Today’s News & Commentary — August 3, 2021

A National Labor Relations Board hearing officer has recommended that a new union election be granted at the Amazon warehouse in Bessemer, Alabama. The recommendation was issued due to alleged voter intimidation tactics used by Amazon, particularly its installation of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox in front of the warehouse that could have given the appearance that Amazon was involved in vote collection and counting. While the NLRB filing has not been released publicly, it has been confirmed by both the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union and Amazon. The recommendation will go to the NLRB’s regional director in Atlanta to issue a ruling on whether or not a new election should be held. This could take several weeks.

The Seattle Times has profiled the success of labor unions’ political efforts in Washington state. Over the past few years, unions have successfully backed more than twenty laws relating to strengthening workplace protections, collective bargaining rights, dues collection, and membership. Unions this year also helped push through legislation relating to child care subsidies and a capital gains tax. The article credits success partly due to the influence of the SEIU’s organization of traditionally unorganized worker sectors like child care and health care. Health care workers in the state are now renegotiating their contracts, and teachers in the state have received double-digit pay increases. Unions also ranked as four of the top ten highest-spending lobbying entities in the state last year.

Tyson Foods, Inc. has announced that it will require vaccinations for its entire workforce of about 120,000 people by November 1. Front-line workers will be offered a $200 bonus as an incentive. Currently, under half of the company’s workplace is vaccinated. Tyson Foods is the first major company in the meatpacking industry, an industry notorious for its high rates of COVID-19 infection at the beginning of the pandemic, to require vaccinations. Tyson Foods also recently agreed to pay chicken farmers $21 million as part of an antitrust litigation settlement due to the alleged role Tyson Foods played in driving down pay for chicken farmers.

After ratification of the Child Care Providers United union’s first contract with the state of California, over 40,000 child care providers in the state will receive raises next year. The deal gives raises of at least 15% and also provides money for training and recruitment. The group of child care workers, who provide services through a state subsidy program for low-income families, had been fighting for the right to bargain for over fifteen years. More than 60% of workers in this sector are people of color.

The city of Berkeley has signed off on labor agreements for over 900 of the city’s 1400 workers. These negotiations were notable for their uniquely public nature; negotiations were held in public forums and bargaining documents were publicly shared. One of the contracts includes wage increases and a reduction in new workers’ pension contributions. The City Council also approved an agreement to raise wages of city workers not represented by unions. However, the unions did not win tying raises to inflation nor extended health care coverage to currently uncovered members.

J. Allen Brack, the President of video game company Blizzard, has resigned amidst a California lawsuit alleging pervasive sexual discrimination and harassment toward employees at the company. While many of the lawsuit’s allegation took place before Brack’s presidency, Brack was still under fire for his leadership style amidst the litigation. Brack was particularly criticized for a video of him being dismissive toward a woman’s question regarding the sexualization of female characters in the company’s World of Warcraft game.

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