News & Commentary

May 24, 2018

The NFL yesterday announced a new policy punishing players who kneel in protest during the national anthem, drawing fierce condemnation from civil rights advocates and the players’ union. The new policy does allow athletes to stay in locker rooms rather than attending the anthem, in an attempt to push players’ protests off camera. The NFL’s decision may tee up a fight with the players’ union, which immediately criticized the policy. Moreover, the National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ concerted political activity, as long as it’s related to their status as employees — and as Professor Sachs pointed out last year, NFL players’ collective-bargaining agreements discuss their public-facing roles as part of their job, which means players have a viable case that their protest activity is falls under the NLRA’s shield.

Tens of thousands Las Vegas casino workers are preparing to walk off the job for the first time in over thirty years. As Jared mentioned yesterday, UNITE HERE’s Culinary Workers and Bartenders Union members voted by an overwhelming ninety-nine percent to authorize a strike. The union is seeking improved healthcare benefits, worker safety protections related to the October mass shooting that left hundreds of casualties, and stronger sexual harassment protections. Sixty-three percent of hotel workers surveyed by UNITE HERE report experiencing sexual harassment on the job.

The Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, founded in response to the #MeToo movement, is making good on its promise to direct money donated by Hollywood stars towards harassment survivors in low-wage and middle-class jobs. One of the new initiatives first clients is Gina Pitre, a former Walmart employee suing the company for mishandling her report of sexual harassment by a manager. As Jared noted, Times Up also just partnered with Fight for 15 to represent 10 McDonald’s workers in high-profile harassment claims against McDonalds. The National Women’s Law Center, which administers the fund, told the Times that these early suits are part of a strategy: the LDF is sending the message to employers that “just because a woman doesn’t have a lot of money or connections doesn’t mean someone isn’t going to stand up to them.”

Yesterday, the California Work & Family Coalition lobbied state lawmakers in support of SB 937, legislation that would require business to provide workers a safe, clean, and comfortable lactation facility — and to maintain a written policy informing workers about their right to request lactation facilities and accommodations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that many companies fail to provide breastfeeding employees with appropriate lactation facilities, even though the Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide nursing mothers with a private place to express milk.

The official poverty rate in the United States is 12.7% — but according to a new study by the United Way ALICE Project, 43% of American families don’t earn enough on a monthly basis to cover basic expenses like rent, food, health care, child care, transportation, or a cell phone. United Way calls the people who fall into this gap (not in poverty, but still struggling to make ends meet) the “ALICE” cohort: “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.” The report argues that reality is a new normal for the American middle class, including child care providers, home health aides, and retail workers.


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