News & Commentary

June 6, 2016

Emily Miller

Emily Miller is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Department of Labor released what the L.A. Times is calling a “stunningly bad” jobs report for the month of May last Friday.  The report indicates that job growth slowed dramatically with only 38,000 jobs created in the month of May, the worst growth rate in more than five years.  Several sectors also shed jobs in May, including telecommunications, temporary help, construction, mining, and manufacturing.  Additionally, approximately 458,000 people dropped out of the labor force in May, resulting in a 62.6% labor force participation rate— the lowest rate in almost forty years.  Some economists have emphasized that the report may not be quite as bad as it seems, as the jobs report tends to fluctuate in response to temporary factors.  For example, the poor performance can be attributed in part to the 35,000 Verizon workers who were on strike last month, as the Department of Labor does not consider striking workers as employees for the purposes of the jobs report.  In addition, the New York Times reports that the news isn’t all bad for workers; the unemployment rate dropped from 5 to 4.7% and  hourly wages continue to rise, with a net gain of 2.5% for the year.

Uber drivers in New York are among the most recent to file a lawsuit against the company accusing Uber of misclassifying its drivers as independent contractors, reports Reuters.  The proposed class action lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Southern District of New York, was brought by the Taxi Workers Alliance.  The group concurrently filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board claiming that Uber’s arbitration agreements illegally prohibit them from bringing class action claims.  The suit is one of at least eight cases alleging similar claims and follows Uber’s agreement to settle a similar class action claim brought on behalf of drivers in California.

The New York Times reported this weekend that while work-life balance is improving for several groups, women are disproportionately suffering from a lack of downtime.  While older people, teenagers, and men ages 25-54 are working significantly less than they did several decades ago, while women are shouldering much of the burden of increased work hours.  This is particularly problematic, the Times reports, given the well-known disparity in the amount of household work and childrearing responsibilities, where women still take on a much more significant burden at home even when both partners are employed.

In international news, the New York Times reported on the state of child labor for Syrian refugees living in Turkey.  The Times reports that thousands of Syrian children are currently employed in Turkey, working in sweatshops, factories, or on farms.  In January, the Turkish government aimed to formalize work authorization for Syrians to prevent exploitation in the labor market so that families could earn enough to send children to school.  However, only about 10,000 Syrians gained work permits since then, and many Turkish employers are reluctant to formally hire Syrian employees to whom they would be required to pay the minimum wage.

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