News & Commentary

January 7, 2019

Rachel Sandalow-Ash

Rachel Sandalow-Ash is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is challenging public sector workers’ right to exclusive union representation at the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.  The NRWLDF, the anti-union organization that represented the plaintiff in Janus, is now teaming up with the right-wing Pacific Legal Foundation, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Mackinac Center to argue that exclusive representation violates the First Amendment rights of workers who refuse to join the union.  Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman explained that this lawsuit constitutes an “attack on working people,” as ending exclusive representation would undermine worker solidarity and power.

Susan Holmberg, a political economist at the Roosevelt Institute, favorably compared Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to give workers the right to vote for 40% of corporate board seats to existing German codetermination policies.  In her op-ed in the New York Times, Holmberg writes that in Germany, “workers at large companies elect up to half the members of supervisory boards . . . Workers also elect representatives to works councils, the ‘shop-floor’ organizations that deal with day-to-day issues such as overtime pay, major layoffs and monitoring and evaluation.”  Holmberg explains that this model has successfully promoted both economic equality and workplace democracy.

Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) wrote a letter to House and Senate leadership calling for a deal to end the government shutdown that includes back-pay for employees who work for federal contractors.  Whereas directly employed federal workers usually receive back-pay after a shutdown, contracted workers usually do not.  In her letter, Pressley highlights the thousands of low-wage workers — including food service workers, janitors, and security guards employed by federal contractors — who have been furloughed from their jobs with no prospect of back-pay.

Broadway actors, represented by the Actors’ Equity union, are pushing for a share of the profits from the shows that they help to create.  Broadway actors are increasingly working in “developmental labs,” month-long sessions in which actors and writers test out material for shows in progress.  Actor and union leader Stephen Bogardus said, “We are collaborators, and… we should be able to share in the success of the show.”

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