News & Commentary

June 9, 2023

Greg Volynsky

Greg Volynsky is a student at Harvard Law School.

In Today’s News & Commentary, a towering economist passes away, The L.A. Times announces layoffs, workers at Barnes & Nobles and Mass General Brigham vote to unionize, and Google contract workers seek union.

On Tuesday, William (Bill) Spriggs, the chief economist of the AFL-CIO and professor at Howard University, died. He was 68 years old. Spriggs was “an outspoken critic of how the profession has addressed racial disparities in the US.” Among those who mourn his passing are the President and Vice President.

On Wednesday, the L.A. Times announced 74 employees – about 13% of their total workforce – would be let go. Among the employees are 57 members of the L.A. Times Guild; the leader of the Guild called the decision “outrageous,” and argued the company had an obligation to consult with the union prior to making the decision. The Soon-Shiong family purchased the paper five years ago, adding more than 150 journalists over that time (the Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong is a biotech billionaire). The L.A. Times has not recovered from a pandemic-induced advertising declines, and even digital subscriptions have stalled. The layoffs come weeks after the L.A. Times was awarded two Pulitzer Prizes.

Also on Wednesday, workers at Barnes & Nobles in Manhattan voted to unionize, becoming the third Barnes & Noble store to unionize in several weeks. On Thursday, following a multiyear effort, medical fellows and residents at Mass General Brigham hospitals voted 1,215 – 412 to unionize (the result has not yet been certified by the NLRB). Also on Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Google contractors, including those who worked on training Google’s generative AI model, are seeking to unionize.

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