News & Commentary

June 30, 2024

Gilbert Placeres

Gilbert Placeres is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News & Commentary, Noam Scheiber explains the turnaround in Starbucks-Starbucks Workers United negotiations, a small-scale win in Texas against the new overtime rule, and California reforms its Private Attorneys General Act.

In the New York Times, Noam Scheiber writes about the turnaround in negotiations between Starbucks and Starbucks Workers United. After years of uncompromising resistance to the union campaign by the company, the two now seem on track to achieve a contract. Scheiber attributes the turnaround to four factors: (1) momentum from continued unionization election wins, including over 100 in 2023; (2) a new, more union-friendly CEO; (3) external pressure on the firm from socially-minded investors (over its labor practices) and consumers (over its perceived support of the Israeli military campaign in Gaza); and (4) frequent complaints filed against the company from the National Labor Relations Board.

A Texas federal judge has granted a preliminary injunction against the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule, but only insofar as it applies to the state of Texas as an employer. The new rule quite substantially increases the threshold of what workers are automatically eligible for overtime from $35,568 to $58,656. The state argued the new rule would lead to fewer jobs for state employees and cuts in state services. The same judge, Sean Jordan of the Eastern District of Texas, is also presiding over a separate challenge to the rule by business groups.

Lastly, California has passed major changes to its Private Attorneys General Act, which allows workers to sue their employers over labor code violations on behalf of the state. Business groups had waged a multi-year campaign against the law and agreed to withdraw a ballot measure that would have repealed it in exchange for the changes. Employees will now only be able to sue for labor violations they have personally experienced in the past year, rather than being able to sue on behalf of their coworkers. Also, the share of the penalty that employees receive will increase and penalties will be capped for employers who take steps to correct their labor violations. Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced the deal after months of discussions between labor advocates and business groups. 

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