Today’s News & Commentary — March 18, 2015
McDonald’s workers in 19 cities have filed complaints with OSHA, alleging various workplace health and safety violations including burns from popping grease and a lack of protective equipment. According to AP, the complaints, announced by the group Fast Food Forward, are the latest move in the SEIU’s campaign to win a $15/hour minimum wage and unionization of fast food workers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the group hopes the complaints add to public pressure on McDonald’s to force it to come to the bargaining table; it plans to argue to OSHA that McDonald’s Corp. should be cited for any violations the agency finds at independently owned restaurants. This attempt to shift more workplace responsibility to the corporate level comes on the heels of the NLRB General Counsel’s finding last year that McDonald’s could be treated as a joint employer in certain labor complaints.
Two San Francisco judges ruled in separate cases this week that lawsuits against Uber and Lyft for the misclassification of their workers as independent contractors should go before juries. In denying the employers’ motions for summary judgment, the cases could be poised to set major precedent for how workers in the sharing economy should be classified, notes the Wall Street Journal.
Politico reports on the evolving relationship between President Obama and the unions. The piece first notes the President’s renewed, public emphasis on issues central to labor, namely, collective bargaining and right-to-work. It then argues that the goal of such rhetoric is to “[r]emind labor groups about all the issues they have in common, even though Obama is going to try to cut a deal with Republicans on fast-track trade authority and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which unions vehemently oppose.” Some union leaders have expressed skepticism that the new rhetoric will heal the rift with the President, which has spread over several different issues.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Boeing’s largest union filed a petition with the NLRB for a vote to unionize 2,400 workers at the company’s South Carolina plant. The plant “makes and assembles major parts of Boeing’s long-range 787 Dreamliner.” The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers says its central concerns are over mandatory overtime, fair wages, and “lack of respect on the shop floor.” Boeing has launched a vocal opposition effort to the union, and has promised to enlist the help of South Carolina’s political leaders to speak out against unionization.