Labor

VW Workers in Tennessee Vote Against Unionization Efforts

Volkswagen (VW) workers in Tennessee recently voted down efforts to instill a labor union, The New York Times reports. Out of approximately 1,600 workers polled just over half opposed unionization, which the United Automobile Workers has been pushing since 2014. The chief executive in VW’s Chattanooga plant, Frank Fischer said of the move “Our employees have spoken … We look forward to continuing our close cooperation with elected officials and business leaders in Tennessee.” Gov. Bill Lee lobbied against unionization to workers at the plant, saying that the presence of a union would make it harder for the state to attract other businesses.

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Ageism and Multinational Corporations

Lawsuits against major corporations like Ikea and Volkswagen (VW) alleging discrimination against older adults are putting the ostensible practice of ageism under the microscope, according to a recent piece in Forbes. Multinational companies are becoming a lightning rod for such lawsuits, likely because of more stringent legal protections for American workers. IKEA is currently facing at least five age discrimination lawsuits, with four VW employees at its Chattanooga plant recently filing a lawsuit maintaining the company’s “Pact for the Future” program — touted as making VW “slimmer, leaner and younger” — is, in fact, a labor campaign designed to eliminate 30,000 jobs of employees mostly born between 1955 and 1960. Ageism can have more dire consequences in the U.S. compared to other nations, particularly European, where retirees enjoy subsidized pensions and universal health care.

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Amazon Faces Joint Employer Lawsuits

A federal judge recently ruled against the class claims of a delivery driver in the Miller v. Amazon.com Inc. case., Bloomberg Law reports. However, the judge’s ruling did leave room for a potential joint employment finding. The case is currently being reviewed under California labor law, but this finding would set precedent for other major businesses that regularly use contracted or subcontracted labor in California and other states with similar ‘joint employer’ laws. An additional lawsuit in a different jurisdiction seeks to hold Amazon liable as a joint employer of contractor’s workers.

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Private Prisons Using Detainee Labor Face Lawsuits

A recent class-action lawsuit has been filed in federal court against a CoreCivic correctional center located in New Mexico, The Guardian reports. Detainees earned 50 cents or less per hour for various tasks, including cooking and working in the center’s library. CoreCivic and Geo Group are two of the country’s biggest private prison companies, citing combined revenues of $4 billion in 2017. Lawsuits against both companies regarding the practice of using detainee labor have been filed in several states over the past four years; however, they are still working through the courts. Spokespeople for both companies have stated that its work programs are completely voluntary and comply with government-established standards. 

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CNN: Why Women Have to Work Harder to be Promoted

Women have up to one-and-a-half year’s extra education, and a full year’s extra workforce experience than what is required for their job, an Australian researcher reports on CNN. RMIT University research fellow Leonora Risse labels this as an “overinvestment” in skills and capabilities. The article notes that men over-invest by up to 4 percent; however, women over-invest by up to 11 percent.  The research indicates that women’s overinvestment in themselves is not due to lower confidence nor directly connected to motherhood and childcare responsibilities. Instead, it points toward “implicit biases woven throughout workplace dynamics that create higher hurdles for women to clear along the career ladder.” Examples of these high hurdles include differences in salary between men and women with university degrees, which also includes high-earning disciplines like law, economics and medicine. Additionally, survey data reveals that women are not receiving the same outcomes as men when they ask for a promotion.  Risse concludes that women may be internalizing the need to over-invest and make certain they meet all job criteria prior to applying for jobs and seeking promotions, a behavior less commonly seen among men. 

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Labor Department to Push Stricter Financial Disclosure from Unions

The Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) put out two proposals related to union financial disclosure that mirror Bush-era policies, Bloomberg Law reports. Both of the Bush-era policies were challenged by the AFL-CIO and the National Education Association, and were eventually overturned during the Obama presidency. In this article, a former OLMS director says unions will likely also push back on these proposed rules, partly because of the financial strain of hiring additional staff to analyze financial records, fill out disclosure forms and submit within the required timeframe. The Department of Labor estimates it will publish the proposed rules by December.

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DOJ Opposes EEOC on Legal Interpretation of Transgender Protections

The Office of the Solicitor General last month filed a brief contrary to the viewpoint of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on the application of Title VII protections in R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Home v. EEOC, the ABAJournal reports. Aimee Stephens was originally hired at a Michigan funeral home when living as a man, but she told her employer that she intended to have sex reassignment surgery and live as a woman. After a vacation, Stephens informed her employer that she would return from vacation as a woman and dress according to the funeral home’s dress code for women. She was then fired. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that Title VII applied in this case. However, in the brief, Solicitor General Noel Francisco argues that no federal law protects employees against discrimination based on gender identity. The article notes that this viewpoint is consistent with other positions taken by the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The brief argues that the Supreme Court should wait on taking up this case until it rules on other related pending cases.

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Tennessee’s ‘Fresh Start Act’ Signed into Law

Last Friday, Gov. Bill Haslam signed Tennessee SB2465, relative to occupational licenses, into law. The bill, known as the "Fresh Start Act," creates a uniform process that all licensing authorities must follow and requires that denials and refusals to renew occupational and professional licenses based on a criminal conviction must only occur when the offense relates to the offender's ability to perform the occupation or profession. This bill Amends TCA Title 62, Chapter 76, Part 1 and Title 63, Chapter 1.

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