News & Commentary

August 8, 2023

Iman Masmoudi

Iman Masmoudi is a student at Harvard Law School.

Biden’s top labor adviser resigns; a new commentary on 2023 Supreme Court Employment jurisprudence is published; a WaPo Oped argues for the importance of policies that advance both workers’ rights and sustainability; and the first major LA city worker strike in fifteen years begins.

President Joe Biden’s top labor adviser, Celeste Drake, has resigned from her position to become the Deputy Director-General of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Her departure comes at a crucial time as labor unions report over 650,000 U.S. workers either on strike or threatening to strike in the first half of 2023. Drake played a pivotal role in advising Biden’s team on labor negotiations affecting the supply chain and economy. Her departure has prompted discussions about her successor and the administration’s continued focus on labor issues.

Researcher and labor lawyer Jonathan Harkavy, who has previously written for OnLabor here, recently published his 2023 review of Supreme Court cases related to employment law. The essay provides an insightful analysis of the labor-related decisions from the 2022-2023 Supreme Court Term, shedding light on the evolving landscape of labor law and its implications for workers, employers, and workplace regulations. Harkavy emphasizes the Court’s shift towards an employer-centric approach, often at the expense of workers’ collective rights and equal opportunity. Notable cases include decisions on issues such as sexual orientation discrimination, student debt forgiveness, college admissions, labor unions’ rights, and religious accommodations in the workplace. The essay also raises concerns about the Court’s handling of religion in American society, highlighting the potential conflict with the Establishment Clause.

The Washington Post published an opinion article by Greg Sargent today that highlights a crucial labor dispute in Ohio involving the United Auto Workers (UAW) union and the Ultium Cells plant, which manufactures electric vehicle battery cells. Sargent urges President Biden to take the opportunity to address labor concerns and demonstrate his commitment to both green initiatives and worker rights. The UAW is demanding equitable wages and working standards for Ultium plant workers, echoing broader contract negotiations between UAW and major automakers. By championing improved working conditions and wages for Ultium plant workers, President Biden would have the chance to showcase how the green transition can create good manufacturing jobs, echoing the historic role labor unions played in building the American middle class.

Finally, as Michelle reported here yesterday, today LA City workers, represented by SEIU 721, went on strike. The union announced on Twitter that the strike would last for only twenty-four hours and shared images of picketers outside LA City Hall. The strike marks the first major city worker strike in over 15 years. More than 11,000 city workers, including sanitation workers, heavy-duty mechanics, traffic officers, and engineers, are participating in the strike. The strike comes as part of increased organized labor activity in Los Angeles and across the country, coinciding with the simultaneous strike of Hollywood writers and actors, as well as intermittent work stoppages by hotel workers. The union cites unfair labor practices as the reason for the strike, alleging that the city failed to negotiate in good faith and engaged in labor practices that restricted employee and union rights. The strike is expected to cause disruptions at Los Angeles International Airport, the Port of Los Angeles, and City Hall, as well as other picketing sites. The union plans to return to negotiations with the city the following week to discuss the successor contract to the one-year agreement signed in November 2022.

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