For almost six years, Raymond Pearson has been working as a front-desk concierge at one of the Galaxy Towers condominiums in Guttenberg, New Jersey, answering phones, getting packages to residents, dealing with food delivery, and developing bonds with the people who live there. “The residents become your family,” says Pearson, who is 34 years old and lives in nearby North Bergen. “You’re spending a lot of time with them. I’ve seen some of the residents’ kids graduate. I’ve seen some leave for prom. The same ones who left for prom, I’ve seen them leave for college.” But it wasn’t until this year, he says, that he learned that this whole time his livelihood has been subject to a contract—made without his participation or consent—that contains a poison pill.
The Federal Trade Commission has proposed to ban the non-compete clause—a type of coercive labor contract that prevents workers from leaving their employer to work for a competitor. One in five workers labors under a non-compete agreement, costing workers $300 billion annually. The AFL-CIO was part of a large coalition of organizations petitioning the FTC for a ban on non-competes in 2019. Now the FTC is considering banning them. The long struggle of Major League Baseball players shows how the fight against non-competes can be linked with increasing union strength.