Today’s News & Commentary — March 13, 2019
Uber just agreed to a $20 million settlement with 13,600 California drivers, bringing an end to lawsuits challenging their classification as independent contractors who can be denied employment protections like the minimum wage, unemployment insurance, and health insurance. The settlement comes as Uber prepares for an IPO this year and California legislators debate competing bills to codify or overturn Dynamex Operations West, Inc., a California Supreme Court case establishing a new test for determining whether a worker is an employee (who is guaranteed benefits), or an independent contractor (who isn’t). As Professor Sachs explained last May, Uber drivers are virtually certain to be considered employees under Dynamex’ ABC employment test. The exact terms of the settlement were unclear when Bloomberg reported its existence yesterday afternoon, but it does not resolve the drivers’ employment status. As OnLabor Senior Contributor Charlotte Garden pointed out, the settlement only involves Uber drivers who haven’t been shut out of court by forced arbitration agreements. Last fall, following the Supreme Court’s Epic Systems decision, the Ninth Circuit upheld the validity of Uber’s arbitration agreements, which included class-action waivers, breaking a class that represented as many as 385,000 drivers in Massachusetts and California drivers. Uber has since drawn out the arbitration process — Uber had failed to pay the requisite fees for arbitrators in so many cases that, as of December arbitrators had been appointed in just 47 of 12,500 arbitration demands filed by drivers. The settlement in O’Connor v. Uber, 13-cv-03826, was filed late Monday in federal court and must be approved by a judge.
The AFL-CIO’s Energy Committee sent a letter to Senator Ed Markey and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on March 8 declaring its opposition to the Green New Deal, an ambitious plan to take on climate change while transforming the American economy. The letter, which was released Monday night by Republican Senator John Barrasso, argues that the Green New Deal is “not achievable or realistic.” Senator Markey responded on Tuesday, saying that they would continue to work with the AFL-CIO. The Green New Deal resolution introduced by Senator Markey and AOC last month includes creating “high-quality union jobs” and “guaranteeing a job with a family-sustaining wage” among its central goals.
Even companies that tout their “supply-chain transparency” don’t know exactly where their products come from — so they don’t track whether the products come from factories that abuse workers. A new feature in the New Yorker asks whether modern supply-chain management, or S.C.M., software change that?
Last month, Oakland teachers went on a seven-day strike, winning an 11 percent pay increase and more school nurses, counselors, psychologists, and speech therapists for their students. Seeing their success, teachers in other parts of the Bay Areas are demanding increased public education funding and discussing potential strikes themselves. Teachers at the East Bay Dublin Unified School District are voting this week to authorize a potential strike.
In Democracy Journal, former Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling reflects on 30 years of economic policy debates that involved “too little reflection on the most basic economic question of all: What exactly is our ultimate economic goal in terms of increasing human happiness and well-being?” Sperling calls for us to make “economic dignity” the North Star of economic policy, rather than pursuing economic targets for their own sake.