News & Commentary

June 9, 2019

Deanna Krokos

Deanna Krokos is a student at Harvard Law School

Last week, Annie reported on the Vox Media Union’s walkout following a 14-month bargaining process. After 29 final hours of negotiation, the union, represented by Writers Guild of America East (WGAE), reached a tentative agreement on Friday. The union sought to “set a standard” for digital journalism and bargained for competitive salaries, raises, and a stronger severance package. The agreement, the union’s first since being recognized in early 2018, must be ratified by the union before becoming final. The same day, photo and editorial staff in the Fast Company Union, also represented by WGAE, ratified their contract that included salary floors, increased benefits, paid family leave, and other victories.

The Department of Labor issued the most recent jobs report Friday, recording the addition of 75,000 jobs during May. This underperformed projections, with some economists expecting closer to 175,000. It also fell below last year’s monthly average of 223,000. The report also revised down the numbers reported for April. The New York Times reports that hiring in the retail sector hit a 3-year low, while healthcare and professional services held steady. While the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.6%, the report also revealed disappointing wage growth, lagging behind last year’s figures.

California’s Private Attorney General Law is facing a constitutional challenge by business groups. Often called PAGA, the law allows individuals to sue employers over labor violations in the role of a state enforcement agency. The law, unique to California, allows individuals to vindicate their rights in court despite employers’ increasingly common inclusion of arbitration clauses or class waivers in employment contracts. The case was brought by the California Business & Industrial Alliance, whose remaining claims turn on a theory that the law violates employers’ procedural due process rights. The law provided the basis for a ruling against Walmart last week that awarded $102 million to employees after the company issued illegal paystubs.  Filed in November, California Bus. & Indus. All. v. Becerra was allowed to proceed after a bench ruling on Thursday.

Finally, Senators Gary Peters (D-MI) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced bipartisan legislation last week to study and measure the anticipated effects of automation on the American workforce. If enacted, the Workforce Data for Analyzing and Tracking Automation Act would create a new advisory board at the Department of Labor to track the impact of automation on the American workforce, with attention to the need for job training and adjustment assistance for working people.

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