News & Commentary

March 31, 2023

Greg Volynsky

Greg Volynsky is a student at Harvard Law School.

In Today’s News & Commentary, Starbucks faces shareholder pressure for an independent review of worker rights, McDonald’s workers appeal lawsuit over no-poach agreements, NYT employees take to twitter over stalled collective bargaining agreement, Seattle becomes first American city to establish permanent paid sick and safe time benefits for gig workers, and Major League Baseball reaches a tentative collective bargaining agreement with minor league players.   

Starbucks shareholders voted in favor of a non-binding resolution for an independent review of the company’s worker rights’ practices. The vote took place last week, but the result was revealed in an SEC filing on Wednesday. The news comes as Starbucks founder and former CEO Howard Schulz testified in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee, as Anita reported. The shareholder vote puts additional pressure on the company, which has drawn widespread public scrutiny for its approach to unions for several years.

Two former McDonald’s employees are appealing to the Seventh Circuit to reinstate a lawsuit against the company for allegedly suppressing wages through a no-poach agreement. The workers argue that the agreement is a per se violation of federal antitrust law, while McDonald’s contends it was meant to protect training investments and encourage cooperation. A federal judge in Illinois ruled in favor of McDonald’s. If the appeals court upholds this decision, franchisors may feel more comfortable using no-poach and no-hire contracts. If the appeals court reverses, antitrust violations predicated on similar agreements would become easier to prove, including in ongoing DOJ investigations and prosecutions.

New York Times employees took to twitter to lament that members of the NYT Guild have not had a CBA for two years. One photo featured dozens of NYT employees and an “Unhappy Anniversary” cake, which proclaimed in icing, “NYT to Guild: Eat Cake!”

On Wednesday, Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell signed a new law, making Seattle the first U.S. jurisdiction to permanently establish paid sick and safe time benefits for gig workers. The legislation builds on temporary pandemic measures to provide app-based workers with paid leave for various reasons, including health and family care. The new law ensures the benefits will be permanent and extend to more workers. The legislation applies to companies with 250 or more app-based workers worldwide and requires workers to accrue one day of sick leave for every 30 days worked which include stops in Seattle. 

Also on Wednesday, Major League Baseball reached a tentative collective bargaining agreement with minor league players. The agreement will more than double the minimum annual salaries for all minor league players, provide pay during spring training, and substantially improve player housing accommodations. A few years ago, most players made less than $10,000 per year. Both sides had hoped to reach a CBA by spring of last year.

In May 2022, Major League Baseball agreed to pay $185,000,000 as part of the settlement a class-action lawsuit filed in 2014. The lawsuit alleged minimum wage and overtime violations. The move to organize began with social media posts from players, which showed meager paychecks and accommodations. Minor league baseball players unionized in September 2022, as Julia reported. Just one week after the Major League Baseball Players Association sent union-authorization cards to minor league players, more than half of the 5,500 active minor league players chose to authorize the union.

Garrett Broshuis, a former minor league player and the lead attorney in the class-action against the Major League, tweeted

            “For the those who passed a hat around for diaper money for newborns. For those who grinded away at 2 or even 3 off-season jobs. For those who skipped breakfast or even lunch to pinch pennies. For those who gave up the game not for a lack of talent but for a lack of funds.

            This is for you”

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