A new report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) concluded that police unions across the nation are too powerful, and their collective bargaining agreements “are an obstacle to police reform and to the regaining of public trust.” The report maintains that the union-negotiated agreements have enabled the cover up or delay of misconduct investigations, have sanctioned the purging of disciplinary records, and have, ultimately, ceded too much authority to police unions in the disciplining of cops who abuse their authority. 

The USCM Working Group on Police Reform and Racial Justice, formed after the killing of George Floyd and led by Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, published the report to detail a plan for cities to “fundamentally change policing” in the name of public service and racial justice. OnLabor has highlighted how police unions wield more power than other public-sector unions, mobilizing behind officers charged with misconduct and forcing city officials to temper calls for reform. The report, which the USCM’s 1400 member cities will soon debate, also details plans to rewrite state laws, to license police officers, and to establish a national database to prevent terminated officers from joining police departments in other cities.

In California, Uber and Lyft on Thursday threatened to pull out of the state in response to a court ruling ordering them to classify drivers as ‘employees.’ As the blog has previously discussed, the tech companies classify drivers as ‘independent contractors’ in the name of flexibility, but the classification deprives drivers of traditional benefits like workers compensation and health insurance. The California court determined the companies were in breach of Assembly Bill 5 (AB5), a state law enacted in 2020 that tightened restrictions for the classification of workers as employees. 

The giants are now campaigning for Proposition 22, a ballot measure that would exempt gig-economy companies from AB5. By threatening to leave the state, commentators say Uber and Lyft are attempting to appeal to voters, both drivers and riders alike, before the crucial November vote. The companies’ efforts are unsurprising — their business models hinge on contract labor, and revenue streams have taken a beating due to coronavirus’ impact on passenger travel. 

Meanwhile, with COVID cases rising, teachers unions appear prepared to win the battle against Trump to keep schools closed. As of now, New York City is the only large district planning some in-person instruction — and a growing chorus of educators, including the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), oppose the imminent reopening of New York schools. This Wednesday, a union representing 6,400 principals wrote Mayor Bill de Blasio, questioning the lack of adequate planning and urging the state to listen to “dire warnings concerning the city’s September 10th reopening plan.” By Thursday, the 200,000 member United Federation of Teachers and the NYS Nurses Association also called to delay the school year. 

Teachers unions in Massachusetts similarly mobilized state educators in calling for a fully-remote return to school. The Boston Teachers Union last week rejected its district’s proposition to enact a hybrid-model, while the Massachusetts Teachers Association stated members will not return to class until their districts meet elevated safety criteria. The coordinated efforts in Massachusetts and New York demonstrate unions have become a powerful force in shaping school reopening plans amid the pandemic. 

Finally, a senior Department of Labor lawyer faces retaliation after objecting to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia’s intervention in a pay discrimination case to protect Oracle, a tech giant with close White House relations. The Oracle case, which the Obama administration initiated, involves hundreds of millions of dollars in back pay for female, Black and Asian-American employees who the DOL said were paid less than white and male counterparts. The lawyer, Janet Herold, claims Scalia abused his authority by intervening to seek a settlement for less than $40 million, particularly because normally career employees, rather than political appointees, handle such cases.