New York Labor Law Blog

Unions push back against major online retailer

Outside of City Hall in New York City, protesters representing the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union stood against the city's decision to let Amazon establish a headquarters in Queens. A major part of their complaint was the online retailer's policy to only hire non-union employees. When asked during a meeting whether or not Amazon would be willing to let its workers unionize, a representative from the company stated that they would not.

New York City is giving the large online retailer $3 billion in subsidies to establish their headquarters in Queens, but many council members are not sure what the benefit is for the city. Advocates for workers are concerned about Amazon entering the city due to its history of poor labor practices. While the corporation made some promises about funding local schools and other programs, it's not yet clear whether or not they will follow through with their commitments.

Servers being let go as restaurants are forced to increase prices

After New York raised the minimum wage at the start of the year, the city's residents noticed a change in something else: the price of food. Unfortunately, servers who expected to be paid more are now being let go.

On January 1, 2019, the minimum wage in New York raised from around $13 dollars per hour up to $15 per hour. In order to account for the wage bump, restaurant owners have made their own changes as well. According to a recent article, menu prices are higher at almost every restaurant in the city, and customers are foregoing eating out as a result.

Lyft looks to block driver minimum wage in NYC

Lyft, a ride-sharing company, has filed a lawsuit trying to block New York City’s Taxi and Limousine Commission from implementing a new law that raises the minimum wage for ride-sharing drivers to $17.22 per hour.

Because Uber has a larger share of the market, the law unfairly gives that company an advantage, Lyft argues. Ride-sharing company Juno has filed a similar lawsuit.

Museum workers fight to unionize

A group of staff members gathered in the lobby of New York City's New Museum on Jan. 11 to network and publicly promote unionization. According to the workers, museum administration has hired a tough consulting firm that is engaging in an unfair anti-union campaign. Unsurprisingly, the New Museum has pushed back with a different narrative. According to a labor organizer at the museum, management is trying to mislead museum employees about the nature and intent of the pro-union campaign.

The workers' bargaining unit reportedly includes 74 members from across all departments. On the day before the gathering, union organizers issued a statement asking the New Museum's board of trustees and management to respect their rights to organize without interference. In response to the union organizers, the New Museum issued a statement saying that it wants its staff to make "a fully informed decision". A tweet posted by a former New Museum employee claimed that lower employees are often forced to work for low wages while being unclear if they would be let go.

Production company subject of labor complaint

Fans of the Amazon series "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" might be interested in learning that the production company behind the show, Picrow Streaming, is facing a labor complaint. The complaint was filed by IATSE Local 52 in New York over some allegedly unfair labor practices during the production of the show.

The series has been highly successful, garnering Emmy Awards and Golden Globes. However, IATSE Local 52 alleges that Picrow Streaming engaged in prohibited labor practices, including making coercive statements and changes to the conditions and terms of the employment of union workers because they engaged in union activities.

Amazon employees officially launch union campaign

After Amazon recently selected Queens as a site to build one of its two new headquarters, many people expressed concerns for a myriad of reasons. One of which was that existing employees in a new Staten Island fulfillment center were already experiencing problematic working conditions.

Now, those employees have officially launched a campaign to unionize. They claim Amazon "treats them like robots" and would rather the company invest in improving their workplace rather than opening a new headquarters while "raking in tax breaks" that the governor offered in the bid to bring headquarters to New York.

What is an impasse panel during collective bargaining?

New Yorkers who are public employees and union members and have experienced the difficulty with labor relations will inevitably understand that not all negotiations to improve work conditions and benefits will go as smoothly as they would like. Difficulty is frequently part of the process and if the sides cannot come to an agreement, the office of collective bargaining (OCB) will step in with assistance. One way in which they assist is with impasse panels. Understanding the basics of what impasse panels do is key when a union is about to be part of that process with the employer. As always, legal help is critical for the union to be adequately prepared and protected.

The OCB has impasse panel members. These individuals are approved by a majority on the collective bargaining board. There will be a city member and labor member. When the public employer and a union have done everything possible to come to an agreement after collective bargaining negotiations and the proper conditions are in place to use an impasse panel, then the panel will be appointed. There does not need to have been mediation for this to take place. Both parties are also allowed to request there be an impasse panel. The parties will be given a list of candidates and their preferences will be submitted. The parties can also name a consultant to the impasse panel.

Steamfitters question NYCHA plan for mold abatement

The key to fixing mold in buildings run by the New York City Housing Authority isn't just to replace sheetrock. Leaky pipes need to be fixed too, according to a white paper issued in late November by the Enterprise Association of Steamfitters Local 638.

The union says mold abatement can be achieved in one series of moves. Avoiding the issue of leaky pipes means the mold will simply return, they say.

Labor union expresses concern over Amazon coming to New York

New York workers who are seeking good jobs at competitive wages might think that large, prominent companies coming to the city is a good thing. Often, it is. However, before becoming too excited over the prospect of a healthy job market and the benefits it brings, unions are apt to express concern over how these companies conduct themselves. It is frequently on the backs of workers with controversy in its wake. For workers, having the backing of a labor union is a critical aspect of ensuring these companies do not attempt to take advantage of them, using their enthusiasm against them. Union representation is not the only thing necessary to help workers. The support of a law firm that specializes in union matters is also key.

Amazon has made headlines with its decision to open a new tech center in Long Island City. However, given its reputation with its employees, this has led to concern from unions representing a large swath of workers in the city. The company is saying that up to 25,000 jobs will be open. According to the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), the company's past stance in hindering unions and how it has allegedly mistreated employees in other locations is worrisome. The president of the union says that the company pressured workers not to join or form a union. It wants state representatives to make sure this will not continue once the company sets up shop in New York.

Grad student teachers and researchers' labor union will negotiate

In New York, there are so many kinds of workers and jobs that it can become confusing as to whether they have the right to join a labor union and negotiate for a better collective bargaining agreement or nor. Workers who are functioning as employees while they focus on other endeavors are not at the mercy of their employer and expected to be satisfied with whatever terms of employment and employee benefits the employer chooses to give them. Labor law grants rights to employees and they should be prepared to unionize or join a current union to maximize their benefits and compensation. A law firm that specializes in unions is critical to this.

There has been an ongoing dispute between graduate student teachers and research assistants at New York's Columbia University as to their rights to form a union. In the past, the school was unwilling to let them form a union. Now, however, the school has changed its tune and expressing a willingness to bargain if there are certain foundational agreements in place. The president of the school and its provost issued a statement mandating that the negotiations must begin in February 2019. The students are represented by the United Auto Workers. UAW is required to ratify its agreement.

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