Monday morning musings for workplace watchers.
Autoworkers Election Runoff|Misclassification Costs Workers
Ian Kullgren: UAW members have begun casting their ballots in a presidential runoff—and the stakes couldn’t be higher.
The race between incumbent President Ray Curry and challenger Shawn Fain teeters on a razor’s edge weeks before the union is set to begin negotiating a new contract with the Big Three. Curry and Fain were the top two vote-getters in the five-way presidential race last year—Curry ahead by about 600 votes—but neither received the majority needed to win outright.
Fain has a slight edge in the runoff. He’s well-positioned to gain 25,000 votes that went to the other three challengers in the first election.
But boosting turnout might be Curry’s most reliable path to victory, and he knows it. The last time we talked in December, Curry hammered on the fact that only 11% of UAW members voted in the first round—lower than the 14% who participated in the 2021 referendum on whether to establish direct elections in the first place. The referendum was part of a wide-ranging consent decree with the federal government to settle corruption charges.
UAW members aren’t used to voting, Curry told me, and were preoccupied with the federal midterm elections. Next time would be different, he insisted.
“People are waking up,” Curry said. “They realize what’s in front of them.”
Fain, in an interview in November, said the current leadership regime is fundamentally broken — “just way to close to the company”— and that only new blood could alter the culture of malfeasance that landed the last two elected presidents in prison.
Whoever wins will have to shepherd the long-term transition to electric vehicles, further the union’s push into higher education, and win back members’ trust.
The candidates traded barbs in a debate this month over protecting union jobs in the transition to electric vehicles. Fain accused Curry of not being aggressive enough in organizing new battery plants, while Curry said he’s more qualified than Fain and has been “actually sitting at the table with those employers.”
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Rebecca Rainey: Ahead of the US Department of Labor’s release of a final rule updating how it will approach independent contractor status under federal wage law, one think tank says misclassification currently costs workers up to nearly $10,000 a year on average.
An analysis of 11 occupations where misclassification is common—including in construction, security, and janitorial services—by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute found that on average workers lose out on up to $9,820 yearly in those industries when they are illegally classified as independent contractors instead of employees.
For example, EPI found that a typical construction worker “would lose out on as much as $16,729 per year in income and job benefits” as an independent contractor compared to what they would make as a full employee. For home health aides, they miss as much as $9,529 per year in income and job benefits as independent contractors, the analysis said.
“Employer misclassification of workers as independent contractors robs workers of labor rights and threatens their economic security,” Heidi Shierholz, EPI president and co-author of the report said in a statement. “It’s not just gig workers and journalists who are harmed by employer misclassification—nail salon workers, truck drivers, and construction workers are among the most impacted occupations.”
EPI backs California’s “ABC test,” which presumes workers are employees instead of independent contractors under the law. While the Biden administration said it couldn’t enact the Golden State’s stringent classification test in its proposed rule on worker status under the Fair Labor Standard Act, some attorneys have raised concerns about the parallels between the ABC test and the DOL’s proposal.
One of the factors the agency wants to consider when deciding whether a worker should be classified as an employee or a contractor in business for themselves is “whether the work is an integral part of the employer’s business,” which management-side attorneys caution is similar to the “B” prong of California’s test.
It’s unclear whether the DOL will finalize its proposal as written, and the agency is required to analyze and respond to the tens of thousands of comments it received from the public on the rulemaking. The administration plans to release the final rule in May, according to the latest regulatory agenda.
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