sell the medallions now for naught. Taxi drivers remain independent contractors who are not protected under the National Labor Relations Act, and those wishing for union help may join the New York Taxi Workers’ Alliance (NYTWA), but the entity has no collective bargaining rights.
See Uber, Lyft popularity drives NYC taxi medallion values south as drivers struggle with debt, Cecilia Saixue Watt , The Guardian, Oct 23 2017
Some of today’s cutting edge research occurs in public universities such as Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute, where motion sensors in a $750,000 lab track a volunteer’s skeleton and muscles as he bends and stretches in order to study back pain, which affects 8 out of 10 Americans, accounts for 100 million annual lost workdays in the U.S., and has accelerated opiate addiction. But federal and state funding towards research universities has steadily decreased against the pace of inflation since 2008, and the Trump administration’s proposal to cut the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) budgets by billions of dollars will affect all research universities even further. The impact will be most significant in public universities such as Ohio State and the University of Missouri, Midwestern universities where historically some of the nation’s most important research has been conducted. These universities have appreciable impact in diversifying their local economies, which had traditionally relied on manufacturing and agriculture, and serve as one of the most important institutions in towns such as Columbus, Ohio, and Columbia, Missouri. Private universities can turn to their endowments and private donations to offset budget cuts from the public sector, but public colleges lack the financial resources to survive long-term beyond government funding. The endowments of the universities of Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio State, which together enroll nearly 190,000 students, add up to about $11 billion—less than a third of Harvard’s $37.6 billion. Threats to pensions in Illinois and tenure in Wisconsin threaten an exodus of faculty and their research funding, resulting in increased regional inequality, as brainpower, talent, and jobs leave the Midwest and the Rust Belt towards the coasts and global competitors. While local Midwestern economies will feel the impact first, a decrease in the ability to conduct science and engineering research will lead to a decrease in innovation, and the U.S., traditionally a global leader in science and technology, is now ninth among the nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in terms of gross domestic product spent on research.
See Declining research funding for public universities impacts local economies, U.S. innovation, Jon Marcus , The Atlantic, Oct 23 2017
The U.S death toll for the two hurricanes that pummeled Texas and Florida in August and September is approximately 200, but workplace health and safety groups are concerned that the toll will be much higher for workers cleaning up after the storms unless adequate funding, resources, and training are put into place. The post-storm damage includes chemicals – such as flesh-eating bacteria - being dumped into the Houston water as well as loose asbestos creating toxins and mold that could cause long-term problems for those doing the work. More than 1000 people died during the cleanup process after 9/11, a group that included primarily firefighters and skilled unionized demolition workers, but the workers who are primarily doing the post-storm cleanup are undocumented workers earning an average of $80 a day. The National Council of Occupation Safety and Health (COSH) – a national coalition of workplace and safety groups that works closely with local groups as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - states that part of the problem lies in the cuts to federal funding originally given by the Obama administration to labor groups to train undocumented workers in their rights to a healthy and safe workplace. OSHA’s plans to expand their regulatory reach have been halved, as the Trump administration seeks to decrease regulations in order to spur business growth as well as cutting the Susan Harwood Worker Training Grant Program, which provides $11 millions in grants to workplace safety groups for health and safety training. Undocumented workers may be fearful of speaking up about workplace safety for fear of deportations; as a result, groups such as COSH and the Texas-based Workers Defense Project have begun training organizers to teach workers about protecting themselves against hurricane cleanup hazards.
See Hurricane clean-up may kill more workers than storms’ death toll, Mike Elk, The Guardian, Oct 23 2017
Employees at a Chinese-owned glass factory have filed a request with the NLRB for a representation election. Fuyao received around $10.6 million in grants from Ohio officials to establish operations in the small town of Moraine in 2014. The plant now employs roughly 1,500 employees, some have cited poor working conditions and unfair labor practices including favoritism and authoritarian policies. Working conditions improved at the plant after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued fines for safety violations, but high turnover remains a big issue. The UAW is eager to organize the plant, and the Labor Board approved the workers’ request for a union election, which will be held in the near future.
See Ginger Adams Otis, New York Daily News, Oct 19 2017
One-hundred US Postal Service workers rallied in front of Boston’s largest post office to protest job cuts, according to Scott Hoffman, president of the American Postal Workers Union’s Boston chapter. According to Hoffman, a large number of vacancies have gone unfilled, and understaffed post offices are struggling with long lines and backed-up shipping orders. After fierce union opposition, the NLRB ordered the Post Office to end an outsourcing arrangement with Staples. The union is strongly opposed to privatization and argued that the arrangement with Staples replaced union jobs with inferior non-union jobs.
See US & World Report News, Boston Associated Press, Oct 19 2017
An ongoing strike by migrant farmers on a Kentucky tobacco farm enters the third week, as workers continue to protest wages below those guaranteed under the H2-A Visa program. The strike is part of a larger movement to organize H2-A workers in the South and Midwest. While seasonal workers in Kentucky are guaranteed a minimum wage of $10.92 an hour by law, the workers report receiving only $8.00 an hour and working without basic safety measures like using gloves to pick tobacco. The Farm Labor Organizing Committee has been pushing to organize migrant farmers for several years and reports that this is the first year they are in Kentucky—a sign that the movement is growing.
See Benny Becker, WFPL, Oct 19 2017
Following the publication of a joint report on Uzbekistan’s use of child and forced labor in its cotton industry by the Human Rights Watch and the Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim met with Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to press him on the country’s myriad labor abuses. At this meeting, Kim urged Mirziyoyev to address these human rights issues and release individuals who were performing manual labor under threat of the government, including children. Nearly 200,000 students, medical professionals, and teachers were freed by the Uzbekistani government directly after this meeting, presumably under implicit threat of World Bank sanctions. While these individuals were allegedly relieved of this forced labor, covert sources have reported that many of them were recalled to work in the cotton fields following their release, were instructed not to reveal their true professions, and have had wages for replacement workers taken out of their own wages. While this was a step in the right direction in confronting world leaders about their countries’ labor violations, forced labor continues to be a persistent issue in Uzbekistan.
See Jessica Evans, Human Rights Watch, Oct 18 2017
In the midst of talks surrounding the renegotiation and revamping of NAFTA, a main point of contention has been labor regulation within member countries. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has called on the U.S. to abolish “right-to-work” states, claiming that these states, and the possibility of this legislation spreading to other U.S. states, hurts Canadian labor. Because right-to-work laws allow workers to bypass compulsory union dues and union membership as a condition of employment, employers are generally supportive of this legislation seeing as how it diminishes union membership and, therefore, union leverage at the bargaining table. The Canadian administration’s close relationship with large labor unions, such as Unifor, differs greatly from the relationship the Trump administration holds with labor, and U.S. officials have outright rejected Trudeau’s proposal. However, legislators within the U.S., such as Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, are internally pushing for a weakening of right-to-work laws regardless of the administration’s anti-union leanings.
See Mark Mix, Washington Examiner, Oct 18 2017
The English Office for National Statistics (ONS) has just reported that women make up 246,000 of the 317,000 hires which have taken place over the past year, revealing that British women comprise an overwhelming majority of the recent boom in employment in the midst of a surge in national focus on gender equality in the workplace. Following the enactment of new labor regulations that require all businesses with over 250 employees to report any gender wage gap in their organization to the government, statistics are proving more than ever the importance of female workers to the English economy. Another discovery made by the ONS was that women account for more than 80 percent of the 94,000 jobs created between June and August, with the figure of currently employed women having nearly reached a record high. However, women are still in the large majority of British individuals who are unemployed due to familial or home obligations, indicating that gender roles still persist for some.
See Lucy Meakin, Bloomberg, Oct 18 2017
A strike by nurses and special education classroom aides that began on Monday was ended today when a Cook County judge issued a temporary restraining order that banned over one hundred members of the Educational Support Personnel Association union from partaking in the strike. At least 130 of the 454 employees who participated in Monday’s ongoing walk-out were ordered back to work, due to concerns about public health and safety outlined in the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. Contract negotiations culminated in a deal that triggered the union to call for Monday’s strike—sticking points include wages, sick leave, and retirement incentives.
See Bob Sunsnjara, Chicago Daily Herald, Oct 17 2017
In a Ninth Circuit ruling on Tuesday, the NLRB’s recently revised standard for arbitration deference was upheld, reversing the standard set in Olin/Spielberg which had been used for nearly 60 years. Tuesday’s decision came out of a dispute concerning a utility worker who was fired following an arbitration process, the three Ninth Circuit judges upheld the Labor Board’s decision to defer to an arbitration award. The revised standard will only be applied prospectively, in all future and pending cases.
See Emily Kokoll, Law 360, Oct 17 2017
Mayor Bill de Blasio approved a bill that requires a minimum of 40 hours of training for New York City construction workers before March first. The new law—passed on Monday—was enacted in response to a surge in injuries at construction sites that have accompanied the building boom. The city has pledged $5 million to this project, which only partially covers the cost of the initiative. Several groups including the Real Estate Board of New York criticized the new law, arguing that it unfairly favors union labor because some union workers who have already taken courses are exempt from having to be retrained.
See Yoav Gonen, New York Post, Oct 17 2017
Those who enter a four-year ironworking apprenticeship program know that they may be training for jobs with an uncertain future – with a declining steel industry that has seen jobs replaced by work overseas or automation. But their hopes for job security and an eventual middle-class life remain anchored in unions such as Ironworkers Local 16 in Maryland, which offer apprenticeship programs and potential lifelines to those down on their luck. Young apprentices face concerns their elders never had to face, such as whether there will be blue-collar worker jobs available after their apprenticeships. Older union members remember what happened with Sparrows Point Shipyards, formerly owned by Bethlehem Steel, which once had employed tens of thousands of workers in the 1980s and which eventually closed in 2012 due to U.S. steelmaking technology becoming obsolete in comparison to overseas competitors. The union previously had 1400 members; it now has 300 active members paying for 600 retirees. Today, union members are looking towards the promise of jobs in wind energy as the U.S. Energy Department has called for increasing wind-powered electricity to 20 percent by 2030, requiring workers to have turbine training and certification. Union members attended hearings for Maryland Public Service Commission, showing support for the potential creation of wind turbines off the Maryland coast, with the result that two companies were approved to construct 77 turbines, potentially creating nearly 9,700 jobs, stimulating more than $1.8 billion in in-state spending, while using local port facilities and investing in a steel fabrication plant.
See Ironworking apprentices anchor job hopes on new technology, depend on unions for training, support, community, Tara Bahrampour, The Washington Post, Oct 16 2017
As with other industries facing the challenges of increasing automation, opinions in the trucking industry remain collided as to whether, and how soon, automated driving will change today’s $700 billion trucking industry, which employs over 1.8 million drivers in the U.S. alone and is the single most common job in many U.S. states. Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, plans to introduce an electric-powered semi next month that is likely to be semi-autonomous, but some drivers doubt whether it will affect their jobs anytime soon. Obstacles include updating infrastructure needs and the politics behind having to lay off so many drivers, with the transportation secretary being “very concerned” about the impact of self-driving cars on U.S. jobs, especially given that many truckers came to the field after losing jobs in other fields due to automation. The managers of Iowa 80, the world’s largest truck stop serving 5000 customers a day on Interstate 80, are not worried and are planning to expand the number of restaurants and shopping outlets available at the “Disneyland of truckers.” Others feel that fully operational self-driving trucks will start replacing jobs within the next year, and will probably become commonplace within ten years, due to the tempting gain of significant labor savings and efficiencies. Labor accounts for 75% of the cost of transporting shipments by truck, and human drivers are prohibited from driving more than 11 hours a day. Automated drivers would double the output of the trucking network at a quarter of the cost with an eight-time increase in productivity. Automation would also cut down on the 41,000 highway deaths in the U.S. every year, virtually all of which are due to driver error. The Teamsters union felt concerned enough to successfully push Congress in July to slow legislation for states looking to increase the use of automated vehicles. California, Florida, Michigan and Utah had already laid the groundwork for fewer truckers by passing laws allowing trucks to drive autonomously in “platoons”, where two or more big rigs drive together and synchronize their movements.
See Drivers keep on trucking as automated vehicles move closer than they appear , Dominic Rushe, The Guardian, Oct 16 2017
Companies will often choose to settle cases of sexual harassment when the perpetrator is a prominent and profitable leader, as seen with the ongoing Harvey Weinstein scandal. The New York Times’ investigation into Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, founder and former CEO of the Weinstein Company, reported that there were at least eight settlements with women since the 1990s, with settlement costs likely to be in the six-digits. Weinstein has since been terminated from his former company, and he has also been removed as a member from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The cost of sexual harassment cases is difficult to measure because of the often private nature of settlements - with victims usually signing non-disclosure agreements - as well as the under-reporting of incidents, but the highest payout in U.S. history for a victim of workplace harassment was $168 million in 2012. With the potential costs of lawsuits so high, companies are now including “employment practices liability insurance” as a necessary cost of doing business. However, despite workplace training, there has been little improvement in the number of sexual harassment incidents, perhaps due to a desensitization to sexually inappropriate behavior as seen in movies, TV, pornography and internet bullying. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received 5,607 sexual harassment complaints in 1992 and 6,870 in 2015. While companies bear financial costs in protecting valuable employees who continue to offend, the damage of sexual harassment to victims is both financial and psychological. The financial cost of a lawsuit can deter victims from pursuing a complaint. Employees can’t necessarily leave their jobs, due in part to an inability to find other suitable jobs, or without having their careers stall. Women report significant higher financial distress two years after the incident. Victims may experience suspicion and doubt, and the situation is worsened when the employee may actually admire the perpetrator’s career, impacting mental health.
See The innumerable costs of sexual harassment, Kari Paul, Maria LaMagna, Market Watch, Oct 16 2017
Amidst tense negotiations between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada as the member countries of NAFTA debate how to best modernize their trade agreement while preserving their respective national interests, Ontario workers at GM’s CAMI plant are watching GM relocate their manufacturing jobs to Mexico. The union representing these workers, Unifor, has refused to back down on demanding that GM makes the CAMI plant the primary manufacturer of the Equinox, a popular GM sport utility vehicle. All of management’s actions, however, point to GM heavily investing in cheap Mexican manufacturing while pulling away from Canada’s higher costs. Given that GM has just eliminated about 200 jobs at their Detroit plant and there has been an influx of about 1,000 workers in their Mexican plant over the past year, it appears evident that there is a serious long-term threat to not only Unifor members’ job security, but also American GM workers’ employment.
See Susan Taylor, Reuters, Oct 13 2017
As prison inmate-led assaults on guards skyrocket in Illinois, AFSCME is urging the state to prioritize the safety of its members. John Baldwin, acting director of the Department of Corrections, claims that the assaults have not been as violent as labor leaders have described and that this increase in assaults is a result of the state of Illinois’ settlement in a lawsuit which held that they need to implement a new system for handling inmates with mental illnesses as their previous system was severely lacking. However, Illinois guards are fearful as Cory Knop, a guard at Lawrence Correctional Center, claims that the only policy changes that take place occur following an assault that could’ve been avoided had management listened to the union’s complaints earlier. AFSCME leaders and members alike are seriously worried about the safety of prison guards as Baldwin proposes that they should just wait until the rate of assaults decreases as a solution.
See Brian Mackey, NPR, Oct 13 2017
Following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, nearly 300 members of the AFL-CIO assembled to organize relief missions to the island. Nurses, engineers, doctors, construction and technology experts alike have flown to Puerto Rico to help mitigate the immense damage the territory’s infrastructure has endured as well as to provide relief to those living on the island that have lost their homes as well as friends and family members. Although Trump has praised FEMA for providing assistance to Puerto Ricans in need, unionists have made it clear that this has not been nearly enough as people seeking help collapse in the heat outside FEMA relief centers, which close every day at 2PM regardless of how many people are awaiting care. Members of SEIU, National Nurses United, and the American Federation of Teachers nurses’ sector are working to, at a minimum, teach those in need about how to access potable water and avoid illnesses during this dire time. While the head of the Puerto Rico Labor Federation is adamant that the U.S. has abandoned Puerto Rico, these union members have banded together to help in any way they can.
See Mark Gruenberg, People's World, Oct 13 2017
The NLRB has decided to file a formal complaint after reviewing six charged filed by SAF-AFTRA on behalf of employees at two Spanish speaking radio stations in Los Angeles who were fired by Spanish Broadcasting Systems (SBS) after trying to unionize. The NLRB plans to remedy the violations by requiring SBS to reinstate the fired workers with back pay. The formal complaint encompasses a list of labor violations by SBS at LA RAZA and MEGA dealing with their failure to bargain in good faith and illegally terminating and intimidating employees after unionization efforts.
See Veronica Villafane, Forbes, Oct 12 2017
Less than 26,000 people attended a Paris rally on Tuesday to protest Macron’s overhaul of the employment code, a stark decline from the hundreds of thousands of protestors who went on strike at the hight of French labor action. The poor attendance at Tuesday’s rally signifies a decline in public interest for workers rights in France, and the wide-reaching power that unions once had is starting to give way to corporate interest. The shifting power dynamic in the labor market will make it easier for President Macron to move forward with his reform of French labor laws, and may citizens say that these changes are imperative in restoring the health of the French economy.
See Ingrid Melander, Reuters, Oct 12 2017
Representatives from the US, Canada, and Mexico entered the fourth round of negotiations for NAFTA reforms on Wednesday, and with Trump’s tough position on the pact, an agreement that satisfies all parties seems less likely than ever. In the past few weeks, the Trump administration has met with US business who are supportive of NAFTA, pushing for serious reforms to the pact that Canada and Mexico vehemently oppose. Trump has continued to threaten to pull the US out of the agreement throughout the negotiations, which he has famously described as “the worst trade deal in history”.
See Ana Swanson, New York Times, Oct 12 2017
In the midst of controversy regarding the political statements made by star NFL players during the playing of the national anthem at football games, owner and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, has come under fire by labor unions for threatening to bench players for allegedly disrespecting the United States. Local 100 of the United Labor Unions has formally filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Jones is violating the Cowboys players’ rights by inflicting job-related punishments on them for engaging in concerted activity, which is protected by the NLRA. A debate regarding this filing comes from a lack of evidence that Jones has fired players for engaging in concerted activities; however, union spokespeople assert that any form of punishment for players’ expression of free speech constitutes a labor rights violation. Following up to this claim against Jones, the NLRB will be investigating whether Jones actually violates the NLRA in how he operates the Cowboys to determine whether a settlement or trial will be necessary.
See Todd Archer, ESPN, Oct 11 2017
Following Caesars Entertainment Corporation’s escape from a years-long bankruptcy, over 20,000 Caesars Palace workers represented by Unite Here are worried about creating a new, more beneficial relationship with management as their contracts will expire in less than a year. When Caesars was in deep financial trouble, these workers lost many of the benefits they once enjoyed and experienced a severe downturn in their employment conditions. In addition, in light of the recent tragic shooting in Las Vegas and Trump’s anti-immigrant initiatives, workers are more worried than ever about their safety and protected status as employees. While Caesars representatives claim not to have seen the Union’s drafted letter urging management to sit down at the bargaining table to discuss future terms of employment, Caesars Palace employees hold an important advantage as this is Caesars’ most profitable location in the country.
See Tracy Rucinski, New York Times, Reuters, Oct 11 2017
As Japan aggressively invests in infrastructure to prepare to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, yet another case of “karoshi,” or death-by-overwork, has met the public eye and intensified the urgency for serious reform to Japan’s work-life culture. A young 23-year-old man working for Sanshin Corporation (a subcontractor for Taisei Corporation) on a new Tokyo stadium took his own life after logging nearly 200 hours of overtime the previous month. Ichiro Sekiwa, a Sanshin executive, stated that at the time that this worker was logging so many hours, the project may have been vastly understaffed for the amount of work necessary. This instance is one of countless overwork-related deaths that have taken place in Japan over the years as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Japanese legislators have attempted to address this serious cultural dilemma, but have fallen short of effectively changing social norms and conceptions about overwork. Evidently, these pressures to overwork are serious labor violations but, because these pressures come from a complex social source, laws often fail to address the underlying problem.
See Shoko Oda and Katsuyo Kuwako, Bloomberg, Oct 11 2017
More than half of Arbor Hills Landfill’s employees in Salem Township went on strike Monday after Advanced Disposal Services, who owns the landfill, allegedly refused to bargain with the union in good faith. The Operating Engineers 324 filed two complaints with the NLRB, one of which has been approved and the second one pending. In a news release, the union said that workers at Salem Township landfill earn seven dollars less than workers at other landfills in Detroit, and pay $150 a week for health insurance. Both sides have proposals on the table, OE 324’s Communication Director Dan McKernan said Advanced Disposal isn’t meeting them anywhere near what he deems standard area wages, and that the strike will continue until the company is ready to come back to the negotiations table.
See Tyler Clifford, Crain's Detroit Business, Oct 10 2017
The Vereinigung Cockpit union finally reached an agreement after years of negotiations with the German airport Lufthansa, settling on a contract with broad coverage that boosts salaries a total of 10.3 percent, to be dispersed in stages, and a one-time payment of up to 1.8 times employees’ monthly salaries. The contract is set to expire in 2022 and includes more flexible working hours and a reformed pension plan scheme. After it was signed on Monday, shares in Lufthansa increased 3.5 percent to the highest they’ve been in sixteen years.
See Victoria Bryan, Reuters, Oct 10 2017
France’s three largest unions cannot agree on how to respond to President Macron’s labor law reform. The hard left trade union CGT called for a third strike on Monday but was unable to rally support from the other unions. The more moderate CFDT now has the broadest support in the nation, and they along with Force Ouvriere agree that negotiations are the best recourse for Macron’s overhaul of French employment laws. As the intensity of strikes decline, the CFDT is refocusing its efforts on future battles like pension and unemployment insurance reforms. Monday’s meeting between CGT, CFDT, and FO took place the night before the largest nationwide strike by public sector employees. The level of support garnered during Tuesday’s strike will be an important indication of France’s level of engagement in labor protests.
See Reuters Staff, Reuters, Oct 10 2017
A Broadway-themed restaurant in New York that features singing servers has been fraught with labor disputes after the introduction of new management. For the aspiring Broadway stars serving at the restaurant, the change brought with it crackdowns on minor infractions like sipping hot water to alleviate stressed vocal chords and rigid scheduling policies that don’t allow employees to take off for auditions. After a series of firings, the servers decided to unionize, climbing on the counters of the diner and singing “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. Last Fall, the workers submitted a complaint to the NLRB, citing various union-busting tactics including preventing workers from organizing on Facebook and punishing people for getting involved with the union. The restaurant’s lawyers claim that the firings were due to an elaborate scheme in which employees stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the restaurant over time, but the district attorney’s office denied to say whether they were pursuing an investigation. A trial for the complaints was set for Tuesday, but a settlement was reached before the court date. The singers were offered their jobs back, with disciplinary histories expunged, and backpay was awarded to all 31 fired employees.
See Sarah Maslin Nir, New York Times, Oct 5 2017
In a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, Trump administration nominees faced pointed questions about how they plan to handle key labor issues. Cheryl Stanton, who is poised to assume the position of wage and hour chief, will be charged with handling the uncertainty surrounding overtime regulation implemented under the Obama administration that doubled the number of workers eligible for overtime. Stanton has faced public criticism after she was sued for failing to pay her housekeepers. Senators asked a series of pointed questions, bringing up the hundred of actions against Trump’s businesses dealing with NLRA violations. Stanton said she plans to consult ethics officials on that matter before making a decision.
See Erin Mulvaney, National Law Journal, Oct 5 2017
Research published by ILR professor Alexander J.S. Colvin was cited in Supreme Court oral arguments on October 2 the ongoing case concerning mandatory arbitration. Published on September 27th by the Economic Policy Institute, Colvin’s research revealed that mandatory arbitration is becoming more common, with 56 percent of nonunion employees, and 41 percent of arbitration clauses include class-action waivers that allow employers to refuse legal recourse in labor disputes. Some 60 Million workers are bound to mandatory arbitration agreements, Colvin reports, a considerable increase from the 2 percent of workers in 1992.
See George Lowery, Cornell Chronicle, Oct 5 2017
Following the British Communication Workers Union (CWU) vote in favor of a walkout protesting Royal Mail’s decision to close its current defined benefit scheme in March 2018, it has been discovered that the CWU has also been planning to restructure its benefit scheme in a similar fashion. While an overwhelming majority of mail workers voted to strike on Thanksgiving weekend, it seems as though the union is agitating its members to demonstrate against Royal Mail for the same policies it implements. CWU General Secretary has been known to criticize Royal Mail for investing pensions in hedge funds while also taking up this practice. In addition to now appearing hypocritical in its stance against Royal Mail, the CWU also appears to have timed its strike very poorly. Lord Norman Tebbit, a senior cabinet minister in Margaret Thatcher's government, criticized the union stating that with the little business Royal Mail currently has in the digital age, strikers might just be hurting their job prospects even more.
See Hayley Dixon, The Daily Telegraph (UK), Oct 4 2017
Years after the United Farm Workers (UFW) fired several of its field organizers and was subsequently sued by these former workers, both parties have finally reached a settlement. The UFW has agreed to pay around $1.3 million, with this number including attorney fees and penalties as well as the back wages originally owed to the plaintiffs. The 2014 lawsuit initiated by former organizer Francisco Cerritos claimed that the UFW did not compensate him and 23 others for working over 8 hours a day and over 40 hours a week; in addition, the union did not provide these employees with meal periods following 5 hours of work. While Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas W. Wills ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and ordered the UFW to pay these back wages, the union began a lengthy appeal process whose costs added up to nearly $1.8 million, half of which came from union dues. UFW representatives claim that the substantial costs arising out of the appeal process outweighed the amount asked for in the settlement, so the union decided to take this route confident that at least the settlement will be going towards paying former workers as opposed to their attorneys.
See Geoffrey Mohan, The LA Times, Oct 4 2017
Monarch Airlines, a British charter and scheduled airline, fired over 1,800 workers as it went under this past week due to an inability to keep up with competing airlines and the diminishing value of the British pound. Unite theUNION (Unite), a U.K. trade union which represents engineers and cabin crew who worked for the airline, claims that Monarch has violated labor law in failing to consult its employees on redundancies and in failing to give employees appropriate notice of their termination and corresponding pay. The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has also claimed that Monarch mistreated pilots represented by the organization and that it will be seeking compensation for its members. Due to the airline’s bankruptcy, the compensation being sought by UNITE would be met by the government.
See Alistair Smout & Victoria Bryan, Reuters, Oct 4 2017
Ben and Jerry’s entered an agreement with farm workers’ on Tuesday that lays out new labor standards for farmers employed by the company’s suppliers. The agreement also includes a system for enforcement and to ensure that compliance with the new agreement is being met. The contract closely resembles another arrangement called the Fair Food Program that was implemented in 2011 to protect workers on tomato farms in Florida. Enforcement of the agreement will be handled by a group of lawyers who previously worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Immigrant Justice Project, who will conduct audits to ensure compliance by suppliers.
See Noam Scheiber, The New York Times, Oct 3 2017
Registered Nurses at Berkshire Medical Center responded to the Massachusetts Nurses Association call for a one-day strike, after negotiations spanning 22 bargaining sessions hit an impasse. Roughly 800 nurses at Berkshire Medical Center are members of the union, and Monday’s strike was the third this year by the MNA. The main conflict at hand is over staffing ratio, which the hospital’s parent company said will have to be dropped if contract negotiations are to be settled. However, the MNA is a particularly powerful union not only because of its size but also due to the fact that they represent highly skilled workers, and they aren’t showing signs of backing down.
See Heather Bellow, Berkshire Eagle, Oct 3 2017
The Metal Trade Council filed a complaint with the NLRB after Sandia National Laboratories sent letters to union members informing them about their offer for a $2,000 bonus for every worker if the new contract was settled before the last one expired on Friday night. About 430 MTC members voted in favor of a strike against Sandia after negotiations broke down in a bargaining session last Friday when the union voted to reject management’s “best, last, and final offer”. The strike has not yet been initiated, and if the NLRB approves MTC’s complaint alleging Sandia’s failure to bargain in good faith, the union will have even greater leverage against the company.
See Kevin Robinson Avila, The Albuquerque Journal, Oct 3 2017
Opening arguments in three consolidated cases involving professional services firm Ernst & Young, gas station operator Murphy Oil USA Inc., and healthcare software company Epic Systems Corporation came before the Supreme Court today, finding the expected division along conservative and liberal lines. Liberal justices defended the right of workers to bring class-action lawsuits against companies as a “driving force” behind a federal law enacted to regulate labor disputes, and that a ruling against employees would endanger “the entire heart of New Deal programming”. Class-action lawsuits can result in large damages awards by juries and are harder for businesses to fight; as a result, companies have increasingly required employees to sign class-action waivers in order to prevent an increasing number of worker lawsuits seeking unpaid wages, forcing employees into individual arbitration scenarios. Three justices, including typical swing vote Justice Kennedy, asked questions favoring employers, indicating that a loss for workers would not prevent them from joining together to hire the same lawyer to bring claims, even if arbitrated individually. The Trump administration, in the unusual position of squaring off with an independent agency of the federal government (NLRB), has sided with companies, contending that agreements requiring workers to arbitrate disputes with their employers individually is a valid, efficient and cost-effective alternative to class-action litigation. Two justices in the court’s conservative majority remained silent; Justice Clarence Thomas who doesn’t usually provide an opinion during opening arguments, and President Trump’s recent appointee, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who may become a key vote.
See Opening arguments find Supreme Court divided over labor arbitration cases, Lawrence Hurley, Robert Iafolla, Reuters, Oct 2 2017
A recent successful six-day strike against Larson Fruit in Washington state was notable for showing signs of labor muscle on behalf of foreign guest workers, who are generally reluctant to protest for fear of being sent back home. Foreign guest workers are typically in the U.S. under temporary H-2A visas, and by their numbers are an increasingly important part of the apple industry. Washington farmers want the Trump administration to ease H-2A visa regulations so foreign workers can be brought in quickly and cheaply; even with current restrictions, the number of guest workers has skyrocketed despite a decline in Mexican illegal immigration. In 2017, Washington farmers and growers requested more than 18,550 positions for H-2A foreign workers, a 40 percent increase since last year and more than four times the number from five years ago. Farmworker union Familias Unidas por la Justicia assisted 17 workers at Larson Fruit who were experiencing verbal abuse and the inability to take time off for illness; the union had also assisted more than 90 H-2A berry pickers who walked off their jobs at Sarbanand Farms in August – most of whom wound up losing their jobs. The strike settlement reinstated three fired workers and also bars the blacklisting of those who went on strike should they seek future employment under the H-2A program. Union president Ramon Torres wants to protect both foreign and domestic workers, but is also critical of the H-2A program, saying it has been used by some growers to undermine union organizing efforts of U.S.-based workers - by hiring guest workers to replace U.S.workers who have walked off the job.
See Foreign farmworkers flex unusual labor muscle against apple industry, Hal Bernton , The Seattle Times, Oct 2 2017
The Senate’s confirmation of pro-management attorney William Emanuel returns the National Labor Relations Board to a Republican majority for the first time in nearly 10 years. Once the term of current Republican board chairman, Philip Miscimarra, expires in December, President Trump will then have to nominate another new GOP board member – at which point it seems likely that the statutorily nonpartisan agency will begin an expected reversal of many Obama-era decisions. The board had moved towards partisan activism favoring unions during the Obama presidency, including expanding joint employer liability for affiliated businesses; imposing limitations on how employers can use employment contracts to block workers’ class actions; and reducing the amount of time necessary to form a union. Emanuel’s confirmation comes on the heels of Marvin Kaplan's confirmation in August, who was the second nomination to the NLRB made by Trump - as well as the controversial nomination of Peter Robb to replace general counsel Richard Griffin (D). Robb was the former lead attorney for the Federal Labor Relations Authority during the air traffic controller strike, which then led to the decertification of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization. Democratic senators were deeply concerned, with Senator Warren (D-Mass) noting that an attorney “who’s never once represented workers” in four decades has “no business at the helm of an agency whose single mission is to encourage collective bargaining.”
See Senate confirmation of attorney Emanuel returns NLRB to Republican majority, Tyrone Richardson, Hassan A. Kanu, Bloomberg BNA, Oct 2 2017
The Supreme Court has just announced that it will be taking up Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. This case deals with child support specialist Mark Janus’ assertion that Illinois state law violates his First Amendment rights to free speech in forcing him to pay dues to AFSCME. AFSCME, among other unions, holds that because every employee reaps the benefits of the union’s collective bargaining with employers, they should contribute to funding the union’s efforts without paying full union-member dues. The Supreme Court’s decision in this case could have serious ramifications for U.S. labor law and could result in a radical restructuring of how unions handle their finances. Given the recent appointment of Neil Gorsuch, it appears that the Court will most likely side with the plaintiff in this case. If this popular prediction comes to fruition, unions will feel a heavy blow to their membership and pockets meaning that they will have to find new ways to prove their importance to workers.
See Robert Verbruggen, National Review, Sep 29 2017
Following the NLRB’s formal accusations of unfair labor practices against Tesla, Inc. in August of this year, California Governor Edmund Gerald Brown and other state legislators have passed a statute allowing the state to withhold electric vehicle rebates for car owners should the manufacturer fail to prove that it treats its employees equitably and in accordance with fair labor standards. Many have interpreted this legislation as a direct attack on Tesla, as its Fremont factory has been a hotbed of controversy specifically regarding the wages and conditions workers have been subject to. The ULP claim against Tesla came after substantial allegations that the working conditions in the Fremont factory are hazardous for employees’ safety, that the wages of workers at the plant are significantly lower than the industry standard, and, most notably, that Tesla has been mounting an aggressive anti-union campaign against organizers from the UAW. The California government appears to be sending a clear pro-labor message in this new legislation as Tesla will be forced to comply.
See Michael Hiltzik, Sep 29 2017
Following several failed attempts at organizing Nissan workers in a Canton, Mississippi assembly plant, the United Auto Workers (UAW) has filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that Nissan management has been surveilling and keeping tabs on the possible pro-union leanings of employees. As proof of this allegation, the UAW provided a partially-redacted file from Nissan listing employees and describing who they spend their time with, what their union leanings might be, and how they have reacted to union organizing efforts. In addition to claiming that plant management keeps surveillance on workers, the UAW is also stating that management has threatened to close the plant down should employees vote for union representation and that Nissan has interfered in general with union organizing efforts. So far, the UAW has asked the NLRB to look further into Nissan’s anti-union practices and to subpoena Nissan representatives.
See Josh Eidelson, Bloomberg, Sep 29 2017
Dozens of support employees including nurses and program assistants at Palatine Township Elementary District 15 picketed on the side of a highway on Wednesday to show their frustrations over stalled contract negotiations. The Educational Personnel Association union represents roughly 435 workers in the district. The issue of wages has been the biggest sticking point in contract talks. Two weeks ago, each side submitted their “final offer”: the school district offer is a 6 percent wage hike over four years, and the union wants a five-year contract with an average 3 percent raise in the first year, with all getting 3 percent annual hikes in the second year and for each year following, with additional compensation for nurses, secretaries, and special education assistants.
See Bob Susnjara, The Daily Herald, Sep 28 2017
On Thursday the Supreme Court decided to revisit the debate about whether workers who object to paying union dues have the right to do so under free speech. A similar case last year yielded a 4-4 deadlock between the justices. The now Republican-controlled supreme court could inflict a great deal of economic hardship on public sector unions if they decide to undo a 40-year-old precedent that allows unions to collect fees from all employees covered under a public sector union—regardless of whether or not they support the union—in order to cover costs associated with contract negotiations. The constitutionality of this 1977 decision will be revisited in March when the high court hears a case involving Illinois state employee Mark Janus who claims that his first amendment rights were violated when he was forced to pay dues despite his objection to the union.
See The Chicago Tribune, Sep 28 2017
On September 21st the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Board claiming that a new policy regulating the use of deadly force violates the terms of their contract. The reforms came out of a US Department of Justice investigation that found patterns of extreme racial bias by the police department. The new policy prohibits police officers from using deadly force on anyone whose actions only pose a threat to themselves, such as self-harm situations, or on any suspect who is running away and poses no immediate threat. The FOP claims that the policy reforms were not jointly agreed upon and therefore are a breach of the employment contract.
See Evan Garcia, Chicago Tonight, Sep 28 2017
Jacob Zuma’s tumultuous and scandalous presidency grows even more controversial as the largest labor union in South Africa organized a one-day, nationwide strike against Zuma’s administration with thousands of protestors gathering around the country. The Congress of South African Trade Unions has publicly rescinded their support for President Jacob Zuma following his firing of the previous finance minister, Pravin Gordhan. Zuma has been accused of numerous counts of corruption, including allowing businesspeople and family friends to sway government policies and appointments. These scandals have led to fears of lessened international investment in the growing South African economy due to investor concerns about political corruption and Zuma has become the primary target for South African frustrations regarding corrupt leaders. The South African Communist Party has sanctioned labor’s turn against Zuma and both parties strongly urge the election of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa into office following Zuma’s term while Zuma’s administration claims that it is the victim of a witch-hunt.
See Paul Vecchiatto and Michael Cohen, Bloomberg, Sep 27 2017
American, Mexican, and Canadian representatives are currently discussing the U.S.’s new draft text on labor standards as the member countries of NAFTA meet in Ottawa to modernize the trade agreement. One of the main concerns being addressed at this meeting is how workers, especially auto workers, in Canada and the U.S. are suffering severe downward pressure on their wages due to Mexican labor’s ability to work for less. The lax to nonexistent enforcement of collective bargaining agreements and international labor laws in Mexico has not only hurt workers in NAFTA’s other member countries but also Mexican workers who are forced to work in hazardous conditions for substandard wages that leave them and their families perpetually in poverty. Canadian officials have made strong claims against the U.S.’s draft text, stating that the U.S. proposal is inadequate and too weak to bring about any change in labor conditions while Mexican officials maintain that labor market regulation and workers’ rights issues be handled by each country on an individual and internal level.
See Lesley Wroughton and Adriana Barrera, Reuters, Sep 27 2017
Uber Technologies continues to defend its practice of labeling drivers as “self-employed” and not as direct employees of the company as representatives maintained the legality of their business model at an employment appeal tribunal in London today. Having garnered a slew of criticism on an international level for its controversial employment strategy, Uber continues to assert that it does not have to provide Uber drivers with benefits, collective bargaining rights, and the like as these workers are technically “self-employed” and therefore ineligible for the rights and privileges of regular employees under most labor law. Uber has skirted labor regulations since its inception using this argument but drivers are increasingly adamant about claiming their rights as hundreds of workers led by union leaders protested on the streets of London against Uber’s license to operate in London. With Denmark and Hungary banning Uber’s services due to these perceived workers’ rights violations, it is uncertain how Uber will uphold its “self-employment” argument in the long-run.
See Costas Pitas, Reuters, Sep 27 2017
Officials from Canada, the US, and Mexico begin negotiations to reform NAFTA in Ottawa this Tuesday. Labor union leaders from Canadian and US are critical of the current provisions of NAFTA, which they say have allowed Corporations to earn high profits from Mexico’s lax labor standards while undercutting workers in the northern countries. The Trump administration is pushing for more substantial US content in autos, pointing to the offshoring of auto production to the two other member countries’ as the main source of trade the US deficit with Canada and Mexico. In a letter to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday, President Jerry Dias of Canada’s UNIFOR union called for greater protection of workers’ rights under NAFTA, and expressed concern that the U.S. proposal is subject major limitations and fails to provide fundamental changes to NAFTA.
See Lesley Wroughton and Adriana Barrera , Reuters, Sep 26 2017
On monday, Hollywood’s largest labor union announced that it came to a provisional agreement to end it’s strike against 11 video game companies. The SGA-AFTRA negotiated a deal on behalf of the companies’ voice actors that includes a new bonus compensation structure as well as performer safety transparency agreements for 3 of the 11 companies. The agreement also mandates that employers disclose certain information about the products the voice actors are working on,product code name, genre, and if it is a reprise of a prior role and whether the game is based on a previous game or other copyrighted work.
See David Ng, Los Angeles Times, Sep 26 2017
In a law suit between the New York sky diving company Altitude Express and their former instructor Donald Zarda, the U.S. Department of Justice under the Trump administration will argue that federal law does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday before the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan. Zarda passed away in a skydiving accident after filing the suit. The EEOC will appear in court to argue on behalf of his estate. Dozens of corporations including Google and Microsoft have submitted briefs asking the Court to rule in favor of Zarda’s estate, after a three judge 2nd Circuit panel dismissed the case in April. The Trump Administration’s involvement in this case is one of many moves targeting the LGBTQ community, including a memorandum signed last month directing the military to not accept any recruits who identify as transgender.
See Daniel Wiessner, Reuters, Sep 26 2017
Thousands of French citizens gathered on Saturday to protest French President Macron’s labor reforms which he signed into law on Friday, upon which far left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, speaking for the France Unbowed party, encouraged people to “swamp Paris” to protest what he called an “offensive against the French people” in a “battle….(that is) only beginning.”. Police estimated 30,000 people, with protest organizers claiming up to 150,000 people, rallied across the country as Melenchon spoke passionately against what he saw as a “race to the bottom”. Macron, wishing to lower the persistently stubborn unemployment rate of 9.6 percent, signed five executive orders on Friday, making it easier for businesses to terminate employees and negotiate working conditions. Criticisms against Macron cite his authoritarian leadership style which accelerated the measures without much parliamentary consultation, as well as his plans to cut housing subsidies and reduce the extent of the wealthy’s tax.
See Thousands protest French labor reforms signed into law on Friday, Agence-France Presse, South China Morning Post, Sep 25 2017
Instead of the usual holiday tradition of hiring thousands of temporary workers, Walmart will instead be assigning longer hours to current employees, in particular part-time employees, in an attempt to address complaints of underemployment. Not addressed is whether employees will be forced to work longer hours or whether this will affect holiday vacation plans if employees are penalized for taking time off. Economists state that with the unemployment rate remaining low, it is increasingly difficult to hire temporary employees for low-wage positions. Walmart’s competitor, Target, is still planning on hiring at least 100,000 temporary employees, by raising the wage to $11 an hour. Toys R Us, despite filing for bankruptcy last week, still plans to hire 12,000 temporary employees by offering extended employee discounts and offering weekend rate wages during peak holiday times.
See Gifting longer hours to employees; Walmart forgoes seasonal temp hiring, Abha Bhattarai , The Washington Post, Sep 25 2017
The U.S. Justice Department’s scathing report earlier this year on the Chicago police department’s conduct and “severely deficient training procedures” had prompted the city to change the Chicago Police Department’s use-of-force policy, which went into effect last week. The Fraternal Order of Police, however, filed charges that the implementation of the policy violated its collective bargaining agreement because the policy change was not negotiated with the union, and that the policy would affect disciplinary investigations, witness statements, and just cause issues. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel noted that the policy had been implemented through two rounds of public comment along with significant policy officer feedback. Under the proposed use-of-force policy change, officers in 2018 would have to take an eight-hour "scenario-based instruction" focusing on the "sanctity of life," with the hours required escalating each year until the desired 40 hours of training is reached in 2021. The course would also focus on mental health, rights, and pursuit of criminal suspects, among other subjects.
See Fraternal Order of Police asks Illinois Labor Relations Board to prevent change in use-of-force policy, Sam Charles, Chicago Sun Times, Sep 25 2017
Former head of the Chicago Teamsters John T. Coli Sr. has been indicted with 13 new counts on top of charges he faced in July, all claiming that Coli was in the center of a massive extortion scandal. Only a few months following allegations that Coli extorted Cinespace Chicago Film Studios for $100,000 in July of 2016, federal prosecutors and other investigators have managed to piece together a timeline of bribery dating much farther back than they had previously imagined. Now prosecutors allege that Coli has extorted over $325,000 over the past 4 years, has falsely reported information to the Department of Labor, and has underreported his income on his tax statements. In the face of this plethora of charges, Coli has maintained that he did not abuse his power or commit any crimes.
See Dan Mihalopoulos, Robert Herguth, Jon Seidel, Chicago Sun Times, Sep 22 2017
In an update regarding National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil, it appears that the DOJ, which originally sided with the workers involved in the lawsuit, has now taken on Murphy Oil’s point of view, given the switch from the Obama to the Trump administration in the past year as the case is taken on by the Supreme Court. In 2010, four workers at Murphy Oil filed a complaint with their employer citing unpaid overtime wages as their main grievance only to be shut down by management, which argued that they signed away their right to file complaints as a group when they were hired and that they could only file individually. The case was picked up by the NLRB which zealously supported the four women until the case reached the Supreme Court in January. Following the appointment of Trump’s DOJ, the U.S. government has rescinded its support of the NLRB and the workers, leaving them with less resources and significantly less hope for the outcome of the case, which could have far-reaching repercussions for all workers’ rights to collective bargaining and grievance-filing.
See Ginger Adams Otis, NY Daily News, Sep 22 2017
In the midst of a skyrocket in overwork-related deaths and suicides in Japan, the president of Dentsu Inc., Japan’s largest advertising agency, was taken to trial over the death of a 24-year old employee who took her own life after being forced to work well over her agreed overtime limit. Toshihiro Yamamoto admitted during this trial that he had a direct role in the young woman’s death through the practices of his company and his negligence in failing to change the way employees are forced to overwork themselves. Dentsu Inc. is notorious throughout Japan for its overworking culture and more than 100 of its employees were found to be working far more overtime hours than they legally should while the company has refused to reform its culture and overtime practices. While, as of now, prosecutors have simply demanded that the company pay a fine, the National Police Agency and the Cabinet Office have made it clear that this phenomenon of death by overwork or other work issues is becoming a serious threat to the public welfare.
See Xinhua Staff, Xinhua, Sep 22 2017
Irish Airline announces it will cancel dozens of flights every day for the next six weeks after admitting to having “messed up” when planning pilots’ holiday schedules. Pilots at four airports in Europe have been offered a significant raise if they agree to work during their scheduled holidays to help mitigate the crisis. The airline had already offered bonuses ranging from 6,000 to 12,000 euros to their captains and first officers, but the offer was not received well by the frustrated employees. Instead, representatives across Europe are working together on a plan to negotiate new contracts with better working conditions.
See Simon Jack and Richard Westcott, BBC, Sep 21 2017
In a hearing before a Ninth Circuit panel Jeffrey Bruitt, attorney for the NLRB, asserted that Uber cannot force employees to give up their right to participate in a class-action law suit against the company. Uber’s attorney Theodore Boutrous argued that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had already upheld Uber’s 2013 and 2014 arbitration agreements. The ruling, however, only applied to one of the class actions brought against Uber. The Supreme Court is set to hear three similar cases on October 2nd, and Bruitt advised the Circuit Court to wait until a ruling has been made on those cases before moving forward with their decision. After 70 minutes of debate, the panel took the arguments under advisement.
See Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News Service, Sep 21 2017
In the wake of a bus crash in Queens that left three people dead, Mayor de Blasio spoke out against the charter bus industry Wednesday, saying it is “exploitative” and forces drivers to take on unusually long shifts without providing benefits. De Blasio didn’t blame the charter bus company for the crash, and instead is pushing for regulators on both the federal and state levels to mandate higher wages for bus drivers so they are less likely to take on gruelingly long shifts. Queens representative Grace Meng said that while she still needs a better understanding of exactly what happened in the crash, she is going to work with her colleagues in Washington to draft legislation for better industry regulations in the hopes of preventing crashes like this in the future.
See Vincent Barone, AM New York, Sep 21 2017