Today’s News & Commentary — December 5, 2019
The Trump administration’s Department of Agriculture has finalized a rule making it harder for states to waive requirements that certain SNAP benefits recipients work at least 20 hours a week in order to receive their food stamps. While recipients are generally limited to three months of benefits in a three-year timespan unless they meet the work requirement, a number of states currently waive the condition in areas with higher rates of unemployment. The rule is expected to affect an estimated 688,000 people, able-bodied adults from 18 to 49 without dependents who currently do not work but rely on benefits. It is set to take effect on April 1, 2020.
Four former Google software engineers who say they were terminated in retaliation for engaging in workplace activism announced their intention to file unfair labor practice complaints against the tech giant with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The workers have been labeled the “Thanksgiving Four” because Google fired them on November 25, three days before the national holiday. Google claims it terminated the workers because of violations of the company’s security policies, rather than their activism. On Tuesday, a separate group of workers from the Google Ads staff filed a complaint against Google for retaliation with the NLRB regional office in Chicago.
A broad range of French public sector workers, from teachers to transport workers, plans to strike today to protest President Emmanuel Macron’s pension reform plan. Macron’s plan would merge 42 pension systems for different groups of workers into one system in which workers earn points during their working years that can be cashed in at retirement. While Macron claims the aim is to rationalize administration rather than reduce spending on pensions, unions worry that the points system will mean that some workers end up with less at the end of their careers. As a result of their hard-won union pension plans, workers over age 65 in France have a higher average income than workers under that age, and the country has one of the lowest old-age poverty rates in the world. Unions will be joined today by the Yellow Vests and Mr. Macron’s opponents on both the left and the right.
In his latest opinion column for The New York Times, Jamelle Bouie accuses Democrats of failing to make support for organized labor a party priority. As Owen noted yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is currently more focused on shepherding the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement through Congress before the end of the year than on passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, a set of key labor law reforms. Drawing on Pelosi’s prioritization and the recent news that Virginia Governor Ralph Northam is discouraging repeal of the state’s right to work law, Bouie contends that the failure of Democrats to deliver for unions comes at their own political peril. “Democratic inaction,” he writes, “stands in stark contrast to the Republican Party’s ruthless assault on labor,” which has benefited them electorally.
Equinox, the luxury gym brand where customers often pay hundreds of dollars per month for cardio and resistance training, is now facing resistance from trainers. According to interviews, new trainers are putting in 70 to 80 hour weeks in an effort to recruit new customers, with some even sleeping on beds at the gym. When doing “floor time” rather than personal training time, the trainers make minimum wage or only slightly above. The result is a 50 percent annual turnover rate, with many trainers leaving within just a few months.
Yesterday an Uber driver who stopped at one of the company’s offices in Rhode Island found separate bathrooms labeled for “employees,” meaning office workers, and “partners,” referencing the drivers Uber classifies as independent contractors rather than as employees. After the driver posted a picture of the separate bathrooms on Twitter, an Uber spokesperson told Vice: “This was a mistake and we regret it. We are removing the signs and have made it clear that this was not appropriate.”