News & Commentary

November 8, 2019

Vail Kohnert-Yount

Vail Kohnert-Yount is a student at Harvard Law School.

Staff at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a historic civil rights organization headquartered in Montgomery, Alabama, are forming a union. Yesterday, the News Guild, an affiliate of the Communications Workers of America, delivered a letter to the organization requesting card check recognition, and a supermajority of staff from SPLC’s 11 offices across five states in the Deep South and Washington, DC, filed a federal election petition with the NLRB. In March of this year, SPLC fired its co-founder Morris Dees after allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation by Dees came to light. In its announcement on Twitter, the SPLC Union said: “All workers deserve an environment free of inequity, discrimination, and harrassment. Once our Union is officially formed, staff will collectively determine its goals to shape SPLC into a workplace that lives by its mission internally as well as externally.”

In the Texas Law Review, Vanderbilt law professor Jessica Clarke wrote about how the first forty years of circuit precedent misinterpreted Title VII. Rather than relying on the statutory text of Title VII, “early appellate decisions relied on their era’s misunderstanding of LGBTQ identities as pathological, unnatural, and deviant.”

ReCode obtained a severance package being offered to recently laid-off employees of WeWork, the beleaguered coworking company. While the package offers four months of pay, in exchange workers are required to sign away their right to sue the company over workplace issues and a year-long non-compete provision. Meanwhile, WeWork’s former CEO Adam Neumann exited with a $1.7 billion golden parachute after multiple reports of financial mismanagement and erratic behavior. Some WeWork subsidiaries have laid off up to 25% of their workforces, and up to 4,000 jobs in total may be eliminated.

The Hollywood Reporter announced that Ava DuVernay, the director of Selma, 13th, and When They See Us, is developing a television drama for TNT about a labor activist who leads the largest strike in Texas history. Written by Kat Candler and described as a “modern-day Norma Rae,” the show will center on a young wife and mother who leads a union strike after a fatal explosion at the oil refinery where she works.

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