Today’s News & Commentary — May 7, 2018

Published May 7th, 2018 -  - 05.07.189


Over 50,000 University of California (UC) workers will begin a three-day strike today, the Los Angeles Times reports.  25,000 of the workers come from UC’s largest employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, which is calling for better pay, healthcare and retirement terms.  About 14,000 members of the California Nurses Association and 15,000 member of the University Professional & Technical Employees will walk off of their UC jobs in solidarity with the AFSCME workers.  As OnLabor has previously reported, AFSCME leadership said UC is pushing down market wages around the state by hiring independent contractors for work formerly done by union employees—all while UC executives have seen a 64 percent pay increase over the past 10 years.  The university system plans to keep all of its 10 campuses and five medical centers open through the strike, while retaining a normal class schedule.

A new guest worker immigration policy has caused a labor shortage in the Maryland crabmeat industry, USA Today reports.  The Trump administration chose to award H-2B visas by lottery this year, instead of the usual first-come first-served basis.  The Maryland crabbers rely heavily on H-2B workers, to the point where nearly half of the workforce is missing.  The industry hopes to get some relief with another 15,000 visas to be announced this month.

The gig economy has spread into retail, as online platforms connect workers with single shifts  in restaurants, cafes and shops, the Washington Post reports.  The industry is relatively new, but one such platform, Snag Work, is used by businesses such as Five Guys, Potbelly’s and the Marriot to fill vacant shifts.  The development of these platforms has raised concerns that retail workers will be displaced to some degree by a pool of independent contractors without the same employment protections, which could put downward pressure on employer standards.

Grubhub may be the first company impacted by the California Supreme Court’s new independent contractor standard, Reuters reports.  Last Friday, a Grubhub employee asked a California appellate judge to reconsider his dismissed employee misclassification claim in light of California’s new standard.  As OnLabor previously reported, Califronia adopted the “ABC” test which presumes all workers to be employees unless the hiring business can show (a) that the worker is free from the hirer’s control and direction, (b) that the worker’s job is “outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business;” and (c) that the worker is “customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.”  Similar tests have been adopted by courts in several states, including New Jersey, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Workers at Air France plan to strike for the 14th day today, maintaining their call for a 5.1 percent raise, the Guardian reports.  The strike caused the resignation of the company’s CEO, Jean-Marc Janaillac, on Friday, after workers rejected a deal amounting to a 7 percent increase over four years.  French labor unrest has been widespread recently, with the striking airline workers coinciding with strikes at the French national rail carrier, SNCF, as OnLabor previously reported.  Since his 2017 election, French President Emmanuel Macron has loosened employment laws, making it easier for companies to fire workers, along with cutting taxes on capital.

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