Weekend News & Commentary — March 23–24, 2019


Published March 24th, 2019 - 03.24.193


Uber and Lyft drivers plan to strike Monday, refusing to drive in protest of impending pay docks.  The Los Angeles Times reports on the drivers’ rising ire and on their recent organizing efforts.  Protest organizers/leaders have expressed that pay may be the right concern to galvanize and unify drivers who have been, generally, less concerned or animated regarding the question of whether to be treated as independent contractors or employees.   Rideshare Drivers United anticipates a broader participation rate in tomorrow’s action than in a 2017 attempt at a strike; leaders recognize that the key concern of struggling drivers right now is simply earning enough for “gas in the car . . . so that we can actually pay our rent and put food on the table for our family.”   The protesting group demands from Uber only a course reversal to older rates – a 25% raise will return to the pay available in September, 2018.  Lyft has similarly lowered pay in recent months.  Both Uber and Lyft are motivated to cut costs as they prepare for their widely anticipated public offerings; Lyft’s IPO is coming this week.  As the Guardian describes, driver discontent is not confined to L.A., but New York City’s recent enactment of a minimum wage for rideshare drivers is a model for lobbying efforts elsewhere.

The NCAA will appeal the March 8 ruling that lifted strict limits on how much schools can pay their football and basketball players and allowed for broader compensation for expenses “related to education.”  Judge Claudia Wilken, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, found that the NCAA’s limits violated antitrust law; she did not, however, find that athletes in revenue-generating sports had a right to participate in a free market with competitive pay for their services, as the plaintiffs asserted.  The NCAA argues (according to a statement from COO/CLO Donald Remy) that Wilken erred in finding that the court had authority to “micromanage decisions about education-related support” to student-athletes; the schools and conferences should be able to “strengthen and revise rules,” without the burden of having the rules teased out in “continuous litigation.”

As AP News notes, the NCAA’s announcement of appeal to the Ninth Circuit comes when the Division I basketball tournament draws the attention of fans across the nation, who tune into CBS per a 22-year, $19.6 billion deal for broadcasting rights, or pay nearly $300 for a live seat at a game.  An estimated 24 million individuals participate in (mostly illegal) bracket pools, betting on tournament outcomes.   (Studies suggest that the workplace distraction of March Madness has costed corporations around $6.3 billion in productivity losses.)  While players receive $0 for their performance (beyond scholarships for tuition), the organization, conferences, schools, athletics staff, host cities, media outlets and sponsors have a lot of money on the line.

In Syracuse, New York, a reform-minded police chief is experiencing what he calls “expected turbulence” from the city’s officers’ union.  Chief Kenton Buckner seeks to improve use-of-force policies, reduce police overtime hours, and encourage diversity in hiring/promotions by easing seniority privileges.  The union, which grew especially distrustful of Buckner after he told a community group that he is trying to extract from the department its “rotten to the core” bad apples, publicly protested his leadership at the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade last week – breaking with tradition, officers refused to join the chief in marching.  Buckner’s attention to community concerns regarding policing has also angered the union, which considers his loyalty and attention misdirected.  As the Syracuse News explains, in addition to filing grievances, the union is hoping that Buckner will be unable to satisfy New York’s training requirements for new entrants to the state; Buckner previously served as chief of police in Little Rock, Arkansas, and has only a provisional appointment while he complies with state regulations regarding training hours and certifications.

In Bakersfield, California, the teacher’s union has struck a one-year deal with the school district, but union members decry the outcome as unsatisfying.  A 2% raise falls below expectations and demands for a 4.5% boost.  The deal was negotiated with the help of a state mediator, and will be in effect (retroactively) for the 2018-19 school year.

In Denver, Colorado, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, representing 12,000 workers, continues to negotiate its contract with King Soopers supermarket.  But negotiations do not seem to be progressing smoothly, as both sides have offered conflicting assessments of the process and the spirit of talks at the bargaining table.

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