News & Commentary

October 8, 2021

Tascha Shahriari-Parsa

Tascha Shahriari-Parsa is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that U.S. added 194,000 jobs in September—compared to 366,000 in August and over 1 million in July. Wages grew by 0.6% or an average 19 cents per hour, a slowdown from last month. The unemployment rate decreased to 4.8%, though much of this drop is attributable to people leaving the work force entirely. By race, Black unemployment went down from 8.8% to 7.9%, compared to 4.5% to 4.2% for Whites and no substantial difference for Asians and Hispanics whose unemployment rates remained at 4.2% and 6.3% respectively. Although a tightening labor market means some reductions in the Black-White unemployment gap, the gap will continue to persist—especially during periods of recession—so long as the U.S. economy is shaped by structural racism.

In the D.C. Circuit on Thursday, U.S. Circuit Judge Cornelia Pillard expressed skepticism towards a Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) September 20 ruling that limited the situations in which an agency must bargain over changes to employees’ jobs before implementing them. The FLRA had held that under the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS), the agencies only need to negotiate changes that have a “substantial impact” over employees’ work conditions—rather than needing to negotiate all rulings with non-trivial effects on workers. In a consolidated challenge, three federal-sector unions argued that the FLRA’s recent ruling was unlawful. Although the FLRA ruling brings the FSLMRS interpretation in line with the NLRA, the FSLMRS contains specific statutory exceptions that are not found in the NLRA; this suggests via the exclusion unius cannon of statutory interpretation that agencies would need to bargain over any changes that do not fall under one the explicit exceptions of the statute.

An Amazon worker who worked at two warehouses in Colorado Springs filed a proposed class action on Tuesday claiming that Amazon failed to compensate warehouse workers for time spent waiting in line to have their temperatures checked and answer questions for COVID-19 screening before being able to clock-in to work, a process that generally took 20-60 minutes. The proposed class action would encompass over 10,000 workers in Colorado Springs Amazon warehouses. Amazon has argued in California that such time is not compensable because it benefits workers; however, this suite alleges that the time is compensable under Colorado law, which states that workers must be paid when they are required to be on their employer’s premises or on duty. Walmart raised the same defense in a very similar proposed class action lawsuit in Arizona.

Today, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Maria Ressa, a journalist and human rights activist in the Philippines who has helped uncover corruption in Rodrigo Duterte’s regime. Ressa was arrested and convicted by the Duterte government for “cyberlibel,” which many have seen as a pretext to stifle her oppositional campaigns. Countless Human rights activists, lawyers and labor leaders have been arrested and assassinated under the Duterte regime, including 35-year old trade union leader Dandy Miguel who was killed earlier this year after making a complaint to the Commission of Huma Rights about extrajudicial killings. The Philippine Human Rights Act, reintroduced in Congress earlier this year, would suspend U.S. financial and military support for the Philippines’ military and police. The Nobel Peace Prize was also awarded to Russian journalist and newspaper editor Dmitry Muratov, who dedicated the prize to six of his staff who had been murdered for their work.

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