News & Commentary

May 9, 2016

Emily Miller

Emily Miller is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Chicago Tribune reports that Dunkin’ Donuts workers are suing a Chicago franchisee for wage theft following allegations that shift supervisors were instructed to dock pay to make up for cash register shortages and adjust time sheets so that workers would be paid only for their scheduled shift, even if they worked additional time.  One attorney for the plaintiffs estimates that up to 100 people may be eligible to join the suit.  Wage theft is reported to be a particularly serious problem for low wage workers; one study from the University of Illinois at Chicago estimated that almost half of low-wage workers in Chicago and suburban Cook County experienced wage theft, losing an average of $50 dollars per week.

Striking workers at Verizon continued their activism this past Thursday, with 250 workers and supporters protesting the annual shareholder’s meeting in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Fortune reports that shareholders at the meeting voted on new directors as well as executive pay, including on one rejected proposal by BellTel retirees, which suggested requiring shareholder approval if executive severance was more than three times the base salary.  Nearly 40,000 Verizon technicians and customer service representatives have been on strike since mid-April over issues such as off-shore call centers, job relocation, and health care coverage.  Last week, Verizon “presented an updated and ‘final’ offer to the unions” which would increase wages by 7.5% but would require workers to “…shoulder more healthcare costs and be open to relocating to new job locations.”

Teachers at the D.C. Public Schools, who have been working without a contract since 2012, led a protest Thursday morning calling for retroactive pay raises and a “significant pay hike going forward,” according to the Washington Post. A spokesperson for the D.C. schools told the Washington Post “ D.C. Public Schools has been working in good faith to negotiate a new contract for our teachers for the last several years,” while the President of the Washington Teacher’s Union stated that negotiations have stalled since the school district offered only a 1% pay increase, starting two years from now.  Teachers from three schools were involved in Thursday’s protests, and the union foresees protests continuing at schools throughout the City.

In international news, the Chilean government said on Saturday that President Michelle Bachelet will veto parts of her “landmark labor reform” bill following a ruling that they were unconstitutional, reports Reuters.  The bill, aimed at strengthening Chilean labor unions, was passed by the Senate in March.  Since then, Chile’s Constitutional Tribunal has ruled  that provisions that “companies could only negotiate with legally designated unions during collective wage talks” and “prohibited companies from extending benefits resulting from bargaining agreements to non-unionized employees” were in violation of the Constitution.  Government spokesperson Marcelo Diaz said of the ruling, “[n]ot only can we not rule out that some of the progress made in the bill has been compromised (by the court’s ruling) but also that there is a setback for workers’ rights.”

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