New York Labor Law Blog

EMT union believes its workers are underpaid

Emergency medical technicians have stressful and risky jobs, but they save a countless number of lives every year for relatively little financial reward. In New York City, entry-level fire department EMTs are paid approximately $16 an hour, which is only slightly above the city's hourly minimum wage, although a representative of Mayor Bill de Blasio believes that the actual figure is a bit higher. The unions that represent them have stated that this situation needs to be significantly improved.

On Tuesday, Feb. 18, negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement commenced between the city and the EMT union representatives. The president of one of the fire department unions say that new EMT workers can barely make ends meet, given the high cost of living as well as the burden of city and state income taxes. As a result, he said, many of them have to look for positions in other occupations that pay more, and when they find them they leave for those better opportunities.

New Freelancers Union director focused on New York gig worker law

A former Democratic councilman in Brooklyn will soon become the executive director of the Freelancers Union. He said that he intends to play a strong role in shaping the state's proposed gig worker law, S6699A, which is currently before the Senate Labor Committee. To gather information pertinent to the legislation, he said that he will fly to the West Coast and consult supporters of a recently passed gig worker law that seeks to stop employers from classifying employees as contract workers.

In his position at the Freelancers Union, he said that he wants to avoid the problems emerging from the new legislation out west. Some freelancers have complained that they have been blacklisted by employers concerned that they will violate the new law and incur fines. He hopes that his conversations with other lawmakers will provide insights about the best way to benefit all workers. As the union's new director, he said that he wants to balance the needs of freelancers happy with their work arrangements while still addressing the injustices experienced by people misclassified by employers.

City Council staff aim to create new union

A group of staffers at New York's City Council is organizing to seek union recognition at work. There are around 400 people who work for the Council, and organizers are seeking to get over half of these workers to commit to joining the new union. The staffers are creating a new labor organization, unaffiliated to any larger union. So far, the group has been collecting around $25 per person from each staff member interested in joining, and they are planning a fundraiser at a bar close to the City Hall location where they work.

The director of the City Council's Progressive Caucus is involved in the effort, and the workers hope that Council Speaker Corey Johnson will agree to recognize the union voluntarily after they gain majority support. He has previously expressed support for the staffers, who plan to name the union the Association for Legislative Employees. After they achieve this voluntary recognition, they plan to file legal paperwork to be certified as a labor organization. Various staffers over the years have worked to organize a union, but the efforts have fizzled out.

Barstool Sports settles with NLRB over anti-union tweets

New York-based Barstool Sports has reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) over complaints that the sports blogging site’s co-founder threatened employees over their rights to unionize.

Under the settlement reached in mid-December, Barstool Sports agreed to delete anti-union tweets. Plus, the company will shut down a fake Twitter account created in a blatant attempt to identify employees who are union supporters.

Cafeteria workers at Google unionize

New Yorkers might be interested in learning that cafeteria workers at Google campuses in and around the San Francisco Bay Area are unionizing. According to news sources, 2,300 cafeteria workers at Google campuses in the Bay Area recently did so after a majority of them voted to form a union.

The cafeteria workers are contracted by Google through a third party called Compass Group. That company stated that it will engage in good faith negotiations with the union to reach a collective bargaining agreement. The workers are organizing through Unite Here, a union that represents around 300,000 employees in the food service, hotel, casino, warehouse, and laundry industries.

Joining a union to become easier for farm workers in New York

A law that is set to go into effect in New York on Jan.1 will require agricultural employers in the state to give their workers at least one day off each week and pay them overtime when they work more than 60 hours during a workweek. The Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act will also make it easier for farm workers to organize and join unions.

Union representatives from organizations like United Farm Workers and the AFL-CIO who visit New York farms usually receive a cold welcome and are sometimes subjected to intimidation and threats of violence, but this kind of behavior will soon subject employers to more severe sanctions. Unscrupulous tactics employed to deter workers from organizing are often referred to as TIPS, which stands for threatening, interrogating, promising and surveilling. Agricultural employers who wish to prevent their workers from unionizing have until the new law goes into effect to make their arguments.

Chipotle accused of intimidating union organizers

The recent firing of a Chipotle employee in New York has led to allegations of unlawful workplace practices. The employee, who worked at a Chipotle Mexican Grill location in Manhattan, was allegedly fired for making complaints about problems at the workplace and for attempting to unionize. The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against the Mexican fast-food chain on Dec. 12.

According to the general counsel for the NLRB, a manager threatened workers at the Manhattan Chipotle location. The manager allegedly told employees that they would be fired if they organized with a union and implied that they may be subjected to physical violence as well. Employees were also allegedly told that they would be promoted if they gave information about who was organizing.

Labor unions in conflict over school bus bill

Several New York labor unions are in conflict over a proposed bill that passed the state legislature. Amalgamated Transit Union 1181, representing school bus drivers, supports the Employee Protection Provision (EPP) bill, which they say would protect drivers' wages, seniority and benefits even when bus routes change hands. The bill reinstates rights that had previously been stripped from bus workers in 2011, specifically protecting compensation and seniority after a new bus company is contracted to take over a specific route.

The bill passed both legislative houses and is waiting on a decision from Governor Andrew Cuomo. While the school bus drivers' union actively supports the legislation, two other major unions have spoken out in opposition. Transport Workers Union Local 100 and Joint Council 16 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters called on Cuomo to reject the bill. They say that only one sector of the school bus workforce at only one company is protected by the legislation, leaving younger workers' jobs at risk. Specifically, they say that drivers who have been employed after 2011 are at risk of being bumped in favor of older drivers even though they may now have held those jobs for seven or eight years themselves.

Newly-formed union for Hearst staff promotes pay and diversity

Staff members employed at Hearst Magazines, a New York-based company that runs 24 media properties, have voted to join the Writers Guild of America East. The new union includes staff members across the two dozen media operations that include Town & Country, Esquire and Cosmopolitan. A statement from union organizers named compensation, transparency, diversity, and editorial standards as the top priorities for the unionized staff.

An editor at Elle Culture said that her staff was eager to join forces with peers and push for a fair and equitable workplace. People working in this industry have been under pressure due to the economic forces that have cut into print advertising and subscription revenue for magazines in general. Mass layoffs or outright closures have become common at media businesses, and workers have been joining unions in increasing numbers in recent years so that they can influence the future of the industry. Unionization has already occurred among staff at Vox Media, BuzzFeed News and HuffPost.

Subway workers protest contract negotiations

In late October, the streets outside of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) headquarters were far from quiet. Manhattan can have its fair share of personality, but this was a different case. Filling the streets were workers from the Transport Workers Union Local 100. They carried signs and they demanded change, seeking a contract that would bolster their way of life. The MTA offered them a contract earlier in the year which they had rejected.

Since then, there has been no follow up contract. As such, the two groups have engaged in gridlock, a stalemate in the process of what unions and employers know as ‘collective bargaining.’ The bargain was not going well, as the MTA wanted to take away benefits that the union believed that they had rightly earned. And those union members gathered in the streets, making the whole scene look like something out of a movie. Question is, will it have a Hollywood ending?

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