Part of the current infrastructure bill has a provision that could give competitive advantage to unionized telecom workforces. The bill gives preference to companies with a record of adhering to labor and employment laws for distribution of the $42.5 billion in broadband funds. State and local governments and nonprofits that receive broadband work funds would be required to consider a company’s “demonstrated record of and plans to be in compliance with federal labor and employment laws” before awarding the project funds. This factor is part of a four-factor analysis including the speed of the broadband service, how fast the project can be completed, and whether it serves a high poverty, underserved area. However, the bill’s provision could deter larger companies from seeking the federal money and could be difficult to enforce. Accepting the funds could also require companies to comply with the Davis-Bacon Act, which “requires construction contractors on federally funded projects to pay at least the local prevailing wage plus fringe benefits.” This would give some unions an advantage for work bidding, since often that pay aligns with what unions have already negotiated prior.
Activision Blizzard has agreed to pay $18 million in a settlement with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after the agency filed a civil rights complaint against the video game publisher on Monday. The EEOC’s complaint accused the company of pregnancy discrimination, unequal pay for female employees, sexual harassment, and retaliation. The settlement money will first go to compensating eligible claimants, and any remaining money will be donated to charities “[advancing] women in the video game industry or [promoting] awareness around harassment and gender equality issues” and to Activision diversity initiatives. The settlement does not affect the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing’s ongoing lawsuit against the company, which was filed in July and alleges similar workplace violations.
Governor Newsom signed a slate of worker protection legislation designed to benefit garment industry workers, domestic workers, workers with disabilities, farmworkers, and workers suffering from wage theft. One law ends piece-rate compensation in the garment industry in California, which has been used to pay workers below minimum wage, and expands liability for unpaid wages and wage theft for fashion brands. Another law creates an advisory committee to recommend state policies to protect domestic workers’ health and safety. One law in the legislation suite prohibits employers from paying workers with disabilities less than minimum wage by phasing out subminimum wage certificate programs. The law targeting farmworkers updates the state’s definition of essential workers in order to give agricultural workers access to state PPE to protect them from wildfire smoke, while also making wildfire smoke events a health emergency triggering PPE distribution. Lastly, the new law targeting wage theft makes wage, benefits, or compensation theft greater than $950 for one employee or $2350 for two or more employees within a 12-month period punishable as grand theft.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Graduate Student Union publicly announced its unionization campaign yesterday. The group held a kickoff rally with reportedly 1000 graduate workers in attendance and has begun collecting card signatures. The union’s stated goals are to fight for fair work expectations, necessary work resources, funding security, affordable housing, comprehensive benefits, and protections for international workers.