News & Commentary

July 21, 2020

Zachary Boullt

Zachary Boullt is a student at Harvard Law School.

Protests, walkoffs, and general strikes occurred in over 25 cities on July 20 as part of the Strike for Black Lives, focusing on racial justice and economic inequities. The call for a general strike was led by the SEIU and involved more than 20 unions and racial justice groups. Groups of health care workers, clerks, janitors, airline workers, fast food workers, farmworkers, and more participated. Workers in New York, including the Teamsters, took a knee in honor of George Floyd and demonstrated in support of the HEROES pandemic aid package. Fast food workers in Chicago protested pandemic working conditions and marched to a McDonald’s where workers had tested positive. Durham, North Carolina protestors demonstrated for a $15 an hour minimum wage and racial justice. Five Detroit nursing homes had walkouts in protest of low wages and poor working conditions. Protestors in San Francisco joined outside City Hall to oppose cuts to social services in the city’s upcoming city budget, attempting to prevent furloughs, layoffs, and service reductions, and 1500 janitors walked off the job. Protestors in Boston focused on the state legislature passing racial justice bills before its coming recess. Organizers and protestors in Memphis called for police reform and increased social spending.

With Congress’s scheduled recess and the enhanced unemployment benefit’s expiration date looming, more information is coming to light on what proposed legislation could look like. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has stated the GOP’s intent to include direct payments and more small business loans in the next package. The GOP envisions another Payment Protection Plan for small businesses, but more targeted to businesses with demonstrable need than the previous one. Congressional leaders such as House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer have brought up the possibility of compromise on continued enhanced unemployment benefits, but they may be lower than before. Talks with the White House are stalling over the administration’s desire for a payroll tax holiday and resistance to funding vaccine distribution and enhanced contact tracing. The negotiating parties have stated their intent to end negotiations by the end of next week.

The Dallas Morning News newsroom has announced its intent to unionize and requested voluntary recognition from parent company A.H. Belo. The unionization effort follows criticism of the company for delays in provision of pandemic-related PPE and lack of security during protest coverage, where journalists were tear-gassed and shot at by police with less-than-lethal ammunition. The Dallas Morning News would follow a unionization trend among newsrooms, following the Los Angeles Times’s tentative agreement last year and the Miami New Times and Phoenix New Times announcing union formation this year.

Multiple organizers at notable tech companies have stated that tech worker organizing is shifting and growing to a point-of-no-return. Pandemic conditions and increased attention to racial and social justice have contributed to bringing workers of different pay scales and ranking together. These new solidarity efforts have opposed unsafe working conditions, racial and gender discrimination, and wage stagnation. Union formation at Kickstarter and of Google contractors at HCL Laboratories set recent precedent for unionizing efforts at tech organizations. The protests of Amazon firing organizers Chris Smalls, Maren Costa, and Emily Cunningham, and the subsequent resignation of Amazon vice president Tim Bray in protest of the firings, elicited solidarity between workers in both the Amazon warehouses and tech sectors. Tech company worker protests have also had notable successes recently, such as Uber abandoning its sick pay policy, Amazon providing more bonus pay after ending its hazard pay, and Instacart abandoning its new pay structure that dropped pay. Organizers interviewed by Business Insider have stated that these events and more are making tech companies a breeding ground for organizing when they were previously a resistant sector.

LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, is cutting 960 jobs, about 6% of its workforce. The company cites diminished use of its recruiting services due to the pandemic. It also cites redundancy in some departments, consolidating some and moving others’ services online. Diminished use of LinkedIn’s services are a sign of less hiring demand, business activity, and consumer activity.

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