News & Commentary

February 22, 2023

Peter Morgan

Peter Morgan is a student at Harvard Law School.

Today’s News and Commentary: the Board issued a new ruling on severance agreements, HarperCollins employees return to work, Senator Sanders sends a letter to Google, and two new reports show a rise in labor activity and the benefits of a four-day workweek.

The Board issued a new ruling prohibiting employers from requiring employees to waive NLRA rights in severance agreements. In the case, McLaren Macomb, the Board found that severance agreements requiring employees to refrain from disclosing the terms of the agreement or from making critical comments about their employer—and even the offer of such agreements—violated 8(a)(1) by deterring the employees from using their section 7 rights. This marks a return to the Board’s standard before Baylor University Medical Center in 2020.

More than 250 HarperCollins employees returned to work after their union ratified an agreement with the publisher. Gains included an increase in the base salary from $45,000 to $50,000 in 2025, two hours of available overtime that did not require management approval, a $1,500 lump-sum payment to union members, and compensation for work on diversity and inclusion efforts. The strike had begun in November.

After previous letters to Starbucks executive Howard Schultz, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) sent a letter to Google expressing “serious concern regarding alleged retaliation taken against YouTube Music workers.” This letter arrives as YouTube Music workers participate in a strike begun earlier this month.

Two new major reports launched within the last day. First, Cornell-ILR’s Labor Action Tracker released an annual report of labor actions over 2022. The report documented a marked uptick in labor activity: 424 work stoppages occurred, compared to 279 in 2021; and the number of workers which participated in such stoppages increased from approximately 140,000 to 224,000.

Second, a study led by researchers from the University of Cambridge and Boston College found that all but 56 of the 61 companies which took part in a four-day workweek trial have said they will continue with the four-day week. The study, which involved up to 2,900 employees in the UK, showed fewer resignations and sick days, a reduction in burnout in a majority of employees, and even (where data was provided) increased sales numbers.

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