News & Commentary

July 2, 2024

John Fry

John Fry is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, University of California strikes end while legal dispute continues; Disneyland workers raise awareness with park visitors; and bus workers in Alabama set an example for labor policy.

Academic workers across the University of California system agreed last week to end their rolling strike on the state’s public campuses, which the union launched in response to the schools’ treatment of pro-Palestinian student and faculty activists. As Noah discussed in two recent posts, the union and the UC system have fiercely contested the strike’s legality, with the union arguing that the schools committed unfair labor practices, while the schools argue that the union violated its no-strike clause. Even though the strike is ending, this debate will likely continue before California’s Public Employment Relations Board (and possibly in court), as the union wants to preserve its right to strike in the future while the UC system seeks assurances to the contrary.

Unionized Disneyland workers are distributing pro-union flyers and buttons to park visitors amid a contract fight with the company. The contract setting terms of employment for park employees such as ride operators and custodians expired in mid-June. Disney disciplined over 500 workers earlier this summer for wearing pro-union buttons at work, leading the union to file ULP charges. The company insists that workers cannot wear buttons and pins of their own choosing, but attire has been a flashpoint before the NLRB in recent years, with notable cases involving items like union t-shirts and Black Lives Matter masks.

Even after the United Auto Workers’ election loss at a Mercedes plant near Tuscaloosa, electric vehicle workers in Alabama are hoping to set an example for others across the state and the country. Workers at New Flyer, a bus company in Vance, Alabama, secured a union contract with the Communications Workers of America covering roughly 600 workers late last year, as Gil has covered. One key contributor to the union’s success was the U.S. Employment Plan, a policy initiative spearheaded by nonprofit Jobs to Move America. The plan, which encourages companies like New Flyer to sign onto various pledges including minimum labor standards and engagement with surrounding communities, allows states and cities that procure goods like electric buses to ensure that they have visibility into their suppliers’ business practices. New Flyer had signed onto the plan in order to secure a sizable contract with Los Angeles County, which may have smoothed the path for the Alabama organizing.

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