Today’s News & Commentary — November 14, 2018

Published November 14th, 2018 -  - 11.14.182


Better family leave and support policies could incentivize millions of workers to rejoin the workforce, according to research published by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  Labor participation rates in the United States have fallen considerably in recent years, in contrast to those of other advanced industrial nations like Canada.  While much of this divergence can be attributed to demographic changes as baby boomers retire, “three-fourths of the difference . . . can be explained by the growing gap in labor force attachment of women.”  The study argues that policies like subsidized child care and robust parental-leave would dissuade many workers from leaving the workforce after having a child.  The San Francisco Federal Reserve recently appointed Mary Daly, an expert in labor market issues, as its President

Walmart is rolling out a new scheduling system to all 4,600 of its U.S. stores that will make it easier for its employees to maintain stable and predictable work schedules.  The company’s new software will reportedly be able to predict staffing needs and give workers a fixed weekly schedule for up to 13 weeks at a time.  While the 13-week scheduling notice is an improvement on the company’s previous standard of two-and-a-half weeks, it falls short of the company’s goal to give its workers six-month’s notice by 2016.  Unpredictable scheduling is among the most common complaints among workers in the retail and food service industries, and several jurisdictions, including Seattle, New York City, and Chicago, have implemented or are considering “fair workweek” legislation.

Students at Harvard Law School are urging their peers to boycott international law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP over their use of mandatory arbitration agreements.  According to documents obtained by the Pipeline Parity Project, the firm requires its employees to sign away their rights to sue under the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, among other causes of action, as a condition of employment.  Project co-founder and OnLabor contributor Vail Kohnert-Yount stated that in releasing employment agreements used by firms like Kirkland, “the big goal is to get them to drop these coercive contracts.”  The Pipeline Parity Project was founded in 2017 by a group of Harvard Law students with the goal of ending harassment and discrimination in the legal profession.

UPS Freight workers voted to approve a new labor contract, narrowly averting a strike that could have caused massive shipping delays ahead of the holiday season.  The contract was reportedly UPS’s final offer, after workers voted down an initial offer in October and demanded changes to several terms, including the amount of work that can be contracted out and the conditions on qualifying for vacation and pension benefits.  The new agreement, which will cover approximately 11,600 workers, was approved by 77 percent of eligible voters with the Teamsters union.

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