Today’s News & Commentary — February 7, 2019
The grocery-delivery service Instacart caved to public outrage over its tipping policy and will now pass along the full value of a customer’s tip to the delivery worker. Beginning in November, Instacart had in some cases reduced the rate the company paid to workers who received tips — essentially, using tips to subsidize its labor costs. The company will also offer back pay to workers who lost pay under the now-defunct policy. The shift is the latest in a series of gig-economy worker victories achieving higher pay and may be the beginning of a new collective action model for the new economy.
Robot reporters may be the next frontier of automation, the New York Times writes. Amidst the loss of over 2,000 journalism jobs in the past several weeks, reporters may face a new challenge in the form of software that can instantly produce certain types of stories. Used primarily in data-heavy stories such as those about companies’ quarterly earnings and minor-league baseball results, the AI is seen by some as freeing up journalist time to focus on investigations and creative thinking that require a human being.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio argued that Amazon, which hopes to build a new headquarters in the city, will ultimately bow to public pressure and allow its NYC workers to unionize, despite Amazon’s recent statements that it would oppose such unionization efforts. DeBlasio’s comments, which a labor studies professor called “naive,” come as public opposition to Amazon’s move to NYC — and the accompanying tax breaks the company stands to receive — continues to build. Earlier this week, the New York State Senate nominated a vocal Amazon opponent to a regulatory board that could nix the plan to build the new headquarters. None of Amazon’s hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide are unionized.
The NLRB will continue to operate without full membership after Democrat Mark Pearce withdrew his nomination for re-appointment. Pearce served two terms on the board during the Obama administration and was unexpectedly renominated by President Trump in August. But he faced intense opposition among business groups, who felt he was too friendly to unions and workers. Republicans are pushing to leave the seat vacant, which could hobble the board’s ability to protect workers in disputes with employers. Pearce’s withdrawal is the second recent casualty of increasingly political polarization around labor and employment policy, as Chai Feldblum was denied re-nomination to the EEOC last month after being seen as too sympathetic to LGBT rights.
Recently-announced presidential candidate Cory Booker discusses his controversial record on education reform during his time as mayor of Newark. The reforms, which included a greater adoption of charter schools and school choice, may become a political liability for Booker in this era of resurgent teachers’ unions, but Booker insists that the changes he brought to Newark benefitted students and teachers. Much of Booker’s changes were made possible by Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million donation to the city’s schools but were opposed by teachers and many community groups.