News & Commentary

June 4, 2018

Vail Kohnert-Yount

Vail Kohnert-Yount is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Culinary Workers Union Local 226 has reached tentative agreements that would cover about half of its 50,000 hotel and casino workers who voted to strike this month in Las Vegas. Local 226 has now reached tentative agreements with both Caesars and MGM, but there are roughly 15 Las Vegas properties still in the midst of negotiations. Tens of thousands of bartenders, housekeepers, bellhops, and other unionized workers at 34 casino-hotels on the Strip and in downtown Las Vegas have sought a new five-year contract since February.

In Washington, DC, the fight over Initiative 77, a ballot initiative that applies the minimum wage to DC tipped workers, who currently receive a subminimum wage and rely on tips to make up the difference, is heating up as the June 19 election draws closer. Diana Ramirez, director of DC’s Restaurant Opportunities Center, says the initiative will help address the pervasive sexual harassment faced by service workers in the restaurant industry. “If you know that you are getting a base wage from the employer, and a customer is acting inappropriately with you, you don’t have to put up with that behavior anymore to make a good tip,” she said. Opponents, including the restaurant industry and some DC Councilmembers, have argued that servers will make too muchservers will make less than they currently do, and prices will increase.

The National Labor Relations Board ruled on Friday that Walt Disney World did not discriminate against Orlando union workers when the company withheld $1,000 bonuses from those employees. Back in January, Disney announced it would give one-time cash bonuses of $1,000 to 125,000 domestic workers, which the company attributed to corporate tax cuts. However, Disney refused to give unionized workers the bonus until they approved Disney’s wage offer, which the union alleged was a retaliatory action. Disney has recently come under scrutiny for its labor practices and widespread poverty among its workers. The Nation reported that one in ten Disney workers reported experiencing homelessness in the past two years.

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems, another sex bias class action lawsuit is getting kicked out of court. A former Steptoe & Johnson associate who filed a proposed sex bias class action against the firm must now take her claims into individual arbitration in light of the recent ruling upholding class-action waivers in employee arbitration agreements.

Starbucks employees reflected on the company’s anti-bias training held at stores nationwide last week. “This training, I think, is a much more nuanced way to look at a hugely important issue,” one Massachusetts barista said. Maybe we’ll move the dial a bit. That’d be awesome.”

Finally, as sales of craft beer continue to rise, the workers who brew and serve it are being left behind. The conditions for workers in the industry vary widely, but compared to the same jobs at corporate behemoths like Anheuser-Busch InBev, which are often unionized, employees typically have significantly lower wages.

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