Today’s News & Commentary — May 16, 2017

Noncompete agreements — once limited to senior executives — are now a widespread practice, locking in almost one fifth of American workers.  This includes low-wage workers at fast-food chains and factories.  A recent report from The New York Times revealed how such agreements can harm workers, preventing them from finding new jobs or embroiling them in costly legal battles.  This morning, the Editorial Board called for an end to “such morally dubious practices.”  It pointed to California  — where state law makes noncompete agreements generally unenforceable — as one potential blueprint for reform.

Waymo has scored a big win in its lawsuit against Uber.  Yesterday, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction, barring one of Uber’s star engineers — who is accused of stealing trade secrets — from working on its self-driving car program for the duration of the litigation.  Wired has more.

Ford is cutting jobs, Reuters reports.  The auto manufacturer plans to shrink its salaried workforce in North America and Asia by as much as 10%, in a move that could attract the ire of the Trump administration.  President Trump has promised to expand jobs in the auto industry — earlier this year, he took credit for Ford’s decision not to shift its manufacturing plants to Mexico — but this most recent announcement (which will likely affect thousands of American workers) is a serious setback.

President Trump is also making little progress on his pledge to revive the Rust Belt.  A recent report from the Congressional Research Service reveals that manufacturing wages are in decline: whereas in 2000, factory workers earned 5.1% more than service workers, in 2016, they earned 4.6% less.  With wages stagnating, it’s far from clear whether a “Rust Belt renaissance” can be achieved.  The Washington Times has more.

New York City’s “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” (FIFA) went into effect yesterday.  The first of its kind, the law establishes broad protections for freelance workers.  Studies have shown that more than 70% of freelancers perform work that goes unpaid.  FIFA is intended to combat this trend, requiring that freelancers be paid in full for work worth $800 or more, either by a date specified in writing or within 30 days of completing the work.  FIFA also establishes anti-retaliation protections and a complaint process through the New York Office of Labor Standards.  JDSupra provides a breakdown of the key provisions.