News & Commentary

December 16, 2016

Vivian Dong

Vivian Dong is a student at Harvard Law School.

About 8,000 airport workers in New York and New Jersey settled their first union contract in a deal orchestrated by SEIU 32BJ. The contract comes after four years of organizing and seven months of negotiations. It covers a baggage handlers, airport security officers, wheelchair attendants, and other workers at JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark airports. As New York state moves to a $15 minimum wage, this marks the first group of workers under the aegis of the Fight for $15 and a Union campaign to successfully achieve both. However, interestingly, the contract itself does not address to topic of pay. Consequently, in the coming year workers at Newark Liberty International Airport will be paid at a lower rate of $10.10 an hour, the Port Authority’s minimum wage for its workers, while workers at JFK and LaGuardia will receive $11 an hour, the new New York minimum wage set to go into effect on December 31. The agreement is set to be ratified in the coming week.

Former welder, union official, and Secretary of Labor Bill Usery died last week of heart failure. Mr. Usery served as Assistant Secretary of Labor under President Nixon and Secretary of Labor under President Ford. Mr. Usery, a Democrat, was instrumental to the Nixon’s administration’s decision to grant organizing and collective bargaining rights to millions of federal government employees. As a former union organizer, Mr. Usery had the trust of labor in many of the disputes he resolved as a private mediator. In 1984, Mr. Usery helped finalize the agreement between UAW, Toyota, and General Motors for the two auto giants to jointly run the famous NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. He had also helped mediate between striking NFL players and owners during the 1976 season.

The NBA and the NBA Players’ Association have tentatively reached a new collective bargaining agreement, both parties announced on Wednesday night. The seven-year deal contains an opt-out clause for both parties after year six. Specific terms are unavailable currently, but ESPN reports that the new CBA includes measures to help teams retain their current star players and increases the average salary of players from $5 million annually to nearly $9 million. The new CBA will also shift responsibility over licensure of player likenesses from the NBA to the union. Read more details here.

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