When two companies share control over a worker, they are considered joint employers. The Department of Labor is proposing new rules to determine if joint employer status is proper. To determine if this is the case, New York companies would have to answer a series of questions. Among those questions is who has the right to hire or terminate an employee and who pays the employee and when.
The majority of employees at the publications Pitchfork and Ars Technica have voted to authorize union membership and join the NewsGuild of New York. Condé Nast owns both publications, and a spokesperson from the media company said that management would evaluate the demands for union recognition.
The Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York (BCTC) reached an agreement with Related Cos., a major city developer. The agreement could lead to improved labor relations at work sites managed by the development company. Over the years, the BCTC and local labor unions have challenged Related's alleged union-busting practices and violations of the National Labor Relations Act. There has been a significant amount of litigation between the parties in the past as well as an ongoing media and public campaign that has included protests at construction sites.
While many have warned of the detrimental effects of one U.S. Supreme Court decision undermining union rights, labor organizing in New York has continued to remain strong. Janus v. AFSCME, decided in June 2018, undermined the ability of public sector unions to assess fees from non-members of the union to cover the cost of collective bargaining for the entire group of workers. In the past, these non-members had to pay an agency fee to contribute to the costs of bargaining. The decision was widely interpreted as a conservative attempt to reduce the ability of public sector workers to organize, defend their rights and speak collectively.
Following a round of layoffs, employees of the digital media company Buzzfeed are working to establish a union with NewsGuide of New York. More than 200 people were let go from the company in January. In doing so, Buzzfeed joined several other digital media companies, including HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo, that have laid off workers. Buzzfeed's CEO said the layoffs were necessary despite the company's revenue growth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
New York unions and their employers can engage in disputes over many issues. Even in circumstances where there is a solid relationship, it can quickly degenerate into a contentious back and forth if there are disagreements from either perspective. This is especially true when it comes to employers trying to use coercive tactics with employees. Some employers might try to influence the labor union in this way. Union members must be cognizant of what the law says about such acts and respond accordingly. Having legal assistance from a qualified union law firm can be useful in this or any other labor law case.