No Prosperity without Labor, but Who Is Protecting Workers’ Rights? | DCR Workforce Blog

No Prosperity without Labor, but Who Is Protecting Workers’ Rights?

Labor Day is meant to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers and the rise of organized labor. It’s about employment laws that govern and protect the working conditions and rights of workers in the United States.

After a lifetime of hard work, shouldn’t a worker be able to retire on a reasonable pension that protects the worker’s existing lifestyle, not drive them to appeal for welfare? The way things are structured right now, this security isn’t afforded to non-employees whose rights need to be carefully considered and protected by the powers that be by suitably modifying the employment law.

As workplaces change the way they classify employees and structure the employer-employee relationship, the onus of making corresponding changes to the employment laws lies squarely on the shoulders of the Department of Labor (DOL) and the policymakers at the helm. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is also there to see that the number of unionized workers goes up from 8%, and to ensure that the workers assert workers’ rights and take a proactive role in their future through protected collective bargaining efforts.

All workers are generally protected by the same rights and privileges and none can make any distinctions. Employers need to adhere to employment law and government regulations regarding classification, compensation, safety and worker rights if they want to avoid fines and penalties.

Employment law violations which need correction

Some policy loopholes still create problems and these become burning issues that need to be addressed to protect employees as well as non-employees:

  • Wage theft is an unfair labor practice that’s always at the forefront of things demanding correction, and it’s all-pervading as small and medium employers rub shoulders with some of the biggest names in business when they face this charge.
  • Labor Day marks the rise of organized labor, and also sets the 40-hour work week as a benchmark for permanent employment in America. Its strength shows in decisions like the country’s very first ordinance in Seattle  that gives drivers of app-based, ride-dispatch companies such as Uber and Lyft the right to bargain collectively with their companies over working conditions, including pay. While a final rule hasn’t been passed citing conflicts with longstanding federal labor and anti-trust law, the ordinance exemplifies the spirit of the labor laws and the protection they afford to workers. For example, the overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) were simplified and modernized to suit the needs of current day workplaces and ensures that it will either put more money in the pockets of middle class workers or give them more free time.
  • Concerted efforts by contingent workers have secured some important wins for contingent workers in certain industries, such as giving 15 days of paid leave when the staffing company that deployed them employs more than 50 persons. Still, their safety is a major concern. The efforts to enable more temporary workers to organize and collectively bargain for their welfare have still a long way to go before they have the necessary impact. In the meantime, the policymakers have made sure that temporary worker safety is not compromised by having two employers, both of whom believe they can shirk the responsibility for failing to protect them.
  • The New York-based Freelancers Union, with more than 200,000 members nationwide, offers its members benefits such as health care, information sharing and political advocacy. Organizing would help unions and workers to get better insight into the workplace and the terms and conditions of employment in detail including franchise agreementsand staffing agency contracts, which routinely set forth arrangements granting control over hiring, dismissal, work processes and production standards to corporate franchises and businesses that hire temps. They can get information on pay rates and markups and how the two employers (staffing agency and its client) determine matters such as schedules, overtime and number of workers as well as the pace of work. All these could help the workers in their collective bargaining efforts as well as any court cases.

Employers are slowly but surely being made to understand the benefits of empowering their employees to build successful, profitable businesses founded on middle-class jobs, and to offer minimum wages and sick leave and parental leave.

So far, California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut and several cities have passed paid family and medical leave or earned sick days laws. Moreover, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics clearly showcases the advantages in being unionized by tracking the median weekly earnings of union members against that of non-union workers and finds that it’s at least $200 more, which isn’t chump change by any standards!

So Labor Day is more than just another day off for Americans. If you’re a contingent worker or work with contingent workers, perhaps you can dedicate part of this day to thinking about how to improve workers’ rights. Let us know your thoughts!

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.