Weekend News & Commentary — March 2-3, 2019


Published March 3rd, 2019 - 03.03.197


The San Francisco Chronicle reports that representatives of the Oakland Education Association and Oakland Unified School District officials have reached a tentative agreement to end the seven-day-long teachers’ strike.  Under the terms of the proposed contract, Oakland educators would receive an eleven-percent raise over three years and a one-time, three-percent bonus.  The deal would also reduce class size in “high needs” schools, increase the number of support staff across the district, and impose a five-month moratorium on school closures.  The district said in a statement that the agreement “is a big win for our teachers, students and community,” while the union posted on Twitter, “This is a historic no-concessions contract with a win in every major proposal we made.  We are now leaps and bounds closer to the schools that Oakland students deserve.”  Union members are scheduled to vote on the contract later today.

On Thursday, Southwest Airlines filed suit in federal district court against the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, the union that represents its mechanics.  The complaint alleges that the union is organizing an illegal work slowdown to gain leverage in a six-year-long collective bargaining dispute, noting that the number of planes out of service at any given time has spiked from an average of 14 to as high as 62 in recent days, following an unsuccessful bargaining session.  The company’s Vice President of Labor Relations, Russell McCrady, said that the litigation “does not alter our goal of reaching an agreement that benefits our hardworking Maintenance Employees nor does it change the company’s unwavering commitment to safety.”  The union has yet to comment.

City council members in Los Angeles introduced a Fair Workweek ordinance on Friday.  The measure would require large retailers to give workers two days’ advance notice of their schedule and would grant employees the right to request schedule changes and to decline hours without fear of retaliation.  Employers would also have to guarantee employees at least ten hours off between shifts, a provision meant to target “clopening,” the practice of scheduling workers to close a store late at night and then come in early the next morning to open.  The Los Angeles Times estimates that the law would affect more than 70,000 retail employees in the city.  Councilman Curren D. Price, Jr. (9th District), one of the ordinance’s sponsors, said of the proposal, “L.A. retail workers live in economic uncertainty, making it difficult to predict their income, make time for school, or care for their families.  These workers should have the right to stability, predictability and flexibility in their work schedules.  It’s time the city of Los Angeles support retail employees by adopting a Fair Workweek policy.”

The New York Times Editorial Board called for Congress and the Trump Administration to hold Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta accountable for his involvement in structuring a 2007 plea deal and nonprosecution agreement for financier Jeffrey Epstein while serving as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.  Epstein is accused of sexually abusing more than 80 underage girls.  A federal judge recently held that Acosta violated the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Act by failing to disclose Epstein’s deal to his victims, a finding that authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to reopen the nonprosecution agreement.  The Miami Herald detailed Acosta’s role in the Epstein case last fall.

The U.S. Department of Labor has submitted a proposed rule to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs that would alter the standard for demonstrating joint employment under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The agency has not revealed any specifics, but is expected to raise the bar for when an employee can bring wage and hour clams against multiple hiring entities.  The NLRB is currently considering a similar rule that would limit joint-employer status under the NLRA to situations where both employers have “substantial, direct and immediate control” over employees and work conditions.

Finally, research released last week offers new insights into the state of the American workforce.  A report by the Center for Economic and Policy Research and the Economic Policy Institute indicates that the number of U.S. workers who have nonstandard work arrangements, including independent contracting, has actually declined in recent years.  Eileen Appelbaum, Arne Kalleberg, and Hye Jin Rho write, “In 2017, the total share of the labor force working in nonstandard arrangements was 10.1 percent, down from 10.9 percent in 2005.”  To the Wall Street Journal, the findings suggest that “[t]he gig economy isn’t the future.  It’s not even the present.”  Meanwhile, the World Bank published a gender equality index analyzing how nations’ laws impact women at every stage of their working lives.  The United States earned an overall gender equity score of 83.75, ranking below more than sixty other countries and, as Samantha Schmidt observes for the Washington Post, showing no improvement over the past decade.  The study identifies three areas in which the United States underperforms relative to peer nations in promoting gender equality in the workplace: pay equality, pension policies, and paid parental leave.

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