News & Commentary

October 28, 2016

Leora Smith

Leora Smith is a student at Harvard Law School.

A new report from Maina Kiai, the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and associations, looks at the weakening of workers’ rights protections around the world with a focus on the most marginalized workers: global supply chain workers, informal, domestic and migrant workers. The report examines how the current state of workers’ rights developed and what protections should be put in place worldwide to advance labor rights, including new accountability mechanisms for multinational corporations.

Closer to home, New York is set to pass one of the country’s first pieces of legislation that directly addresses the gig economy. The Freelance Isn’t Free Act sets standards for freelance contracts, increases damages for freelances who take non-paying clients to court, and allows New York City’s  Office of Labor Policy and Standards to file lawsuits against repeat offenders. Currently, freelancers who aren’t paid by clients must take cases to small claims court, where damages are capped at $5000. The new law, which the Mayor is expected to sign into force now that it has been passed by City Council, would allow claimants to collect double damages and attorney’s fees. According to the Freelancers Union almost three-quarters of freelancers have experienced challenges in getting clients to pay.

And while the Fight for $15 pushes on their path to raise minimum wages and transform the fast food industry on a large scale, some workers in Vancouver, Washington are trying a different tactic – organizing fast-food unions franchise by franchise. Read more about the work of the Burgerville Workers Union here

Finally, while things keep moving at the local level, another federal policy has hit a roadblock. Politico reports on “[a]nother day, another Obama administration regulation blocked nationwide by a federal court in Texas.” Judge Maria Crone imposed a nationwide injunction on President Obama’s “Fair Play and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order, which requires companies applying for federal contracts to reveal allegations and findings of labor law violations. Judge Crone held that the Order exceeded Congress’ intentions for addressing labor law violations, and amounted to compelled speech – a First Amendment violation.






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