News & Commentary

December 14, 2015

Amidst the uncertainty surrounding the employment status of Uber, Lyft drivers and other workers in the sharing economy, Seattle has taken a unique approach: it will vote on it.  Writing for the New York Times, Joseph Plambeck reports that Seattle’s city council is slated to vote Monday on whether Uber, and other, drivers have the right to collectively bargain for better pay and conditions in the new-age workplace.  With the potential for Seattle’s decision to inspire others across the country to follow suit, Uber and Lyft will undoubtedly be paying close attention.

Over the weekend more than 120 Yale students and employees, along with other New Haven workers, were arrested for an act of civil disobedience, reports the Yale Daily News.  More that 300 union and labor organizers gathered near the Yale-New Haven Hospital Saturday demanding that the hospital provide more jobs for city residents.  According to the Connecticut chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the protest was part of a broader action, spearheaded by the New Haven Rising! coalition, “to send a message to Yale University that they must act to solve the city’s job crisis.”  Before handcuffing the protesters, the New Haven Police Department repeatedly warned them to clear the street and issued citations of $103.

Might the youth change the face of the modern union?  The Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation certainly believes so.  Representatives of the union’s 170 affiliates elected Chelsie Glaubitz Gabiou to lead the federation, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.  She is the first woman to  hold the position in the union’s 112-year existence and is over 30 years younger than the union’s previous president, William McCarthy — now president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.  For Louise Sundin, the federation’s executive vice president, Glaubitz Gabiou’s age was “purposefully” meant to “break the pattern” of electing veteran labor leaders to the post, and to underscore the union’s current emphasis on engaging with community groups.  Glaubitz Gabiou attributes her election to the rapidly changing dynamics of the modern workplace and the need for a new strategy. Moving forward, she says, she will look to grow union membership from the expanding pool of independent contractors.

The $416 million in future liabilities that the New York State United Teacher’s union (NYSUT) owes to it’s staff members has called into question the sustainability of the organization’s staff and benefits, reports the Times Union.  The figure represents the current pension and health care costs for the 488 staff members who currently work for the NYSUT. NYSUT has over 618,000 members across New York State and is a subsidiary of the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association.

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