News & Commentary

March 16, 2022

Fran Swanson

Fran Swanson is a student at Harvard Law School.

Life for American truck drivers has devolved into a “dystopian nightmare,” writes Robin Kaiser-Schatzlein in an op-ed for the New York Times. Before the 1970s, trucking was a “good job, with union representation, decent pay and benefits, and normal hours,” but, fears of inflation led the Carter administration to allow non-union, less regulated firms compete, creating a race to the bottom. Now, truckers are paid low wages—almost always pinned to the miles they drive, not the time they spend driving or waiting—which forces them to compensate by working, on average, well over 60 hours per week. This fatigue makes dangerous work even more so, but companies have responded with increased surveillance and automation rather than addressing its cause.

A federal district judge has reinstated a Trump-era rule on independent contractor classification, Bloomberg Law reports. A coalition of gig companies sued to reinstate the rule— which assigned greater weigh to two of the factors in the Fair Labor Standards Act’s test for worker classification—because it made it easier for them to continue to classify their workers as contractors. It was set to take effect in March 2021 but never did because Biden’s Department of Labor issued a rule postponing its effective date and then issued a final rule withdrawing the Trump rule. (Hannah wrote about the options DOL had at the time here.) Judge Marcia Crone of the Eastern District of Texas ruled that the Biden DOL’s actions violated the Administrative Procedure Act: the delay rule’s notice-and-comment period was too short (and the scope of comments too limited), while the withdrawal rule was arbitrary and capricious because DOL failed to consider certain alternatives.

Finally, Minneapolis Public School food service workers announced their intent to strike if an agreement for a new contract isn’t reached in ten days, the Star Tribune reports. 99% of the workers voted earlier this month to authorize the strike, and have continued serving meals while schools have been closed during the district’s teacher strike. They typically make less than $28,000 a year. They are seeking a $1/hour raise each year in the new contract. “Enough is enough,” said Kelly Gibbons, SEIU Local 284’s executive director.

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