News & Commentary

February 8, 2022

Iman Masmoudi

Iman Masmoudi is a student at Harvard Law School.

Amazon announced yesterday that due to a competitive labor market, it will double its cap on salaries for corporate employees, raising the highest possible cash earning from $160,000 to $350,000. These salaries have normally been supplemented by Amazon stock, though the total packages were a source of frustration for many salaried employees, many of whom left in a flurry last year. These increases do not correspond to any higher wages for Amazon’s hourly workers, who labor in its warehouses across the country and world. This comes amid news that Amazon workers seeking to unionize in Alabama are optimistic about the results of a do-over union election upcoming this Friday. The election was ordered by the National Labor Relations Board after it found that Amazon “unfairly influenced” the first election last year. “‘We are letting Amazon know that we are going to stick together. We are going to work together and we are going to be one,’ said Bessemer worker Kristina Bell during a union-organized call last week.” The workers are relying on grassroots organizing tactics, including making door-to-door house calls, sporting pro-union T-shirts and challenging anti-union messaging by Amazon-hired consultants, in their push to win the vote this week.

More Perfect Union is tracking union organizing efforts at Starbucks across the country and reports that 68 Starbucks stores in 20 states have now filed to unionize. Their live map of the organizing drive can be found here.

A new book by Jessie Singer argues that there is no such thing as “accidents.” Injuries, including workplace hazards, she says, are instead born primarily by poor communities and people of color. Accidents, are instead, intentional failures in social protection. By exploring the history of safety regulations, including the rise of unions and workplace compensation, Singer examines the history of “accidents” and their distribution across demographic groups. Her work was recently highlighted in this New York Times interview.

The House yesterday voted to pass a new bill that would guarantee a right to pursue workplace sexual harassment or assault claims in court, striking down portions of employment contracts which enshrine forced arbitration in cases of sexual harassment. The bill passed with some measure of bipartisan support, and it is expected that the Senate will consider the bill as early as next week, with some pointing to support from at least 10 Republican Senators as well Democrats. If passed, President Biden has announced he will sign the Bill into law.

A brief opinion piece by Daniel Drezner in the Washington Post yesterday highlighted the recent phenomenon of a high degree of variance in the Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly jobs reports. Contrary to many expectations, the BLS recently reported that 467,000 jobs were added to the US economy in January. Drezner questions how much stock can be placed in the figure, given recent post-report revisions that BLS has subsequently published, modifying November’s report from 249,000 to 647,000 jobs and December’s report from 199,000 to 510,000 jobs. Drezner asks a simple question: is macroeconomic policy possible in a world of low-information and high-volatility? The answer is unclear.

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