News & Commentary

February 3, 2016

The Chicago Teachers Union 40-person “Big Bargaining Team” unanimously rejected the city’s four-year contract offer.  The offer would bar economic layoffs and provide moderate pay increases, while requiring teachers to pay more toward their pensions and health care.  The vote comes after Republican state legislators proposed a takeover of the District and allowing the district to declare bankruptcy.  The Chicago Tribune reported that the Chicago Public School District CEO expressed disappointment at the union’s rejection, but remains committed to reaching an agreement.

Uber drivers may have “no office and no boss,” but they don’t feel carefree.  Noam Scheiber at the New York Times elaborates on the discontentment among Uber drivers and other workers in the gig economy, who increasingly see themselves as employees under another’s control, rather than independent contractors.  But there are rumblings of collective action.  Couriers at Postmates, nannies and housekeepers in the National Domestic Workers Alliance and workers at Amazon’s Mechanical Turks have developed suggested codes and best practices for the companies that hire them.  Uber drivers in Tampa have started to log out of the app at coordinated times and write messages about their unsatisfactory pay.  As one driver said, “people might believe…that if [the drivers] band together, they could pull off a bigger action.”

Taking note of the power of the gig economy, Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) asked Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to consider asking questions about the on-demand economy in the Labor Department’s major 2017 survey.  Warner’s proposal reflects a broader interest in on-demand workers, including building a safety net for them while giving companies space to develop their own policies, writes The Hill.

Non-tenure track faculty at two academic units at the University of Southern California voted to unionize.  Thanks to organizing efforts by SEIU, USC will become the largest private university in California with union-represented faculty.  Non-tenure faculty have protested the high teaching load, weak job security, and low pay.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the USC provost warns the union might lead to an adversarial relationship with the administration, rather than higher pay.

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