News & Commentary

May 20, 2019

Lolita DePalma

Lolita De Palma is a student at Harvard Law School.

Hilton Embassy suites employees, represented by UNITE HERE Local, are bargaining for a voice in how their employer uses automated technology. Hilton employees are following the lead of Marriott workers whose contract, secured after the largest hotel strike in U.S. history, requires notice before Marriott expands its use of technology. In the past, Marriott not provide notice before introducing a guest-service app last year, leading some workers to fear that “one day they’ll send out the robots.” Marriott International has already implemented a robotic butler called Botlr at Aloft Cupertino in the Silicon Valley.

An NLRB hearing officer recommended that Elon University’s objections to the recent adjunct union election be rejected. On March 12, 62% of Elon adjuncts voted in favor of forming a union with SEIU, which also represents Duke University adjuncts. While it is unclear whether the university will appeal the decision, union leaders are focused on beginning “productive negotiations that will lead to improvements in our working conditions and our students’ learning environments.”

In the wake of New York City Ballet dancer Amar Ramasar’s reinstatement after being fired for sexual harassment, the New York Times spotlighted the dual role unions play in sexual harassment cases—often defending both the accuser and the accused. The American Guild of Musical Artists challenged Ramasar’s firing as too severe and took his case to arbitration. At the same time, the guild has taken a strong stand against sexual harassment in response to the #MeToo movement and updated its confidential reporting system. The guild is also developing a new code of conduct with the City Ballet to protect against sexual harassment in the workplace. SAG-Aftra, the screen actors union, issued an expansive Code of Conduct on Sexual Harassment last year.

Vox highlighted the importance of the union vote for Democratic candidates in the upcoming 2020 presidential election. Since union members vote at higher rates than most Americans and are located in key states, labor support can be instrumental to securing a win at the polls. Joe Biden hosted his first campaign stop at a Teamsters hall in Pennsylvania. Both Bernie Sanders’ and Julián Castro’s campaigns have unionized. Amy Klobuchar has stressed her union roots. Jay Inslee’s Evergreen Economy Plan would implement card check recognition, outlaw forced arbitration, and overrule state “right to work” laws. It remains unclear which presidential candidate is most likely to win the votes of organized labor, especially with unions increasingly diversifying.

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