News & Commentary

January 16, 2019

Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced a rare, unanimous victory for workers in New Prime v. Oliveira, ruling that transportation workers cannot be forced into mandatory arbitration when their rights are violated at work. Section 1 of the Federal Arbitration Act has a carveout for “contracts of employment of seaman, railroad workers, or any other class of workers.” As Jared explains in his post today about New Prime and queer workers “many employers in the transportation industry simply misclassified their workers as independent contractors, who they argued could not have ‘contracts of employment.’” That’s precisely what freight company New Prime did: the company required the plaintiff, Dominic Oliveira, to drive 10,000 miles for free as an “apprentice,” then another 30,000 miles at $4 an hour as a “trainee.” After that, he was designated an independent contractor (not a employee), and subjected to significant extra expenses as a result. New Prime attempted to force Oliveira and a class of tens of thousands of other so-called contractors into arbitration — but yesterday, SCOTUS applied the FAA to say that they retained the right to pursue their claims in court.

New Prime came down just in time for the National Day to End Forced Arbitration, a social media campaign launched yesterday by Google workers who led a high-profile walkout against sexual harassment in November. The campaign calls for an end to forced arbitration everywhere, for all claims, and featured people fighting forced arbitration in the restaurant industry, tech, and the legal profession.

Yesterday, a federal judge decline to force the Trump administration to pay essential government employees who are forced to work without pay during the shutdown. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association sought a temporary restraining order to force payment and the National Treasury Employees Union sought a temporary restraining order that would effectively allow workers not to work while not being paid during the shutdown, so they could seek other jobs if needed. But District Court Judge Leon denied both requests, saying that Congress was the only branch of government empowered to appropriate funds. While this was a setback for federal employees suing the Administration, it’s not the end: even as he denied the requested TROs, he set a schedule for hearings on the plaintiffs’ requests for preliminary injunctions.

Some L.A. parents are supporting striking teachers, NBC reports. As Vail explained yesterday, more than 32,000 L.A. teachers went on strike Monday for higher wages, smaller class sizes, and more support staff (like nurses and librarians) in schools. Although the L.A. School District has kept its 900 schools open during the two-day work stoppage by relying on substitute teachers, many parents chose to keep their children home: only a third of the district’s 492,000 students went to school on the first day of the strike. Although schools are open, because of limited staffing, many aren’t able to hold normal classes; NBC explains that “schools gathered students in gymnasiums for ‘independent study.’” One parent told Retuers that, while it’s been difficult to shoulder childcare for their school-age daughter, they “would rather struggle at home… so that we can send a message to the district that class sizes should be reduced.”

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