In a recent online survey, the Groundwork Collaborative gauged national approval of potential ideas on how to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. Two of these proposals included increased, federally-mandated collaboration between 1) worker representatives and business leaders and 2) labor unions and business leaders to develop plans on how workplaces can better support their employees. The survey polled 1000 registered voters and asked each participant to assess each proposal based on perceived efficacy, with responses ranging from “very effective” to “not at all effective.” Participants believed that the two proposals would be 79% effective and 81% effective, respectively.
Despite Hearst Company’s derailment efforts, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gave the green light for a new bargaining unit of the Writers Guild of America, East. The unit is composed of Hearst Magazine editorial staff. Throughout the process, Hearst Company’s efforts centered on undermining the proposal’s legitimacy and efficacy, arguing for smaller – and what they viewed as more appropriately discrete – bargaining units and alleging the existence of another, conflicting union. The NLRB, however, remained skeptical of both the logic of the smaller units and the actual existence of the conflicting union, allowing Hearst editorial staff to participate in their first WGA, East election.
As the country reopens, employers are turning to technology to help track and contain the spread of COVID-19 among its employees. Such technology has included tools to maintain and enforce social distancing. Most recently, however, some Subway Restaurant locations in California have begun to use thermal cameras to take employee temperatures upon their arrival at work. Many have criticized such technology as faulty, and have highlighted the extent to which it implicates and infringes upon employee privacy rights. The technology provides employers with employee health information in a manner largely unregulated by existing HIPPA laws. Moreover, proposed antibody tests and resulting “immunity certificates” serve to, as some law professors note, “create a new class system for employment,” given that, under such a scheme, those with COVID-19 antibodies can return to work and those without are left behind.
One month later, Kroger Retail Company, owner of Kroger Groceries, Giant, Harris Teeter, Ralph’s and Food 4 Less, is halting its Hero Pay program, New York Magazine reports. The program added an additional $2 to an average $15 per hour wage. This change comes in the midst of growing criticism of how Kroger has handled the pandemic and worker safety, with many employees and the union that represents them – United Food and Commercial Workers – pushing for more testing and improved cleaning procedures at certain chains.
Actors, musicians, writers and other creatives are criticizing the ability of the CARES Act to adequately protect and assist them during the pandemic. According to the Los Angeles Times, these workers are highlighting requirements of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program and the Paycheck Protection program that bar them from receiving benefits under new protections for gig workers and those who are self-employed.
Adding to the group of workers left behind by the CARES Act are airport retail employees. While the Act helped to maintain jobs for pilots, flight attendants, airline caterers and wheelchair attendants, it excluded those who worked in airport restaurants and stores, many of whom have now been furloughed or laid off as a result of decreased travel and sales. While some of these retail companies have provided healthcare to furloughed employees, this practice is far from universal, and several labor unions are widely dissatisfied with the relief efforts that have been made to date.