News & Commentary

February 3, 2020

Hong Kong hospital workers are set to strike today, in an effort meant to push the Hong Kong government to close its borders to mainland China. The hospital workers union voted to strike with a landslide – 3,123 to 10. It is aiming to shut down about 5% of hospital staffing. Hospital workers fear infection from the coronavirus and claim the government has not taken enough precautionary steps to protect the semi-autonomous region.

A new law in New Jersey protects workers’ rights in the case of corporate downsizing. Employers must give 90 days of notice – an extension from the previous 60-day requirement – to employees when downsizing is underway. Employers must also pay severance to full- and part-time workers. Applicable to companies that have been operating in the state for at least three years, this legislation is in response to the massive layoffs the state has seen in its retail sector. Opponents of the law, including the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey members, worry that it creates an unrealistic standard for companies that are downsizing precisely because they lack resources. New Jersey is the first state to enact such legislation.

Last Thursday, 8,000 hospital workers in Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center chain ended their three day strike. Represented by SEIU 1199NW, strikers allege unfair labor practices including retaliation for union organizing and failure to engage in good-faith bargaining. Workers demand higher pay, more benefits, better staffing, and adherence to safety standards. For example, they lament racist pay policies for janitorial staff, the deliberate understaffing of nurses, and the use of cheaper tubing that results in medical spills. Following this strike, the union will return to bargaining with management.

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