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Airlines For America, a coalition of airlines including industry heavyweights Alaska, JetBlue, United and Southwest, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in Tacoma, Washington on Tuesday, arguing that the mobile nature of the aviation workforce makes it impossible for them to comply with the paid sick leave laws recently enacted in Washington state and other states and cities, the Associated Press reports:
The complaint put it this way: “A flight crew departing from SeaTac International Airport, landing in Portland International Airport, and continuing to San Diego International Airport is subject to three different paid sick leave laws in a single duty period, each with its own accrual, compensation, reporting, and leave requirements.” The lawsuit seeks a ruling that federal regulation of air travel precludes Washington state’s sick leave law from applying to the airlines’ pilots or flight crews. …
The airlines say many of their employees already have generous sick leave and other benefits, and they’re covered by collective bargaining agreements. They also say that by restricting when employers can demand medical documentation for sick leave, Washington’s law will make it harder for them to crack down on fraud and abuse of sick leave policy. That, they insist, will lead to more employees calling in sick – and more flights being canceled or delayed due to a lack of adequate crew.
The airlines’ suit reflects the concern among multi-state employers that the expanding patchwork of local and state employment laws and regulations will make it harder and more expensive for them to do business across state lines or expose them to an excessive risk of litigation. This has prompted some conservative state governments to pass preemption laws barring localities from enacting their own labor regulations, while at the federal level, some lawmakers have sought to enact a national paid time off policy that would exempt employers from complying with local regulations if they met a less robust federal standard.
In the round of contract negotiations that began last week between the Teamsters Union and UPS, one of the union’s key demands is a pledge by the parcel delivery company not to use drones, driverless cars, or other automated technologies to do their jobs, Paul Ziobro reported at the Wall Street Journal. Negotiations over the collective bargaining agreement, which covers some 260,000 UPS employees, come at a time when e-commerce has drastically increased demand for more, better, faster delivery services, and UPS and its competitors are trying to keep pace.
In their 83-page draft of the updated contract, the Teamsters are also demanding a ban on deliveries after 9:00 p.m. and a commitment to hire another 10,000 workers, as well as safeguards allowing employees to refuse to work in unsafe conditions or overloaded trucks. The union is driving a hard bargain, as the labor market is tight and delivery companies are already having a hard time finding the workers they need.
Indeed, even as technology drives up demand for new roles in high-tech fields like software engineering and data science, the explosion of online retail is also expanding the market for warehouse and logistics workers to fulfill all those orders. Our research at CEB, now Gartner, bears out this trend: Our 2017 State of the Labor Market report, which CEB Recruiting Leadership Council members can access here, found that tractor-trailer driver was among the fastest-growing jobs in the US between 2016 and 2017, even as the scramble for tech talent captured the headlines.
Given the widespread concern that new technologies will displace millions of workers in routine jobs like transportation, it’s not surprising to see this issue come up in a union contract negotiation—and this won’t be the only time it does.
The European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that Uber should be regulated as a transportation company, not a technology company, potentially exposing the ridesharing platform to new licensing and tax requirements within the European Union and hinting at how the court will likely rule on other regulatory issues involving gig economy companies.
The court’s finding that Uber “must be classified not as ‘an information society service’ but as ‘a service in the field of transport’” means that under European law, it may be regulated differently in each member state, Sky News’s Bethany Minelle explains—in contrast to digital platforms, which are held to a single set of rules throughout the EU. This opens the way for EU countries and cities to hold Uber to the same standards as other transportation services in their jurisdictions:
While the long-running case, which originated in Spain, is not legally binding it is likely to foreshadow the decision in the majority of EU cases. The Barcelona-based legal firm representing the cabbies who filed the lawsuit said that the ruling was “a social victory” with “great judicial significance”. …
A new study from the University of the West of England examines the impact of commuting on employees’ wellbeing and job satisfaction. Based on an analysis of 26,000 workers in England, the study found that “every extra minute of commute time reduces job satisfaction, reduces leisure time satisfaction, increases strain and reduces mental health.” Commuters who travel by bus are particularly affected by the negative impacts of long commutes, but the effect is reversed among those who travel by train: Longer train commutes tend to be less stressful than short ones as commuters are “better able to use their journey time productively.” Those who commute on foot or by bicycle, in contrast, have higher levels of job satisfaction and perceptions of their own health.
The study also measured just how much long commutes hurt job satisfaction, Olivia Rudgard highlights at the Telegraph, finding that an extra 20 minutes of commute time is as bad as a 19 percent cut in pay for the average worker:
For someone earning the average pre-tax salary of £1,800 per month, equivalent to £21,600 a year, an extra 10 minutes spent travelling each way was equivalent to a £340 fall in monthly income, the study found.
At CEB, now Gartner, our recent research has also found that grueling commutes have a major negative impact on employees’ work.
With AI and machine learning taking on an increasingly major role in the workplace, prognosticators are divided on whether these technologies will result in the mass displacement of human workers or create so many new jobs that their net impact on employment is ultimately positive. In his latest piece for the Wall Street Journal, Greg Ip, a member of the techno-optimist camp, uses an example from the past to illustrate why he’s not worried about AI taking everyone’s jobs:
Until the 1980s, manipulating large quantities of data—for example, calculating how higher interest rates changed a company’s future profits—was time-consuming and error-prone. Then along came personal computers and spreadsheet programs … The new technology pummeled demand for bookkeepers: their ranks have shrunk 44% from two million in 1985, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet people who could run numbers on the new software became hot commodities. Since 1985, the ranks of accountants and auditors have grown 41%, to 1.8 million, while financial managers and management analysts, which the BLS didn’t even track before 1983, have nearly quadrupled to 2.1 million.
Just as spreadsheets drove costs down and demand up for calculations, machine learning—the application of AI to large data sets—will do the same for predictions, argue Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb, who teach at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management.
Accordingly, Ip posits that AI and machine learning will make certain skills obsolete but open up new opportunities for more valuable and productive work that uses these technologies as tools to improve human decision-making. Deloitte US CEO Cathy Engelbert and managing director Scott Corwin recently advanced the same argument about self-driving cars and trucks at Quartz, dismissing fears that these technologies will kill jobs: