Today’s News & Commentary — May 16, 2017

Noncompete agreements — once limited to senior executives — are now a widespread practice, locking in almost one fifth of American workers.  This includes low-wage workers at fast-food chains and factories.  A recent report from The New York Times revealed how such agreements can harm workers, preventing them from finding new jobs or embroiling them in costly legal battles.  This morning, the Editorial Board called for an end to “such morally dubious practices.”  It pointed to California  — where state law makes noncompete agreements generally unenforceable — as one potential blueprint for reform.

Waymo has scored a big win in its lawsuit against Uber.  Yesterday, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction, barring one of Uber’s star engineers — who is accused of stealing trade secrets — from working on its self-driving car program for the duration of the litigation.  Wired has more.

Ford is cutting jobs, Reuters reports.  The auto manufacturer plans to shrink its salaried workforce in North America and Asia by as much as 10%, in a move that could attract the ire of the Trump administration.  President Trump has promised to expand jobs in the auto industry — earlier this year, he took credit for Ford’s decision not to shift its manufacturing plants to Mexico — but this most recent announcement (which will likely affect thousands of American workers) is a serious setback.

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Today’s News & Commentary — December 31, 2015

Jubilee Jobs, a Washington, D.C., career pathway organization, encourages and supports workers who have spent years in minimum wage jobs transition into positions with livable wages through its Move Up program. As Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post explains, the Move Up mission is nothing new, but it’s “timely” now; nationwide debate around raising the minimum wage focuses on job mobility, and studies this year suggest that minimum wage workers are spending years in entry-level positions, a problem that has only gotten worse recently. Minimum wage workers face unique challenges today: applicants need at least a high school diploma and often have to answer a series of online questions even before an interview, and then, the jobs are often part-time, where opportunities for advancement are rare. The Move Up program pairs workers with coaches and provides soft skills training; Jubilee searches for positions that might pay livable wages, and they guarantee that applicants are motivated and job-ready. This is a different approach from the traditional model, which generally focuses on helping people get the first job, rather than the promotion after the job.

As 2015 comes to a close, the Huffington Post has declared the year a “tipping point” for paid leave in the U.S. In January, President Obama included paid parental and sick leave as a priority in his State of the Union address. Over the year, businesses in tech and finance announced they would expand paid leave benefits to employees. The Post lists 16 companies that “did the right thing for parents” in 2015 here. The Department of Labor began offering grants to states studying how paid family leave would work; three states—California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey—have paid family leave policies, and 18 others are considering paid leave initiatives. It has become an issue that presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle have addressed. And, the article stresses, the movement focuses not only on birth mothers, but also adoptive parents, fathers, and same-sex couples.

The Huffington Post also took a look into the bill the New York City Council proposed earlier this month to ensure stability for freelance workers. The bill provides that where clients retain independent contractors for compensation greater than $200, the client must (1) execute a contract that includes a payment due date with the freelancer before the work begins, and (2) pay the freelancer within 30 days of the project’s completion, unless the contract states otherwise. Such legislation is particularly important in the increasingly “freelance” economy, especially in a city like New York, full of writers, artists, and other creative freelance workers. As the article stresses, the main question that lingers is the enforceability of such a law. Continue reading

Weekend News & Commentary — August 2-3

While government data on hiring statistics released Friday reveals a significant uptick in hiring across a spectrum of industries, The Washington Post reports that low hourly wages leave many workers/consumers feeling as though the economic recovery hasn’t reached their wallets. The average hourly wage in July was $24.45. Some economists argue that wage increases are a long way off, due to the significant amount of slack in the labor market holding down wage growth. But on Friday, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to growing wages and jobs that pay a middle-class wage, saying that, “[t]oo many people are working hard and falling behind.” But pressure is continuing to build and many workers and voters are asking the question: how long until wages go up, too?

Dozens of managers at Market Basket received letters this week notifying them that the company will be withholding their August salaries, the Boston Herald reports. The company has been operating under a “standard procedure” in which they pay managers their salary on the first of the month for the upcoming month. The company argues that the managers that received the letters haven’t been reporting to work, spokesperson for Market Basket’s co-CEO’s stating “if they return to work, they will be paid ahead as per standard procedure.” But labor lawyer Keith McCown told the Boston Herald that Market Basket likely can’t legally withhold paychecks, even for work that has not yet been preformed. “If you have an agreement with the employer that you’re to be paid at the first of the month, that may be enforceable and the employer may not be entitled to withhold that even though the services haven’t been performed yet,” said McCown.

On Thursday, the Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld state Republicans’ signature legislation on voter identification and union restriction, the Chicago Tribune reports. This is good news for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is fighting for a second term, and has placed these measures as the “centerpiece of his campaign.” In a 5-2 ruling, the justices reversed a lower court ruling limiting parts of the 2011 statute that limits collective bargaining and deduction of union dues for public unions. The court also upheld Walker’s voter ID law, holding that the state constitution allowed such a measure. However, the voter ID law will remain on hold because a federal court found it invalid, ruling that the ID requirement puts an unfair burden on low-income voters. Wisconsin’s primaries are scheduled for Aug. 12, and general elections will be held on Nov. 4.

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