Today’s News & Commentary — November 9, 2018
After more than 20,000 workers walked out last week in protest of the company’s handling of sexual misconduct, Google announced that it would no longer require claims of sexual harassment or assault to be funneled into secret forced arbitration—one of the walkout’s key demands. Microsoft and Uber have also recently ended their use of mandatory arbitration only in cases of harassment and assault, and all three tech giants continue forcing arbitration for any other claims their employees have against them, including for discrimination. This practice effectively nullifies their workers’ rights to bring claims under a canon of civil rights laws, including 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.
Last week, the Freelancers Union released their fifth annual report on the freelance workforce, in conjunction with Upwork, that surveyed more than 6,000 U.S. workers. The study estimates that 56.7 million Americans freelance, an increase of 3.7 million in the past five years, and collectively spend more than 1 billion hours per week freelancing. Interestingly, freelancers report being significantly more politically active than non-freelancers, and some of the most salient political issues include making healthcare more affordable and accessible as well as supporting retirement savings and higher pay.
A report released last week by Public Citizen and the Farmworker Association of Florida underscores the heavy impact that climate change is having on Florida farmworkers. Excessive heat stress caused by rising temperatures is increasingly becoming a public health problem, with severe moral and economic implications for the state. In July, 130 organizations petitioned OSHA to take action to protect farm and construction workers laboring in extreme temperatures, but the federal government has repeatedly failed to set a heat stress standard for American workers.
As the holiday season approaches, Coworker.org investigated how music—and especially holiday songs—affects workers’ well-being. Many retail workers report frustration with repetitive workplace playlists, especially around the holidays when “it’s the same six Christmas songs in a continuous loop.” Scores of studies show that music has a significant impact on our moods, and some researchers have found that playing holiday music so early and often can be detrimental to workers’ well-being. In the Evening Standard, clinical psychologist Linda Blair explained that being around Christmas music for an extended period of time can be mentally draining. “While it might not affect the casual listener, people working in department stores where ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ is playing on repeat are the hardest hit,” she said. Ultimately, Coworker.org advocated for workers to have a say in their working conditions, including the soundtrack.