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Washington state eyes law that would give rideshare workers benefits, independent status

March 9, 2022

Meghan McCarty Carino
Marketplace

The state of Washington could be on its way to adopting a law with big implications for the gig economy. State lawmakers have passed a bill that offers ride-hailing drivers some new benefits. The bill bars them from being classified as employees.

Washington is the latest state to grapple with providing rideshare driver benefits – like sick leave and minimum pay — while still giving drivers flexibility over their schedules. 

While the bill provides some benefits, they fall short of those afforded to employees...

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The Need for Disclosure About Worker Voice

March 1, 2022

Larry Beeferman
Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance

Despite an increasing focus on company disclosures about workforce-related policies and practices, little attention has been given to very important issues of worker voice: the opportunity and ability of workers to speak out and up about their experience at the workplace and how what they say is heard, discussed, and acted upon. At its core, worker voice is identified with freedom of association, unions, and collective bargaining. However, it may take other forms: directly, by solicitation of...

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Is Washington State About to Deprive Its Gig Drivers of Basic Rights?

March 2, 2022

BY TERRI GERSTEIN
The American Prospect

When Proposition 22, the (sadly, successful) initiative to strip gig workers of rights, was on the California ballot in 2020, there was immense news coverage and analysis. As gig companies like Uber and Lyft prepare similar attempts across the country, with the goal of ensuring their workers remain non-employees, a similarly high-profile fight is brewing in Massachusetts, where worker, environmental, and racial justice advocates have formed a coalition to gear up for a major battle as a similar measure comes before voters in November...

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What Can U.S. Labor Take from the Proposed E.U. Directive of Regulations of Platform Workers?

What Can U.S. Labor Take from the Proposed E.U. Directive of Regulations of Platform Workers?

February 18, 2022

by 
OnLabor Blog

On December 9, the European Commission issued a package of proposed regulations of platform work. This legislative initiative came after a long period of lobbying, consultation, and research by business groups, unions, and academics on the problems emerging from the entry of platforms into European Union labor markets.

From a U.S. perspective, the...

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After five years of #MeToo movement, a modest win for women's workplace rights

February 16, 2022

By 
Justice Matters
Reuters

A bipartisan group of lawmakers on Feb. 10 enacted one of the most momentous workplace rights reforms in more than a decade, and Congress’ most significant legislation against sexual harassment and abuse since the #MeToo women’s movement began five years ago.

The U.S. Senate approved a bill to ban companies from making employees sign away their rights to file a lawsuit over sexual assault or harassment, and to force them to take their claims to confidential arbitration instead. The House of Representatives had passed its version of the bill earlier.

Terri Gerstein, a fellow at the Harvard Law School Labor and Worklife Program, told me the legislation is an “important first step,” and a major accomplishment, especially given the stark partisan divide in Congress and businesses’ strong interest in keeping disputes out of court.

“I would not understate what a real accomplishment this is, and how meaningful it is to women who have faced harassment and assault,” Gerstein said. “It demonstrates a bipartisan recognition that forced arbitration is unfair to workers and that the secrecy is a problem.”

But Gerstein said she also wouldn't understate the importance of ending forced arbitration in wage, race discrimination and other types of workplace disputes.... Read more about After five years of #MeToo movement, a modest win for women's workplace rights

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Union labor complaint against Amazon takes aim at “captive audience” meetings

February 25, 2022

Meghan McCarty Carino
Marketplace

Organizers of an effort to unionize an Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board this week, challenging the company’s right to require employees to attend anti-union presentations at work, a common tactic that is currently considered legal.

Labor advocates have long argued unions should be offered equal time in workplaces to present their own information said Benjamin Sachs, co-director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School.

“It...

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Enforcers take action to protect workers from workplace violations at Domino’s and Family Dollar stores

February 25, 2022

by Terri Gerstein
Working Economics Blog
Economic Policy Institute

Recent cases brought by state and local enforcers include the recovery of $2 million for workers of a Seattle Domino’s franchisee that underpaid workers and didn’t give required notice of schedules; citation of Massachusetts Family Dollar stores for $1.5 million for thousands of meal break violations; and prosecution of several cases involving egregious violations of wage payment, unemployment insurance, and workers’ compensation laws.

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Mills administration cracking down on employer wage and hour violations

February 6, 2022

Peter McGuire,
Portland Press Herald, Maine, Yahoo! News

Since Gov. Janet Mills took office three years ago, the Maine Department of Labor has escalated its pursuit of illegal workplace practices including wage theft, child labor and false record keeping, a significant departure from past practices at the agency.

The department's new approach is modeled on a practice called strategic enforcement, pioneered at the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama administration. 

Generally, the shift to strategic enforcement means proactively working...

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Biden to sign order mandating PLAs on federal construction projects

February 4, 2022

Zachary Phillips
Construction DIve

Dive Brief:
President Joe Biden will sign an executive order Friday requiring project labor agreements on federal construction projects over $35 million, according to a White House fact sheet. 

The order, which is effective immediately, will impact $262 billion in federal construction contracts and affect nearly 200,000 workers. 

Nevertheless, the new executive order does not apply to work funded by grants to non-federal agencies, which includes the bulk of the projects funded under the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, a senior official told Reuters. 

​​​​​​​Mark Erlich, fellow at Harvard's Labor and Worklife Program and retired executive of the New England Carpenters Union, said the advantages of PLAs are many.

"On larger projects, PLAs allow for an uninterrupted access to skilled labor working under standardized and uniform terms and conditions," he said. "I believe their value has been established and most of the objections have been refuted."... Read more about Biden to sign order mandating PLAs on federal construction projects

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How Governments Can Boost Workplace Safety After Supreme Court Halts Vaccine Mandate

January 24, 2022

Terry Gerstien
Route Fifty

COMMENTARY | Although the court struck down the federal government’s Covid-19 vaccine-or-test mandate, there are ways states and localities can protect workers from the virus.

Earlier this month, in a decision that surprised no one who was paying attention, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority blocked an emergency workplace safety rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration requiring large employers to mandate...

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Amazon and the Girl Scouts Are Unlikely — and Disturbing — New Partners

February 4, 2022

Terri Gerstein
Teen Vogue

This op-ed discusses the “problematic” new partnership between the tech giant and the Girl Scouts.

Amazon and the Girl Scouts of America recently announced a partnership to “engage girls in STEM.” As part of the program, Amazon fulfillment centers in more than 20 U.S. cities will host “Girl Scout Amazon Tours.” There’s even a special cobranded Amazon-Girl Scouts patch participants will earn.

It might seem an odd partnership for the Girl Scouts, whose mission is to build “girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make...

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Will Starbucks Bargain With Its Baristas, or Just Pretend To?

December 16, 2021

by Terri Gerstein
American Prospect

Many newly unionized employers go discreetly AWOL (or worse) when it comes to negotiating a first contract. Coffee drinkers shouldn’t let Starbucks get away with that.

But even in Buffalo, the battle is far from over. Thursday’s union victory marked perhaps the end of the beginning. Serious challenges remain, including bargaining a first contract. Unfortunately, there are too many ways employers can try to destroy a union even after an election. We need better laws to stop these subtler forms of thwarting...

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Starbucks: Purveyor of Fresh Coffee and Stale Union-Busting

November 23, 2021

BY TERRI GERSTEIN
The American Prospect

Management’s old-school battle against its Buffalo baristas’ organizing campaign reveals a failure to recognize how unionization can align the company with its consumers.

Starbucks, like any company whose workers are unionizing, could take a genuinely innovative path. It has the opportunity to become a visionary leader; its executives could use their imagination to move toward a different corporate future. Imagine a Starbucks in 2030 or 2035 that’s known nationally as the unionized coffee chain, with the most stable workforce among all quick-serve restaurants, amazing service, amazing coffee, beloved by a generation of customers, shareholders, and workers.

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

Can Progress on Diversity Be Union-Made?

November 6, 2021

By Eduardo Porter
NY Times

In Boston, setting a goal for a racially diverse construction work force is one thing. Meeting it has proved more difficult.

“There is a legacy of racism, which by no means has been eliminated,” Mr. Erlich said. “I respect folks in the community that complain that things are not changing fast enough. And they are not changing fast enough.” Still, he argues, unions realize that “they need to become less homogeneous and reflect the demographics of the city.”

And he warns that the nonunion contractors that will...

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Is 'Striketober' the moment construction unions have been waiting for?

October 28, 2021

, Senior Reporter
Construction Dive

The convergence of worker shortages, supply chain snarls and vaccine mandates could give labor the upper hand at the bargaining table, experts say.

But the broader trend of American workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions almost two years into the chaos caused by the COVID-19 pandemic raises the question: Could more strikes be ahead for construction, too?

"What we're facing now gives unions leverage at the bargaining table, whether they strike or not," said Mark Erlich, a fellow in the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, and former executive secretary-treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters. "It at least will help them get better agreements."

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