News & Commentary

May 30, 2019

Annie Hollister

Annie Hollister is an Honors Attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor and an alumna of Harvard Law School.

The California Assembly has passed a bill that will make it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors.  As Ryan wrote earlier this week, AB-5 codifies the “ABC test” introduced by the California Supreme Court in last year’s Dynamex case.  Under Dynamex, a worker is classified as an independent contractor only if: (a) the worker is able to control and direct her own performance, both under the contract and in fact; (b) the worker provides a service that is outside the hiring entity’s usual business, and (c) the worker is customarily engaged independently in performing the work provided under the contract.  Marissa has written about the legislative negotiations that preceded this vote.  The final bill contains carveouts for several types of workers, including lawyers, salespeople, and hairdressers.   Notably not exempted are truckers and rideshare drivers, whose status remains hotly contested.  The bill will now advance to the state senate, which is expected to vote on it this summer.

Amazon will transfer its security contracts to two unionized firms.  Security Industry Specialists (SIS), Amazon’s security contractor since 2012, has been the target of an ongoing organizing campaign by SEIU Local 6.  SIS has previously been accused of mistreating Muslim workers and of subjecting workers to poor conditions.  On Wednesday, Amazon announced that it would transfer its contracts to Allied Universal and Securitas, whose workers are represented by SEIU Local 6.  Although Amazon representatives said that union status was not a factor in the contracting decision, labor leaders are celebrating the announcement as a victory for Washington workers.  In the short term, SIS will lay off more than 1,000 workers, the majority of whom are expected to be re-hired by the new contracting firms; the result is likely to be hundreds more members of SEIU Local 6, which represents janitors, security officers, and airport workers in Washington state.

Hourly employees at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant will vote next month on whether to unionize under the United Auto Workers.  Jared wrote last week about the UAW’s fight for recognition in Chattanooga.  The UAW narrowly lost a plantwide union election in 2014, and faced a minor setback earlier this month when the NLRB rejected an election petition.  The union refiled, and the election will take place over three days, from June 12 – 14.

The Guardian recently explored the ways in which influencer culture is undermining protections for child performers.  Last year, a seven-year-old was YouTube’s highest-paid star, and underage Instagram influencers can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.  In California, children who work in traditional entertainment industries are protected by the Coogan Law, which was overhauled in 1999 following years of advocacy by labor and industry groups.  The law ensures that earnings by child performers remain the property of those performers, and not of their parents or guardians.  Although the California legislature has amended the law to include minors engaged in “social media advertising,” it remains unclear what, if any, obligations California-based tech companies – including YouTube and Instagram – owe to their tiny stars.

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