Subscribe to E-Update here.  
Labor Report

New Fathers Win Extended Parental Leave Benefits

A newly settled class action complaint could signal major changes in how American companies structure and apply their parental leave benefits. JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $5 million to up to 5,000 male employees who said they were denied paid leave as primary caregivers of their newborn children.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which advocated for the plaintiffs, described the case as “a first-of-its-kind class-action settlement … on behalf of male employees who allege they were unlawfully denied access to paid parental leave on the same terms as mothers from 2011 to 2017.”

In the complaint, the lead plaintiff alleged he sought to take 14 weeks of paid leave following the birth of his son in accordance with a company policy that allows up to 16 weeks for primary caregivers. However, a company human resources official allegedly told the plaintiff he could only take two weeks of paid leave because mothers were the presumptive primary caregivers. The plaintiff alleged he was told that to qualify as a primary caregiver, he would have to demonstrate that his child’s mother was incapacitated or had returned to work.

The plaintiffs reached the settlement agreement with the employer to preempt the formal filing of the case in an Ohio federal court. The settlement is pending the court’s approval. In addition to the monetary payment, JPMorgan Chase agreed to clarify its existing gender-neutral family leave policy to ensure that it is administered equitably. The employer does not admit legal liability in the agreement.

Similar legal actions have been initiated at other companies. The New York Times reported that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission settled a case last year that it had filed against Estee Lauder in a Philadelphia federal court on behalf of 210 male employees. The cosmetics firm agreed to pay $1.1 million and implemented a revised parental leave policy, the EEOC said.

The JPMorgan Chase case differs because it was brought by the aggrieved employees, rather than the federal government, the Times said. The company’s policy “appeared to be gender-neutral on its face,” but the lead plaintiff “contended that the company made it difficult for biological fathers to qualify as primary caregivers.”

NLRB Schedules Volkswagen Union Vote as Management, Governor Address Workers

The new head of Volkswagen’s lone U.S. plant in Tennessee reportedly suggested to workers that organized labor was to blame for the demise of the German automobile manufacturer’s landmark Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, assembly plant three decades ago, according to the Labor Notes website.

In a May 31 blog post, the website reported that it had obtained audio recordings of two “all-plant captive-audience meetings” conducted by CEO Frank Fischer at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, production facility on May 28. The meetings were held one day before the National Labor Relations Board announced it had scheduled a unionization election covering about 1,700 workers at the plant.

“Start of production was in April ’78 and the first strike happened already in October,” Fischer allegedly told workers. “In the end Volkswagen took the consequences and had to close the factory.”

In 1987, when Volkswagen announced the closing of its Pennsylvania facility and the elimination of 870 jobs there, the company said the plant had been losing money for five years because of “sluggish sales and increased competition in the small car market,” the New York Times reported.

Meanwhile, the L.A. Times reported that the company’s sales of U.S.-built cars plummeted by 60 percent in the early 1980s as fuel prices fell and consumer  sentiment shifted away from economy cars. The plant was described as the first established by a foreign auto manufacturer on U.S. soil since World War II.

The NLRB scheduled the new unionization vote in Chattanooga for June 12, 13, and 14, according to the United Auto Workers, which has been trying to unionize the Chattanooga plant for years. The proposed bargaining unit would include all hourly workers at the play.

Earlier this month, the NLRB voted along partisan lines to delay the union vote in Chattanooga because the UAW already represented a smaller bargaining unit of about 160 maintenance worker there, according to Bloomberg. The union promptly disassociated itself with the smaller bargaining unit.

Volkswagen has said it will hold a neutral position on any new union vote, but it previously refused to bargain with the smaller maintenance worker unit, which organized in 2015. Also, the company has used the absence of negotiations with the smaller bargaining unit to argue that the larger unionization vote must be delayed.

Under federal labor law “a year must pass after a union certification at a facility before there can be another union election, which allows for adequate bargaining time. VW argued that the one-year ban was still in effect since it hadn’t technically started bargaining with the union,” Bloomberg reported.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said earlier this week that he opposes the unionization of the plant because he fears it would hurt the recruitment of businesses to the state, according to the Associated Press.

Labor Notes reported that Lee also hosted a captive-audience meeting inside the plant on April 29, the date that the UAW had initially requested for the unionization election. The website said it had obtained the text of the closed-door speech and interviewed workers who were present.

American Airlines Mechanics Threaten Strike as Employer Alleges Illegal Slowdown

American Airlines has filed for a federal preliminary injunction to stop what it claims has been an intentional work slowdown by the company’s 15,000 mechanics who have been unable to negotiate a new joint labor contract since American merged with USAir in 2013.

At the time of the merger, American mechanics were represented by the Transport Workers Union, while USAir mechanics were represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The mechanics have been trying to negotiate a joint labor agreement since December 2015 through a partnership known as the TWU-IAM Association, which negotiates contracts for about 31,000 employees in the combined workforce.

Despite the involvement of the National Mediations Board, talks stalled and were suspended in April.

Forbes reported that American claims that worker slowdowns have resulted in 1,500 maintenance delays and 650 flight cancellations, affecting 125,000 customers. The airline filed for the injunction in a Texas federal court on May 20.

One day later, union leaders confronted American Airlines President Robert Isom during the executive’s town hall meeting with employees at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. During the exchange, TWU President John Samuelson said that the members were willing to take a “vicious strike action” if the company refused to resume good faith bargaining. Video of the full exchange between Isom and Samuelson was shared publicly by the union.

Pennsylvania Placed Near Bottom of Website Ranking for Job Seekers

A new analysis published by WalletHub – a Washington, D.C., based personal finance website – has ranked Pennsylvania 43rd among U.S. states on its “Best Places to Find a Job” list.

“The study compared the 50 states across 33 indicators including employment growth, unemployment rate, median income and average commute time,” the Tribune-Review reported. “Although government labor market statistics for March put Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate at 3.9%, the lowest on record — other factors apparently dragged it down. The study considered such factors as commute time, average monthly salary, most job opportunities and job satisfaction.”

The news organization also noted that another web-based study by SmartAsset ranked Pittsburgh as the nation’s sixth-best city for new college graduates in 2019. No other Pennsylvania municipality made the top 25.