News & Commentary

April 13, 2022

Fran Swanson

Fran Swanson is a student at Harvard Law School.

A brief filed this week by NLRB General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo called for the reinstatement of the Joy Silk doctrine, Bloomberg Law reports. Currently, a bargaining order may only issue in cases where an “employer’s misdeeds are so widespread they make a fair election impossible,” a standard which the brief argues has “failed to deter employers” from interfering with elections. Under a return to Joy Silk, an employer would be ordered to recognize and bargain with a union if the union is supported by a majority of workers in the bargaining unit, even absent an election, unless the employer can show that its refusal to bargain is based on its good faith doubt about the union’s majority status. The brief was filed in an ongoing case with the Teamsters and Cemex Construction Materials Pacific, and argues that the doctrine be reinstated prospectively, rather than calling for a bargaining order in the instant case.

More than 50 gig workers have been killed on the job since 2017 and—by design—their families are left with very few places to turn to for financial support, a new report from Gig Workers Rising finds. Professor Catherine Fisk told NPR that companies “structured their relationships so they’re not responsible for the injuries their drivers experience over the course of employment,” including having workers sign forced arbitration agreements that block families from filing wrongful death suits. When Bella Lewis, a 26-year old who drove for Lyft, was shot and killed by a random passenger, her family said that Lyft would not even pay to clean the blood from the car in which she was killed because it did not meet the $2,500 deductible.

And, in The American Prospect, Jon Hiatt argues for organized labor to develop a Labor Self-Organizing Workers Support Project to support the wave of worker self-organizing happening now across industries. Victories for the Amazon Labor Union and Starbucks Workers United, as well as high levels of public support for unions, present a unique opportunity at a time when union density is low and congressional action has stalled. Organized labor must “supplement[], not supplant[]” self-organizing efforts, offering the institutional support mechanisms like legal assistance to ensure that these initiatives win lasting gains.

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