Today’s News & Commentary — August 27, 2019
Canvassers at the Fund for the Public Interest, a fundraising group affiliated with progressive organizations including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood, have accused management of interfering with their attempt to unionize. The Huffington Post reports that the Fund closed a North Carolina office less than a month after workers there announced they had organized. Organizers said the union campaign was motivated by working conditions including “unfair and unpredictable pay, unreasonable quotas, and punishing schedules.” Fundraisers in the Chapel Hill office were required to bring in the equivalent of $160 to $175 per day every week in order to make $9.50 an hour. Those who missed the quota would have their pay cut to $7.25 an hour for one week, and would be automatically fired for not meeting the quota for two weeks in a row or three nonconsecutive weeks in a single year. In a previous 2006 class action lawsuit, the Fund was called “the liberal sweatshop” for failing to pay minimum wage, dodging overtime, and preventing workers from taking adequate breaks.
Professors from across the country signed a letter calling on the U.S. Senate to support AB5, a law that would force gig economy giants like Uber and Lyft to classify its workers as employees instead of independent contractors. The signatories oppose attempts to carve platform gig workers out of AB5, which would make employee status the default under state law, and Dynamex, a California Supreme Court decision. “Any carveout based on the question of whether work is ‘gig work’ or a related question of whether the putative employer is a ‘platform’ or ‘technology company’ is a category mistake for employment and labor law purposes,” the letter said. The letter, drafted by UC Hastings law professor Veena Dubal, was submitted to the California governor, Senate president, and Assembly speaker. Meanwhile, former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who was “hired by Lyft to advise them on meeting the challenges of the gig economy,” wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Switching to an employee model will mean far fewer opportunities to drive. For many drivers, the lack of flexibility will put driving out of reach completely.”
In June, the BlueGreen Alliance, a national coalition of six major environmental organizations and eight unions, including SEIU, USW, CWA, and AFT, published a report with their vision for collective action on climate change entitled “Solidarity for Climate Action.” In In These Times, Rachel Cohen summarized the plan, the tensions within it, and its significance for a potential Green New Deal. For example, while the BlueGreen Alliance’s statement endorses reducing carbon dioxide emissions, it does not advocate ending the fossil fuel industry itself, even though many climate groups say it is necessary. In addition, carbon capture, “perhaps the most polarizing policy” endorsed by the Alliance, is supported by most of the labor movement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but is largely rejected by environmentalists as costly and ineffective. The United Mine Workers, not a member of the Alliance, agreed with the report’s endorsement of carbon capture technology, but critiqued it as not specific enough when it comes to defining what a “just transition” means for workers displaced by a greener economy.