From NPR, Andrew Limbong reports on hair and makeup workers who want to form a union but are considered to be independent contractor. This case shows the importance of the standard for determining when a worker is an employee or independent contractor under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA“). The National Labor Relations Board is considering what standard should be used. Andrew discusses the situation with these workers:
Hair and makeup workers at The Atlanta Opera are at the center of a labor dispute that could have widespread implications across all industries. It’s over a question that’s dogged workplaces for decades: who gets to be an employee and who gets to be an independent contractor?
The National Labor Relations Board signaled recently that it was going to use their case to reexamine that question. But in the meantime, the hair and makeup workers at The Atlanta Opera are stuck in limbo.
Back in spring 2020, after an initial cancellation of shows, The Atlanta Opera came back with a run of outdoor performances. It was a welcome return to almost-normalcy for hair stylist Sakeitha King – but still a little scary. This was before we knew what we know now about COVID, before the waves of variants, before vaccines.“It was almost like playing Russian roulette,” says King.
She and her fellow hair and makeup stylists wanted health insurance, so they started talking about joining a union and securing a collective bargaining agreement. They got in touch with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and started the process for a union election.
Then, The Atlanta Opera stepped in to say that the hair and makeup workers were actually independent contractors and not employees, and therefore could not collectively bargain. They argued that the hair and makeup workers were hired on a show-by-show basis, were free to take on outside work of their own, and largely worked unsupervised. The Atlanta Opera declined an interview request.
But the regional NLRB sided with the hair and makeup workers, who then went ahead with the election. Then, The Atlanta Opera appealed. Now the ballots are impounded, shelved and uncounted until the NLRB mothership decides whether the workers are employees – and therefore eligible for protections offered by the National Labor Relations Act – or independent contractors, who aren’t.
Read the full story at Why these Atlanta hair and makeup workers want to unionize : NPR