U.S. Unemployment Rate Remains at 4.1 Percent in March

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent in March, the sixth straight month it has done so, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. A separate survey showed businesses claimed to create a net of 102,000 new jobs,. Governments added 1,000 more, with 2,600 new local government jobs offsetting small losses elsewhere.

BLS said there were 6.585 million unemployed in March, down 121,000 from February. It added the combined total of the jobless, people toiling part-time when they really want full-time work and people too discouraged to seek jobs totaled one of every 12 workers.

Factories added 22,000 jobs, to 12.63 million, with 40 percent (+8,800) of the gains in fabricated metal products, including steel. That left 511,000 jobless factory workers (3.3 percent).

Construction firms shed 15,000 jobs, to 7.15 million. The losses were in specialty contractors (-16,200 jobs). Some 696,000 construction workers (7.4 percent) were jobless in March. But union leaders say that understates joblessness in their sector, since a worker toiling for one day in the survey period’s week is counted as being employed the whole month.

“Longer-term trends” in the economy “indicate continued movement in the right direction, but there’s still a ways to go before reaching full employment levels,” Economic Policy Institute analyst Elise Gould tweeted.

As usual, the lowest-paying sectors of service industries added the most jobs: Health care (+22,000), social assistance/home health care (+11,800), hospitals (+9,900) and janitors (+7,500). The one exception: Trucking (+6,700). Overall, services added 87,000 jobs in March, BLS reported.

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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Make Father's Day Union Made!