News & Commentary

September 13, 2019

Lolita DePalma

Lolita De Palma is a student at Harvard Law School.

On Thursday evening, thousands of unionized grocery store workers in California approved a new employment contract with major supermarket chains Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions, and Albertsons. UFCW leaders had advised workers to vote yes on the contract, which will last three years. UFCW president Marc Perrone said, “This contract not only rewards hard work, it provides affordable healthcare, strong pensions, and critical benefits that ensure our UFCW members are able to build the better life they’ve earned.” The previous contract had expired in March and workers had voted in June to authorize a strike if contract negotiations proved unsuccessful.

Google reached a settlement with the NLRB over employee complaints that the company has punished employees for expressing dissenting views. Google must now assure employees that they are allowed to speak out on political and workplace issues. While the most public complainant, Kevin Cernekee, alleged that Google fired him for expressing unpopular right-leaning political beliefs, left-leaning staff have also expressed concerns that Google has stymied their attempts to protest YouTube’s lax policies on hate speech. The NLRB has denied Mr. Cernekee’s requests for reinstatement and backpay.

Kickstarter has now fired two union organizers within the company. Clarissa Redwine was fired last week after working for the company since 2016. Taylor Moore was fired on Thursday after working for the company since 2013. Kickstarter alleges that the firings were for purely performance-related reasons. Redwine and the Office and Professional Employees International Union have filed an unfair labor charge with the NLRB, alleging that the nondisparagement clause in her proposed severance agreement is illegal. While Kickstarter has now offered to narrow the nondisparagement clause “only to statements about the company’s employees,” Redwine finds this compromise unsatisfactory: “I feel strongly that any agreement that treats severance as repayment for silence is an unethical one.”

Whole Foods has announced that it will be withdrawing medical benefits for its part-time workers starting January 1, 2020. Employees will now need to work at least 30 hours (instead of 20) to qualify for the health-care plan. Up to 1,900 workers will be affected.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.