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This Week in Threats to Workers' Rights

A Supreme Court ruling, Elon Musk's union drama, and more.
Tesla factory in Fremont, California.

Tesla factory in Fremont, California.

It's never really an easy day to work for a living in the United States, but this was an especially tough week for collective bargaining and labor. Here are four stories from this past week in which workers' rights were curtailed or otherwise imperiled.

Colorado Planned Parenthood Executives Are Fighting Unionization

Staff of a Colorado Planned Parenthood successfully voted to unionize in December, but Planned Parenthood executives there are fighting the unionization, the Intercept reports. The executives won the first round of deliberations, and the case will now be heard on appeal by the full National Labor Relations Board, which includes two Trump appointees

Employees Can't Band Together to Challenge Employer Abuses

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that non-unionized employees are not allowed to band together in class-action suits to challenge wage theft and other employer abuses. Instead, the opinion authored by rookie Justice Neil Gorsuch states that employees who sign employment contracts must raise these issues individually, through arbitration. Labor law experts expect the decision to also pose problems for employees who wish to challenge sexual or racial harassment, according to NPR.

A Report Accuses Federal Workers of Misusing "Official Time"

Republicans in the House of Representatives published a report on Thursday accusing federal workers of misusing what's known as "official time"—paid time that federal law grants to unionized workers for the purpose of addressing worker issues and disputes. "Some collective bargaining agreements allow certain labor union employees to spend 100 percent of their time on official time," the Republican report claims. "[They] do not have to do their regularly assigned work." The American Federation of Government Employees, however, called the report misleading, saying in a statement that "union time" is "time spent representing workers who are the victims of illegal discrimination, illegal harassment, or other prohibited personnel practices."

Elon Musk Is Fielding More Charges of Union-Busting

Elon Musk blasted off on a bit of a Twitter tantrum, following the suggestion that he has prevented Tesla workers in his Fremont, California, factory from unionizing. Tesla and Musk have faced several reports of union-busting in the recent past. In April of last year, BuzzFeed News reported that the United Automobile Workers labor union filed four charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging Tesla illegally surveilled and coerced workers who were distributing information about a union drive. Leaked emails obtained by Eletrek show Musk saying he was "distraught" at the prospect of his factory's unionization. Musk's labor issues floated back into this week's discursive flotsam when art-pop musician Grimes, who is dating Musk, attempted to defend Musk against anti-union charges in now-deleted tweets.