February 19, 2016

For years manufacturers around the world have taken advantage of the efficiency and speed of robotic labor. But these mechanical monstrosities aren’t polite or funny like the droids in a Star Wars movie. Instead, industrial robots are big, clunky pieces of equipment that have no regard for humans. As a result, most factories have separate rooms for robots that people are prohibited from entering. Many countries have even passed laws requiring the separation of automated and human labor. After all, Continue reading

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February 5, 2016

In Silicon Valley’s immensely competitive entrepreneurial environment, many startups end up failing shortly after they launch. But among these many fallen firms stand a few “unicorns,” or private tech companies with valuations worth more than $1 billion. At these lucky startups, the strategy is to increase the firm’s value as much as possible until it can be sold to the highest bidder. Not only does such a sale grant enormous payouts for founders and investors, it can also enrich regular Continue reading

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January 27, 2016

For years, skilled workers from around the world have used H-1B visas as their tickets into the U.S. These visas are intended to provide companies with a pool of specialized foreign labor in case they can’t find any qualified domestic candidates. According to a recent lawsuit, however, one of the world’s biggest brands may have been abusing the H-1B system in order to boost their own bottom line. Rather than filling open positions with outsourced labor, The Walt Disney Company Continue reading

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March 30, 2015

Near the end of February, the Wisconsin legislature passed a controversial bill that could change the face of labor in the state. Under the new “right-to-work” law, employees in unionized, private sector workplaces can choose whether or not to pay their union dues. According to Governor Scott Walker and his supporters, the law grants more freedom for individuals to choose where they work. “This legislation will ensure that Wisconsin’s workers have the sole power to determine whether they wish to Continue reading

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August 11, 2014

In 2014 a judge granted Northwestern University’s football players collective bargaining rights. Although it was later overturned, this landmark decision heightened the debate about compensation for college athletes to a whole new level, and it didn’t take long for another major legal ruling to follow it. In early August a U.S. district judged found in favor of former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and 19 others regarding the image rights of athletes. According to the ruling, the NCAA violates anti-trust Continue reading

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July 20, 2014

 

In early June, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed a bill into law that will raise the city’s minimum wage to $15-an-hour. At more than double the federal level, Seattle’s new wage floor will become the highest in the country once it is fully implemented. Large businesses have until 2017 to reach the $15 mark while small businesses can wait as late as 2021. In both cases, wages will be slowly raised in the intervening years to make the process Continue reading

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July 11, 2014

 

A few years ago, a rash of employee suicides at Foxconn Technology prompted investigations into the working conditions at the Chinese manufacturing giant. As the maker of such in-demand items as the iPad and Hewlett-Packard servers, Foxconn employs tens of thousands of people who work long shifts and live on-site. The monotonous work and the dorm-like living quarters can make for a grey life on the Foxconn campus, leading to depression and worse.

Foxconn responded to this bleak state Continue reading

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For many working Americans, leaving the office in the early evening doesn’t necessarily mean your workday is done. Answering emails and phone calls can stretch one’s workday far past the standard five o’clock threshold. That is, unless you happen to be a consultant working in France. Under a new agreement between labor unions and corporate representatives, more than 250,000 French employees at consulting, computing and polling firms are required to “disconnect” from work once they clock out.

Under the Continue reading

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October 15, 2013

Wal-Mart became the world’s largest retailer by keeping margins low on everything, including employee compensation. For the Florida-based grocer Publix, however, keeping staff motivated through strong financial incentives is a recipe for success rather than instability. Publix’s net margins of 5.6 percent trounce Wal-Mart’s 3.8 percent, making it the most profitable grocery chain in the nation. With $27.5 billion in sales, it’s also the largest employee-owned company in America. Staffers control 80 percent of the company thanks to a policy Continue reading

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October 11, 2013

The hierarchical structure of modern corporate offices can be traced back to 19th century railroad companies. With vast networks of track stretched across the country, transportation magnates needed to designate clear lines of communication among their far-flung operations. A system of middle managers and regional executives eventually rose to prominence and ensured that things ran smoothly. Over the course of the 20th century, businesses of all stripes adopted this top-down structure as their own, eventually leading to the Continue reading

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