Jason Vazquez

Jason Vazquez is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Clean Slate for Worker Power released a series of reports on Tuesday providing in-depth analysis and explanation of key policy recommendations designed to achieve fundamental labor law reform. The exciting new reports focus primarily on developing sectoral bargaining systems, expanding the scope of mandatory subjects of bargaining to include, among other things, decisions about subcontracting, relocation, capital substitution, and investment strategies, and overcoming the strict federal preemption laws that have hampered decades of labor law reform.

In global news, the violent protests in demand of economic justice continue to rage across Colombia, heading into their seventh day today. The demonstrations erupted last Wednesday, in response to a tax reform proposed by the right-wing government that would have raised the prices of everyday goods and services relied upon by millions of already deeply-strained working people. Though President Duque has since rescinded the proposal, thousands of incensed Colombians continue to march in the streets against the rising poverty, inequality, and unemployment that, infecting the nation for decades, has been sharply intensified by the ferocious coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, last year, the country’s rate of poverty rose to an astounding 43 percent. On Monday night, law enforcement officers in Cali, the third-largest city in the country, reportedly opened fire into a crowd of hundreds of protestors in what some have dubbed a “massacre.” At least 18 civilians have been killed, and hundreds more have suffered injuries. The protests were initiated by the country’s largest labor unions, who called for rallies in the streets last week to counter the proposed tax overhaul and, vowing that the protests will continue, have declared a national strike set to start today. To all those courageous voices in Colombia taking to the streets to demand justice, dignity, and a more equitable distribution of wealth and power, we take this moment to affirm that estamos con ustedes en esta lucha por un mundo mejor (we’re with you in this struggle for a better world).

On Monday, the Republican majority on the National Labor Relations Board ruled that telecommunications conglomerate AT&T Mobility LLC had violated federal labor law by threatening a union steward after he recorded a meeting where a worker was being terminated. Regrettably, the Board found AT&T’s repressive policy barring employees from recording conversations with managers to be legal, though they held this particular application of the rule — to a shop steward engaged in protected union activity — illegal. In the order, the Board overruled part of its decision rendered 17 years ago in Lutheran Heritage, which invalidated an otherwise-lawful policy if unlawfully applied to restrict the exercise of employee rights under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Monday’s decision is merely the latest installment in a series of vicious attacks on working people launched by the conservative members of the Board ever since the fanatically anti-labor Republican Party seized control of it in 2017.

In a groundbreaking article published Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Business Times detailed that several local businesses seem to have discovered an exciting new management tool. Though purportedly struggling to fill positions for months, these companies were suddenly inundated with “thousands of applications” after raising their starting wages to $15 an hour and above. As labor shortages reportedly persist around the country, post-lockdown wages remain stubbornly low, and some right-wing state governments have begun to peel back pandemic-era unemployment benefits, these small Pittsburgh firms might have uncovered the long-hidden key to commercial success — paying decent wages and treating workers with dignity. Let’s hope their innovative management strategy spreads to businesses throughout the country.

In sports news, the unions representing athletes in the four largest American professional sports leagues on Tuesday voiced their support for the PRO Act. In the joint statement, the MLBPA, the NBPA, the NFLPA, and the NHLPA declared that “now is the time to overcome decades of increasing obstacles to working people who choose to exercise their right to organize a union” and affirmed their belief that “all workers should have the same fair chance to work together to improve their pay, benefits, and working conditions.” Though the bill remains frozen in the Senate, we can only hope that the backing of these major players unions might help further raise public awareness and impose an additional degree of pressure on Senate Democrats, some of whom are avid sports fans, to abolish the filibuster, the graveyard of labor law reform.

In other news from the upper chamber, The Hill reports that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced yesterday a $73 billion dollar plan, titled Clean Transit for America, to replace the nation’s fleet of thousands of mass transit buses with zero-emission vehicles. Given that millions of American workers rely on public transit, global carbon emissions continue to rise, and scientists and intelligence agencies have been issuing increasingly frantic warnings of a hellish future ravaged by ecological decimation, mass migration, and global famine, investing at least a few billion dollars into a system of clean public transportation certainly strikes us as a decent proposal.

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