News & Commentary

February 15, 2023

Sarah Leadem

Sarah Leadem is a joint degree candidate at Harvard Law School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

In today’s News and Commentary, UPS lays off “22.4” drivers as contract negotiations approach, HarperCollins workers secure a tentative agreement, and new names are added to the short list for Labor Secretary.

UPS plans to lay off workers just two months before beginning national labor negotiations with the Teamsters. Layoffs are localized to regions where consumer demand has weakened and target a specific class of workers referred to as “22.4” drivers. This driver class of lower paid “combination” or “hybrid” drivers was created during 2018 negotiations. This driver class is controversial and many Teamsters want to eliminate it in upcoming negotiations. Washington State Teamsters see the layoffs as a “direct shot” at the Teamster’s commitment to eliminate this “two-tiered” job class structure “in favor of full-time drivers who are treated the same as all other drivers.” The contract expires on July 31st and national contract negotiations begin in two months.  

Last Friday, HarperCollins workers reach a tentative agreement with the publisher, ending a three-month strike. The HarperCollins union, United Auto Workers Local 2100, represents 250 employees in the company across a range of job classes (from editorial and marketing to sales and design). HarperCollins is one of the only unionized publishing houses. For many, the strike drew attention to low salaries in the publishing industry: the union’s primary demand was to increase entry-level salaries from $45,000 to $50,000. In the agreement, the union secured increases in base salaries across job classes and a $1,500 lump sum bonus for all workers in the bargaining unit.

Senator Bernie Sanders added two new names to the short list for Secretary of Labor. As Jason and Swap reported, Labor Secretary Marty Walsh plans to leave the Department of Labor to head up the NHL’s Players Association. Current DOL Deputy Secretary and long-time worker rights attorney, Julie Su, is the main frontrunner for the role though Nancy Pelosi continues to advocate for former New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney. This last week, Senator Sanders weighed in. In a letter to the Biden administration, Sanders put forward two new candidates: Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, and Robert Reich, former Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton. The Biden administration has not yet made an announcement.

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