News & Commentary

January 19, 2023

Anita Alem

Anita Alem is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News and Commentary, OSHA levies more than $60,000 in fines against Amazon, the federal investigation of child labor at slaughterhouses continues, massive strikes begin in France against President Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age, and voluntary recognition of unions by employers is on the rise. 

OSHA cited Amazon for violations of the general duty to protect workers from highly dangerous hazards, proposing $60, 269 in fines. The new round of fines follows a previous OSHA citation in December for approximately $29,000 in fines for injury recordkeeping violations. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York is investigating whether Amazon “engaged in a fraudulent scheme designed to hide the true number of injuries” in its workplaces. A study of 2021 workplace injury rates found that Amazon had more than twice the rate of injury compared to other employers in the warehouse industry. 

Last December, the Department of Labor reached a consent order with an industrial cleaning services company, Packers Sanitation Services Inc., that illegally employed children on the “graveyard shift” to clean slaughterhouses, exposing them to hazardous conditions and injuries. At least 50 children, as young as thirteen years old, worked at five plants in three states across the Midwest. On Thursday, NBC reported that the federal government has now opened an investigation to determine if the children were victims of human trafficking. PSSI alleges that other individuals, potentially outside traffickers, presented fake identification on behalf of the children.

The New York Times reports that between 550,000 and 750,000 French protestors are expected to march today against President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 64. Labor unions are in opposition to the measure and workers across industries, from railway to refineries, are on strike. More than 40% of primary school teachers have also joined the strike.

The Center for American Progress reports that voluntary recognition of unions by employers is on the rise. Across industries and businesses like Microsoft and Major League Baseball, to media organizations and mission-driven institutions like museums, employers are increasingly choosing to recognize unions rather than forcing elections, or signing onto neutrality agreements in the event of an election. 

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