Today's News & Commentary — June 20, 2016

Published June 20th, 2016 -  - 06.20.16


Two former members of Netflix’s “Project Beetlejuice” are suing the streaming company, claiming they were misclassified as independent contractors.  For the project, Netflix hired people to watch programs and choose still images and clips for display on the website, compensating them at a rate of $10 per program.  Business Insider reports that the plaintiffs claim they were underpaid and often worked more than 40 hours a week to meet Netflix’s deadlines.  Both plaintiffs have filed putative class actions in California, asking for overtime, paid vacations, holidays, health insurance, and a 401(k) plan.

FedEx has agreed to settle a misclassification suit brought by 12,000 drivers by paying $240 million to drivers in 20 states, reports Reuters.  The plaintiffs claimed that FedEx falsely identified drivers, who FedEx required to use company-branded trucks, uniforms, and scanners as independent contractors and owed the drivers overtime pay and expenses.  FedEx ceased working with independent contractors in 2011.

According to Reuters, hospitality workers employed in Atlantic City’s casinos voted, by a 96% majority, to authorize a strike if they are not offered a fair contract by the July 4th weekend.  The employees, represented by UNITE HERE Local 54, are in the midst of ongoing contract negotiations with the Tropicana Casino, Caesar’s Atlantic City, Bally’s Atlantic City, and Harrah’s Atlantic City.  UNITE HERE says that workers at these casinos agreed to wage freezes during the recession and that the most experienced casino workers have seen wages go up by only 80 cents in the last 12 years.

Layoffs, as indicated by the number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits, appeared to be up last week, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Despite a general decline in applications since 2009, the new numbers have the Federal Reserve worried, with officials stating that “[t]he pace of improvement in the labor market has slowed… Although the unemployment rate has declined, job gains have diminished.”

With labor protests ongoing in France, the New York Times focused this weekend on Philippe Martinez, head of the General Confederation of Labor (C.G.T.), one of the largest labor unions in France.  According to the Times, Martinez’s views as a labor leader are heavily impacted by his commitment to “class struggle and unending worker exploitation.”  Last week, Martinez ordered 600 buses to bring union members to a march which was attended by tens of thousands of people protesting President Francois Hollande’s attempt to reform France’s labor code.  Martinez denies that the protest is connected with the violence that broke out at the march, although such violence “has been a constant feature of his union’s protests over the past few months.”

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