News & Commentary

August 18, 2023

Greg Volynsky

Greg Volynsky is a student at Harvard Law School.

In Today’s News & Commentary, the Minneapolis City Council approves ordinance mandating higher compensation for rideshare drivers, Bloomberg Law explains how major fast food corporations are complacent in franchisees’ labor law violations, the New York Times reports on a wave of assertive union leadership, and a crackdown on wage theft and working hours violations.

On Thursday, the Minneapolis City Council approved an ordinance mandating improved compensation and enhanced protections for rideshare drivers in the city. Despite opposition from Uber and Lyft, who threatened to cease operations in Minneapolis, the policy was passed with a 7-5 vote. This new regulation sets a pay rate for drivers at $1.40 per mile and 51 cents per minute, with provisions for yearly adjustments mirroring city’s minimum wage changes. Mayor Jacob Frey, while expressing support for increasing driver pay, has voiced concerns about the policy, echoing Lyft’s claims of exorbitant ride costs and possible service withdrawal. If the Mayor vetoes the bill, the City Council would need nine votes to override.

Rebecca Rainey of Bloomberg Law highlights that major fast food corporations often sidestep joint employer liability by omitting explicit labor standards from franchise agreements. This ambiguity leaves room for child labor violations, as franchisors decline to exercise their power over franchisees. Since the start of the Biden administration, the US Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has reported over 30 child labor breaches involving franchises such as McDonald’s, Sonic Drive-In, and Dunkin’ Donuts.    

The New York Times sheds light on an emerging wave of assertive union leadership. Key leaders include Sean O’Brien of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who labeled corporate executives as a “white-collar crime syndicate”, and Shawn Fain of the United Automobile Workers, who snubbed the usual handshake with the chief executive and is pushing for a significant 40% wage increase. This wave exemplifies growing frustrations among union members over out-of-touch leadership, stagnant wages, and unfavorable labor deals.

Recent crackdowns on wage theft have seen Boston Market being slapped with over $2.5 million in fines for allegedly withholding $607,000 from employees in New Jersey and NYC’s Envy Nails ordered to pay $300,000 due to allegations of employee misclassification and wage theft. Moreover, the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) has reached a settlement with three major restaurant chains—Panda Express, Au Bon Pain, and 7-Eleven’s “Raise the Roost”—in a bid to uphold the city’s Fair Workweek Law. These establishments will collectively pay $4.5 million in restitution to 2,400 impacted workers and bear an additional $417,000 in civil penalties.

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