News & Commentary

March 1, 2024

Esther Ritchin

Esther Ritchin is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, the Oregon legislature passed a bill raising fines for child labor law violations, the FTC filed an administrative complaint objecting to harm to unionized markets, the Teamsters and Anhauser-Bush reached a contract, and the wave of unionization in higher education continued at NYU and Harvard.

On Monday, the Oregon legislature passed a bill increasing penalties for violations of child labor laws. The bill raises the maximum penalty for child labor law violations to $10,000, up from $1,000, an amount that hadn’t been changed since the 1980s. While the bill faced some opposition during Senate debate–including worries about small businesses–it ultimately passed the Oregon Senate, and is now in the office of Governor Tina Kotek.

On Monday, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an administrative complaint objecting to the merger of Kroger and Albertsons, two massive grocery store companies, what would be a $24.7 billion deal. The objection draws on many traditional antitrust arguments, but, for the first time, specifically discusses the harm to unionized markets. The complaint argues that the merger would decrease the bargaining power of unions, rendering them unable to force Korger and Albertson to compete. Kroger disagrees, with a spokesperson characterizing the deal as “inherently pro-union.”

The Teamsters Union and Anhauser-Bush, a major brewer, reached a contract agreement on Thursday, narrowly avoiding a strike at Anhauser-Bush’s twelve U.S. plants. The new contract purportedly increases wages, adds more vacation days, and boosts job security. The proposed contract will now be put to the union members for a ratification vote.

The wave of unionization in higher education continued this week. Contract faculty at NYU–who are full-time, non-tenure track faculty–officially voted to unionize with Contract Faculty United under United Auto Workers. The union won the election with 553 votes for and 72 votes against, and 67% turnout of eligible workers. In related news, Harvard residential tutors, proctors, and house aides announced a campaign to organize as the Harvard Union of Residential Advisors (HURA). The tutors are graduate or professional students who provide support and mentorship to undergraduate students while living in the undergraduate dorms. HURA hopes to negotiate with Harvard for, among other things, uniform compensation, more equitable workloads, and increased transparency.

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