According to the New York Times, thousands of employees across 70 companies in Britain started a four-day workweek on June 6 in a pilot program organized by the nonprofit groups 4 Day Week Global and 4 Day Week UK Campaign, and Autonomy, an organization that studies the impact of labor on well-being 

Over a six-month trial, researchers at Cambridge University, Oxford University and Boston College will assess its effect on productivity and quality of life and will announce results in 2023, the organizers said in a statement. 

More than 3,300 workers in banks, marketing, health care, financial services, retail, hospitality and other industries in Britain are taking part in the pilot, the organizers said. 

Joe Ryle, the campaign director for the 4 Day Week Campaign, said the data would be collected through interviews and staff surveys, and through the measures each company uses to assess its productivity. 

“We’ll be analyzing how employees respond to having an extra day off, in terms of stress and burnout, job and life satisfaction, health, sleep, energy use, travel and many other aspects of life,” Juliet Schor, a sociology professor at Boston College and the lead researcher on the project, said. 

The program in Britain follows similar efforts in other countries, said the Times, including Iceland, New Zealand, Scotland and the United States, where companies have embraced greater flexibility in work hours as more people worked remotely and adjusted their schedules during the pandemic. 

Microsoft Pledges to Work with Employees If They Choose to Unionize 

In a recent blog post, Microsoft President Brad Smith wrote that the company will respect workers’ rights to unionize and plans to work collaboratively with organized labor organizations to “make it simpler rather than more difficult” for employees to unionize if they so choose. 

As reported by the Washington Post, Microsoft is in the process of completing a $69 billion acquisition of Activision, a video game company where employees of a small subsidiary voted to unionize in March. That union, the Game Workers Alliance, is a division of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), which in a statement called Microsoft’s announcement “encouraging and unique among the major tech companies.” 

If Microsoft employees voted to unionize, the company would pursue “a constructive and amicable process that would enable employees to make that kind of decision without requiring a dispute that would go to the NLRB,” Smith said in an interview with the Post

“There are times when employees want to reach out and connect with an existing labor organization,” Smith said. “Rather than manage that in a contentious way, we’d rather address those kinds of situations in a constructive and amicable way that lets employees make informed choices and that avoid public disputes that we think can be unconstructive, at least for our company and our culture.” 

Union Claims Starbucks Illegally Closed New York Cafe to Retaliate 

The workers’ union at Starbucks Corp. recently filed a complaint accusing the company of illegally shutting down a recently unionized café in Ithaca, New York and alleged it was in retaliation for workers’ union activism, according to Bloomberg

Starbucks said the closure wasn’t related to union activism, but resulted from facilities, staffing, and “time and attendance” issues at the store. 

“We open and close stores as a regular part of our operations,” Starbucks spokesperson Reggie Borges said. “With deep care and urgency, we continuously work to create the kind of store environment that partners and customers expect of Starbucks. Our goal is to ensure that every partner is supported in their individual situation, and we have immediate opportunities available in the market.”  

According to the Bloomberg report, employees at the Ithaca location voted in April to unionize and mounted a one-day strike. The union is urging the agency to seek a federal court injunction to more quickly prevent or reverse the closure. 

Walmart Launches One Global Walmart Academy 

Walmart has announced plans to launch a global Walmart Academy to serve every associate around the world through a combination of digital and in-person offerings. 

In the announcement, Lorraine Stomski, Walmart senior vice president, learning & leadership, wrote, “Over the coming months, more than 2.3 million associates will have access to the company’s job-specific retail training as well as new well-being and leadership courses designed to build and grow their careers and delight our customers. This global focus builds on the $1 billion U.S. investment announced last year to provide associates with career-driven training and development over the next five years.” 

She also shared that going forward, the Walmart Academy would focus on three areas: developing on-the-job skills, growing future skills for associates and building leadership skills for managers. 

According to Stomski, associates have learned both virtually and in person at one of the 200+ physical Academies across the U.S. since launching in 2016. Over the past six years, associates in the U.S. have completed more than 2.4 million trainings. Last year, Walmart Academy trained over 400,000 U.S. associates. 

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