News & Commentary

December 19, 2023

John Fry

John Fry is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, USW opposes the sale of US Steel; the Ninth Circuit rehears a challenge to AB 5 in California; and the Biden administration requires project labor agreements on federal infrastructure projects.

The United Steelworkers have announced their opposition to the proposed sale of former industry leader US Steel to Nippon Steel, a Japanese company. Earlier this year, US Steel rejected a buyout offer from a domestic competitor which had the union’s support. Politicians from both parties, including rust belt Senators J.D. Vance and John Fetterman, have vowed to block the acquisition. Opponents argue that the deal will lead to further offshoring of blue-collar jobs and threaten national security by reducing domestic steel-producing capacity. However, Nippon Steel has stated that all union contracts will continue post-merger.

The Ninth Circuit will rehear a challenge to AB 5, a California law that makes it difficult for gig companies to classify workers as independent contractors. The application of AB 5 to many gig companies is currently on hold, pending a California Supreme Court case about Proposition 22, an industry-backed ballot initiative that passed in 2020. However, legal battles are still raging over AB 5. Most recently, a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel had allowed an equal-protection challenge on the grounds that AB 5 unfairly targeted the business model of companies like Uber and Postmates. Yesterday’s decision to rehear the case en banc vacates that decision.

The Biden administration has unveiled a new rule requiring companies working on large federal infrastructure projects to reach project labor agreements. In these agreements, employers and unions collectively bargain wages, benefits, and other conditions before workers are hired for a project. Importantly, they also cover non-unionized employers. The administration anticipates that the rule will bring union protections to almost 200,000 workers.

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