News & Commentary

April 22, 2020

Courtney Brunson

Courtney Brunson is a student at Harvard Law School and member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau.

Local Las Vegas news station Fox 5 has reported that two large Nevada labor unions, Culinary Union 226 and SEIU 1107, have decided to come together and align their efforts. In the conference where the news was announced, the union representatives focused on the topics of union workers living without pay and the continued importance of manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Fox Corporation, parent company of the local news station above as well as the national cable-news source, has suspended the salaries of its top executives, as it aims to cope with the impact of the coronavirus. This decision echoes the actions of other media giants who have also made cutbacks during the pandemic. The difference, however, is that the Fox network has largely had commentators who have been critiqued for being dismissive and critical of public concerns around the outbreak.

The New York Department of Labor has launched a new unemployment application to more efficiently process the high number of unemployment claims the state has received in the past few weeks. This application allows an individual to fill out their information and automatically be given unemployment insurance if the Department of Labor application determines the person is qualified. The Department has also hired more than 3,000 additional employees to handle the increased amount of claims.

Following up on Jon Levitan’s discussion of New York state’s use of prisoners in hand sanitizer production last month, the Brennan Center for Justice recently wrote about how the Covid-19 pandemic has shed a light on the prison labor system overall by highlighting the inadequate pay and lack of protections prisoners receive. Though American correctional facilities have long forced prison laborers to work for very little, more than a dozen states have begun to heavily rely on these workers to manufacture PPE for health workers and others in need. Federal courts have determined that prisoners are not protected under statutes providing for minimum wage, overtime pay, collective bargaining, and more. However, these concerns continue to be discussed, in light of the prisoner’s important role in developing PPE during the crisis and the growing visibility of prisoner strikes that have advocated for better pay and protections.





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