Today’s News & Commentary — May 11, 2016

Despite protests outside the National Assembly, France’s Socialist government voted on Tuesday for a bill that will overhaul the country’s labor laws, reports the New York Times. Facing France’s ten percent unemployment rate, President Francois Hollande’s administration attempted to appease both centrist pro-business politicians who seek more flexible labor policies, and the students and labor unions who oppose them. Critics claim the process of compromise has left the bill is so watered-down that it leaves no protections for workers. Among the changes, companies can now negotiate directly with unions over hours and holidays, instead of setting minimum standards at the occupational sector level.

Uber announced it will recognize the Independent Drivers Guild to represent the 35,000 Uber drivers in New York City. Although the guild is affiliated with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the organization is not a union. The association creates a forum for drivers and Uber to engage in dialogue and create some limited benefits. It also provides a natural ally for Uber in its lobbying of the state legislature to change Uber’s tax liability. The New York Times writes that not all Uber drivers want the association. Abdoul Diallo, a founder of the Uber Drivers Network, claims the association is no substitute for a union, and his organization has already gotten signatures from 5,000 drivers for representation by the Amalgamated Transit Union.

In Austin, Texas, however, Uber no longer has drivers at all. On Monday morning, Uber and Lyft halted service in the state capitol, after losing a special election. Uber spent almost $9 million to oppose a city council ordinance that requires the companies to conduct fingerprint background checks on their drivers; taxi drivers already run fingerprint checks, as does Uber in New York and Houston. According to the New York Times, Austin city councilors say they are ready to work with Uber and Lyft, and that the companies chose to leave of their own volition.

The New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state of New York to allow farmworkers to organize. The current state law, dating back to the 1930s, excludes agricultural workers from the state’s employee protections. The Times Union reports that Governor Cuomo may already be won over. He “called the ‘flaw in the state labor relations act … unacceptable’ and an apparent violation of the state Constitution.”

The California appeals court just made it a bit easier to sue the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB), the state’s farm labor watchdog. The Los Angeles Times writes that California Court of Appeal panel raised questions about the constitutionality of a 2002 law governing mandatory mediation of collective bargaining agreements. The case arose when the owner and a farmworker at Gerawan Farming wanted to challenge a mediator’s decision on contract negotiations, but could only bring a challenge against the ALRB to a higher state court. Gerawan claims the mandatory mediation law and the limit of the lower courts’ jurisdiction is unconstitutional. The California Supreme Court is reviewing a decision that challenges the entire mandatory mediation law.