Today’s News & Commentary — Feb. 6, 2020
Child care workers in California have called for a union election. The election is part of a sixteen-year organizing effort by Child Care Providers United, a joint initiative from the SEIU and AFSCME. Workers who provide child care services to California families on government subsidy were granted collective bargaining rights via state legislation introduced late last year. The proposed bargaining unit includes more than 40,000 workers. The majority of those workers are women of color; Latina women make up about a third of the workforce. If they vote to unionize later this year, it will be the largest U.S. union election in nearly a decade.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on the PRO Act, a proposed amendment to the National Labor Relations Act that would extend protections to union workers. The bill expands the definitions of “employee,” explicitly widens the scope of protected worker activity, and creates a citizen-suit provision allowing individuals to bring action for harm caused by labor law violations. The bill is expected to pass in the House, where it has 218 co-sponsors. Support in the Senate is uncertain, however, and some critics have described the bill as a political exercise.
On Wednesday, more than 100 Uber and Lyft drivers filed wage claims with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office in an attempt to jump-start enforcement of AB5. The drivers are seeking reimbursement for back wages, overtime, and expenses in an action they are calling “People’s Enforcement of AB5.” This week, the Los Angeles Times reported that AB5 is already changing the way companies like Uber and Lyft operate. According to the Times, ride-share companies are now experimenting with driver-requested features that they had previously dismissed as unworkable, including allowing drivers to see trip destinations before they accept rides. Uber is also moving to a simpler payment model. This move isn’t all positive, however: OnLabor contributor Veena Dubal warns that these changes may be an attempt to improve public perceptions of companies like Uber and Lyft in attempt to gain support for a ballot measure to overturn AB5.
In the Washington Post, Richmond, VA mayor Levar Stoney urges the Virginia legislature to lift its ban on collective bargaining for public-sector workers. Stoney explicitly identifies the ban on collective bargaining as a product of the state’s racist past, and calls on state lawmakers to abandon this “vestige of Jim Crow” to give workers “the dignity of a voice and a seat at the table.”