Today’s News & Commentary – July 21, 2021

Today’s headline is that Jeff Bezos visited space. Of the $5.5 million dollar expenditure, he commented the following: “[I] want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this. So seriously, for every Amazon customer out there, and every Amazon employee, thank you from the bottom of my heart, very much. It’s very appreciated.”

Yesterday, a California state appellate court permitted a group of Postmates couriers alleging that the delivery platform withheld wages and tips may proceed on claims filed on behalf of the state of California despite a strict arbitration agreement signed by the plaintiffs. The class of drivers claim misclassification as independent contractors and seek civil penalties for underpaid wages. The latter claim is filed under the Private Attorneys General Act, which deputizes employees to sue for labor code violations on behalf of the state. Following California precedent, the lower court held — and the California Court of Appeals affirmed — that PAGA claims are not arbitrable: a worker cannot waive a right to bring a representative action on behalf of a state government. The case, Winns v. Postmates, is part of at least five other coordinated suits against Postmates in San Francisco. California appellate courts, including the First and Second District, have refused to compel arbitration of PAGA two of unpublished rulings.

A Baltimore federal judge has preliminarily approved a $29 million dollar settlement awarded to poultry plant employees by their employer, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. The plaintiffs alleged antitrust violations involving a scheme to drive down pay for the industry’s workforce. The deal permits Pilgrim to exit the proposed class action and requires it to cooperate in building a case against the remaining defendants accused of colluding to depress wages. These include Tyson Foods Inc., Hormel Food Corp., Sanderson Farms Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Cargill Inc., Butterball LLC, Koch Foods Inc., ContiGroup Cos., Mountaire Farms Inc., Simmons Foods Inc., George’s Inc., Fieldale Farms Corp., Peco Foods Inc., and Webber Meng Sahl & Co. The case is Jien v. Perdue Farms Inc..

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