Today’s News & Commentary —April 23, 2019


Published April 23rd, 2019 - 04.23.196


The Supreme Court announced yesterday that it will decide next term whether federal employment discrimination laws protect LGBT employees. The Court granted certiorari in three cases: Bostock v. Clayton County; Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda; and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOCBostock and Zarda are consolidated and present the question whether Title VII’s prohibition on discrimination “because of sex” covers discrimination because of sexual orientation. Harris Funeral Homes asks whether the prohibition covers discrimination because of gender identity. For OnLabor, Adrienne Spiegel explained what’s at stake in these cases, Sejal Singh compiled our previous coverage of the issues presented, and Jared Odessky summarized the commentary about yesterday’s grants. Jared will have continuing coverage of the cases until they are decided.

The so-called “996” workday, which refers to those who put in 12-hour days—from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM—six days a week, is creating controversy in China. Jack Ma, the founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba and now the richest man in China, recently praised “996” as a “blessing” for workers. Even though research shows that working long hours produces diminishing returns and is even counterproductive, workers in both China and the United States are subject to what the New York Times called “the culture of overwork.” Chinese developers posted a statement on Github, a Microsoft-owned code sharing platform and social network, that criticized 996 and more generally overwork in the Chinese tech industry as both a health hazard and violation of Chinese labor law. While the post remains accessible in the United States, Microsoft employees say it has been the target of censorship on some Chinese browsers and are pressuring their employer to defend the statement should it come under pressure from the Chinese government to remove the pro-worker content from the platform.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Temple University faculty union tried a new strategy in its ongoing contract negotiations: opening bargaining sessions to any member who wanted to watch. Although open negotiations are not common in collective bargaining, proponents—including the Temple Association of University Professionals—say the process can build support and understanding among members and educate workers on management’s stance. “Smart unions are slowly realizing this whole open-negotiations thing may help skeptical workers or skeptical members realize that unions are the force for good in the collective bargaining process,” said Jane McAlevey, a labor scholar who advised the nurses’ union at Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center when they were using open negotiations. Meanwhile, the faculty union at Rutgers University reached a tentative contract agreement last week that would ensure that women and faculty from underrepresented communities will be able to obtain pay equity with their male and white counterparts. “The new provisions especially around equity and equal pay absolutely set a new standard,” said Rebecca Givan, an associate professor of labor studies at Rutgers. “All of higher education will notice that it’s one thing to say nice things around equity and diversity, and it’s another thing to put it in an enforceable contract.”

Kim Kelly wrote for the Washington Post about how women’s leadership is transforming the labor movement, from #RedForEd to fast food to sex work. As public support for unions is at a record high, Kelly argued that the labor movement’s “renewed energy is coming disproportionately from women.”

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