In a major triumph for LGBTQ workers, the Supreme Court held yesterday that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Leigh and Jared broke down the 6-3 decision, in which Justice Gorsuch, writing for a majority that included Chief Justice Roberts and the four more liberal justices, wrote that any discriminatory decision made because of an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity necessarily implicates sex. There were two dissents, by Justice Alito and Justice Kavanaugh. Leigh and Jared will be posting a roundup of news and commentary relating to the decision later today (update: Leigh and Jared’s roundup is here).
The outrage over military bases named for confederate generals, an issue brought to the forefront by the Black Lives Matter movement, has reached some of the most prestigious workplaces in the country. Laurence Silberman, a senior judge on the DC Circuit, sent an email to the entire Circuit criticizing Elizabeth Warren for proposing to strip the names of confederate generals from the bases. Silberman characterized removing the names as equaling, “the desecration of Confederate graves,” and claimed the Civil War was not really about slavery. After a day of no response from any fellow judges, a clerk, who is one of only five black clerks on the entire circuit, sent a reply-all because “no one in the court’s leadership has responded to your message, [so] I thought I would give it a try.” The clerk wrote that, for their ancestors, enslaved in Mississippi, “and myself, race is not an abstract topic to be debated, so in my view anything that was built to represent white racial superiority, or named after someone who fought to maintain white supremacy….should be removed from high trafficked areas of prominence and placed in museums where they can be part of lessons that put them in context.” The clerk’s email is remarkably brave for the same reason the judiciary has only recently been forced to grapple with the presence of multiple sexual harassers amid its ranks: judges hold an enormous amount of power over their clerk’s lives and careers.
After nearly two years of negotiations, the Harvard Graduate Students Union-United Auto Workers Local 5118 (HGSU) has reached a tentative agreement with Harvard University for its first contract. The tentative agreement would last one year and will go into effect on July 1st upon ratification by the bargaining unit; the HGSU bargaining committee has unanimously recommended that membership vote to ratify the contract. The agreement comes at the end of an eventful negotiation, with a strike in December and students sent home halfway into the spring semester because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Looming over all of this was and is a proposed rule by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that would remove graduate students from the jurisdiction of federal labor law, and eliminate a host of legal protections including the right to unionize. A final decision from the NLRB is expected sometime this year. But a ratified contract would still be valid and enforceable even if the NLRB follows through on its rule.
As other professional sports near returns and grapple with safety amid the pandemic, Major League Baseball has been locked in a bitter fight with its union, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA), over the financial terms of a shortened season with no fans. A March agreement between the union and league empowered the league to reduce the number of games provided it pay the players a prorated share of their salary – but also imposed a requirement on the league that it make its “best efforts to play as many games as possible.” The league, however, has sought to renegotiate that agreement, saying it cannot pay players their full salaries if games are played without fans. After a series of proposals with little progress, the MLBPA ended negotiations and asked the league to set a schedule for a season, with full prorated pay. The demand has galvanized the players, who are showing a level of solidarity not seen since the 1994-95 strike. In response, Commissioner Rob Manfred has implied that there may be no MLB season at all, and told the MLBPA that the league would only agree to a season if the union dropped any potential grievance against the league for violating the “best efforts” provision.