News & Commentary

March 1, 2016

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

Labor unions have gone digital…media, that is.  The New York Times reports that “Gawker Media and the union that represents its employees announced on Monday that they had reached an agreement on a labor contract, the first designed and negotiated specifically for a digital media company.”  Gawker workers are represented by the Writers Guild of America, East and voted to join the union last year.  The agreement sets wages, gives workers editorial control, and ensures salary increases and severance, but leaves workers as at-will.  Voting on the agreement will take place this week.

French labor law won’t be changing so quickly after all.  Despite earlier reports suggesting a proposal to revamp laws might have been under consideration, Bloomberg notes that “President Francois Hollande held off presenting his proposals to revamp French labor law after the nation’s main unions all opposed the plan.”  The proposals would eliminate France’s 35 hour work week and give businesses more latitude to increase working time and fire workers with limited severance.

The Chicago Teachers Union is moving closer to striking as soon as April 1.  According to the Chicago Sun-Times, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkley said strike preparations would proceed “if Chicago Public Schools follows through on its threat to unilaterally cancel the 7 percent pension pickup it has made for decades.”  Chicago teachers have been working without a union contract since June.

You go to B&H…for discrimination?  The New York Times reports that the U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against New York electronics retailer B&H “for hiring only Hispanic men into entry-level jobs in a Brooklyn warehouse and then subjecting them to harassment and unsanitary conditions.  The company was so unlikely to hire women to work in the warehouse that it did not have a separate restroom for them, according to the suit.”  The suit marks the second time in nine years B&H has been sued by the government for alleged discrimination, and the company came under fire for discrimination during a unionization campaign last year.

The plight of contract attorneys continues to garner attention.  Writing for The Washington Post, Lydia DePillis explored the debate over whether contract attorneys should be covered by wage-and-hour laws.  DePillis noted that “the debate may seem small, but it goes to the heart of how a new class of workers in white-collar fields whose work has been increasingly commoditized — think adjunct professors, for example, or even journalists — ought to view themselves.  Are they still the kind of professional who’s paid enough to work until the job is done?  Or are they laborers, entitled to extra if the hours grind on too long?”

Finally, the Press of Atlantic City reports that “Union membership in New Jersey fell 6 percent in 2015 from the year before and dropped to its lowest rate in a decade, according to recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,” The Associated Press notes that “Hundreds of union construction workers walked off the job at Tesla Motors’ battery manufacturing plant in northern Nevada on Monday to protest what union organizers say is the increased hiring of out-of-state workers for less pay,” and according to The Dallas Morning News “AT&T announced today that it’s struck a tentative labor agreement with a union that represents nearly 10,000 employees in the Southwest.”

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