The University of Kansas Graduate Teaching Assistant’s Coalition (GTAC) will join university students on a Labor Day strike today to demand the school close due to rising Covid-19 cases on campus. KU is one of a few major universities to allow its students to return to campus for the fall term. The university has since reported over 500 positive cases on campus. In response, students plan to strike today to urge the university to close the campus for the safety of the university’s students and staff. They are also calling for additional measures, including guaranteed pay and hazard pay for KU’s laborers. The GTAC issued a statement in support of the students and pledged to represent and defend any graduate teaching assistants participating in the strike. KU’s head of employment relations stated in response that participation in the strike by teaching assistants would be illegal and could be cause for termination.
In the latest update on California’s attempts to restructure worker classifications, the state will exempt certain professions from Assembly Bill 5 (the law that requires gig companies like Uber to reclassify their workers as employees). The carveout, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Friday, exempts dozens of professionals from AB 5. Some of the exempt professions include freelance writers, musicians, cartographers, and contest judges. The law aims to establish a comprehensive framework to distinguish employee-employer relationships from professionals who run their own business. It goes into effect immediately.
In other corners of the gig economy, Uber drivers cannot escape the company’s arbitration agreement even if they are providing rides to out-of-state passengers. In an attempt to litigate the company’s alleged mishandling of a 2016 data breach, the plaintiff-driver argued that by picking up out-of-state passengers he was engaged in interstate commerce and should therefore by exempt from forced arbitration under the Federal Arbitration Act. The Ninth Circuit, however, rejected the argument. According to the court, where passengers come from and whether they are engaged in interstate commerce says nothing about whether drivers themselves are engaged in interstate commerce. The ruling provides rideshare companies with additional cushion from future litigation by their workers.
And finally, a federal judge in Washington has partially blocked Trump’s June travel ban on foreign workers. In June, the Trump administration issued a ban against foreign workers “who present a risk to the US labor market following the coronavirus pandemic.” The ban barred green card applicants, diversity visa lottery winners, and other foreign guest workers. On Friday, Judge Amit Mehta of the US District Court for the District of Columbia limited the ban. He stated that the federal government cannot bar diversity visa lottery winners and their relatives from receiving their papers before the program’s September 30 deadline. However, Judge Mehta declined to restrict the ban any further. The ruling could benefit over 900 visa lottery winners.