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North American Edition
18th September 2023
UAW strike tests Detroit's automakers as talks prove challenging
The United Auto Workers (UAW) strike against the Detroit Three automakers is set to entered its third day on Sunday with no immediate resolution. Negotiators for the UAW and Ford Motor had "reasonably productive discussions" toward a new contract, while Chrysler-parent Stellantis said it had boosted its contract offer. About 12,700 UAW workers remain on strike as part of a coordinated labor action targeting three U.S. assembly plants. Union negotiators and representatives of General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis resumed talks on Saturday. Stellantis said it hiked its offer, proposing raises of 20% over a four-and-a-half-year contract term. The UAW is demanding a 40% wage hike through 2027. The strikes have halted production at three plants in Michigan, Ohio, and Missouri. Ford and GM have already announced layoffs and potential factory shutdowns due to the strike. The UAW is also demanding shorter work weeks, restoration of defined benefit pensions, and stronger job security as automakers make the EV shift. The Wall Street Journal looks at how UAW leader Shawn Fain launched a targeted approach that hits GM, Ford and Stellantis simultaneously and how the tactic will require more discipline among workers in order for it to succeed.
California Legislature votes to extend health and safety protections to domestic workers
The California Legislature has voted to make the state the first in the nation to include housekeepers, nannies, and other household staff in laws requiring health and safety protections. The bill, SB 686, would remove a 50-year-old exclusion of domestic workers from California Division of Occupational Safety and Health rules, requiring anyone who hires household staff to comply with employer laws regarding injury prevention beginning in 2025. A report by the UCLA Labor and Occupational Safety and Health Program found that 85% of domestic workers surveyed experienced musculoskeletal injuries. Supporters of the bill argue that the exclusion of domestic workers from safety laws is reflective of racist and sexist policies. If passed, the policy is expected to cost the state about $42 million annually. Governor Gavin Newsom, who has vetoed a similar proposal before, has not yet indicated his stance on the current bill.
New York's salary transparency law requires job ads to disclose pay rates
Help-wanted advertisements in New York will have to disclose proposed pay rates under a new salary transparency law. The law, signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul in 2022, applies to employers with at least four workers and requires them to disclose salary ranges for any job advertised externally or internally. The aim is to prevent discrimination based on age, gender, race, or other factors unrelated to skills. Similar laws are already in effect in New York City, California, and Colorado. Compliance may be challenging for some employers, and there are concerns about the administrative burden. However, State Senator Jessica Ramos sees the law as a win for labor rights groups, stating that workers are demanding transparency in pay. The law also covers remote employees reporting to a supervisor or worksite in New York. The National Women's Law Center supports the law, emphasizing the importance of pay transparency for achieving equal pay for equal work.
Collins Aerospace to lay off less than 1% of workforce
North Carolina-based Collins Aerospace is set to lay off less than 1% of its workforce. The layoffs will be made across the company, not in one specific division or location. Erin Callender, director of global media relations for Collins, said the layoffs are part of an alignment effort. Bloomberg reported that RTX Corp. has expanded the scope of its recall of Pratt & Whitney jet engines, affecting nearly its entire fleet of turbines powering Airbus SE’s A320 single-aisle jets for months. About 3,000 engines must be removed over the next three years to check for potentially flawed components. The added work will result in an average of 350 aircraft parked per year through 2026, with costs up to $7bn and a $3.5bn cut in RTX’s profit.
Georgia's jobless rate rises slightly in August
Georgia's jobless rate increased slightly in August, rising to 3.3% from 3.2% in July. Despite the slight increase, the state's labor market remains strong. The number of unemployed Georgians reached about 174,000, as more people entered the labor force looking for new jobs. The number of workers on Georgia employer payrolls rose by 12,000, reaching 4.93 million, which is an all-time high. The nationwide unemployment rate also rose to 3.8% in August. About 4,600 Georgia workers filed for new unemployment benefits in the week ending September 9. The overall number of people collecting state unemployment was about 32,000 in the week ending September 2. These numbers indicate a positive trend in Georgia's labor market, despite the slight increase in the unemployment rate.
Gov. Wes Moore's year-of-service program to begin next month
Following hundreds of applications, Gov. Wes Moore's flagship idea to launch a year-of-service programme for recent high school graduates is set to begin next month. About 500 people applied for the pilot year by a September 8 deadline, according to the Department of Service and Civic Innovation. Under the program, participants will be paid a $15 hourly wage and a $6,000 stipend if they complete at least nine months of work for a nonprofit organization, business, or government agency. The program aims to connect young adults with jobs and inspire long-term dedication to public service. Paul Monteiro, the secretary of the Department of Service and Civic Innovation, stated: "It's a program that really meets the moment." The program has received positive responses from prospective participants and employers. The law allows for private fundraising to support the effort, and the program is expected to grow in scale over the years. Gov. Wes Moore's year-of-service program is seen as a groundbreaking initiative in the country.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra reaches three-year contract agreement with musicians union
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has reached a three-year contract agreement with its musicians union to replace the expiring agreement. The deal, which includes a 13.25% wage increase over five years, must be ratified by the CSO board of trustees and the orchestra members in the Chicago Federation of Musicians. The details of the new contract will be released after ratification. "The Chicago Symphony Orchestra says it agreed Sunday to a three-year contract with its musicians union on a deal to replace the agreement that expires Sunday," the CSO stated. Music director emeritus for life Riccardo Muti will lead the CSO season-opening concert on Sept. 21 at Orchestra Hall and will take the orchestra to New York to open Carnegie Hall's season on Oct.
Work-from-home trend persists, upending downtown districts and commuting patterns
The work-from-home trend has continued even though many large urban centers saw population recoveries after being depopulated during the pandemic. Census data released by the American Community Survey shows that the share of workers working from home last year remained well above pre-pandemic levels. In the Washington metro area, over a quarter of workers were remote last year, down from the previous year. The pandemic shutdown may have led to new ways of thinking about work, with the development of telecommuting technologies and strategies. The high rate of remote work in the Washington metro area is likely due to its high population of tech workers and government employees. The new census data also reflect a rebound in immigration, with an increase in foreign-born residents last year. The work-from-home trend continues to impact downtown districts and commuting patterns, revolutionizing the way people work and live.
Uber rejects Brazilian court ruling, faces $205m fine
Uber has rejected a ruling from a Brazilian labor court that ordered the ride-hailing firm to pay a fine of 1bn reais ($205m) for irregular working relations with its drivers. The court also mandated that Uber recognize the employment relationships with all its drivers and register their professional work cards, with a penalty of 10,000 reais for each unregistered worker. The lawsuit, filed in November 2021, accused Uber of controlling the activities of its drivers, constituting an employment relationship. Uber plans to appeal the decision and will not comply with the measures until all legal resources have been exhausted. The company cited legal precedents involving other companies in the delivery and taxi app sectors.  
Connectivity challenges slow down logistics automation advancements
Logistics companies are facing challenges with internet connectivity as they adopt new automation technology. Robots, drones, and other tools used in distribution centers require a fast and reliable internet connection to function properly. Many companies are finding that their existing internet connections are inadequate for the needs of advanced automation technology, resulting in expensive and time-consuming upgrades. Industrial operators in rural areas or urban areas with heavy power grid demands face particular difficulties in building the necessary internet capability. Some operators are turning to private networks that run on high-speed 5G wireless cellular technology for a more stable and secure connection. However, widespread adoption of 5G in industrial settings is still limited, as not all warehouse automation systems are compatible. The lack of understanding about 5G networks also poses a barrier to adoption. Despite the challenges, logistics companies are determined to overcome connectivity issues to fully leverage the benefits of automation technology.
Whistleblowing on illegal cartels drops 70% in U.K.
The U.K.'s competition watchdog should be concerned by a 70% drop in whistleblowing on illegal cartels in the last five years, according to top lawyers. A freedom of information request submitted by law firm RPC revealed that reporting has fallen from 1,442 calls in 2017 to just 427 in 2022. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) raised the amount whistleblowers receive for exposing illegal activity, but the decline suggests a reluctance to come forward. Chris Ross, a partner in RPC's competition litigation team, said “whistleblowers might be fearful over finding employment again in the same industry after reporting wrongdoing, becoming financially insecure or causing damage to their reputation. Some do not find the potential reward great enough to compensate the potential fallout that could upturn their lives after speaking out – however much is offered.” 

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