News & Commentary

September 2, 2019

Rachel Sandalow-Ash

Rachel Sandalow-Ash is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

Happy Labor Day!  Rebecca Burns writes in Truthout about why workers should celebrate this Labor Day.  Burns points to the continued success of teachers strikes; successful private-sector strikes in a diverse range of industries; increased labor support for a Green New Deal; and potential gains through the 2020 elections as some of the reasons to be optimistic about the future of worker power and the labor movement.  Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882, when 10,000 people marched in New York City for shorter hours, safer working conditions, and increased pay.  President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894 — after his administration violently suppressed the Pullman railroad strike. 

AT&T workers in the Southeast US, represented by the Communications Workers of America, have reached a tentative agreement with the company following a four-day strike.  (Jared covered the strike for OnLabor here.)  The agreement includes wage increases, improvements to workers’ pensions and 401(k) plans, increased job security and the creation of additional customer service positions.  Richard Honeycutt, the vice president of CWA District 3, noted that, “This agreement provides substantial improvements for working people at AT&T Southeast.”

The California Senate Appropriations Committee approved AB-5, legislation that would codify the ABC test for independent contractor status that the California Supreme Court adopted in its Dynamex decision.  The legislation will now go to the full Senate Floor for a final vote.  Despite an aggressive lobbying campaign by Uber and Lyft (which Vail described for OnLabor here), the Appropriations Committee did not exempt rideshare drivers from the legislation, which — if passed — would classify such drivers as employees.  However, the legislation does exempt workers in a range of occupations, including payment processing agents, freelance journalists, commercial fishermen, and hairstylists.

The Guardian profiled subcontracted and gig economy workers in the UK who are organizing and going on strike to combat low pay and poor working conditions.  While employers are using new technologies to control and surveil workers, workers are increasingly figuring out how to use these same technologies to disrupt their employers’ businesses.  For instance, striking UberEats drivers took advantage of the company’s promotional offer for new customers by “repeatedly creating new accounts and ordering low-value meals to be delivered to the picket line,” thus amassing both food for the strikers and new drivers to join the strike.  Many gig economy and subcontracted workers in the UK are organizing with United Voices of the World (UVW), a new union that was founded in 2014. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed Rebecca Burns’s article in Truthout to a different author. The post has been updated.

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