News & Commentary

May 23, 2023

Lewit Gemeda

Lewit Gemeda is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News and Commentary, NLRB prosecutors filed a complaint against Amazon for violating federal labor laws, and resident physicians at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York went on strike. 

A new complaint by NLRB prosecutors alleges that Amazon changed its policies around access to its warehouse in Staten Island, New York, and its policies around paid leave for Covid-19 cases without negotiating with the union representing the warehouse’s employees. Additionally, the complaint also charges that comments made by Amazon’s Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy’s during a November summit held by the New York Times violated federal labor laws because they were “interfering with, restraining and coercing employees” trying to exercise their labor rights. During the New York Times Dealbook summit, Jassy claimed that union representation would disempower workers and would make it harder for employees to have direct relationships with their managers. Federal labor laws require that employers negotiate over working conditions if employees unionize and restrict employers from threatening or retaliating against workers who organize. The complaint filed by the NLRB prosecutors will be heard by agency judges whose holding can be appealed to the members of the NLRB in Washington and then to federal court. 

Next, more than 150 resident physicians at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, New York have gone on strike. Elmhurst Hospital is a public hospital that serves a largely low income and minority population and was “ground zero” in the city’s fight against Covid-19. While it is against state law for public sector employees in New York to go on strike, the physicians claim they are not subject to this law because they are not employed by the city’s Health + Hospital Corporation since their residency program is run by Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine. Currently, residents at Elmhurst make $7,000 less annually than their non-unionized peers at Mount Sinai’s main campus on the Upper East Side. In comments made to the Times, Dr. Sarah Hafuth, an Elmhurst resident, points out how this disparity persists despite the same complex workload both groups of residents have: “Our patient load is all the same…we see the same medical pathologies, the same complexity. So we’re at a point where we’re quite frustrated about why Mount Sinai is willing to pay the residents on the Upper East Side more than us.” This disparity is expected to increase to $11,000 this summer once the residents at the main campus receive a 6 percent raise. The strike comes after more than 10 months of contract negotiations in which Mount Sinai offered raises between 5 to 7 percent a year, for three years. Mount Sinai claims that this deal would pay physicians at Elmhurst the same as those on the main campus. However, the Elmhurst residents reject this account and disagree that this offer would create parity. 

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