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Andrea Hsu

President Biden is making good on a campaign promise to curtail noncompete agreements.

As part of a sweeping executive order, Biden is asking the Federal Trade Commission to ban or limit such agreements, which restrict where you can work after leaving a job.

Job openings remained at a historic high in May, more evidence that workers are in high demand as the economy bounces back from the pandemic.

Openings reached 9.2 million, according to the Labor Department, about what they were a month earlier. They're about 30% higher than they were in February 2020, right before the pandemic.

While the May numbers remain little changed since April, there were some declines in job openings in certain sectors such as real estate, warehouses and transportation. Other sectors, meanwhile, continue to face staffing shortages.

As many people contemplate a future in which they don't need to commute to offices, the idea of working less altogether also has its appeal.

Now, research out of Iceland has found that working fewer hours for the same pay led to improved well-being among workers, with no loss in productivity. In fact, in some places, workers were more productive after cutting back their hours.

Time now for a quiz.

What do Amazon, Disney World and Dickie Jo's Burgers in Eugene, Ore., all have in common?

a. They employ low-wage workers.

b. They're in desperate need of workers this summer.

c. They're offering $1,000 sign-on bonuses.

d. All of the above.

If you answered d, you're right. (Sorry, we're not paying cash for correct answers!)

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Jonathan Caballero made a startling discovery last year. At 27, his hair was thinning. The software developer realized that life was passing by too quickly as he was hunkered down at home in Hyattsville, Md.

There was so much to do, so many places to see. Caballero envisioned a life in which he might end a workday with a swim instead of a long drive home. So when his employer began calling people back to the office part time, he balked at the 45-minute commute. He started looking for a job with better remote work options and quickly landed multiple offers.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

More and more workers are saying I'm done. A record 4 million people quit their jobs in April just as employers are facing labor shortages. NPR's Andrea Hsu looked into why this is happening.

The Teamsters want to go after Amazon.

That was the message on opening day of the three-day, virtual convention of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Members from 500 Teamsters local unions are meeting to lay out priorities for the next five years. Delegates will vote Thursday on a resolution vowing support for Amazon workers across the country.

Studying the brains of fruit flies is not the kind of work that you can easily do from home. You need special microscopes and something called a fly-ball tracker, which neuroscientist Vivek Jayaraman likens to a treadmill. A very tiny treadmill.

"We position them on a little ball. The fly walks on the ball. It's in a virtual reality space," explains Jayaraman in his lab at the Janelia Research Campus, part of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Fifteen months into the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued a mandatory workplace safety rule aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19. But it only applies to health care settings, a setback for unions and worker safety advocates who had called for much broader requirements.

On a walk outside his office in downtown Washington, D.C., Greg Meyer stops to peer in through the glass windows of a fast-casual lunch spot called Leon. The exposed brick interior gives it a cozy coffeehouse vibe. But the lunch crowd is nowhere to be seen. The whole place is dark.

"The pandemic put them out of business," says Meyer, region head for Brookfield Properties, which owns almost all the buildings on this block and hundreds more around the country.

Updated June 4, 2021 at 1:43 PM ET

On the day in April 2020 that Valerie Mekki lost her job, she was scared to share the bad news with her children. So she hid in her room for 45 minutes.

"I just didn't want to face them," says Mekki, who worked in fashion merchandising for more than 18 years and was the sole provider of health insurance for her family. "I had the shame and the guilt."

But her teenagers surprised her with their optimism.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

On the sidewalk outside Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Alexandria, Va., Rhea and Mark Woodcock wait for their turn to go inside for their weekly ice cream treat — a scoop of Texas Sheet Cake for her, a scoop of Gooey Butter Cake for him.

The Woodcocks are vaccinated, and they're also wearing masks, abiding by the MASKS MANDATORY signs plastered all over the doors.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In 2014, when Thea Lee was a top official with the AFL-CIO, she posed a provocative question at an economics conference about what America's trade objectives should be. Was the point to lower barriers and increase the level of trade, or was it to use American leverage to create good jobs and protect worker rights?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

What should you do if you witness harassment, or worse, an assault?

That question came into sharp focus this week following an attack on a 65-year old Filipino immigrant outside an apartment building in Midtown Manhattan.

President Biden's push for a $15 federal minimum wage appears to be on hold for now.

As part of a marathon session of voting on amendments to Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Senate late Thursday approved by voice vote a measure prohibiting an increase of the federal minimum wage during the global pandemic.

It may only be weeks until a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for use in the U.S. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech asked the Food and Drug Administration to grant an emergency use authorization for their vaccine a week ago, and Moderna is expected to follow suit in coming days.

Just a few months into the coronavirus pandemic, Holly Smith had already made up her mind. She was not going to reopen her restaurant to diners until there was a vaccine. She just didn't think it was safe. When she shared the decision with her staff, they asked: Would the vaccine be mandatory?

Yes, she said. It would be.

Norah Perez's children had been going to day care since they were four months old. That came to an abrupt end this spring when the coronavirus hit and their day care closed.

Like many parents, Perez initially thought it might last a few weeks. Turns out, that was wishful thinking. Now, she could lose some of the money she set aside from her paycheck, pre-tax, to pay for day care. She has $2,200 stuck in what's called a dependent-care flexible spending account, money that is "use it or lose it" unless Congress or the IRS act.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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