News & Commentary

May 29, 2024

Everest Fang

Everest Fang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: Samsung faces its first walkout, Wisconsin judge hears arguments in a lawsuit challenging a controversial union law, and Boeing reaches a tentative deal with its firefighter union.

Next week, Samsung Electronics may face the first walkout in the company’s fifty-five year long history. The National Samsung Electronics Union, which represents about 28,000 workers at the company, says it will hold a one-day protest by asking all of its members to use their paid leave on June 7th. The union said that it is also considering a full-scale strike in the future. Samsung’s management has been in talks with the union since the beginning of this year over wages, but the parties have yet to reach a deal. In recent weeks, workers have been intermittently participating in protests outside the company’s offices in Seoul as well as outside its chip production site in Hwaseong, south of Seoul. The union has demanded a 6.5% pay raise and a bonus pegged to the company’s earnings. Samsung has said that it intends continue negotiating with the union.

Yesterday, a county judge in Wisconsin heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to strike down a controversial 2011 Wisconsin law, which significantly curtailed the power of public-sector unions. Unions representing teachers and other government workers filed the lawsuit last fall, a few months after the Wisconsin Supreme Court flipped to a liberal majority. The Republican-controlled legislature filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the law, known as Act 10, was already upheld by the state’s Supreme Court in 2014. Act 10 effectively ended collective bargaining for most public-sector unions by only allowing them to bargain over base wage increases no greater than inflation. However, the law’s restrictions only apply to some public employees, preserving collective bargaining rights for some police, firefighter, and other public safety worker unions. The unions challenging the law argue that these distinctions violate the equal protection clause of Wisconsin’s Constitution. Since its passage, Act 10 has endured several similar challenges, but this case is the first to be brought before a majority-liberal state Supreme Court.

Today, Boeing and a union representing about 125 of its firefighters announced they had reached a tentative contract deal. Earlier this month, Boeing had locked out members of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local I-66 after they rejected two contract offers. The failed negotiations drew the attention of President Joe Biden, who expressed his concern about the lockout and encouraged both parties to return to the table in a post on X (formerly Twitter). Casey Yeager, President of Local I-66, said that the President’s messages boosted morale and put pressure on Boeing. After the President’s post, the two parties continued back and forth negotiations, before reaching a deal today. The tentative deal is expected to be put to a vote on Thursday. If the deal is approved, firefighters are expected to return to work on Saturday.

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