Today’s News & Commentary — May 10, 2019
In a regulatory filing with the SEC on Thursday, Uber reported that it has reached agreements that will end a “large majority” of the over 60,000 arbitration claims drivers have filed alleging misclassification as independent contractors, rather than employees. Uber will pay between $146 and $147 million to settle the claims. (Bloomberg notes that despite the settlements, Uber is far from being done with litigation: a new class and collective action suit was filed against the company on Wednesday alleging that it failed to pay drives in Arkansas overtime wages.)
More on misclassification: New Jersey has rebuffed the Department of Labor’s April 29 opinion letter, which suggests that companies can classify large numbers of workers as contractors. The state’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo stated that the federal opinion letter will have “zero effect” on New Jersey laws, which have similar elements to California’s stringent ABC test for governing employee classification. Bloomberg reports that New Jersey’s stance highlights a federal/state clash over employee classification, which may create a confusing climate for businesses trying to navigate state and federal law.
Sen. Bernie Sanders has pledged to place a moratorium on cuts to pension benefits overseen by the federal government if he’s elected president in 2020. The Hill reports that Sanders criticized a 2014 law that allows the Treasury Department to approve cuts to multiemployer pension plans that are at the risk of running out of funds before all benefits are paid out. Sanders’ plan includes appointing a Treasury secretary who will agree to not approve cuts and to reverse cuts the Trump administration has approved.
The Washington Post reports that Facebook’s 15,000 contractors who moderate and remove violent content have been “spearheading a quiet campaign” to air grievances over “unsatisfactory working conditions and their status as second-class citizens.” The contractors have been organizing and communicating through Facebook Workplace, the company’s internal communication system, and have protested “micromanagement, pay cuts and inadequate counseling support while doing some of Facebook’s most psychologically taxing jobs.” Their work includes reviewing thousands of traumatic posts—which can include content like murders, suicide, and child pornography—to determine if they violate Facebook’s terms. While Facebook has recently taken steps to improve conditions for the content moderators, including allowing “wellness time” to access counselors, workers believe they are insufficient.
General Motors is selling its Lordstown, Ohio plant to Workhouse Group, which the New York Times deemed “a little-known maker of electric vehicles.” President Trump took partial credit for the deal, tweeting that “I have been working nicely with GM to get this done.” The President also highlighted GM’s promise to invest $700 million in three other Ohio cities, creating about 450 jobs. It remains to be seen if the sale to Workhouse will reduce the anger and frustration over the impending loss of over 1,600 jobs at the Lordstown plant. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown noted it was too early to tell if this was good news for workers, emphasizing that Workhouse currently employs fewer than 100 people.