News & Commentary

May 24, 2024

Esther Ritchin

Esther Ritchin is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s News & Commentary, San Diego finds success in a creative program to combat wage theft, workers at an Amazon warehouse file an unfair labor practice against Amazon for intrusive surveillance, and the University of California seeks an injunction to end a strike.

San Diego has found success in an innovative pilot program aimed at combating wage theft, called the Workplace Justice Fund. The fund supports workers who have won a legal judgment in their favor in a wage theft case, and does so by providing them up to $3,000 while trying to get their debts paid. The process of collecting debts from employers in wage theft cases can be incredibly onerous, especially given that many former employers accused of wage theft close, leaving no entity from which to recover the money. Other cities in California have come up with similarly creative solutions, including Santa Clara, which has threatened to withhold operation authorization from food businesses with unpaid labor violation judgments.

Workers at a warehouse in Missouri have filed an unfair labor practice against Amazon for intrusive and sweeping surveillance of the workers, which workers claim violates their rights to engage in protected concerted activity. Workers point to video surveillance, combined with artificial intelligence, that constantly tracks and analyzes the movements of workers. Such surveillance can stifle an employee’s ability to feel free to openly communicate with coworkers and organize.

The University of California (UC) is seeking a court-ordered injunction to end a strike, currently ongoing at UC Santa Cruz and planned to spread to other UC campuses, objecting to the university’s treatment of pro-Palestinian protesters. The union is demanding protection for freedom of speech, amnesty for those affiliated with the university who were arrested or are facing disciplinary action in relation to protests, and divestment from weapons manufacturers, military contractors, and companies making profits from the war in Gaza. The university is claiming the strike is unlawful, not tied to the terms and conditions of employment, and in violation of a no-strike clause. The union contends that the strike is legal as walkouts are allowed in response to unfair labor practices.

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