Weekend News & Commentary — April 23-24, 2016

In the wake of the Uber settlement, more outlets release their take on the resolution. The Washington Post provides details of the terms of the settlement, gauging that it is ultimately in Uber’s favor. The Wall Street Journal dives deeper into the tipping notice issue. For the first time, Uber drivers can post a sign stating that fares do not include tips but that passengers may leave tips in cash. Unlike its competitor Lyft, Uber will not build tipping into the app. Given the app’s appeal of riding currency-free, along with drivers’ hesitancy to do anything that might put off customers, drivers don’t know if the optional notices will have any effect on tipping or if they will even post them.

While Uber workers remain classified as independent contractors, the National Labor Relations Board takes up the question of whether misclassification is an unfair labor practice. Politico announced that the NLRB regional office filed a complaint alleging an NLRA violation for misclassification of Southern California port truck drivers as independent contractors. The Teamsters called the complaint a “historic” moment in their organizing drive. Additionally, this summer the NLRB will release decisions on whether graduate student teaching assistants have collective bargaining rights, and whether new rules will make it easier for permanent and temporary employees to unionize in a single bargaining unit.

The Boston Globe released a report on a federal investigation into alleged use of strong-arm tactics to stifle non-union development projects—with the implicated actors risings as high as Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. As the former head of the Boston Building Trades, Walsh was drawn into the investigation through 2012 wiretaps, in which he reportedly told a development company it would face permitting problems unless it hired union labor on an unrelated development project. Walsh denied threatening any company and maintains that as mayor, “no one gets any special treatment under [his] administration — developers, contractors, or unions.”

Did Chicago teachers break the law? After a preliminary hearing, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board found merit in the contention that the Chicago Teacher’s Union April 1 walkout was an unfair labor practice. Chicago Public Schools sought a temporary injunction to prevent future teacher strikes, and the Board granted it. The union, however, contends that federal law authorizes it to strike without following all state laws first. The Chicago Tribune quotes the union’s criticism that the decision follows politics, not legal precedent: “The governor’s labor board is prosecuting its war on workers.”

Claims for employment benefits dropped unexpectedly last week, to the lowest level since 1973. According to the New York Times, jobless claims have remained below 300,000 for 59 weeks. The numbers support forecasts for modest growth in consumer spending in the second quarter, along with mounting wage and inflation pressures.