News & Commentary

September 2, 2015

In an uncommon tale, workers allege that their union serves the interests of the carnival industry, not them. The New York Times discusses the Association of Mobile Entertainment, which labor advocates accuse of being a stalking-horse for industry, specifically for two businessmen who have long recruited Mexican migrants to work at traveling carnivals across the U.S. Migrant laborers have filed suits against the union for forcing employees to work long hours for little or no additional pay, threatening to send them home if they complained, and keeping them in filthy trailers and bunkhouses. Carnivals are currently exempted from paying an hourly minimum wage to workers, and labor advocates have asked the N.L.R.B. to declare the exemption invalid. The dispute occurs amidst a broader debate about an increase in the federal minimum wage and the H2B program for temporary workers.

Employees are seeing better benefits for parental leave, but are they going to take advantage of them? In an effort to attract high-skilled millennial workers, the New York Times reports that companies are providing longer and more flexible paid leave packages for new parents. The next challenge for employers: changing workplace culture so that employees take their fully allotted leave time.

The generous leave policies don’t extend to all workers within a firm, however. Netflix granted unlimited paid maternity leave to workers on its digital side, but not to line workers. While employers (especially those in tech) offer enticing packages to women in hard-to-fill positions, they don’t extend those perks to blue-collar workers. The Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis notes the widening disparity in compensation—higher-paid workers are also more likely to get paid time off.

United Steelworkers members and allies rallied in the streets of Pittsburgh, as contract negotiations continued. The USW protested the terms of the contracts at three metals producers, and says it is unwilling to accept the proposed new terms that would not guarantee overtime pay or full-time hours. For now, U.S. Steel and Arcelor Mittal agreed to allow almost 30,000 union workers to continue under the terms of the contract that expired on Tuesday, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In the midst of back to school season, Nickelodeon’s producer announced plans to hire union teachers for all the child actors it employs. The producer Rocart, Inc. signed an agreement with the Studio Teachers Local 884, who accused Rocart of misclassifying teachers as independent contractors. According to Deadline, the Nickelodeon shows’ current teachers can keep their jobs and join the union after 30 days of covered employment.

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