Today’s News & Commentary — July 31, 2018
In Washington, DC, the Metro transit system’s largest unions—Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and AFL-CIO Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 2—won concessions from management after threatening to strike. Metro agreed to raise wages for office employees and return some previously outsourced janitorial jobs. In return for its gains, AFL-CIO agreed to higher employee contributions to health-care costs. Earlier this month, thousands of unionized workers voted to hold an illegal strike after contract negotiations with Metro stalled out. ATU has stated that it may still strike pending final negotiations, a move that would bring the Capitol’s transit system to a grinding halt.
In Oregon, a state employee and a labor union have reached a settlement to pay back mandatory union fees, a first since the Supreme Court decided Janus in June. Debora Nearman, a state Department of Fish and Wildlife employee, filed suit against the SEIU in April, claiming that the requirement that she pay union dues violated her First Amendment rights because her and her family’s political views were in conflict with those of the union. Her case received support from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which also spearheaded Janus and is behind hundreds of other anti-union lawsuits across the United States.
UPS workers are speaking out against a tentative national agreement between the Teamsters and the package delivery company. The contract, which covers 270,000 UPS workers, was announced on July 10 after an allegedly secretive and unrepresentative bargaining process. Under the tentative agreement, UPS would be allowed to create a second tier of part-time drivers who would be paid less than full-time drivers and would not receive the same overtime protection or weekend premium pay. While some opined that the two-tier system was necessary for UPS to compete with Amazon’s contract delivery force and the United States Postal Service, which has its own two-tier system, unionized employees feared that it would inevitably lead to lay-offs as the company shifts work to lower paid employees. At the same time, the tentative agreement does little to address workers’ concerns. Drivers wanted protection against excessive overtime, harassment, and workplace surveillance, while inside workers hoped for a $15 starting wage, catch-up raises, and more full-time work. Few of those demands were met. Many expect union members to reject the agreement come next month’s vote.
In Spain, taxi drivers staged a nationwide protest against ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft. Cab drivers brought traffic to a halt in Madrid, Barcelona, and other cities as union representatives met with the Ministry of Development to discuss ways to limit the number of licenses issued to ride-hailing services. The strike began in Barcelona after Catalonia’s highest court struck down a city ordinance aimed at enforcing a national law that restricts VTC (tourism vehicle with chauffeur) licenses to one for every thirty traditional taxis. The strike will continue today.
As expected, Ryanair pilots in Germany voted to authorize a strike yesterday. The pilots’ union announced that it would give Ryanair until August 6 to “submit a workable proposal.” The budget airline has been plagued by strikes and labor unrest this summer, as pilots and cabin crew across Europe protest wages and working conditions.