News & Commentary

November 22, 2018

Many low-wage workers are preparing to work long shifts away from family members this Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday.  One retail worker detailed his work schedule in today’s Daily News.  After arriving late to Thanksgiving dinner after a day of work, he will leave early for an overnight shift of restocking before starting another shift for a second job on Friday morning.  “For retail workers in non-union stores,” he writes, “the stress of the holidays is stacked on top of the daily obstacles we face every day of the year: insufficient hours, wages that don’t support families and unpredictable scheduling.”

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that his office had secured legally binding commitments from four more corporate chains to eliminate no-poach agreements from franchise contracts nationwide.  No-poach agreements generally prevent franchises from hiring workers from other franchises of the same company, which can artificially depress wages as workers are barred from taking higher paying jobs at other locations.  The commitments obtained from Quiznos, Massage Envy, Frontier Adjusters, and Sport Clips are in addition to pledges already signed by thirty other corporations.

Yesterday Kirkland & Ellis, the world’s highest-grossing law firm, told employees that it would no longer require associates and summer associates to bring their employment claims before a private arbitrator.  The news followed two weeks of advocacy by the Pipeline Parity Project, a student group at Harvard Law School, which started a campaign called #DumpKirkland aimed at educating peers about the firm’s coercive contracts and urging law students to refrain from interviewing with the firm until it ended the practice.  It remained unclear whether the same courtesy would be extended to the firm’s support staff and contractors, but members of the Project have vowed to keep working towards that goal.

Buzzfeed also revealed this week that it would be dropping mandatory arbitration, but only for sexual harassment and sexual assault claims.  For the time being, workers might still have to proceed through private arbitration in order to bring claims of other forms of discrimination and wage-and-hour violations.  Buzzfeed’s partial approach to ending forced arbitration is in line with similar moves by Google and Facebook.

The tentative contract agreement between Harvard University and the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) will include new provisions related to the employment of contingent workers.  Under the terms of the new agreement, “less-than-half time” employees will only be allowed to work up to fourteen hours per week, temp employees can work up to three months, and the growing practice of cycling workers between these two classifications to cut costs will no longer be permitted.  If any unit of the University violates the new rules, it will no longer be able to hire the employee in question as a contingent worker, but may hire the employee as a regular worker with benefits.  The University must share data on hours and duration of employment with HUCTW, and a joint Union-Management committee will monitor compliance.  Pending ratification, the new provisions will take effect in March 2019.

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