News & Commentary

January 28, 2020

Alisha Jarwala

Alisha Jarwala is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

Chipotle has been fined $1.3 million for child labor violations in Massachusetts. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey announced the settlement on Monday, noting that the chain was responsible for an estimated 13,253 child labor violations. The fine is the largest child labor penalty ever issued by Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports that the total settlement is nearly $2 million, including a $500,000 voluntary payout to a state youth worker fund. Chipotle’s violations include asking minors to work past midnight and to work shifts of more than nine hours. 

Politico reports that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has been the most successful amongst the field at accumulating endorsements from organized labor. National unions have been reluctant to offer endorsements thus far in the race, which has enabled local and regional unions to come out in support for Sanders. Sanders has 11 labor endorsements; by comparison, Elizabeth Warren has three and Joe Biden has five. Politico notes that national unions are “gun-shy” after 2016, where many rank-and-file members were upset with their leaders’ support for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. 

Instacart employees in Chicago are spearheading the grocery delivery app’s first union drive. Vice reports that on February 1, fifteen employees in a Chicago suburb will vote on whether to unionize with the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1546. Instacart managers have responded to the union drive by distributing anti-union literature and emails, suggesting membership would “serve to drain workers’ paychecks.” Joe Loftis, an Instacart worker and former Teamsters member, told Vice that very few workers oppose the union and the vote will be a “cake walk.” 

The Washington Post reports that over the weekend, over 350 Amazon employees violated the company’s communications policy in a public display of support for coworkers who were told they would be fired for speaking out against Amazon’s climate policies. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice published quotes from workers with their names attached on Medium, violating company rules that prevent workers from publicly commenting on Amazon’s business practices. Amazon spokesperson Drew Herdner told the Washington Post that Amazon “encourages workers to advocate for causes they believe in but wants them to pursue those convictions when related to the company’s business internally,” such as through asking executives questions at staff meetings and joining “internal interest groups.” 

Finally, in Clean Slate for Worker Power news: Vice published an article discussing the report’s recommendations for workers trying to organize in the digital age. “If workers are organizing on Facebook or through other digital means, it should be unlawful for the employer to lurk on their pages—just like employers aren’t allowed to look through the windows of the union halls in the old days,” said OnLabor Senior Contributor Sharon Block. (More information on the Clean Slate project can be found here.) 

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