This week: a trick, a suit, a tip, an octopus, some birds, and a gang of feral cats.
If your boss says this…
Workplace dynamics can get a little murky, especially when when you consider all the overlapping power relationships, legal regimes, and cultural norms at play in any interaction. So this rule recently offered up on Twitter is a relief: “If you have to tell your employees what you're doing isn't illegal, you're a sucky employer. Straight up.”
It’s also probably a good guide to what ought to be illegal.
It’s a trip
Late in the week, the US Chamber of Commerce filed suit to block Seattle’s landmark law giving Uber and other professional drivers the right to organize… because they’re the nation’s big business lobby, and that’s what they’re for.
If you can set aside for a moment the fundamental issue that workers should have more rights than loopholes, there are some interesting legal issues at stake here. And there’s also some incredible gall. Paragraph 45 of the legal complaint notes that “the Chamber’s members have started and will continue to expend both time and money to educate their drivers about the disadvantages of choosing to be represented” — in other words, hiring anti-union law firms, make anti-union phone calls, and the like.
And in Paragraph 46 they argue that 1) companies want to amend driver agreements to require drivers to not join unions, 2) the city law prohibits this, and so 3) they therefore risk substantial fines for anti-union behavior that ought to be lawful.
That’s quite an argument.
Hot tip: some things haven’t changed as much as you think
A jaunt through the Google Newspaper archives finds that back in 1963, a union leader argued before Congress that excluding tipped employees from Federal minimum wage would encourage the “evil, evil wage practices of the bunny clubs, the key clubs, and even some posh cocktail lounges” — having waitresses work for no pay, just tips. The testimony today reads as both somewhat prescient and somewhat prudish, but it’s a good reminder of how bizarre it is that employers seem to consistently think they shouldn’t actually have to pay women a wage in precisely those situations when women’s work is literally the only reason the entire enterprise exists.
The subminimum wage for tipped workers was abolished in Washington in a 1988 ballot initiative, but persists to this day in most states. So do abusive relationships between work and women’s bodies: women working as fashion models in 2016 report being instructed to eat just a single rice cake a day, have been docked pay for gaining centimeters while under contract, and have been regularly misclassified as independent contractors in order to avoid workplace regulations.
If they don’t get it, shut it down
A new species of “ghostlike” octopus that walks the line between cute and creepy-looking was first exposed to humans this week when a research sub stumbled onto its home deep in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists noted that the animal “did not seem very muscular”, had a “pale rounded form”, “expressionless eyes, and “languid tentacles” — all comments which sound more appropriate for a Republican Presidential debate than for a research report.
A large number of birds pooped on some power lines in upstate New York, causing an electrical arc between wires that forced the temporary shutdown of a nearby nuclear reactor. No particular type of bird is currently suspected, no carcass was found, and while regulatorssay that animal-related reactor outages are “certainly not unheard of,” it is unclear if this was effectively an act of environmental terrorism.
And a gang of feral cats is damaging equipment, disrupting work and otherwise causing management problems at a nuclear submarine base in Connecticut. After a Feral Cat Summit organized by base leadership produced limited results, surveillance has now been stepped up to root out any possible fifth column of human collaborators who may be feeding the beasts.