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Airport security screening line.
How would you like to go through a security screening line—and I do mean line—every day at work?
Over the last couple years, a lawsuit by workers at Amazon warehouses has been making its way through the courts. Now, the Supreme Court has agreed to take it up. The workers claim that they were made to spend time off the clock going through security screenings, taking about 25 unpaid minutes each day. Being made to work off the clock is classic wage theft lawsuit material, but Bruce Vail writes, the stakes are unusually high in this case:
Mark Thierman, the Reno, Nev., lawyer representing Busk and Castro, says the lawsuit has since been joined by another 500 workers from other warehouses. If the suit is fully successful, he tells In These Times, the settlement could include back pay for as many as 500,000 workers (both permanent and temporary) from all of Amazon’s more than 50 U.S. warehouses. [...]

A commentary from attorneys at Littler Mendelson, which is representing Integrity Staffing, explains the stake employers have in Busk. “The question is of great import for the nation’s employers as security screening is becoming an ever more common practice in the workplace,” write attorneys Neil Alexander, Rick Roskelley and Cory Walker. “Indeed, the Ninth Circuit’s determination in Busk has already triggered a spate of class-action suits filed by employees seeking back pay for time spent undergoing pre- or post-shift security measures. If allowed to stand, the Ninth Circuit’s determination could result in massive retroactive liability stemming from such suits.”

Since the circuit court ruling was in favor of the workers, there's reason for concern that the Supreme Court is hearing this case in order to decide that, yes, businesses can force workers to spend significant unpaid time going through required security screenings:
“It’s always a little worrying when [the Supreme Court] agrees to take a case from the Ninth Circuit,” [attorney Brooke Lierman] says. Whereas the Ninth Circuit is considered by labor lawyers to be relatively liberal, the high court is considered very conservative, Lierman says, so there is concern that some Supreme Court judges are predisposed to overrule the Ninth Circuit. “There are justices on the Supreme Court who want to roll back the rights of workers,” she says.
She's definitely not kidding on that last point.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

A fair day's wage

  • Sixteen states are taking action to curb reckless outsourcing.
  • He lost his job as a reporter and ended up working retail:
    The first thing I noticed on my first day on the job is that in retail no one sits.

    Ever.

    It didn’t matter if it was at the beginning of my shift, if the store was empty, or if my knees, back, and feet ached from hours of standing. Park your behind while on the clock, went the unspoken rule, and you might find it on a park bench scanning the want-ads for a new job.

    Another quick observation: Working in retail takes more skill than just selling stuff. Besides the mindless tasks one expects—folding, stacking, sorting, fetching things for customers—I frequently had to tackle a series of housekeeping chores that Stretch never mentioned in our welcome-aboard chat. Performed during the late shift, those chores usually meant I’d have to stay well past the scheduled 9 p.m. quitting time.

    (He doesn't comment on it much, but this story involves quite a bit of wage theft.)
  • Speaking of wage theft, Baltimore-area bus drivers are getting a $1.25 million settlement; they sued for overtime pay they should have gotten but didn't. Their employer, Durham School Services, has been hit with repeated allegations of wage theft.
  • Care before profit? That's what nurses are fighting for in Brooklyn.
  • The real story behind the Detroit pension fight and what it means to America's future.
  • The New York state Assembly has voted for paid family leave. Will the state Senate follow suit?
  • How the GOP ambushed the VW union election—it's not just Sen. Bob Corker:
    One local group, Southern Momentum, played a critical role in this frenzy of anti-unionism. Southern Momentum claims to represent ordinary Volkswagen workers, but surprisingly for a grassroots organization, it engaged the services of Projections, Inc., one of the nation’s leading union avoidance firms, which specializes in anti-union videos and websites. The group’s slick anti-union "no2uaw.com" website -- cited by media stories as having influenced workers -- claims to be made by “concerned VW team members." But it appears to be a Projections-created website, and the firm is already using the Volkswagen case to promote its “Union Proof” program with other employers.
  • Education
  • New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is under attack for not giving charter schools, particularly the politically connected Success Academies, every single thing they want. But Jeff Bryant brings some facts on the fight, starting with the fact that de Blasio's administration approved co-location applications for 14 out of 17 charter schools that applied. Not to mention:
    Mayor de Blasio pointed out that the children who were being targeted to give up their current facilities to make way for a charter co-location happen to matter, too.

    In this case, the two schools being occupied by the charters, PS 149 and 811, serve special education students. Parents at those schools recently put together a brief video in which they describe how much they and their children love their schools.

    Success Academy schools, meanwhile, have reputations for practicing “zero tolerance” discipline policies that often target special education students for harsh punishments such as suspensions and expulsions.

    Diane Ravitch has more, and Sarah Jaffe looks at the political stakes.
  • At a college where adjunct professors make $16,000 for a year's full teaching load, they are unionizing and may strike. The college's president makes more than $450,000 a year.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Sat Mar 15, 2014 at 10:55 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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