Today’s News & Commentary — December 2, 2019


Published December 2nd, 2019 - 12.02.1918


Construction unions, including North America’s Building Trades Unions and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, are concerned that the Trump administration may apply its apprenticeship plan to the construction industry. President Trump wants to ease the shortage of skilled workers by allowing employers to set standards for apprenticeships. Construction was originally excluded from this plan because the industry already has an expansive apprenticeship program where the unions play a central role in setting these standards. Changes to the system could threaten union membership in construction. At a recent congressional hearing, Assistant Labor Secretary John Pallasch declined to respond when Democrats asked if the construction exemption was at risk.

New Jersey Lyft driver Renier Gonzalez has filed a complaint against Lyft in a New Jersey federal district court, claiming that the company is intentionally misclassifying its workers and failing to pay adequate compensation. The complaint argues that the arbitration clause in the Lyft Driver Agreement is unenforceable because many New Jersey Lyft drivers are regularly driving across state lines, thereby engaging in interstate commerce. Gonzalez’s lawyer, Roosevelt N. Nesmith said, “Lyft’s practice harms its drivers, competing business that play by the rules, and as states such as New Jersey have realized, cheat states out of tax revenue.”

The Boston Globe spotlights the lack of child care assistance from universities for graduate student workers. Harvard University’s Graduate Student Union will be striking on Tuesday if it is unable to reach a contract with the university; one of the key terms the union is bargaining for is greater child care assistance. While Harvard offers faculty as much as $24,000 a school year in child care help, post-doc students receive at most $7,500.

Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker have all demonstrated support for the unionization of college athletes. Senator Cory Booker recently proposed a federal commission to make recommendations on college athletes’ ability to organize unions. Booker said, “I think we’ve gone the wrong way with unionization alone in this country. One of the reasons why I want to have the new federal commission is really to explore compensation models and ways for athletes to address some of these issues, especially in those revenue generating sports. Those workers should have a voice.”

As Sejal reported on Friday, Amazon workers and activists across the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Spain engaged in demonstrations and strikes on Black Friday for higher wages and better working conditions. While the figures are in dispute, it has been reported that hundreds of workers protested outside Amazon warehouses in the United Kingdom and more than two thousand in Germany. Protests will continue on Cyber Monday and possibly through Tuesday.

Climate activists also protested on Black Friday. An estimated 2 million people took part in strikes across the world to demand action on climate change. In France, protesters blocked one of Amazon’s warehouses with signs that purportedly said: “Amazon: For the climate, for jobs, stop expansion, stop over-production!”

Recent Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg plans to make income inequality a key issue in his campaign, along with climate change, guns, and education.

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