The New Regime

President Trump’s first afternoon in office was short on major developments for labor rights.  The big news was that shortly after noon, a U.S. Department of Labor webpage about LGBT rights suddenly disappeared from the government’s website.  You can read the deleted report here.

Now, a Google search on the site for LGBT produces the following item on the list of search results:


But clicking on the link produces this:


The other labor news from the new Trump Administration comes from his Inaugural Address.  In dark tones, he hit on his populist campaign themes about the decline of American manufacturing and American jobs.  The annotated transcript of his address is on the New York Times website.

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Today’s News & Commentary — January 20, 2017

Buzzfeed reported yesterday that Andy Puzder, President-Elect Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, has been blocking workers’ rights advocates on Twitter. In recent weeks Puzder has blocked the Twitter accounts of the National Employment Law Project, the Fight for $15, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and others. Those blocked are prevented from responding directly to anything that Pudzer tweets.

In the New York Times Peter Goodman has a scathing critique of the Davos approach to addressing inequality and the negative impacts of globalization on working people. Goodman writes, “They [attendees at the World Economic Forum] are eager to talk about how to set things right, soothing the populist fury by making globalization a more lucrative proposition for the masses…What is striking is what generally is not discussed: bolstering the power of workers to bargain for better wages and redistributing wealth from the top to the bottom.”

In a new book The Unbanking of America, author Lisa Servon argues that the best way to reduce use of alternative financial services such as payday lenders and check-cashing, which charge high fees and interest rates and are regularly used by people with low incomes, is not to make them illegal but to increase wages so that working people do not need them.

And The Equality of Opportunity Project just released a comprehensive study on education and its impact on social mobility. The study, which used anonymized data on 30 million college graduates, found that state universities are doing the best job at helping students from low-income households move into the middle class. According to a recent New York Times article, Ivy league schools fare worse. While students from low income backgrounds do experience upward mobility from attending top-tier, private schools, these schools take on relatively few students from low-income communities. At some private universities, there are more students from families whose incomes put them in the top 1% of Americans, than students from the bottom 60%. Though state colleges provide great economic opportunities for students from poorer families, the share of low-income students even at public universities is decreasing as states cut back on funding.

Today’s News & Commentary — January 19, 2017

Yesterday, the Senate held a confirmation hearing on Wilbur Ross, President-elect Trump’s nominee for commerce secretary.  At the hearing, Ross continued to show support for a renegotiation of NAFTA, a frequent topic for Trump during the campaign.  Ross also indicated that China’s trade practices would be a target of trade enforcement actions under the next president.  Read more about the hearing here and access a video of the confirmation hearing here.

President-elect Trump’s actions aimed at keeping jobs in the United States have continued to garner news coverage.  The New York Times compiled a list of company announcements regarding retention of jobs in the U.S., organizing the announcements into three categories: companies which “announced plans after Trump singled them out,” companies which “held up job plans after criticism from Trump,” and companies which “have kept plans despite criticism from Trump.”  For the full list, read more here.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) at the Department of Labor filed actions alleging discriminatory employment practices at JPMorgan Chase and Oracle.  The Department filed a complaint against JPMorgan with an administrative law judge in New York alleging that at least 93 women employed at the company were paid less than men in similar positions.  In the action against Oracle, OFCCP alleged both hiring and pay discrimination.  The complaint asserts that Oracle paid white men more than similarly situated employees and Oracle impermissibly favored Asian men for certain technical positions over others applying for those jobs.  USA Today situates this enforcement action against Oracle in the context of the Department’s “more aggressive” enforcement of labor laws against tech companies in Silicon Valley in recent months.  As evidence of the Department’s heightened focus on Silicon Valley, the article points to recent actions initiated by the Department of Labor against Google and Palantir.

Today’s News & Commentary — January 18, 2017

The confirmation hearing for Andrew Puzder, the President-Elect’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, has been scheduled for February 2. The hearing was initially set to happen yesterday, but was delayed due to a conflict with the hearing for Betsy DeVos, which did go forward last night. In the meantime, Puzder may be having second thoughts about the position, though he tweeted on Monday that he looks forward to the hearing. Read more about the nominee here.

With President Obama’s Overtime Rule frozen in federal court and likely doomed by the incoming administration, Democrats are planning to introduce similar measures at the state level, beginning with Rhode Island, Connecticut, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Creating a state-by-state patchwork of benefits will be an uphill battle for Democrats, who control state legislatures and the governorship in just six states. But Michigan’s Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich says that it’s at least “worth a fight.”

Why are unemployed men in America not flocking to fast-growing jobs in health care? It turns out the job descriptions for these positions may be “too feminine” for them, reports the New York Times. A study by Textio, which analyzed 50 million job postings, revealed that, of the top 14 fastest-growing jobs from 2014 to 2024, 10 of them use language that displays a “feminine bias.” These postings, mostly for various types of health aide positions, use words such as “sympathetic, care, fosters, empathy and families.” The study suggests employers would do well to combat the bias, because gender-neutral job postings lead to positions being filled 14 days faster and attract more diverse candidates.

Today’s News & Commentary — January 17, 2017

Donald Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzer, may be having second thoughts about taking the job following intense criticism of his nomination.  CNN reports that Puzder “has voiced second thoughts in recent days, because of a relentless barrage of criticism from Democrats, labor unions and other liberal groups, a business ally and GOP sources tell CNN.”  Puzder is apparently discouraged by the required paperwork and attacks on him by Democrats, organized labor and worker advocates.  At the earliest, Puzder’s confirmation hearing would be next month.  In response to the report, Puzder tweeted that he looks forward to his hearing.

Meanwhile, Trump’s plans to increase American jobs through increased American production of goods continues to generate significant skepticism.  With respect to production of iPhones, according to technology site BGR, “if iPhone factories came to the US, you can be sure that robots would be the only ones getting more jobs.”  Any increased American production would reflect that the “relative cost of skilled labor in the US and China is such that it’s cheaper to build a robot than it is to hire one US worker to replace one Chinese worker in the supply chain.”

Education increasingly defines the ability of Americans to succeed economically.  The Associated Press notes that “Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record.”  College-educated workers have disproportionally benefited from new jobs and wage increases following the 2008-09 Great Recession, and are far more in demand by employers.  The education gap is most significant for white men, but is true across the board, and developing the skills of non-college-educated workers is critical.

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Today’s News & Commentary — January 16, 2017

With Andrew Puzder’s confirmation hearing on his nomination for Labor Secretary delayed indefinitely, the New York Times outlined some of the criticisms aimed at Puzder by labor groups as well as his own workers.  Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants, has been an outspoken critic of workplace regulations, including minimum wage laws.  Employees of CKE Restaurants, which has more than 70,000 workers, have reported that restaurants were understaffed, that employees were required to arrive early or work through breaks without pay, and that CKE placed caps on weekly pay regardless of hours work.  Federal and state agencies have made similar findings of wage violations at CKE.  Regardless, with a Republican-controlled Senate, Puzder’s chances for eventual nomination remain high.

The Wall Street Journal reports on a new study from the McKinsey Global Institute that found while it might not be time for workers to be completely replaced by technology, they will need to begin to work with automation.  The study found that less than 5% of occupations can be fully replaced by technology, but 30% of tasks in approximately 60% of occupations can be automated, and projects that half of today’s occupational tasks may be automated by 2055.

Uncertainty regarding the timing and conditions of Britain’s departure from the European Union has fomented anxieties from employers, some of whom may be prepared to leave Britain.  Even ahead of Brexit, some employers may already be taking action, with 39 of 233 financial services firms reporting that they planned to reduce staffing because of the Brexit vote, with more than half of those already taking steps to do so.  Other employers, such as those in the hospitality, agriculture, and construction sectors, are concerned about facing a shortage of labor, as many of their workers immigrate from Southern and Eastern Europe, and may face curtailment of their employment rights under Brexit’s restrictive plans for immigration.

A recently passed Philadelphia law will prohibit employers within the City from asking job applicants about their wage history and protect those who refuse to answer such inquiries from retaliation.  The law, which resembles Massachusetts’s “Act to Establish Pay Equity,” will go into effect July 2018, reports JD Supra.

Weekend News & Commentary — January 14-15, 2017

After voters in the city of SeaTac approved a $15 minimum wage more than three years ago, employers at Sea-Tac International Airport sued, seeking to block the new law’s application to airport businesses.  Though the Washington Supreme Court eventually ruled against the business owners, thousands of workers were not paid the statutory wage in the aftermath of the dispute.  Beginning next month, however, those employees will receive settlement checks after an agreement reached on Friday that will pay out millions of dollars in back wages.

Avoiding the labor strife that accompanied Harvard University’s most recent union contract negotiations, Yale has reached a deal with more than 5,000 workers represented by Locals 34 and 35 of UNITE HERE.  The deal continues 14 years of labor peace, though separate disagreements remain with Local 33’s graduate student organizing campaign. The NLRB has yet to rule on that group’s petition for a union election.

The Washington Post reports that Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s nomination for Secretary of Education, left a $125,000 donation to an anti-union group off her Senate financial disclosure forms.  The money was to help the group’s opposition to a Michigan ballot initiative that would have amended the state constitution to guarantee the right to collective bargaining.