News & Commentary

January 22, 2020

Vail Kohnert-Yount

Vail Kohnert-Yount is a student at Harvard Law School.

In an effort to reach young people interested in careers in security, policing, or the military, the U.S. Border Patrol continues to offer a program for 14-to-20-year-olds called Border Patrol Explorers that has been in existence since 1984. For $25 plus the cost of some uniform items, young people—many of them the children of immigrants—learn survival skills and participate in training exercises in which they pretend to arrest drug runners and undocumented immigrants, reported The Nation. Various levels of law enforcement, from local sheriffs to the military, run their own Explorer programs, sometimes in conjunction with an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America.

Barstool Sports reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board over its founder’s anti-union tweets this past August, reported Bloomberg News. Barstool Sports co-founder David Portnoy reposted a 2015 article in which he said he would “smash” any employee union effort and threatened to fire any employees who discussed union organizing. Portnoy drew high-profile criticism for breaking federal labor laws by threatening workers, including from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who he later challenged to a debate. As part of the settlement, the company did not admit fault but said the tweets and other anti-union material would be deleted.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Uber is testing a new feature by granting some drivers in California the ability to set their fares, as part of its effort to give workers more “autonomy” to ensure they remain classified as contractors under California’s new law AB5. As part of this text, drivers who transport passengers from airports in Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, and Sacramento can choose to charge up to five times the fare Uber sets. Meanwhile, Bloomberg News reported that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is likely to roll out a new legal standard for classifying workers similar to AB5, in an effort to “catch up to California.”

Last week, a Tennessee truck driver filed a pro se lawsuit against Amazon and one of its freight partners in a federal court in Seattle, alleging the companies “worked (him) into the ground like a rented mule,” causing him to fall asleep at the wheel and suffer injuries in a crash. The driver claimed that Amazon and a Chicago-area trucking company forced him to work long shifts without legally mandated breaks, which led to his physical injuries and subsequent economic losses, and doctored his electronic logbook to conceal the violations.

Yesterday, staff at two alternative weekly newspapers announced their intent to unionize, as their employers struggle to stay afloat in a stormy media economy. Journalists at the Miami New Times and the Phoenix New Times, both owned by Voice Media Group, said that they were forming the VMG Guild to bargain for better and more equitable pay and benefits, protections against layoffs, and a “stronger voice” in newsroom decision-making. “Alt-weeklies are a dying breed,” the union explained. “So, we’re banding together to preserve what’s left.”

Earlier this month, a federal judge dismissed a hotelier’s lawsuit accusing southern California labor unions of conspiracy, extortion, and racketeering. Bill Evans argued that Unite Here! Local 30 and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council were holding public lease agreements hostage until developers capitulated by agreeing to hire union construction workers and stay neutral toward any subsequent unionizing efforts by hotel workers. The labor groups’ “playbook” delayed and threatened the financial viability of non-unionized hotel and development projects by leaning on allied elected officials and waging public campaigns and legal challenges. However, U.S. District Judge William Hayes dismissed the case on the grounds that the unions were engaging in constitutionally protected speech and legitimate methods of petitioning in a democratic society. The Voice of San Diego explained why the case exemplifies the shifting dynamics in San Diego politics.

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