Most interesting HR stories of the week

Apple braced for first unionization vote…

Workers at an Apple store in Towson, Maryland, will next week vote on whether to unionize. Workers at the Maryland store – calling themselves the Coalition of Organized Retail Employees – could now be the first to unionize at the US tech company. Speaking to The Guardian, Onye Igwulu, a 24-year-old employee the Towson store said: “The people who we have the biggest relationship with, our store leaders, have little to no say in what affects workers.” Igwulu added: “We’re standing up to make a better life for ourselves and our family that we feel we deserve and which all workers deserve. We love our work; we just want to have a say in the things that affect us.” There appears to be growing momentum for some form of staff representation within Apple. An Apple store, in New York City, publicly announced a union organizing campaign in April and a Louisville, Kentucky, store announced their campaign in May. Apple announced it would boost starting wages to $22 an hour, just weeks after the union organizing campaigns went public.

…as Starbucks is accused of trying to close recently unionized store

Starbucks employees say executives there are attempting to close its Ithaca, New York store – just because it voted to be unionized. Workers United, a Service Employees International Union affiliate representing Starbucks workers, has filed a complaint accusing bosses of illegally retaliating against labor organizing by moving to shut it down. The store voted to be unionized in April, but the store is now set to close on June 10th. According to Truth Out, Starbucks is claiming the reason for the closure is because of unsafe working conditions due to an “overflowing grease trap.” Staff, however, have been quick to dismiss this rationale as a pretext for shuttering a unionized shop. “This is clearly retaliation for our small grasps at dignity as workers,” said Benjamin South, an employee at the Ithaca shop. “Taking a corporation to task is unprecedented, but our 100+ union stores are proof positive that there is an army of partners that won’t let Starbucks bully us.”

Supreme Court backs Southwest baggage worker in arbitration dispute

The US Supreme Court has this week sided with a Southwest Airlines Co. baggage-handling supervisor, Latrice Saxon, who was seeking to avoid having to go to arbitration over her bid for overtime pay. As a condition of her employment Saxon initially signed an agreement to take any wage disputes to arbitration, rather than filing a lawsuit. But justices unanimously agreed that the supervisor isn’t covered by a 1925 federal law that requires enforcement of agreements to take claims to arbitration rather than to court. It argued Saxon qualifies for an exemption in that law for “seamen, railroad employees or any other class of workers engaged in foreign or interstate commerce.” Although Southwest argues the judgement will have minimal impact on its business, commentators are already saying the ruling could now have implications for similarly employed staff [those that “perform activities within the flow of interstate commerce”], such as Uber drivers and Amazon warehouse workers.

US employers ranked the best for ‘celebrating differences’

Research by global hygiene and health company, Essity, has revealed the US is the country most likely to have workplaces that “celebrate employee differences” – with it finding 38% of employers invite staff to share their backgrounds, religious and cultural practices. This compares to just 17% of French employers who would do the same. In found 40% of US and Mexican firms encourage the use of gender-neutral language. By contrast, 23% of UK employees said they didn’t want to see gender-neutral language encouraged. The research also found 34% of US employers have gender-neutral toilets.

US job vacancy levels being inflated by ‘fake ads’

Total numbers of job vacancies in America are being artificially swelled by ‘fake’ ads, according to a report in the Financial Times. The ads – dubbed ‘purple squirrel’ ads [those that are rarer than finding such a creature] are fake because they are for positions that aren’t actually available, but are for roles that companies suspect ‘could’ be needed in a years’ (or longer) time, and which might take that long to fill. Economists are reportedly worried about the practice, because if long-term job listings are inflating job opening figures, labor might not be as in-demand as it seems, causing the wrong sort of federal responses. Officially US employers added 390,000 jobs, but there are now concerns that a significant minority of these could be purple squirrel vacancies – those left up indefinitely.

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Five percent of young US adults identify as transgender or non-binary

In what could be a wake-up call for employers, new polling by the Pew Research Center reveals around 5% of young adults in the U.S. identify as transgender or non-binary, and an increasing number say they know someone who is trans. The survey also found one in five U.S. adults said they personally know a non-binary person, while 26% of Americans said they knew someone who preferred using gender-neutral pronouns (up from 18% in 2018). Since 2017, the number of adults who say they know a trans person has been on a steady increase, rising from 37% that year to 42% in 2021, and 44% this year. The findings are part of a broader survey that will be released this summer about the general public’s “attitudes about gender identity and issues related to people who are transgender or non-binary.”

Microsoft’s new deal for current and prospective employees

IT giant, Microsoft, has revealed staff will no longer be banned from seeking roles at competitor organizations, while it has also promised to disclose actual salaries in job ads. Non-competitor clauses have been the subject of intense criticism at the company for years, especially in the way they prevent lower-level staff from moving around. But in a blog posting this week Microsoft announced it would no longer enforce them for staff below senior executive level. Pay transparency has also been welcomed. According to the blog Microsoft said it is committed to publicly disclosing salary ranges in all internal and external US job postings, beginning no later than January 2023. This will be welcome news to campaigners who have long argued keeping job seekers in the dark about how much they and their potential colleagues earn reinforces existing gender and ethnicity pay divides.

 

Peter Crush is the interim editor of TLNT. He’s an award-winning journalist based in London, and he writes exclusively about the ever-changing world of work.

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