Weekend News & Commentary — October 17-18, 2015

Published October 18th, 2015 -  - 10.18.153


The Detroit Free Press reports that the United Auto Workers are preparing to submit their revised national agreement with Fiat Chrysler to their membership for ratification.  While workers appear less opposed to this agreement than the initial rejected one, leadership has instituted a different voting schedule to increase the probability of a “yes” vote.  Voting will take place on Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to ThinkProgress, a former employee of national retailer Forever 21 has sued the company in California, alleging its “flexible scheduling” policies violate state law.  The former employee claims that “the company requires employees to be on call for shifts but doesn’t compensate them with required pay for being made to report to work yet being sent home, as per California law.”  A similar class action was filed against retailer BCBG Max Azria last week.  Notably, “California law stipulates that employees be compensated with “reporting time pay” for being required to report to work but only being asked to work less than half of the actual shift.  That pay is supposed to come to an employee’s regular rate of pay for half of a day’s work.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asks whether workers should be compensated for time spent conducting business via phones and laptops outside of the office.  The Department of Labor is considering redefining wage-and-hour reporting standards for out-of-office work on electronic devices pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Writing for The Washington Post, Lydia DePillis describes how outsourcing distribution has allowed grocers to reduce their unionized workforce.  DePillis describes the trend in the industry and its implications for unions and workers.

Historic New York electronics retailer B&H is facing worker claims of discrimination and exploitation as well as a unionization campaign.  The Nation highlights that the claims include that warehouse workers “labor several hours straight without eating or drinking, sometimes in sweltering heat,” are denied breaks and sick days, and that the predominantly Latino workforce is discriminated against.  Thus far, 199 of 240 workers have signed union authorization cards.

Bloomberg highlights the publication of a report by Goldman Sachs economists that bodes well for older Americans in the workforce.  The report predicts that there will likely be an increase in the participation of 55-64 year olds in the labor market, and that men in that age bracket may continue to work longer in the future.

The New York Times profiled the International Association of Fire Fighters union and its president, Harold A. Schaitberger.  Schaitberger has allowed the union to gain considerable political influence despite a membership of only 300,000, yet is known to live a luxurious lifestyle with considerable expenditures on his behalf by the union.

Also in The New York Times, Gail Collins criticizes the government and presidential candidates for ignoring America’s low rate of female participation in the workplace.  She notes the adverse impact of women falling out of the workforce on the American economy, and calls on policies to address the problem.

Minneapolis is considering legislation to allow for paid sick leave for all workers, joining 19 cities and 1 county across the county.  MPR News notes that under the city’s proposal, “workers would be able to accrue between five and nine sick days — depending on the size of the company they work for — and carry them over from year to year.”

Two of Australia’s most significant unions are in talks to merge.  According the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, senior officials from the Construction, Mining and Energy Union and the Maritime Union of Australian met in Sydney last week to formulate a proposal.

The Cornell Daily Sun reports that 21 unions from private universities across the country met last week to discuss their campaigns and reforms in higher education.  Additionally, the unions held a “We Are Workers Day of Action” to bring public awareness to graduate student unionization efforts.

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