News & Commentary

March 26, 2024

John Fry

John Fry is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary, Florida weakens its child labor laws; Volkswagen workers will vote soon in Tennessee; Southern California hotel workers secure raises; and a UAW local has rejected a House committee’s subpoena.

Florida relaxed its child labor laws on Friday, as Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to work longer hours. While these teens will still be subject to a default maximum workweek of 30 hours during the school year, the new bill allows this limit to be waived with the consent of “parents, guardians or school superintendents.” The bill also allows these teens to work more than eight hours on a Sunday or holiday, even if they have school the next day. While violations of child labor laws have skyrocketed nationwide since 2019, states are not stepping up their enforcement to tackle the problem—across the country, they are loosening their child labor protections instead.

Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee will vote on whether to join the United Auto Workers next month, as the union announced election dates of April 17-19 on Monday. Sunah covered the workers’ petition for an election last week. In 2014 and 2019, UAW lost two highly contentious votes at the Chattanooga plant, which is the only Volkswagen factory on earth without union representation. This time, the union hopes to use its blockbuster new contracts with Detroit’s “Big Three” automakers as a catalyst for organizing new members. UAW is simultaneously pursuing union drives at dozens of other auto plants, including locations across the South, where unions have historically struggled to make inroads.

Workers at 34 hotels in the Los Angeles area have ratified new contracts that will raise their hourly wages by $10 over four years, UNITE HERE Local 11 announced on Monday. The union’s contract fight with hotels in the area began last summer and has included strikes, picket lines, and lawsuits. Most workers will receive a $5 raise this year and will receive family health insurance for $20 per month. Securing raises to keep pace with the rising cost of housing in Southern California was a priority for the union, especially because the World Cup and the Olympics will be coming to Los Angeles in the next few years. The union is still urging about two dozen more hotels in the area to agree to similar terms, with co-president Kurt Petersen telling the holdouts: “It is time to sign!”

UAW Local 2325, which represents legal aid attorneys, has accused a House of Representatives committee of intimidating the union after it passed a pro-Palestine resolution which called for a ceasefire in Gaza and other demands. After the union passed the resolution by majority vote, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent the union a request for information, and later a subpoena. The ACLU of New York describes the House committee’s actions as a “McCarthyite silencing tactic” meant to chill workers’ exercise of their rights to association and free speech. The union has objected to the committee’s information requests, including requests for union meeting minutes and disciplinary records, as “vague, overbroad, and outside of the scope of the Committee’s authority and jurisdiction.”

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