Weekend News & Commentary — Oct 13, 2019


Published October 13th, 2019 - 10.13.194


On Thursday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed new worker-protection legislation into law. AB51 forbids employers from requiring employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, and AB9 extends the time-limit for employees to file harassment and discrimination claims with the state’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing, a required step before bringing claims in court.  Each of these measures will break down barriers for employees in the state to redress workplace wrongs, and allow them to bring their claims to light in open court.  Having cleared the final step in the legislative process, the laws will take effect on January 1, 2020.

The New York Times published a piece this week examining a sort of “training guide” that workers at Google, Uber and Kickstarter have all used for advice in building power in their workplaces. “Labor Law for the Rank & File,” first published in 1978, provides guidance for workers who do not have typical union protections to build solidarity strategically and successfully. The group focuses on worker-led “solidarity unions,” which in recent years have gained more traction in different sectors. Rideshare Drivers United, Brandworkers, and the Tech Workers Coalition have all embraced this model to organize non-union employees and collectively express grievances and develop empowerment strategies.

Writing in The New York Times, Noam Scheiber examined the near uniformly progressive labor policies of the 2020 Democratic candidates. Scheiber discussed the progressive hallmarks of these campaigns that range from supporting unions, fighting forced arbitration, aggressive wage increases, and sectoral bargaining. The growing acceptance and support for these proposals indicates that in the current economy, people are looking for more than jobs– they want good jobs, with security, dignity, and opportunity.

The piece goes on to explore the shift in public opinion reflected in growing support for unions over the past decade. Scheiber describes a “growing consensus” among center-left economists that strong unions help combat growing inequality and provide a vital “check” on employer power. Since 2010, support for unions has risen from less than half of Americans to over two-thirds.

More news of organizing by local media workers. In addition to The Miami Herald  and Philadelphia’s WHYY station, workers at The Arizona Republic have voted in favor of unionizing the newsroom. Like other media workers, the decision to organize arose over concerns about job security, compensation, and the possibility of cutbacks after an acquisition. Conducted by secret ballot in accordance with the NLRB’s formal recognition process, the 64-30 vote in favor of unionization was “overwhelming.” After the NLRB certifies the election, the Arizona News Guild, a unit of News Guild-CWA, will begin the collective bargaining process.

This week on the blog, Ben wrote about the Harvard Graduate Student Union’s announcement that they will hold a strike authorization vote, and Jared gathered commentary on the oral argument in the Supreme Court’s Title VII LGBTQ+ employment discrimination case.

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