NATIONWIDE -- At the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission’s virtual public workshop today, leading labor unions including the Communications Workers of America (CWA), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Service Employees International Union (SEIU), as well as the Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) elevated demands for antitrust policy to address unfair, anticompetitive practices by employers that diminish workers’ bargaining power and degrade wages and working conditions. A recording of the full workshop can be viewed here.
“People see Google as a great employer that offers perks and purpose to its white collar full-time workforce, but that is not the reality for more than half of Google’s employees who are temps, vendors and contractors, like I was,” said Shannon Wait, former Google data center technician and member of Alphabet Workers Unions - Communications Workers of America. “The low pay and job insecurity for employees in Google’s shadow workforce is shameful. The company makes us sign away our rights and illegally tells us we can’t discuss working conditions with our coworkers. This is corporate power run amok. Antitrust agencies must bring fairness to labor markets.”
Unions’ demands for enhanced antitrust action to protect workers come as President Biden has appointed antitrust enforcement leaders who have promised to address the effect of increased corporate concentration on workers and issued an executive order that calls for actions to address anti-competitive labor market practices by employers. FTC and DOJ have engaged in aggressive antitrust enforcement efforts, with DOJ bringing the first criminal charges for wage-fixing and FTC refiling a harder-hitting antitrust complaint against Facebook, but the agencies have yet to undertake competition rulemaking or enforcement action to address the biggest issues raised by the unions.
“Amazon – and its abusive network of Delivery Service Partner companies – is a poster child for why the FTC and DOJ must take antitrust action against the largest and most impactful employers and regulate fissuring practices as unfair methods of competition,” said Iain Gold, Director of Strategic Campaigns and Research for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. “These practices – such as tightly controlling a whole separate network of businesses while avoiding liability for them and their workers – allow companies like Amazon to hoard power, control and profit for itself while DSP workers are pushed at an inhuman pace and experience the precarity of being an Amazon contractor. Teamsters have fought for one hundred years to make delivery jobs solid middle-class jobs with decent benefits, and unfair business practices by companies like Amazon threaten to destroy these standards. The current moment provides opportunities to rein in the biggest and worst corporate actors setting these trends, and we urge the FTC and DOJ to act aggressively to help workers regain fairness and power across American labor markets.”
The labor organizations are urging the main antitrust enforcement agencies, FTC and DOJ, to pursue a competition regulatory and enforcement agenda that finally includes workers and meaningfully addresses how competition policy can empower – or not – workers in labor markets. This includes: 1) agencies giving workers a voice in the merger review process and using collective bargaining as a remedy for mergers that would increase labor market concentration; 2) the FTC banning anticompetitive restraints on workers – including non-compete restrictions – as unfair methods of competition, and regulate the fairness of forced arbitration clauses; and 3) establishing comprehensive competition investigations and regulation of the fastest growing and most threatening industries for workers – Big Tech companies, the hospital industry, and gig platform companies – to rein in the wholesale use of unfair practices such as misclassification and fissuring that disempower workers on a massive and systematic scale.
"Almost one-third of states have a single hospital system as their largest private sector employer," said Lisa Frank Executive Vice-President of Healthcare Pennsylvania, SEIU. "Unchecked consolidation by hospital systems like UPMC and HCA threatens the ability of hospital workers to provide for their families and deliver quality care to their patients. Hospital systems began their consolidation spree more than a generation ago. It's time to act. "
Tech giants Amazon, Alphabet, Apple and Facebook continue to be at the heart of the discussion on antitrust as concerns grow around the companies’ working conditions, anti-union efforts and industry monopolization. While labor unions are taking a stand against competition issues affecting labor markets and worker welfare like labor monopsony, noncompetes and nondisclosure agreements, Amazon, one of the most scrutinized companies when it comes to its anti-competitive practices, has reportedly been directing corporate employees to refrain from using language that would attract further antitrust scrutiny when discussing the company. This includes using terms like “platform," "ecosystem," "gateway," and "operating system.”
“We have high expectations that the bold new leadership at the FTC and DOJ will finally take labor issues in competition seriously and address how corporate consolidation– and the legal trends that have facilitated this massive shift of power to corporations – have left workers out of economic growth and empowerment for decades,” said Michael Zucker, executive director of the Strategic Organizing Center. “Companies like Amazon and Google, and Instacart and Uber, have wrought huge structural changes to the labor landscape that have disempowered workers and threaten to gut the middle class as we know it. Competition policy has a vital role to play in leveling the playing field for the workers who are the backbone of our economy, and we urge FTC and DOJ to take aggressive action to ensure workers and their well-being have the place in competition policy and the economy that they deserve.”
Alongside union members and tech workers, lawyers, economists, academics and policy experts joined today’s workshop to discuss recent developments at the intersection of antitrust and labor and the implications for efforts to protect and empower workers through competition enforcement and rulemaking. Participants also spoke about the steps antitrust enforcers can take to better target enforcement resources, improve public guidance, and pursue a whole-of-government approach to ensuring fair competition for workers and consumers by leveraging interagency resources.
About Communications Workers of America
The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, and manufacturing.
About International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/teamsters.
About Service Employees International Union
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. SEIU members working in the healthcare industry, in the public sector and in property services believe in the power of joining together on the job to win higher wages and benefits and to create better communities while fighting for a more just society and an economy that works for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy.
About Strategic Organizing Center
The Strategic Organizing Center (SOC) is a democratic coalition of labor unions dedicated to improving the lives of working people. We stand against structural racism and fight not only for jobs, but good jobs: safe, equitable workplaces where all employees are respected, paid living wages and have real power at work. Our work is anchored by a belief in equitable, safe workplaces and strong protections for all Americans against unfair business practices.