Weekend News & Commentary — April 20-21, 2019
The New York Times reported that workers at a Boeing manufacturing plant in South Carolina have complained of defective manufacturing and retaliation for reporting violations—in the wake of systemic safety concerns about two of Boeing’s flagship planes, the 737 Max and the 787 Dreamliner. In addition to ignoring issues raised by employees, company leadership also urged managers not to hire unionized workers from its Seattle area manufacturing facilities, hampering their ability to build an experienced workforce. “They didn’t want us bringing union employees out to a nonunion area,” said a former quality manager, even though “there wasn’t the qualified labor pool locally.” South Carolina has the lowest union density of any U.S. state, which likely played a role in Boeing’s decision to locate its manufacturing operations there.
As the Stop and Shop strike enters a new week, the Boston Globe reported that visits by loyal customers have declined 75% during the strike, and many stores are empty and unstocked. Following Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg was the latest presidential candidate to visit one of the strike’s picket lines, joining Stop & Shop workers on Friday in Malden, Massachusetts.
Despite Instacart’s recent promise to improve worker pay, a new report from Working Washington, a labor advocacy group in Washington state, indicates that the grocery delivery company’s hourly wages for its contractors remain paltry. The report analyzed fees for over 900 assignments offered to Instacart’s workers as well as 500 weekly pay reports, and found that contractors make an average of $7.66 an hour—far less than Washington’s state minimum hourly wage of $12. The federal minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 per hour, although Instacart has designated its “shoppers” as independent contractors who are not subject to federal or state minimum wage laws. The company announced in February that it would begin guaranteeing minimum payments of $10 per “batch” to its shoppers, although it appears to include tips in that amount, which Working Washington says should be excluded. Instacart is currently valued at nearly $8 billion.
The New York Times profiled regents and former players of the University of Colorado who are speaking out against college football, given mounting evidence of the brain damage it causes.”The University of Colorado has come closer than most institutions to wrestling with an urgent question: Is running a college football program unconscionable?” wrote Michael Powell. A recent study from Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center found evidence of degenerative brain disease in 99% of brains obtained from deceased NFL players, 91% of college football players, and 21% of high school football players. The profile noted that unlike professional players, college football players are not employees and therefore not eligible for workers’ compensation or disability benefits when they experience head trauma.