News & Commentary

February 9, 2020

Yesterday John Myers at the Los Angeles Times profiled Lorena Gonzalez, the tenacious California assembly member behind AB5.  The profile follows an almost-certain court victory for the pioneering law, which is aimed at curbing misclassification of workers in the gig economy.  On Friday, Uber and Postmates urged a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the law’s enforcement.  The companies argued that the numerous exemptions in the law are proof that AB5 unfairly targets app-based companies like them.  OnLabor senior contributor Charlotte Garden predicted the effort would fail, telling Bloomberg that “it’s reasonable and appropriate for legislatures to regulate work based on how companies operate.”  Her prediction was likely right.  At the hearing, U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, one of the few former labor lawyers on the federal bench, said that she “can’t second guess the legislature unless [the companies] show [her] an example of an exemption that absolutely doesn’t make sense,” adding that Uber and Postmates have “a steep hill to climb.”

Vance Pearson, the former deputy to UAW ex-president Gary Jones, plead guilty on Friday to charges that he worked with other UAW officials to embezzle union funds to cover personal expenses.  The plea deal’s terms include a prison sentence between 24 and 30 months (reviewable by a judge) and an agreement by the prosecution not to bring additional charges against Pearson if he continues to cooperate with the investigation.  Pearson will also turn over money he personally embezzled from union funds, as well as goods he purchased using the money.  While Jones has not yet been charged, Pearson’s plea makes that step increasingly likely.  Twelve defendants have now plead guilty in the scheme.

Six months ago, writing, production, and editorial staff at The Ringer, the popular sports and pop culture website founded by Bill Simmons, formed and won voluntarily recognition of their union.  In January, news reports that Spotify was in negotiations to purchase the site prompted the union to publicly express concerns about workers’ future at the company.  Spotify is an audio platform, but only some staff at The Ringer focus on podcasting. With confirmation of the purchase on Wednesday, the union called on the company to meet promptly with the bargaining committee to discuss the implications of the sale.

On Friday the Ninth Circuit held that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) reached the right conclusion when it found that a Las Vegas casino violated federal labor law when it refused to bargain with a duly certified union of slot-machine technicians.  The technicians are represented by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 501, which also represents other employees at the casino.  The employer had argued that the technicians are “guards” because they enforce the casino’s underage drinking and gaming policies.  Under the National Labor Relations Act, the NLRB cannot certify a union that includes both guard and non-guard employees at a worksite, since guards may be deployed by the employer during labor disputes with a union of non-guard employees.  The Ninth Circuit, agreeing with the NLRB, found that the technicians are not guards because their primary duty is maintaining slot machines, not policing activity on the casino floor.

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