In today’s news and commentary: McDonalds no-poach agreement survives in court, legislation protecting nursing parents at work is stalled, accounts of low-wage and precarious work in the solar power industry, a union of knights and squires, global concern for the right to strike and organize, and an international pilot program to help compensate workers injured in Bangladesh’s garment industry.
On June 28, an Illinois federal court ruled against two former McDonalds employees who challenged the “no poach” provision in the company’s franchise agreements. Plaintiffs alleged that the no-poach provision—which limited franchisees’ ability to hire each other’s workers—was an unlawful restraint of trade under the Sherman Act. The court ruled that the workers failed to show that McDonalds had the power to restrain trade in worker hiring given the presence of many other “quick-serve” restaurants near plaintiffs’ homes where they could have worked. No-poach or no-hire agreements involve companies promising not to recruit or hire each other’s workers. They can suppress wages when workers have few other options. Plaintiffs were requited to show that McDonalds had sufficient market power in the relevant market to state a claim that of unlawful restraint of trade.
Concerns for the transportation industry have stalled legislation that would have expanded workplace protections for nursing parents. Efforts to secure greater on-the-job pumping protection were long in the making, and many lawmakers argue that such protections are of even greater importance now in light of the shortage of baby formula. However, Senator Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), blocked a bill that aimed to protect nursing parents last week. Lummis argues the bill (S. 1658), which requires employers to provide reasonable break times and private lactation space, doesn’t provide enough flexibility for employers, including railroads.
According to the most recent National Solar Jobs Census report, the number of workers in the solar industry more than doubled from 93,000 to 231,000 people between 2010 and 2020. A new report from Vice shares the experience of the itinerant low-wage workforce that chases solar installation projects from state to state for low wages. Temp agencies are as common in the solar industry as they are in construction, since many workers are needed to install a solar field than to maintain one once it’s built. Workers must negotiate their hourly wages and a daily housing stipend for each new project, and it is common to have two workers doing the same job for vastly different pay and living stipends.
Hear ye, hear ye! Workers at the famous dinner-theater establishment Medieval Times are trying to form the chain’s first union in Lyndhurst, New Jersey. HuffPost reports that safety concerns, from dealing with raucous guests to getting thrown off horses, are among the biggest factors motivating workers to unionize. They have been organizing their location with the American Guild of Variety Artists, which represents performers at theaters, theme parks and touring shows. Workers will vote on whether or not to unionize in mid-July. Around 40 workers would be included in the union.
The 2022 The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index is raising alarm over pervasive violations of workers rights around the word. The right to strike, to form and join a union, to register a union, and the right to collective bargaining have all faced threats. ITUC is the world’s largest trade union federation, and the ITUC Index, is an annual survey of 148 countries.
On a more hopeful note, last week Bangladesh’ ministry of labor and employment launched a pilot program for an employment injury scheme in collaboration with the International Labour Organization. The Employment Injury Scheme (EIS) will cover the country’s four million ready-made garment (RMG) workers. EIS aims to provide compensation for medical treatment and rehabilitation services, as well as income loss caused by occupational injuries and disease. The project is funded by the governments of Netherlands and Germany, and seven clothing brands have signed pledges as commitments for voluntary financial contributions. Around 150 factories will participate in the first part of the pilot.