Today’s News & Commentary — November 20, 2018
After years of refusing to recognize its graduate student union in contravention of federal labor law, Columbia University has finally agreed to bargain with the union in the coming months, its president and provost announced Monday afternoon. Columbia University spent the past two years resisting a landmark NLRB decision from 2016 holding that its graduate assistants are in fact employees entitled to collective bargaining, arguing instead that graduate assistants should not be legally recognized as workers—even as peer Ivy League schools agreed to bargain with graduate unions on their campuses. Only after its graduate workers announced that they would go on an indefinite strike beginning December 4—just in time for final exams—did the university provisionally agree to a bargaining timeline, subject to approval by the union’s members. The agreement includes a timeline for bargaining that must begin no later than February 26 of next year, but it also precludes any union strike or other kind of “disruption” to university operations through April 2020. If the union approves it, Columbia must promptly withdraw its request for review in the case involving its postdoctoral workers pending before the NLRB and recognize both units.
Meanwhile, graduate student workers at Brown University voted to unionize with AFT, following graduate student workers at Georgetown University who voted to unionize earlier this month. At both schools, the universities’ administrations and the student workers’ unions reached pre-election agreements to hold elections run by the American Arbitration Association to avoid risking an unfavorable legal decision under the Trump-era NLRB. Per the terms of these agreements, the universities have committed to bargaining in good faith now that student workers have voted to unionize.
About 2,700 Hawaii hotel workers are expected to remain on strike through the Thanksgiving holiday, after negotiations stalled between their employer, Kyo-ya Hotels & Resorts, which is operated by Marriott, and their union, UNITE HERE Local 5. While Kyo-ya said it was “extremely disappointed that Local 5 leadership rejected our latest offer,” they also failed to respond to UNITE HERE’s counteroffer. Both sides are not scheduled to return to the bargaining table until November 26.
Fast food restaurants are so desperate for workers they’re hosting “hiring parties,” reported MarketWatch. With the unemployment rate at 3.7%, establishments like Taco Bell and Shake Shack are competing to hire workers by throwing recruitment events with free food, gift cards, and swag. However, major fast food companies have not indicated that they will increase worker pay or material benefits to achieve the same goal, part of a larger trend described by The Atlantic that wages have remained strikingly flat even as businesses complain of worker shortages.
Care in Action, a policy and advocacy organization working on behalf of more than two million domestic workers across America, wrote an op-ed explaining what Stacey Abrams’ campaign meant to domestic workers, who are predominantly women of color. Hundreds of Georgia domestic workers campaigned vigorously for Abrams’ gubernatorial campaign, which was unable to prevail after Secretary of State and now Governor-Elect Brian Kemp purged 340,000 voters from state registration rolls, many of whom were low-wage workers and people of color. “There are at least 30,000 domestic workers in Georgia, and more than two million of us nationally,” they wrote in the op-ed, a reminder of their power in numbers.