Weekend News & Commentary — August 22-23, 2015
According to The Detroit Free Press, the United Auto Workers union is trying to radically reshape worker health plans as part of its contract negotiations with the Big 3 automakers. The UAW has proposed the creation of a single health benefits co-op that would include General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler employees, with the hope that it would both save the companies money and avoid union contract concessions. According to the story “the new health care purchasing pool…would be independent and could represent 800,000 to 900,000 people, gaining leverage with insurance companies, hospitals, clinics and health care providers to get better care at more affordable rates. The idea is that a co-op of active workers, both unionized and salaried from all three companies, would work with the group that manages retiree benefits. While they would be separate entities, their combined purchasing power would benefit with the ability to strike better deals for care.” The proposition is considered risky, but automakers are open to it.
The Los Angeles Times reports on the NLRB’s pending joint employer decisions that address “whether a big company should share responsibility for the workers with intermediary hiring firms”, including Browning-Ferris. Worker advocates believe that finding joint employer relationships exist will help protect workers and place responsibility where it belongs, while anti-regulation groups believe that finding such a relationship will “upend American business practices.” The rulings would implicate large franchisors like McDonalds and their ability to “use franchise arrangements to obscure their role as the ultimate employer.”
Writing in The New York Times, Joe Nocera reviews Amazon’s Darwinian treatment of workers and founder Jeff Bezos’ unrelenting defense of the culture he created. Nocera frames the decisions made by Bezos as designed to maximize the amount of work performed by “fundamentally fungible human beings,” whereas previous generations of Americans relied on a social compact with employers promising mutual loyalty.
USA Today notes that Google Express workers in the San Francisco area have voted to unionize. The workers, who are actually employed by Acecco, process same-day deliveries. In voting to unionize, the workers expressed concerns about workplace conditions, wages and benefits. This year, other Silicon Valley service workers have voted to unionize, including shuttle drivers.
According to Roll Call, Good Jobs Nation has filed an unfair labor practice charge against Restaurant Associates on behalf of a cafeteria worker in the Dirksen Senate Office Building alleging her supervisor retaliated after she told The Guardian about her difficulty living on her low wages. The plight of Capitol Hill cafeteria workers has gotten the attention of several lawmakers, who have urged the Senate Rules Committee to push for higher wages and improved conditions as part of a new contract with Restaurant Associates.