New York Labor Law Blog

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?

Unions showing renewed strength in recent years

New York residents may have heard that according to a recent Gallup poll, 64% of Americans approve of unions, which is a 16% increase from 2009. In 2018, employees of 20 major companies went on strike, and that was the highest figure since 2007. Bureau of Labor Statistics data indicated that 485,000 workers were involved in the protests that involved both corporations and school districts. In 2019, teachers from the Chicago public school district went on strike to protest their current working conditions.

Teachers in Chicago were inspired by similar action in states such as Kentucky and West Virginia. Educators also went on strike in Los Angeles, which resulted in a 6% salary increase. It also resulted in fewer students per classroom and additional staff being placed in each building. The protesters in Chicago want to see an increase in pay for themselves as well as for classroom aides. They also want to see classroom sizes go down and for additional staff to be added to the city's schools.

Teachers' unions play key role in changing evaluation system

Teachers in New York will see a revised evaluation system after the state's Board of Regents approved a policy that gives local school districts as well as teachers' unions greater influence over the ratings educators receive for their work. It replaces a controversial approach that relied mainly on student growth scores generated by computers and based on a number of metrics, including standardized test scores. The board unanimously approved the change. Under the changed rules, around half of a teacher's evaluation will continue to be linked to standardized test performance by students. The other half of the evaluation will be based on classroom evaluations conducted locally.

Local districts will be allowed to choose the testing criteria that are applied each year. These annual evaluations affect around 190,000 teachers across the state. Teachers' unions as well as local parents had heavily protested the old system. Around 43% of students in two counties were pulled out of state standardized tests by their parents in reaction to the use of testing metrics for teacher evaluation. Both education unions and families said that the focus on test scores put too much pressure on both faculty and students, leading to a detrimental environment for learning.

New Museum workers vote to authorize strike

Museum workers in New York may potentially go on strike following an authorization vote that came after months of contract negotiations. The New Museum Union said that members had agreed to strike after museum officials failed to agree to its demands for health care for all museum workers, greater safety protections and a minimum annual salary of $51,000 for all workers at the institution. Union leaders said that New Museum officials had rejected the demands and that negotiations had been going on for nearly a full year. A member of the bargaining committee said that museum officials were "hostile" to the majority of union proposals in the bargaining process.

Museum officials claimed that the collective bargaining negotiations were not stalled and that both parties had accepted some of the other's proposals during the talks. They said they were hopeful that a contract could be reached before workers walked off the job. Union members also said that there had been some forward movement in the talks but that the strike vote was important as a means of demonstrating the workers' seriousness about their demands. The union declined to name a specific deadline for reaching a contract before the strike vote would be implemented, saying that members had not agreed to public disclosure.

Auto strike largest in 12 years

As New York union members likely know, auto workers have gone on strike across the country against General Motors. This is the first strike in the industry in over a decade, and workers at 31 factories and 21 other GM facilities are participating in the action. The walkout marks the largest strike in the country since the last GM worker action in 2007. Union workers declared their plans to strike in a press conference on Sept. 15, saying that they are seeking higher wages and improved profit-sharing.

Union representatives noted that collective bargaining is ongoing in order to reach a new contract. Workers noted that they sacrificed and worked 10 years ago to help GM get out of bankruptcy after the 2008 financial crisis. They want GM to stop using so many temporary workers and provide a clear mechanism for them to become permanent employees. Other issues, including health care benefits, also divide the two sides. Workers are also concerned about four GM plants planned for closure in the coming period. The company said that it had proposed a "solution" for two of the four plants, and sources indicated that the company planned to move toward electric vehicle production at two of the factories.

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