News & Commentary

March 3, 2017

Leora Smith

Leora Smith is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Guardian reports that the Fight for $15 mid-south organizing committee is suing the Memphis police for engaging in a “campaign of harassment” against its members. According to the article, the lawsuit alleges that police officers “followed organizers home after meetings, ordered workers not to sign petitions and blacklisted organizers from city hall.” It also alleges that city permit laws have been disparately enforced against Fight for $15 demonstrations, which have mostly black participants, while other demonstrations with majority white participants have not faced the same sort of scrutiny and intervention. The organizing committee says that the police surveillance and interference began in 2014 , after fast-food workers in Memphis took park in a nationwide walkout. 

In other lawsuit news, a North Carolina Uber driver, Martin Dulberg, recently filed a class action claim against the company. Dulberg alleges that, due to a change in the way Uber calculates fares, drivers are consistently underpaid. Drivers are supposed to be paid 80% of each fare according to their agreement with Uber. This is a novel claim against Uber, which has faced other class actions on different grounds, including that it misclassifies drivers as independent contractors. Read more of OnLabor’s Uber coverage here.

Meanwhile, a Federal Judge in Colorado just granted a motion for class certification in a forced labor case against GEO Group, a private prison company. GEO Group runs a detention center in Colorado that imprisons people who are threatened with deportation. Former detainees allege that the company violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act when it forced them to work for low or no wages while they were detained. The class includes anyone who was held in the detention center since October 2004, and could include up to 60,000 people. 

And in related news, on Wednesday 22-year-old Daniela Vargas was arrested after she spoke publicly about her family’s recent arrest and detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agents. Vargas had been protected by President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because she arrived in the United States before she was 16 years old. Though President Trump has not canceled DACA, and has expressed some support for its goals, his orders give ICE officials broad discretion that allow them to detain DACA recipients like Vargas.

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