Today’s News & Commentary — January 4, 2019
Senior Contributor Charlotte Garden has a great new piece up at Take Care examining the ways antitrust law inhibits worker power — and how the growing movement to update anti-trust for the 21st century should protect workers instead As Charlotte writes, “the conventional wisdom is that workers’ collective action is exempt from antitrust scrutiny only if the workers qualify as employees, rather than independent contractors.” For example, in the 1980s, a group of D.C. lawyers who accepted appointments under the DC Criminal Justice Act to represent indigent defendants went on strike for higher hourly rates. The attorneys were paid merely $20 an hour for out-of-court time and $30 per hour for court time. The Supreme Court ruled that the lawyers violated anti-trust law by striking. The Chamber of Commerce is trying a similar argument in challenging Seattle’s new collective bargaining law for Uber, Lyft, and other ride-share drivers.
Uber just suffered a significant loss in Canadian courts after the Ontario Court of Appeal found the ride-share company’s forced arbitration clause unconscionable and invalidated it. Shockingly, the company’s arbitration agreement for Canadian driver requires that all claims are arbitrated in the Netherlands—which would stick Canadian drivers with an upfront cost of US $14,500, according to a Canadian business-focused newspaper. The decision comes in a high-profile pending class-action case as Canadian Uber drivers seek to establish that they are employees, not independent contractors. Meanwhile, Uber was reprimanded by a judge here in the States after over 12,000 Uber drivers sought to compel arbitration over employment disputes, but the company only paid an arbitrator’s retainers fee for six cases
The 116th Congress was sworn yesterday, making Democrat Nancy Pelosi the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. The same day that Democrats reclaimed the chamber, the new majority passed a Rules Package abolishing the Holman rule targeting federal workers. The Holman Rule allows lawmakers to cut individual federal workers’ pay, agency staff, or rules in appropriations bills. The move is especially salient as the federal government’s partial shutdown continues into the new year and President Trump pledges to freeze federal workers’ pay.
The new Democratic majority in the House is also bringing “labor” back into the name of the House Committee on Education and Labor, restoring the committee’s name after Republicans renamed the panel the Committee on Education and “Workforce.”