News & Commentary

August 29, 2014

The New York Times reports that a group of former FedEx drivers in California and Oregon have been cleared by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to proceed with employment law claims. This comes after the court declared the workers to have been employees, not independent contractors. The court reasoned that the drivers were assigned delivery areas, worked under the employer’s instructions, were evaluated by the employer, and used their own vans which were painted with FedEx’s logo and shade. In other states, courts have said that FedEx workers are independent contractors. The difference matters as employees are given more protection under federal and state labor laws. FedEx has said that it would appeal the determination.

Businesses remain the primary beneficiary of continued economic growth in the U.S. The economy has gained improvements since the recession with low unemployment rates and high projected annual growth rates. However, while corporate profits increased 8% in the second quarter, workers’ income rose only 5.8%. According to economists, workers may obtain more bargaining power if the unemployment rate continues to decrease. Despite the drop in the unemployment rate from 8.2% two years ago to 6.2% now, there remains “little incentive for employers to substantially raise wages to retain and attract workers.”

In international news, SNPL France Alpa, the main union of Air France’s pilots announced that it would seek a one-week strike next month. The pilots are protesting the airline’s possible cutback on cockpit crew as it struggles to compete with budget airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet. SNPL France Alpa has described the situations as “a complete lack of dialogue” with management. Air France reported a net loss of about $808 million in the first half of 2014, but says that it is committed to speaking with the union. The strike comes after Lufthansa, a German rival airline, said it would cancel more than 100 flights today because of a labor dispute over retirement benefits. 

The activist group China Labor Watch reported that it discovered labor violations at a Chinese factory of a supplier for Samsung Electronics and the Lenovo Group. The group, which is based in New York, said that it found more than 10 children workers as well as more than 100 student workers who had not been paid overtime or a subsidy for working at night. Samsung said that it would undertake its own investigation regarding the allegations. 


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