Weekend News & Commentary —November 19-20, 2016

Published November 20th, 2016 -  - 11.20.162


Several hundred nonunion support staff at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago have voted to strike over the Thanksgiving holiday.  With the support of Service Employees International Union Local I, aircraft cabin cleaners, janitors, baggage handlers, and wheelchair attendants will announce on Monday the details of their planned action, part of a campaign to win a $15 minimum wage at the nation’s second busiest airport.

In a twist on recent efforts by municipalities to improve working conditions through locally elevated minimum wages or paid sick leave, Hardin County, Kentucky passed a local right to work law.  This week, the Sixth Circuit upheld that measure, one of the first right to work laws passed below the state level.  The decision held that a county government—as a political subdivision of the state—could take advantage of the exception in the National Labor Relations Act’s otherwise broad preemption regime for state right to work laws.

The New York Times examines President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign promises to coal miners, offering a bleak picture of how much success he is likely to have in restoring employment within the industry.  Long-term trends in electricity production and mining automation, along with the glut of natural gas created by fracking, make the reduction in demand for coal likely permanent.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Alex Rosenblat explores the divergent motivations of full- and part-time workers in the gig economy. She notes that a minority of Uber and Lyft drivers work for the services full-time, but that those drivers provide the majority of rides and have different concerns than their part-time colleagues, complicating efforts to organize drivers to improve employment conditions.

Finally, updating our earlier coverage of the SEPTA strike in Philadelphia, workers on Friday night overwhelmingly ratified a new contract that included significant pension, wage, and benefit increases.

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