Today’s News & Commentary — September 18, 2019


Published September 18th, 2019 - 09.18.195


The Working Families Party announced its support for Elizabeth Warren’s presidential candidacy on Monday.  The New York Times notes that the labor-aligned progressive group’s electoral influence has increased since the last presidential election, in which it endorsed Bernie Sanders.  “Senator Warren strikes fear into the hearts of the robber barons who rigged the system, and offers hope to millions of working people who have been shut out of our democracy and economy,” said the national party director Maurice Mitchell in a statement.

The United Auto Workers union strike against General Motors continues (for prior coverage, see Ryan’s post yesterday).  Politico reports that the Trump administration is seeking to end the strike through facilitating negotiations and other efforts that would “effectively put the White House on the side of the UAW.”  However, GM has denied that the president is involved in any negotiations.  Bloomberg reports that GM has cut off health care coverage for striking UAW workers.  And in an op-ed for the New York Times, Steven Greenhouse places the UAW strike in context of other recent successful strikes, including the Marriott workers’ strike last fall and the Stop & Shop workers’ strike in April.  Greenhouse notes that “[t]he strong public opinion behind these strikes can be tied to Americans’ widespread dismay with wage stagnation and income inequality, even as corporate profits are flying high.”

In an op-ed for The Hill, Terri Gerstein writes that ending forced arbitration is a bipartisan issue—and consequently, House Republicans should support the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act (FAIR Act), which is expected to be considered on the House floor this month.  The FAIR Act would prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts involving consumers, workers, and small businesses. Gerstein emphasizes that passing the FAIR act is a matter of safeguarding foundational rights: “The Founding Fathers would be shaking their heads at the idea that corporations could block consumers, workers, and other ordinary people harmed from meaningful access to courts.” 

Sarah Kessler writes for OneZero that even though the gig economy may account for a small portion of the U.S. workforce, companies like Uber and Lyft can serve as a catalyst for changing outdated labor laws.  Kessler points to AB 5, California’s new worker classification bill, as an example—even if classic gig economy companies brought the bill national attention, it is estimated to impact several million workers across many different industries. Kessler discusses the ripple effect of this kind of legislation with HLS professor (and OnLabor Editor-In-Chief) Benjamin Sachs. 

Finally, The New York Times Style Section published a series of articles called “The Office: An Analysis,” exploring the many  quirks of modern office culture. Some of the pieces describe the rise of personality tests and mandatory social events in the workplace, while another breaks down the “awkward but essential art” of office chitchat.

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