News & Commentary

June 28, 2015

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

The Boston Globe reports that more than 35,000 home care workers in Massachusetts have won a $15 minimum wage.  Under the agreement between the government and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199, wages will rise in stages and reach $15 an hour by July 2018.  According to the Globe “the personal care attendants covered by the agreement bathe, cook for, and run errands for elderly and disabled clients who qualify for Medicaid, which is funded through the state.”  The announcement comes a year after home care workers joined the “Fight for $15” movement.

According to The Hill, Congressional Republicans are attempting to use budgetary measures to undo labor regulations championed by President Obama.  In particular, Republicans are targeting the National Labor Relations Board’s sped-up union elections process and new joint-employer and “micro-union” policies.  The Republican budget proposal would cut the NLRB’s funding by 10 percent and block officials from enforcing the new rules.  The strategy was noted by Lydia DePillis in The Washington Post.

Also in The Washington Post, Lydia DePillis writes that despite the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, the lack of any federal anti-discrimination protections means that gay, lesbian and bisexual people are still unequal in the workplace.  DePillis highlights studies showing employment discrimination and harassment against gay and lesbian people, and how 21 states, President Obama and the District of Columbia have acted to protect federal workers and those in the states that passed laws.

Reuters reports that more than 800 union workers at Exxon Mobil’s refinery in Beaumont, TX have agreed to a six-year contract.  The new agreement includes a one-time bonus and annual wage increases, and guarantees no strikes or lockouts during the six years covered by the contract.  OnLabor previously covered a national agreement between the United Steelworkers and refinery operators.

Marketwatch published a story on how part-time American workers have not received the same benefits from the economic recovery as full-time workers.  According to a new report by Rutgers University “the vast majority of the nation’s 26 million part-time workers — from college students working in coffee shops between classes to freelance computer software designers working for multinationals — receive no benefits beyond their paychecks and almost one-third say their financial condition is flat out poor.”  The story also notes that part-time workers are divided ethnically and earn less than full-time workers.

According to Compterworld, the CEO of Apple supplier Foxconn has defended his company’s questionable labor record.  At Foxconn’s annual shareholders meeting, CEO Terry Gou said that “Our workers very much love to work at this company…If I put out a recruitment poster, crowds of people will come. We’re not afraid that we can’t hire workers.”  The story notes reports of labor abuses at Foxconn factories and moves by Foxconn and Apple to address them.  While Gou dismissed continuing criticism as manufactured, protestors highlighted that Foxconn workers still lack reasonable wages.

Al Jazeera America reported on the struggles of immigrant domestic workers in Lebanon.  The story addresses efforts to formalize a union to protect the 250,000 workers, who currently have few rights under Lebanese law.  Most employers confiscate their foreign workers’ passports and many are abusive, while workers become dependent on their employers and spouses.

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