News & Commentary

October 5, 2016

Alexander W. Miller

Alexander W. Miller is a student at Harvard Law School.

Having failed to reach a contract agreement despite nineteen bargaining sessions over several months, UNITE HERE Local 26 announced that beginning this morning at 6:00 AM, all Harvard University dining hall workers would strike.  The University and the union have been unable to come to terms on medical benefits for employees and changes to compensation that would account for the term breaks that prevent most workers from obtaining shifts year-round.

The New York Times reports on the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari earlier this week in O’Bannon v. NCAA.  The denial leaves in place a Ninth Circuit decision rejecting certain payments to student athletes not related to education.  That decision also held, however, that the NCAA had unlawfully restrained trade through its compensation rules.  Though the lower court ruling had not been seen as a victory for either side, the Times suggests that the additional scrutiny to which the case subjected the student athlete model has improved the lives of athletes and boosted efforts to unionize some teams.

The Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced yesterday that 95% of its investigations of restaurants in fiscal year 2016 in the Austin, Texas area found violations of federal labor law.  The division indicated that it will increase enforcement and outreach in the restaurant industry throughout the Southwest because of the pervasiveness of the noncompliance.  The 2016 figures represented an improvement on the prior year, in which 98% of investigations found violations.

DOL enforcement efforts elsewhere saw better news, with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs announcing a 1.6 million dollar settlement with Tyson Foods stemming from allegations of systemic hiring discrimination at plants in Texas, Arkansas, and New Mexico.  Nearly six thousand workers will receive back wages, interest, and benefits, and 474 will receive job offers as new positions open.  Tyson, though not admitting liability, also agreed to revamp its hiring and training procedures.

Emily Bazelon of the New York Times Magazine explores the changing politics of working motherhood, observing that over the past quarter century conservative politicians have increasingly abandoned the Republican Party’s longstanding derision of mothers working outside of the home.  She looks at the role prominent conservative politicians like Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin have played in this transition, and notes the current trend toward reframing discussions surrounding paid leave, child care, and equal pay as issues concerning working families rather than mothers.

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