New York Labor Law Blog

Employee benefits at center of Whole Foods workers' union drive

While unions in New York face many difficulties and obstacles as they seek to maximize the wages and benefits that their union members get, one of the toughest situations for workers is when they do not have a union at all and are trying to form one. There can be an endless number of reasons why employees want to unionize. One that is common is when there is a new owner of the business they work for and they have concerns as to what the future holds. When trying to form a union for collective bargaining, to ensure the employer adheres to labor laws and to get the best possible employee benefits, it is critical to have a law firm that understands how to represent unions.

Our readers may have seen news reports that, since the business was bought by Amazon, employees of Whole Foods Market have sought to form a union. They are concerned that Amazon plans to reduce their benefits as it moves forward with the ongoing changes it is making. There are nearly 500 locations across the nation. Some employees emailed other workers at all stores. They did so trying to garner support for the proposed union. Their goal is to ensure Amazon understands workers' concerns as a group and to get improved pay and benefits. They are pushing for the union with help from the New York-based Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. There are 100,000 members in the union.

MLBPA prepares for collective bargaining with new director

When it is time to get to the bargaining table for a union's collective bargaining negotiation, the case must be organized, the desires must be clear and the attempt to repair various problems must be addressed. Having legal assistance is one of the most important factors to attempt to reach a successful negotiation.

Although it is viewed as one of the strongest unions in the world, the Major League Baseball Players Association is being confronted with numerous challenges as it waits for its current collective bargaining agreement to expire at the end of 2021. With that, it has hired a new senior director of collective bargaining and legal as it gets ready for what is expected to be a contentious negotiation with the owners. The collective bargaining agreement, enforcing it and negotiating it will be the focus of the new hire. He will also assist the current executive director of the MLBPA.

What Paid Family Leave benefits are available under labor law?

In New York, workers have certain rights under state labor law. Oftentimes, they are not granted these rights for the simple reason that they are unaware of them. In other instances, the employer might grant that the worker has the right to exercise certain rights, but subtly or overtly dissuades the worker from doing so with threats to job status. Workers should be cognizant of their rights and one of the relatively new laws gives Paid Family Leave benefits.

Phased in over four years, New York workers can have as much as eight weeks of Paid Family Leave in 2018. During that time, they will get half their Average Weekly Wage. There is a cap to the amount the worker can get and it is based on the New York State Average Weekly Wage. The Average Weekly Wage is calculated by determining how much the worker received in the eight weeks before using Paid Family Leave. The State Average Weekly Wage is updated each year.

Developer and construction union members' dispute sparks protest

There are certain industries that are part of the New York City landscape in more ways than one. When thinking about the famous skyline, the bridges and other notable structures, it is unavoidable to think about those who built them - the construction workers. History has been littered with issues between the unionized members of the construction industry and developers and it is imperative that these workers remember the importance of having legal assistance with labor relations to protect its union members.

Construction workers banded together to protest a continuing dispute between labor and developers due to issues with a construction project. The dispute stems from the company that is overseeing the Hudson Yards project - worth approximately $20 billion - and the construction industry. The workers protested outside the headquarters of the National Football League as the chairman of the company developing Hudson Yards, Stephen Ross, owns the Miami Dolphins.

Demand is high, but low-income housing is difficult to develop

New York City has some of the most expensive real estate in the country. It is nearly impossible for a large segment of the population to afford even modest apartments. The need for low-income housing solutions is great; the CEO of one of the city's largest affordable housing developers estimates that the city needs at least 800,000 affordable units.

New York has a goal of creating 300,000 affordable units by 2026. But even with this goal, the task of constructing affordable developments can be difficult with existing regulations, the high costs of construction and the stigma surrounding affordable housing. What should real estate developers consider before pursuing an opportunity?

What constitutes unfair labor practices under labor law?

For New York union members and their representatives, the nuance of the law can be confusing and difficult as they seek to maximize their wages, benefits and other parts of a labor agreement. For example, there could be certain factors that are unknown under unfair labor law practices. The employer is not allowed to do certain things under labor law. Employees and their union should know about these violations in case they occur so they can take steps to hold the employer accountable.

The employer is not allowed to surveil or spy on an employee. This cannot be done directly or via agents or any other individual. Employees cannot be blacklisted with that blacklist maintained, distributed or circulated to stop the individuals from gaining or keeping employment. It is illegal to interfere with the attempts to create, have or administer a union or any other entity designed to deal with employers for issues related to employment, to handle labor disputes, to deal with grievances, or provide financial or any other kind of support.

Employees at MoMA protest as labor union negotiates

New York City workers have long fought for their employee benefits through collective bargaining and there often requires a certain amount of showmanship to ensure that their issues are known to the public. This is especially true in jobs where it is frequently forgotten that people are an integral part of maintaining operations. In situations where workers are employed at prominent locations and landmarks, it becomes even more vital to make their labor issues known. As with any case in which employee benefits are at the root of the negotiation, having legal assistance from a law firm that specializes in representing labor unions is one of the key factors.

Workers at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in Manhattan protested as their union prepared to negotiate its contract. In the lobby of MoMA, an estimated 100 workers went around the block to draw attention to their circumstances. Represented by the UAW Local 2110, the approximately 250 workers who are in the union have not had a contract since May. They are seeking fair wages and claim that the museum is refusing to give it to them. For its part, officials at the museum assert they are in the middle of negotiating with the union and hope to resolve the disagreement amicably.

Email campaign implores union members to quit their union

The basic function of New York labor unions is to provide protection to members in myriad ways. This will include shielding from capricious decisions on the part of management and ownership; proving adequate pay; adhering to safety protocols; providing medical benefits and more. Since unions came into existence, there have been attempts to tamp down on their power or to gut workers' legal rights under labor law. Union members must have legal representation to spot these tactics and to put a stop to it.

A recent decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court in which workers are no longer obligated to pay union dues has sparked efforts from certain groups to sow discord in the ranks of various public unions. The group is responsible for sending more than a half-million emails to public sector union workers informing them that they can leave their union. There is a website link attached to the email and a form letter to inform the union they are opting out. Some unions, such as the New York State United Teachers, have fought back against this movement imploring members to delete the email and label it as spam.

Dispute between union members and governor takes to the airwaves

Negotiations between a New York union and an employer are not always smooth. In fact, they can sometimes get a little rough with rhetoric emanating from both sides. This can be viewed as a negotiating tactic to garner improved employee benefits via the collective bargaining process. One strategy that is used is to take to the airwaves with advertising to show how a union's position differs from the employer's position.

The union representing New York State corrections officers has launched an advertising campaign that accuses New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo of putting prisoners ahead of law abiding citizens. The campaign asserts that children and schools are not receiving the proper funding while criminals are granted lucrative benefits. The issues between the governor and the unions representing corrections officers and police officers have sparked this chasm as they are embroiled in an ongoing contract dispute.

Hard times mean unions are more important

There can be little doubt that workers everywhere are struggling. This is a difficult time for labor, primarily because trade unions are under attack. We see it every day in the news, where court decisions and contracts put additional pressure on workers already buckling from the strain. But the future of unions is strong and more critical than ever.

There are many reasons to be hopeful for the future of labor as we stand united.

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