News & Commentary

April 30, 2018

Rachel Sandalow-Ash

Rachel Sandalow-Ash is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

Thousands of teachers from over thirty school districts rallied at the Colorado Capitol on Friday, calling for increased school funding as part of the #RedForEd movement.  The Colorado Education Association, the federation of teachers’ unions in the state, explained that Colorado schools are underfunded by $822 million.  In fact, only Oklahoma and Arizona spend less than Colorado does on supporting students with special needs.  The Colorado Education Association is calling for lawmakers to reduce of freeze corporate tax breaks until school funding is restored and per-student funding reaches the national average.  Due to the teachers’ walkouts, schools serving 600,000 students closed on Friday. 

Last week, dining hall workers at Tufts voted 127-19 to unionize with UNITE HERE Local 26, which also represents dining hall workers at Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Brandeis, Emerson, Lesley, and a number of other Boston-area schools.  Tufts workers had secured broad support from students and community members during their unionization drive.  Workers at the Palms casino hotel in Las Vegas also voted on Saturday to unionize with UNITE HERE.

The Department of Labor plans to reverse an Obama-era policy, Directive 307, that expanded the Department’s ability to investigate and sanction gender and racial pay discrimination at federal contractors.  Directive 307 has empowered DOL auditors to choose which workers and job categories to compare for potential gaps in pay, promotions, bonuses, and opportunities for advancement.  Under the Trump DOL’s expected change, the federal contractor companies themselves, rather than DOL auditors, which decide which workers DOL auditors can compare. Emily Martin, an attorney at the National Women’s Law Center, said that this change would “empower employers to hide pay discrimination.”

After voting to unionize with the United Auto Workers on April 18-19, Harvard graduate student workers are seeking nominations for the union bargaining committee, which will collect feedback from members of the bargaining unit and bargain on behalf of the union. Candidates must submit their intentions to run for this 13-person committee by tomorrow, May 1.

Workers at UK McDonalds stores will go on strike tomorrow, on International Workers’ Day.  Just as fast food workers in the US are fighting for “$15 and a union,” British McDonalds workers workers are calling for a living wage of £10 an hour (around $14 USD), equal pay for young workers, a choice of fixed hour contracts, and for their right to a union to be respected.  Workers at UK McDonalds stores first went on strike in September 2017, and strikes continued through the fall.  McDonalds is one of the biggest users of zero-hour contracts — a highly unstable employment arrangement — in Britain.

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