Tag Archives: benefits

Legislation Ends Ontario College Faculty Strike

A five-week college faculty strike in Ontario was ended when the government passed back-to-work legislation. The strike, which began on October 16, brought 12,000 workers from 24 colleges to the picket line in hopes of gaining job security.

About 80% of college faculty members are part-time workers being paid less than their full-time colleagues with far fewer benefits and little job security. Collectively represented by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the workers were demanding academic autonomy and longer contracts.

OPSEU is challenging the Ontario government’s Bill 178 back-to-work legislation in court, and disputing this blatant trampling of labor rights that forced the faculty back to work on November 21. Ironically, on November 22 the government passed Bill 148, which improves certain labor standards.

Metro Workers Bring Safety Concerns to Metro

Following a string of attacks on bus drivers and other safety disputes, members of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689 brought its concerns to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board meeting. Representing 9,200 frontline workers, Local 689 has said that employees will stop working if they encounter what the union believes are unsafe working conditions.

“Metro uses any excuse they can to take you away from the narrative that we are working in unsafe conditions,” says ATU Local 689 President Jackie Jeter. “If I am a worker and I encounter an unsafe situation, I should have the right to take myself out of that situation until safety is procured.”

Local 689 and Metro management negotiation reached an impasse this summer—more than a year after the previous four-year deal expired. It will now be up to an arbitrator to settle the dispute over wages and benefits.

Call for Worker Protections for Hurricane Rebuilding

As workers in Houston’s labor force begin rebuilding after Hurricane Harvey, local organizers are concerned with ensuring they will be properly protected and compensated. Even before Harvey, conditions were tough for area construction workers, particularly among Houston’s large undocumented workforce (about 50% of construction workers).

A study with the University of Illinois found that about 40% of Houston construction workers have no benefits. Industry has dismantled worker protections in Texas for decades. No workers’ compensation insurance coverage is required and one construction worker dies on the job every day. Already there are reports of crews spending hours cleaning up only to be denied their promised pay.

Employer Fined Following Workplace Death

Contractor Mark Welty of North Country Services was fined $280,000, plus $12,000 in penalties to the Alaska Division of Workers’ Compensation Benefits Guaranty Fund and a $2,000 fine from the Municipality of Anchorage after employee Nicholson Tinker was killed on the job.

Welty unlawfully classified Tinker as an independent contractor in an attempt to avoid the responsibility of providing a safe and healthful work environment, along with basic employee injury and death benefits.

Tinker was killed when a cinderblock wall collapsed on him during a demolition. Welty acted with plain indifference towards the health and safety of his employees—lack of proper structural assessment, inadequate bracing and shoring for the wall, and lack of safety training for the employees.

“I hope this sends a clear message. When employers like Mark Welty endanger their workers and unlawfully classify them as independent contractors, our department will seek the strongest penalties possible,” says Alaska Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas.

Florida Law Leaves Injured Undocumented Workers Vulnerable

Florida law states that all workers, regardless of immigration status, should be protected by worker compensation laws, but according to an NPR and ProPublica investigation, employers and insurance companies have found a way around it through a technicality. The Florida workers’ compensation law was amended in 2003 making it a felony to use false identification to get a job. Companies hiring undocumented workers purposely hold the threat of prosecution or deportation over their heads to keep them from filing claims.

Of 800 undocumented people charged with workers’ compensation fraud for using fake Social Security numbers, more than 560 never even applied for benefits. Meanwhile, insurance companies are exploiting the system by collecting premiums then not having to pay out benefits. The AFL-CIO is pushing for a comprehensive rewrite of the law.

Wind Up Your Summer the Union Way

Wind Up Your Summer the Union Way

During August and early September, especially during Labor Day weekend, millions of American workers will enjoy their hard-earned time off. Though vacation is time off from your job, it’s not a time to leave your union membership behind. Don’t forget to recognize the thousands of fellow union workers who are employed in the travel and entertainment industries by looking for union made products and union service and entertainment workers wherever you go. The good news is that while supporting your fellow union workers, you can also enjoy Union Plus savings.

Continue reading

New Guidance for Employee Classification

Last week the US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division issued clear and timely guidance on the question of which workers should be considered employees and therefore covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act. You can read the guidance the Administrator’s Interpretation at: http://www.dol.gov/whd/workers/Misclassification/AI-2015_1.pdf.

Here are some highlights:

  • In instances where employees are labeled something other than contractors—“owners,” “partners,” or “members of a limited liability company”—the determination of whether the workers are in fact FLSA covered employees should be made by applying an economic realities analysis.
  • The multi-faceted economic realities test focuses on whether the worker is economically dependent on the employer or truly in business for him or herself.
  • Job designation given by a company is not determinative of a worker’s employment status.
  • This Administrator’s Interpretation is not new. It explains long-standing and developed case law and DOL interpretations of 77-year-old “suffer or permit to work” terms. It should not come as a surprise to companies.