News & Commentary

October 14, 2016

Leora Smith

Leora Smith is a student at Harvard Law School.

After a 44-month campaign, janitors at Target, Best Buy and Macy’s in the Twin Cities will form a union and start collectively bargaining for better working conditions. The Guardian reports that this is the largest, most successful attempt at unionizing workers in the retail industry in the U.S. While the SEIU’s “Justice for Janitors” campaign resulted in unions for tens of thousands of janitors working in office buildings, unionizing janitors in retail stores has proven difficult because of the prevalence of contractors, undocumented workers, and employee isolation. The president of the SEIU’s Local 26 notes that until now “A unionized janitor ‘who cleans Target’s corporate headquarters makes over $15 an hour and has health benefits…But if you clean inside a store, you make close to the minimum wage and have no health coverage or other benefits.” In Twin Cities, at least, that is changing.

The New York State Department of Labor has ruled that two former Uber drivers are eligible for unemployment insurance, meaning they will be treated as employees, not independent contractors. Though the New York Taxi Workers Alliance is calling this decision a “game changer,” a spokesperson for the Department of Labor stressed that these decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, and it is possible that other Uber drivers could still be deemed independent contractors. The decision was a first for the New York DOL, and comes months after the drivers filed a federal lawsuit to protest the agency’s delay in issuing their determination.

And the federal DOL is also in the news today. Politico reports that 21 state attorneys general are asking a Texas court to issue an emergency preliminary injunction against a new federal overtime rule. The rule requires overtime pay for anyone working more than 40 hours/week whose annual salary is less than $47,476. Read the full motion here

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