In today’s news & commentary, upcoming arguments and a setback for Starbucks workers, teachers unions speak out about gun control, new privacy laws in California, and unions around the world stand up for Belarussian union leaders.  

A Federal Judge hears arguments today on a petition from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking reinstatement of seven Memphis Starbucks workers who were fired after taking an active role in a unionization campaign. The fired workers included five members of the union organizing committee. These arguments come on the heels of a setback for unionizing Starbucks workers. On Wednesday, June 8, a federal judge dismissed a labor board request to order the reinstatement of three Starbucks workers, who allegedly lost their jobs for in retaliation for organizing a union at a Phoenix location.

In the wake of the devasting mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, the country’s two largest teachers’ unions have stepped up against gun violence.  As Politico reports, this week National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten took part in events calling for background checks and a ban on assault rifles, among other measures as the House considered two bills that would aim to restrict access to firearms. As Gordon Lafer, co-director of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon, told Politico’s Weekly Shift “Both teachers’ unions and healthcare unions have been among the strongest voices calling for tighter gun control — partly because it’s a real issue in their workplace. NEA and AFT have unequivocally rejected the occasional call for teachers to be armed as a defense against mass-shooter events.”

The House passed a wide-ranging package of gun control legislation called the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” on Wednesday, though it is unlikely to pass in the Senate.

Employers in California are anxious at the prospect of applying the state’s privacy law to their own workers in the near future. The California Consumer Privacy Act law is the first of its kind in the US. The law grants consumers the right to know what data is being collected on them and ask that it not be sold. As reported in Bloomberg, beginning in January 2023, the law will likely apply to employee data held by employers. Complying with requests for data reports or removal could prove complicated given the employee data is often deeply integrated into the workings of a business. The law has particularly big implications for gig economy companies, as independent contractors are not exempt and make significant use of worker data.

The 110th International Labor Conference of the International Labor Organization (ILO) runs from May 27-June 11. Recent attacks against independent unions in Belarus were taken before the Committee on the Application of Standards at the Conference on June 7. On June 8 unions around the world participated in a day of action calling for the release of Belarusian trade union leaders and activists, IndustriALL Global Union reports. Over a dozen Belarusian trade union leaders were arrested and had their homes and offices searched in April. Speakers participating in the day of action linked the recent crackdown in Belarus to the war in Ukraine, pointing out that attacks on trade unions spiked when union leaders spoke out against the war.