Today’s News & Commentary — December 6, 2018

Published December 6th, 2018 -  - 12.06.184


The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission voted this week to create a minimum pay standard for the approximately 80,000 drivers in the city working for transportation network companies like Uber, Lyft, Juno, and Via.  The standard establishes a per-minute and per-mile formula that is expected to create a pay floor of $17.22 net per hour for drivers.  On average, drivers in New York City currently make only about $11.90 per hour after expenses.  The new rules, which are the first of their kind for app-based drivers nationally, were strongly supported by the Independent Drivers Guild, the New York Taxi Workers Association, and the Amalgamated Transit Union.

In the United Kingdom, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) lost an appeal at the High Court yesterday of a decision last year by the Central Arbitration Committee (roughly analogous to the NLRB) that delivery workers for the app-based company Deliveroo were “self-employed” rather than employees with the right to collective bargaining.  The union had appealed claiming that the decision breached the European Convention on Human Rights.  The High Court, however, said that the ability of Deliveroo riders to abandon a job or pass it on to another worker meant they were not required to perform a “personal service” and thus not employees for purposes of the Convention.  IWGB planned to appeal again.

Owner-operators of McDonald’s franchises have formed a National Owners Association aimed at bargaining collectively with McDonald’s corporate headquarters to resist costly operational changes.  The group officially registered as a non-profit last week.  Franchisees are opposing new mandates like electronic kiosks and delivery services after previous changes imposed by McDonald’s did not reap promised profits.  McDonald’s already has a representative body for franchisees to raise concerns, but the owner-operators view the corporate-run mechanism as insufficient.  Worker advocates have expressed surprise that franchisees, usually strong opponents of employees’ right to collective bargaining, are themselves taking advantage of the benefits of a collective voice.  Organizing by franchisees to resist corporate changes could also signal to regulators that McDonald’s has enough control over franchise operations to be considered a joint employer.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has reportedly been in conversation with Senate Republicans about a deal to reconfirm former Obama NLRB appointee Mark Gaston Pearce in exchange for a swift vote on Republican nominees to the Department of Labor.  While Republicans already have the votes to confirm appointees of their choosing, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has aimed not to squander floor time on one-by-one agency appointments when the Republicans could be confirming judges.  Business groups are insisting that Republicans oppose Pearce, who formerly chaired the NLRB under Obama during a wave of worker-friendly decisions.  President Trump curiously re-nominated Pearce in August.  Any nominees not confirmed by the end of the year must be re-nominated by the President.

As recently as October, the draft text of the new United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement contained a provision, Article 23.9, that required all three countries to implement policies protecting workers against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  But the final text signed on Friday includes a new footnote, which states that the article “requires no additional action on the part of the United States, including any amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in order for the United States to be in compliance.”  Each country can now adopt policies “it considers appropriate.”  The impetus for the change is obvious.  On November 16, 46 Republican House members wrote to President Trump decrying the language in the draft agreement, which they called “no place for the adoption of social policy.”

In a major upset, members of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, the prominent New York local of the musicians’ union, elected a new president and ousted a nine-year incumbent.  Adam Krauthamer, who currently plays the French horn in the Broadway production of Frozen, won 67 percent of the vote against longtime president Tino Gagliardi.  Krauthamer ran on the ticket 802 Musicians for Change and had also previously formed an insurgent group called Musicians for Pension Security with fellow members.  The latter group raised concerns about the financial troubles facing the American Federation of Musicians’ multiemployer pension plan for thousands of musicians across the country, claiming mismanagement by pension trustees.  In addition to campaigning on pension security, Krauthamer pledged to fight for more creative contract frameworks that could bring new musicians into the union.

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