News & Commentary

February 2, 2022

Fran Swanson

Fran Swanson is a student at Harvard Law School.

At a rally yesterday, app workers in New York City announced the formation of a new coalition, Justice for App Workers, AP reports. CBS Local 2 reports that nine groups, representing 100,000 workers, formed the coalition to call for: “a living wage, a safe work environment, an end to unfair deactivation, access to health and mental health care, access to bathrooms, [and] the right to form a union.” This comes after food delivery app workers’ recent hard-won victories, including improved bathroom access and greater transparency on pay and tips. “We’re moving the city,” said Ranjit Geuli, an Uber and Uber Eats driver who is a member of United Delivery Workers Association, one of the coalition organizations. Despite the integral role these workers play, they report struggling to pay rent and to afford the rising cost of driving and maintaining their cars. But, explained Geuli, the hope is that, “[i]f we all come together, it will be a big voice.”

The National Labor Relations Board rejected an employer’s challenge to an unfair labor practice case brought against it by the acting general counsel after President Biden fired Peter Robb, Bloomberg Law reports. Wilkes-Barre Hospital had argued that Robb was illegally fired and that invalidated the case that then-acting General Counsel Peter Sung Ohr brought against it for illegally refusing to bargain. But, the Board ruled that General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo’s ratification of those actions mooted the hospital’s argument and cited to its December ruling on the general counsel’s lack of removal protections for the proposition that Robb’s firing was legal anyway.

Workers at approximately 80 Kroger’s King Soopers approved a three-year contract, Reuters reports. The union says that over 95% of workers will get wage increases of $2/hour or more during the first year. The union initially sought a $6/hour increase for all workers, and some employees interviewed said they were disappointed that this original goal was not met and that they were worried about entry-level employee wages. Workers began striking on January 12th, and ended their strike on January 21st after a tentative deal was reached.

The New York Times reports that service workers are still denied stable hours and incomes, despite a narrative of increased worker leverage during the pandemic. Even where workers have won wage gains, many employers have been unwilling to increase workers’ hours or provide them with stable scheduling. Just-in-time scheduling disrupts people’s lives and their sleep, even impacting their children’s brain development. Part-time workers are often denied benefits and can struggle to piece together the hours they need to survive. Brenda Garcia, who works at a Chipotle in Queens, said that, despite repeated conversations with her manager, “they’re not giving me a stable job.” Sociologist Daniel Schneider explained that, “[c]ompanies are doing all they can not to bake in any gains that are difficult to claw back.”

Finally, underpaid contract nurses are fighting back against abusive employers after facing lawsuits themselves for quitting, Bloomberg Law reports. A proposed class action against staffing agency Health Carousel LLC alleges that it engaged in human trafficking, wage theft, and racketeering. Plaintiff Novie Dale Carmen, a nurse from the Philippines, said that the 200-page contract left her “trapped,” including a requirement to pay $20,000 to the company if she quit before the end of her three-year commitment. While Health Carousel was paid $52 for each hour she worked, she was only paid $25.50—and other, comparable positions paid over $35/hour. She was often forced to work overtime in a dangerously understaffed hospital, yet was told that forced overtime didn’t count toward the 6,240-hour requirement in her contract. Another plaintiff, Kersteen Flores, said the company assigned her to work in a unit she was untrained for and then fired her after she took a few days off and told her that she owed them $30,000 immediately. She explained that she only had $10,000 and was struggling with her mental health. Health Carousel responded by saying that “having a plan by which you can resolve your debt will help put your mind at ease.” The company’s motion to dismiss was denied last summer.

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