News & Commentary

June 7, 2015

Lydia DePillis’s latest piece in the Washington Post discusses the recent vote by interns at the American Federation of Teachers to join the Office and Professional Employees International Union. “Of all workplace positions,” DePillis opines, “perhaps none is quite so exploitable — at least stereotypically — as the intern.” She goes on to situate the vote within a larger youth-oriented trend in organized labor, citing the vote by writers at Gawker and the “nationwide organizing among youngish low-wage workers” as evidence that “the labor movement might be having a millennial moment.” Of course, organizing interns poses its own unique challenges, namely that “interns are, almost by definition, not sticking around for a long time,” “[o]nly paid interns are technically eligible to join unions,” and “there’s a lot of pressure to internship arrangements that prioritize getting a great recommendation from your boss over the immediate return of being paid for your labor.”

The New York Times reports that Patrick Lynch, controversial leader of the NYC Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, has won reelection to a fifth term. Lynch, who received national attention after brazenly challenging NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio in the wake of last year’s anti–police violence protests, received 70% of the votes cast despite facing two challengers. For his part, Lynch was “unapologetic for having sparred with the mayor, saying that he was merely giving voice to his members’ beliefs and that his angry statements eventually caused Mr. de Blasio to show more respect for the police.”

As reported by Politico, the NLRB has declined to assert jurisdiction over the Chickasaw Nation’s WinStar World Casino. The decision, available here, focuses in large part on an 1830 treaty which “established that the ‘U.S. shall forever secure [the Chickasaw Nation] from, and against, all laws except such as from time to time may be enacted in their own National Councils.'” Though the NLRB has recently asserted jurisdiction over other Native American/Indian entities, such as the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Tribal Government and the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort, “this case confirms its reach does not necessarily apply to all Indian lands.” Notably, Politico also reports that the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs is days away from considering legislation that would prohibit the NLRB from regulating workplaces on Native American/Indian land.

Per the Los Angeles Times, the farmworkers’ strike in Baja California, Mexico has officially ended. Representatives for the laborers and the government have signed an agreement that not only raises the minimum wage, but also “guarantees workers’ rights to social security benefits and overtime pay, requires the government to improve infrastructure and allows for worker oversight of farm inspections by labor officials.” Sara Lara, farm labor researcher at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, called the agreement a “watershed moment.” However, some workers “reacted somberly to the agreement,” describing the concessions as “crumbs.”

The St. Louis Post Dispatch has extensive coverage on last week’s vote by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to veto a bill that would have made the Show Me State the twenty-sixth “right-to-work” state in the nation. Nixon explained that “[f]or generations, the ability of workers to join together and bargain collectively for fair wages, and training has lifted the living standards of families everywhere both union and non-union.” He also promised to work to ensure that proponents of the bill could not muster enough votes to override his veto; it passed both houses with insufficient votes to do so.

Could UFC fighters be the next set of athletes to unionize? SB Nation features a lengthy interview with Northwestern University School of Law Professor Zev Eigen discussing that very question. The interview touches on topics such as the difference between a labor union and a professional association, and whether UFC fighters should be classified as employees or independent contractors.

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