News & Commentary

May 14, 2019

Bibeka Shrestha

Bibeka Shrestha is a student at Harvard Law School.

Five states are suing the Trump administration to block a rule that would ban automatic deductions for union dues from the paychecks of home health workers paid for by Medicaid.  The attorneys general of California, Washington, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Oregon filed the lawsuit against the Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services, which finalized the rule last week.  The Trump administration claims the change is necessary to avoid violating a federal law that generally bans states from diverting Medicaid money to third parties.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and union leaders argue the rule is actually calculated to make it more difficult for home health workers to pay union dues and consequently to weaken unions’ finances.

Amazon announced Monday that it would provide three months’ pay and up to $10,000 in seed money to employees who quit and start their own delivery businesses.  Workers would also receive a consistent delivery flow from Amazon, access to training and technology, discounts on insurance, along with Amazon-branded vans and uniforms.  The incentives build on a program that Amazon launched last June to jumpstart the creation of local package delivery services, which are in short supply.  Although the new program alleviates some of the financial risks associated with opening up shop, relying heavily on Amazon could also backfire.  “The company that puts you in business can put you out of business real fast,” said Beth Davis-Sramek, a professor of supply chain management at Auburn University.

Facebook will raise the hourly base rate for contract workers from $15 to at least $18 across the United States.  Workers in Seattle will see their hourly wage rise from $18 to $20, while those in the Bay Area, New York City, and Washington, D.C. will receive a pay increase from $20/hour to $22/hour.  Facebook said the higher wages better reflect cost of living.  The announcement comes after reports of long-term mental illness, including post-traumatic stress disorder, among Facebook moderators who are consistently exposed to violent and disturbing content.  In addition to raising wages for such employees, the social media giant said Monday it would extend on-site counseling services to all hours of operation, allow moderators to blur graphic images by default before viewing them to avoid being caught by surprise, and also survey moderators about their mental health twice a year.

More than 700 female film workers in Georgia have signed a petition urging Hollywood not to boycott their state to protest Georgia’s passage of a law outlawing almost all abortions.  The workers said they, too, opposed the ban but would face potential job losses, should major entertainment companies heed celebrities’ calls to pull out of the state, which is the top filming location in the United States.

A union representing more than 1,000 Macy’s employees in Massachusetts and Rhode Island voted Sunday to authorize a strike after four months of negotiations failed to produce a contract.  The workers seek higher pay and affordable health care.

The New Republic has a profile on Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), whom it describes as the “the most powerful labor leader in the country right now.” Nelson’s call for a general strike is credited for helping bring about an end to the five-week federal government shutdown.  Meanwhile, Bloomberg has published an analysis of right-to-work laws around the United States and their impact on the strength and reach of labor unions (subscription required).



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