Weekend News & Commentary
The U.S. federal government headed into a partial shutdown Friday evening as the White House and Congress remained at an impasse over funding for President Trump’s border wall. The partial shutdown, which affects one-quarter of the federal government, has left 800,000 federal workers without pay. Approximately 420,000 employees deemed essential, including air traffic controllers and Transportation Security Administration employees, are required to work without pay over the holidays, while another 380,000 employees will be furloughed.
While many government workers are left struggling to make ends meet while waiting for back pay this holiday season, employees of federal government contractors stand to lose their pay entirely. Although federal employees typically receive back pay when their agencies temporarily close, this does not apply to the roughly 2,000 janitors, security guards, food service workers and other federal building workers employed as contractors for the federal government. When the government faced a 16-day shutdown in 2013, about 1,200 federal building workers working as contractors with the federal government were unable to collect compensation. As nearly 80 percent of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, contract workers affected by the shutdown will be forced to exhaust their savings to pay bills and use sick days and vacation time to cover lost wages.
Uber has reached a tentative settlement with drivers arbitrating over driver classification and expense reimbursement, TechCrunch reported Saturday. According to the report, Uber has offered to pay 11 cents for every mile driven for the company to drivers who have been in individual arbitration with the company over their employment classification. The 11 cents per mile Uber is offering as a settlement is estimated to be only one third of what drivers could have recovered for expense reimbursement if they had pursued arbitration rather than opting for the settlement. The drivers had pursued individual arbitration after the Ninth Circuit ruled in September that Uber could force drivers into individual arbitration, frustrating a class-action suit over driver classification. News of a tentative settlement comes as the company prepares to go public in 2019.
Members of the Seattle City Council voted this week to strip language about pay negotiations from an ordinance that allowed drivers for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft to bargain collectively. In 2015, the city council voted to establish a framework for contract drivers to organize and bargain for agreements on issues including pay, working conditions, safe driving practices and equipment standards. Although three years have passed since then, the city’s efforts have been put on hold due to lawsuits from a group of Uber and Lyft drivers who claimed that the law violated their rights to free speech and association, and from the US Chamber of Commerce, which argued that drivers did not have the right to unionize because they are independent contractors rather than employees.
In the UK, yeoman warders at the Tower of London went on strike for the first time since 1963 in a dispute in response to changes in pensions. The workers, popularly known as beefeaters, were joined by other staff at Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace during a three-hour walkout on Friday. Similar actions are expected to take place this coming week and into the new year by members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and GMB union, who claim that changes to pensions will leave staff “significantly worse off” in retirement.