News & Commentary

October 20, 2020

Jon Levitan

Jon Levitan is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia is the subject of a scathing New Yorker profile written by Eyal Press. To readers of this blog, many of the subjects discussed will be familiar. But the full account of Scalia’s tenure is incredibly damning: from OSHA’s abdication of its duty to protect workers during the pandemic, to his rule making it easier for gig companies to misclassify workers as independent contractors, to his refusal to recuse himself from a rule requiring financial advisors to act in the best interests of their clients, even though he litigated against the rule as a lawyer. The piece highlights that Scalia’s reign has been particularly harmful to Black and brown workers. For example, Scalia ended a Labor department practice, created under the Obama administration, to collect not only back pay but damages from employers who committed wage theft. The bottom line, Press concludes, is that Scalia has predictably not the Secretary of Labor but “the Secretary of Employers.”

Amazon employees are pushing their employer to grant them paid time off to vote on November 3rd. Over 6,400 workers have signed a petition calling on the tech giant to make election day a paid holiday. The petition was organized by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), a group of activists within the company. Two members of AECJ were fired in April for protesting Amazon’s treatment of warehouse workers. The election day petition also highlights the lived conditions of warehouse workers: “We’re forced to choose between voting and making ends meet,” a warehouse worker said in AECJ’s press release.

Child care workers, always essential to a functioning society, have become even more critical amid the pandemic. Marcia Brown for The American Prospect profiles the industry as it undergoes a wave of union organizing. She highlights the massive win workers and organizers scored in California over the summer – when 97% percent of child care workers voted to join a union and bargain collectively with the state. Brown writes that in a moment when care work is as essential as electricity or the internet, “[w]orkers across the country are demanding that the next administration invest in the care economy, and by association, invest in the children and elderly individuals for whom they care.”

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