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SPRING 2024 NEWSLETTER

WORKERS AT THE CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

VOTE TO UNIONIZE WITH UAW


Graduate student workers and postdoctoral scholars at the California Institute of Technology have voted to unionize in early February, forming two bargaining units representing approximately 2,000 total workers. This marks the culmination of a successful organizing campaign, in which SSDS partner Amy M. Cu provided legal support. On February 7, 2024, the graduate student workers voted 799 to 246 in favor of unionization, and the postdocs voted 240 to 50, two decisive displays of workers coming together to have their voices heard.

These bargaining units form a combined union called the Caltech Grad Researchers and Postdocs United, part of the United Auto Workers, which has supported workers in numerous successful organizing drives across the country in the past year.


FTC SUES TO STOP KROGER-ALBERTSONS MERGER



On February 26, 2024, California joined eight other states and the FTC in suing to stop the $24.6 billion merger of Kroger and Albertsons.  California Attorney General Bonta issued a statement calling the proposed merger “bad for workers, for agricultural producers, and for California communities.”  Additionally, Senator Dan Sullivan, a republican senator from Alaska lauded the FTC’s lawsuit.  In our current, extremely polarized political climate, this bipartisanship indicates the potential for overwhelmingly negative consequences if the merger were completed. In the lawsuit, the FTC charges that the proposed deal will eliminate competition between the two grocers, leading to higher grocery prices across the U.S. Additionally, the FTC’s complaint alleges that Kroger and Albertsons’s divestiture proposal is inadequate, asserting that it is a confused mixture of unconnected assets that falls short of mitigating the harm caused by lost competition between the Companies. 

SSDS, in partnership with Strumwasser & Woocher LLP, advised UFCW Local 770 and other UFCW Locals regarding the merger.


USC ADJUNCTS IN THE SCHOOL OF CINEMATIC ARTS VOTE TO UNIONIZE WITH UAW



On February 23, 2024, adjunct professors in the prestigious film school at USC voted to unionize with the Adjunct Faculty Alliance-UAW by a vote of 206 to 13 – a 94% yes vote! USC’s film school relies heavily on adjunct professors, but compensation and benefits have been unsatisfactory. Now, the adjunct professors will be able to bargain for the better wages and working conditions that they deserve.

SSDS Partner Dan Curry represented adjunct film professors in their drive for union representation at the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts.


CALIFORNIA’S MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES


California is leading the charge in requiring employers to pay workers a living wage. Beginning April 1, 2024, California fast-food workers will earn a $20 per hour minimum wage. Additionally, in June, healthcare workers will earn an $18 to $23 per hour minimum wage, depending on the type of facility they work in. These industry-specific wage increases result from two union-backed bills, AB1228 and SB 525, signed by Governor Newson last year. They are particularly impactful because they can eventually be used as a model to benefit other types of workers in other industries. Gov. Newsom’s signatures also reflect the power and influence of labor unions, i.e., the tectonic shifts that can be accomplished when workers unite to have their voices heard. For California’s fast food and healthcare workers, these wage increases are just the starting point. 

The overall minimum wage in California rose to $16 per hour on January 1, 2024. Some local jurisdictions have higher minimum wages.


US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ANNOUNCES FINAL RULE ON CLASSIFYING WORKERS AS EMPLOYEES OR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS UNDER THE FLSA


On March 11, 2024, the Department of Labor's final rule defining the test for employee and independent contractor status will become effective. The rule clarifies the criteria for determining independent contractor status, ensuring fair wages and protections for workers. The new rule restores the multifactor analytical framework employed by courts for decades, which requires an evaluation all relevant factors to determine the applicable categorization of a particular worker. The rule addresses six factors that guide the analysis:

a.       any opportunity for profit or loss a worker might have;

b.      the financial stake and nature of any resources a worker has invested in the work;

c.       the degree of permanence of the work relationship;

d.      the degree of control an employer has over the person’s work;

e.       whether the work the person does is essential to the employer’s business; and

f.        the worker’s skill and initiative. 


SOCAL LERA NLRB UPDATE PANEL




On January 31, 2024, three SSDS attorneys participated on the Southern California Labor and Employment Relations Association’s NLRB Update Panel. Partner Daniel E. Curry presented on the NLRB’s recent decisions in Cemex Construction Co., 372 NLRB No. 113 (August 25, 2023) and Stericycle, Inc., 372 NLRB No. 113 (Aug. 2, 2023). His segments gave the audience practical insights that are immediately applicable to election procedures under Cemex and assessing the lawfulness of workplace rules under Stericycle. Associate Lovelace Lee moderated the panel and presented challenging questions to the panelists that stimulated an informative discussion. Partner Amy M. Cu was instrumental in the panel’s organization, as she sits on the SoCal LERA Panel Planning Committee as a member.

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