Today’s News & Commentary — January 25, 2019


Published January 25th, 2019 - 01.25.192


This year Google employees have organized protests against the tech giant, taking aim at the company’s use of forced arbitration agreements and its work with the military.  Unsurprisingly the demonstrations were planned primarily over company email.  Though the company has publicly expressed support for its workers’ actions and has fulfilled demands such as dropping forced arbitration for sexual harassment and assault claims, the company has quietly been arguing in unrelated cases that the National Labor Relations Board should overturn Obama-era precedent protecting workers’ right to use company email for concerted activity.

Workers at the New Museum in New York City voted 38 to 8 in favor of unionization, with 10 votes yet to be counted.  The organizing drive sparked controversy when the museum hired a Kentucky-based union avoidance law firm to persuade employees to vote against representation.  In response, over 50 notable artists, curators, and educators signed a letter to museum leadership condemning the hiring of the firm.  The workers are joining United Auto Workers Local 2110, which represents workers at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and the New-York Historical Society, as well as clerical and academic workers at Barnard, Columbia, and NYU.

Yesterday the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced its final rule rescinding a requirement for employers with 250 or more employees to electronically submit detailed information about workplace injury and illness incidents to OSHA, even though they will still have to keep the records on-site.  As Jordan Barab reports, the rule was rushed through both OSHA and OIRA even though the government has been partially shut down.  Employers will still be required to submit a summary of injury and illness incident data.

Unions representing federal government workers are reportedly divided in response to the government shutdown.  While Border Patrol union leaders support President Trump’s push for a wall between the United States and Mexico even at the cost of a shutdown, representatives for hundreds of thousands of other employees going without pay have demanded that the impasse come to an end.  Three union leaders were arrested on Wednesday after taking part in a sit-in in Senator Mitch McConnell’s office.

Max Abelson writes for Bloomberg Businessweek about what happens behind closed doors in employment arbitration, relying on thousands of pages of transcripts released by an ex-financier who sued his former employer and was forced to bring his claims before a private arbitrator.  As Abelson writes, “[r]eading through them doesn’t give the impression of grand injustice as much as it feels like getting stuck at an endless dinner with guests who despise each other.  It would be funny if someone’s livelihood wasn’t on the line.”  The piece brings arbitration to life with a colorful illustration of “Arbitration Hell.”

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