News & Commentary

June 16, 2022

Miriam Shestack

Miriam Shestack is a student at Harvard Law School.

US Well Services Inc., a company involved in oil production, must face a prospective class action lawsuit by former employees who were laid off due to the economic effects of Covid-19. Employees allege that the company’s failure to give at least 60 days advance notice of the layoffs violated the WARN Act.  US Well invoked the natural disaster exception to the Act, but the Fifth Circuit ruled on Wednesday that Covid-19 does not qualify as a natural disaster. The Fifth Circuit appears to be the first federal appeals court to rule on this issue.

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) is asking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the growing practice of retirement savings programs offering cryptocurrency investments. Neal’s June 15 letter expressed worry about the lack of regulation for crypto investments, which could jeopardize retirees’ savings pools. Bloomberg reports that the Department of Labor is with Neal on this issue and has cautioned against investing retirement savings in Cryptocurrencies. Recent market developments have highlighted the risk of crypto investments, as valuations have plunged as the Federal Reserve announces plans to raise interest rates.

Meanwhile, Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) released a crypto regulation bill considered friendly to the industry last week, Bloomberg reports. That bill would direct the GAO to analyze both the opportunities and the risks of including crypto in retirement savings. Lummis has expressed the belief that crypto can be a valuable part of a diversified portfolio.

A unanimous decision by the National Labor Relations Board yesterday held that Regional NLRB officials can deny petitions to oust existing unions if they find merit to alleged labor law violations that would make such requests or related votes to decertify a union suspect.

In a time of historic organizing victories at some the United States’ biggest companies, why has union growth looked so different at different companies? Starbucks workers have unionized at 143 Starbucks locations while unionization campaigns across Amazon warehouses have not seen the same success. Analysis by the Guardian, including conversations with workers and organizers, suggest that the massive size of warehouses and high turnover rate compared with individual Starbucks franchises are major factors.  

On Wednesday Tunisia’s most powerful labor unions announced a general strike set to begin today. The strike could lead to the cancellation of all international flights in and out of the country, as well as bring sea and ground transportation to a halt. The Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) said the action would include 15 transportation companies and the cancellation of 49 flights. Tunisia is facing a financial crisis and seeks a $4 billion loan for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid national bankruptcy. The union intends to protest President Kais Saied’s choice to freeze wages as part of a government deal to secure the IMF loan.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.