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Labor Report


Non-Organized Service Workers Plan Strike as Union Interest Climbs Nationally

Thousands of workers at fast-food restaurants, airports, hospitals, child care centers and higher education institutions in seven states are planning to walk off the job from Oct. 2 to 4 to demand union representation in an action being organized by Fight for $15 and supported by the Service Employees International Union.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the SEIU, reportedly told The Washington Post that workers are “losing patience when they see the economy is booming but their lives aren’t getting any better.”

The strikes will be concentrated in cities of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, California and Connecticut, the Post reported, adding that union membership nationally is at its lowest point since the 1930s (10.7 percent), yet interest among non-unionized workers in joining unions is at a four-decade high (48 percent).

Meanwhile, Politico reports that unionized hotel housekeepers in Chicago, distillery workers in Kentucky and crane operators in Seattle have already walked off the job seeking better pay and benefits commensurate with the strengthening economy and tight labor market. In addition, 31,000 Los Angeles teachers and an equal number of steelworkers have threatened to strike.

Citing a Wall Street Journal analysis, Politico reported that American unionized workers (excluding teachers) have missed 633,000 days of work this year due to strikes, compared to 440,000 for the same period in 2017.

Oregon Public Workers Sue for Union Dues Refunds

Two prominent right-to-work organizations have filed a lawsuit on behalf of a dozen Oregon public employees who want their former labor unions to refund dues and fair share fees collected from them prior to U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling earlier this year.

The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for public employees who claim they were forced to pay dues and union fees against their wishes. AFSCME, SEIU, the Oregon Education Association and Oregon Public Employees Union are among the defendants in the lawsuit.

The Olympia, Wash., based Freedom Foundation and Virginia-based National Right-to-Work Legal Defense Foundation are representing the 12 plaintiffs, according to Willamette (Ore.) Week in what is being reported as one of the first cases in the nation where a potential class of workers have used the June 27 Janus ruling to seek a refund of past union payments.

On July 30, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife employee and wife of a state lawmaker won a $3,000 judgement against the SEIU, but she filed her case in April, prior to the Janus ruling.

A Freedom Foundation spokesman said that the plaintiffs in the new class-action suit may be owed “millions” of dollars from the unions, although a statute of limitations may prevent them from claiming refunds prior to 2012.

Three Years Later, Dallas Teachers and District Settle Contract Rift

After more than three years, three work stoppages, and court-ordered negotiations, the Dallas School District and Dallas Teachers Association have agreed on a new contract that will run through Aug. 31, 2023.

The local school board approved the contract on Sept. 23, three days after union members endorsed the agreement, according to the Times Leader.

Teachers had been working under the terms of a contract that expired in Sept. 1, 2015, but they will not receive retroactive payments under the new deal. Healthcare insurance was a major issue in negotiations. Under the new contract, existing teachers will pay a six percent share of the premiums, although they may opt into less medical coverage for zero percent share. New hires must pay a 10 percent share.

Federal Court Rules Against Uber Drivers Seeking Employee Status

Uber drivers suffered another legal defeat in their effort to win employee status or better treatment from the company as a federal appeals court in California ruled that they cannot sue as a group for better pay and benefits.

“Tuesday’s decision by a federal appeals court in San Francisco wasn’t unexpected after the U.S Supreme Court in May bolstered the power of employers to force workers to use individual arbitration instead of class-action lawsuits,” Bloomberg reported.

The news agency described the new ruling as “a major defeat” for drivers “in one of the gig economy’s most closely watched labor fights.” The ruling will directly affect hundreds of thousands of current and former drivers in California and Massachusetts.

Classifying drivers as contractors is advantageous to companies like Uber and Lyft because it leaves the drivers to pay for major costs like vehicle maintenance while shielding the companies from some labor law requirements such as minimum wage.