Weekend News & Commentary — February 10-11, 2018

Published February 11th, 2018 -  - 02.11.1814


Jon Steingart at Bloomberg Law details how the GrubHub litigation could find new legs at the trial court level. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held on Feb. 8 that former GrubHub delivery driver Raef Lawson was not an employee as Lawson had contended. Judge Coreley used the “Borello” test for worker classification used by the California Supreme Court – but the state’s highest court is currently considering adopting a different test for worker classification in another case. Lawson’s lawyer, Shannon Liss-Riordan “said she was surprised Corley decided the GrubHub case before knowing whether the supreme court would change the classification test,” and would be appealing the decision.

Speaking of the gig economy, an op-ed at Wired argues that in the UK the  “gig economy is being fuelled by exploitation, not innovation.” Don Lane was a delivery driver for DPD when he died in January after missing doctors appointments and collapsing as a result of complications with diabetes. Lane “reportedly missed appointments because he felt under pressure to complete his rounds for DPD and faced £150 penalties for every day he failed to find cover. He was fined for attending one appointment and subsequently missed three others.”

Also in gig news, Waymo accepted a settlement from Uber in its self-driving tech trade secret lawsuit against the company. Along with giving Waymo a 0.34% stake in equity (valued at approximately $245 million) Uber “has committed to a legally binding agreement that they will not use Waymo hardware or software intellectual property in their own self-driving car technology.” The end of Waymo v. Uber marks a new era for self-driving cars. 

Tesla is facing accusations that workers building its Model 3, Model S, and Model X cars at its factory in Freemont, California are being painfully and permanently injured. “15 people who worked in Tesla’s factory within the last five years describe it as a backbreaking job that placed workers under tremendous pressure to produce — a result of the company’s ambitious production targets — that they say led, in some cases, to lifelong injuries.” The Freemont factory is the only nonunion US-owned automotive plant in the country. A prolabor organization, Worksafe, analyzed occupational safety data and found that in 2015, Tesla’s rate of serious injury was more than double the national average. But Tesla and CEO Elon Musk are reimagining the car factory; Musk, calls it “the machine that builds the machine.”

In Germany, IG Metall, Europe’s largest industrial union, has won the right for workers “to reduce their working week to just 28 hours for a temporary period of up to two years. Employers will not be able to block individual workers from taking up the offer.” “The agreement came after IG Metall called three 24-hour strikes and workers downed tools at companies including Daimler, Siemens and Airbus. But economists say it is also a sign that factors such as work-life balance could be as important as pay in future negotiations. IG Metall reportedly turned down a 6.8 per cent pay increase in favour of the reduced working week.” 

The U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team knows the power of sticking together, and not just on the ice. “The Olympic tournament comes less than a year after the U.S. women put their playing careers and their gold medal dreams on the line in a labor dispute with USA Hockey.” After threatening to boycott the 2017 World Championships, the team and USA Hockey reached a landmark deal for increased financial support and insurance.

“It was huge,” captain Meghan Duggan said of the labor dispute. “The unity and the strength and the energy you gain in a locker room from going through something like that. It was difficult and we really had to rely on each other and trust each other and communicate with each other, and I think it really bonded us.

“If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?” Carl A. Zimring argues that we should revisit Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to action from his “Mountaintop” speech in support of striking sanitation workers in 1968. The hazards facing sanitation workers today may be no less vicious than they were then. ” A ProPublica report from January revealed that in New York City, “conditions are especially difficult for employees of the private waste haulers who collect trash from the city’s businesses each night…those who work for private companies are paid as little as $80 a shift, with no overtime or health or retirement benefits … This means it’s common for the nonunion employees of private companies — 60 percent of whom are members of racial minority groups — to earn less than $35,000 annually.”

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