Today’s News & Commentary—September 11, 2019
On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced a proposal to extend health insurance benefits to the families of approximately 5,000 city employees who assisted police and firefighters with rescue and recovery efforts on and after September 11, 2001. Under current law, only the families of city workers who died while on active duty are eligible to receive benefits. The proposal must pass the City Council, whose speaker, Corey Johnson, supports it.
Also on Tuesday, de Blasio and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Commissioner Lorelei Salas announced a lawsuit against fast-food restaurant Chipotle for violating the city’s Fair Workweek Law. The suit is the first to be brought against a publicly held corporate fast-food chain under the law, which was passed in 2017 and intended to give hourly workers more stable schedules and paychecks. In its complaint, the city alleges that five Chipotle locations in Brooklyn violated the law by failing to provide good-faith estimates of work schedules, failing to provide schedules two weeks in advance, failing to get consent or pay premiums for last minute schedule changes or schedules that required employees to work closing shifts followed by opening shifts, and failing to offer newly available shifts to current employees. The city is seeking at least $1 million in penalties and restitution for workers, and is also continuing to investigate complaints at 11 additional Chipotles in Manhattan.
The New York Times reported that Assembly Bill 5, the California bill that would classify Uber and Lyft drivers, as well as other gig workers, as employees under California employment law, is poised to pass the state legislature this week. The expected vote comes after months of negotiations between Uber, Lyft, and unions over an alternative proposal that would provide gig economy workers with fewer protections but the right to form a union, which AB5 does not currently grant. (For a more detailed discussion of the deal, see Ben and Sharon’s post, here, and for a discussion of AB5, see guest contributors Veena Dubal and Sanjukta Paul’s two-part post, here and here.) California Governor Gavin Newsom, who endorsed the bill on Labor Day, is expected to sign it. Uber and Lyft are likely to keep pushing for a separate measure to scale back the bill’s protections in exchange for granting their drivers the right to unionize. (The companies have also pledged $30 million each to fund a state ballot initiative to exempt their drivers from employment status.) Meanwhile, Uber laid off 435 workers on Tuesday in its products and engineering teams after reporting a record quarterly loss of $5.2 billion and its slowest-ever revenue growth.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Census Bureau figures released Tuesday show that American incomes remained essentially flat in 2018 after three straight years of growth. According to an economist quoted by the Journal, stagnant incomes can be attributed to industry consolidation, employers’ increasing ability to substitute technology for labor, and the continuing decline of unions. The Census Bureau data also show that the percentage of Americans who lack health insurance rose for the first time since 2009.
The Washington Post reported that black and Hispanic men seeking small business loans face more scrutiny and worse treatment from bank officers than less qualified white men, according to a recent study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. The study evaluated customer service interactions between small business lending representatives at 60 Los Angeles banks and testers posing as prospective borrowers, and found that the bank representatives asked white testers fewer questions about eligibility and provided them with more information about loan products than they did black or Hispanic testers, and were friendlier and more likely to introduce themselves to white testers. The study also found that government-backed lending to black business owners dropped from 8 percent in 2008 to 3 percent in 2016.