Sign of the Times?

Notable that as commentators in the U.S. call for a move from enterprise to sectoral-level bargaining, relying in part on the the French example, France’s new President wants his country to move from sectoral to enterprise-level bargaining.

Today’s News and Commentary — March 25, 2017

The Department of Labor has taken formal steps towards repealing the ‘persuader rule,’ a regulation that has been in full effect for less than a year.  As we summarized last May, the persuader rule was the Obama Department of Labor’s attempt to plug a loophole in the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act: it extends reporting requirements to management consultants who are involved in anti-union campaigns but don’t have direct contact with employees.

President Trump released his proposed budget on Tuesday, and analyses continue to emerge.  Sharon Block argues in Democracy Journal that proposed allocations for the National Labor Relations Board and the Office of Labor-Management Standards confirm President Trump’s anti-union stance.  The New York Times observes that the proposed budget–and the Trump Administration more generally–see unemployment as the result of choice.  This explains the budget’s cuts to public benefits and limited appropriations for support and job training.  We recapped early coverage yesterday.

Emmanuel Macron won the French presidency on a platform emphasizing pro-business reforms to the labor market.  Now, he is trying to deliver.  His proposal would make it easier to hire and fire workers and would replace sector-wide negotiation with company-wide negotiation.  Employers are urging speed while union leaders have called for slower consideration.  Reuters notes that France’s private sector has grown quickly since Macron’s election, with companies attributing that growth to optimism associated with his victory.

“The big divide in America is not between the coasts and the interior. It’s between strong communities and weak communities.”  The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman makes this pronouncement in a travelogue-style op-ed about three communities in middle America.  Friedman visited towns and cities in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana and found three main sources of optimism: forward-thinking local governments, collaboration between business and educational institutions, and the potential for emerging technologies like 3D printers to decentralize manufacturing.

Today’s News & Commentary — May 24, 2017

President Trump released his budget yesterday, and it proposed sharp reductions in spending for entitlement programs.  The budget also included a cut of 19.8 percent in funding for the Department of Labor.  Despite decreases in funding to the Department, the budget includes a proposal for a paid family leave program, which would allow states to grant six weeks of paid maternity and paternity leave.  The program would be funded through changes to unemployment insurance.  Although the New York Times reports that President Trump’s budget “stands absolutely no chance of being enacted by Congress,” the article notes that congressional Republicans might “seize the moment to impose some austerity of their own without going nearly as far as [Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget] or Mr. Trump would like.”

Yesterday, Uber announced that it made a mistake calculating its drivers’ commissions in New York.  The company based payments to drivers on fares after taxes were taken out instead of basing drivers’ pay on fares before taxes were deducted.  Last year, the New York Taxi Workers Alliance filed a suit alleging that the company had been taking taxes out of workers’ pay even though the drivers’ contracts with Uber only allow the company to take its 25 percent cut out of payments to drivers.  The New York Times suggests that the mistake impacted tens of thousands of drivers and these inappropriate deductions could amount to more than $200 million.  Read more here.

Politico reported that Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta will not delay the partial implementation date of the fiduciary rule scheduled for June 9th.  In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Acosta stated that the Department has “found no principled legal basis to change the June 9 date while [it] seek[s] public input.  Respect for the rule of law leads [the Department] to the conclusion that this date cannot be postponed.”  However, the Department of Labor has pledged to review the rule despite the initial implementation date going forward as planned.  Politico predicts that given the length  of the rulemaking process the rule’s second implementation date will also remain in place.

The Wall Street Journal published an article reporting on the Fight for $15’s success in achieving its goal of a $15  minimum wage despite its inability to achieve its other goal, unionization of the workers involved in the campaign.  California, New York, and numerous cities are all on the path to a $15 minimum wage.  The article explores the SEIU’s strategy in funding the Fight for $15.  The union has put more than $16 million into regional organizing and public relations, even though the campaign has not translated into increased union membership and dues.  Despite the questions raised by the Wall Street Journal, SEIU president Mary Kay Henry says that the Fight for $15 is an important part of the union’s agenda, stating that the Fight for $15 “makes ‘the labor movement understand that you can make a bold demand.’”

Workers Need a Bill of Rights

Except for about a month in the summer of 2009 when the Democrats had 60 votes in the Senate, for the entire twenty-first century any proposal to substantially increase workers’ rights at the national level has had to be prefaced by the comment that, “of course, this is not politically feasible now.”  But rather than just spending the next four years fending off misguided Republican legislation, I think it’s time to step back and focus on principles that should guide workplace legislation.  Toward that end, here are some thoughts on a potential workplace bill of rights.

There might be some other rights that should be included in this list, and maybe folks have ideas about better ways to phrase the various rights.  But, I think it would be helpful for the labor movement, worker advocates, and the Democratic party to start talking about this bill of rights in order to refocus our discussion about jobs.  The measure of a good job, whether it is in manufacturing or the service sector, should be whether it provides these rights to workers.  In addition, we should be thinking about what changes we need to see in our laws to ensure that all workers enjoy these basic rights on the job.  Some of these issues can be addressed at the state level, although of  course, that would mean that these rights would exist in only a handful of states.  Here’s my proposed worker bill of rights – let the debate begin.

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Today’s News & Commentary — May 23, 2017

Companies in Utah are struggling to find workers to fill job openings thereby slowing economic growth. While companies are eager to hire more workers to meet increased demand, Utah’s unemployment rate of 3.1% means there are relatively few workers looking for jobs. Companies have begun raising wages to attract more workers; however, automation may also increase as a means to substitute for labor.

Connecticut Governor Daniel Malloy is trying to balance the budget with budget cuts and public-sector layoffs; however, the Service Employees International Union Local 1199 is airing an ad opposing this. The Union’s ad argues that rather than cutting services to the disabled or laying-off middle class workers, the Governor should consider higher taxes on the wealthy.

The Economic Policy Institute released a report finding that annually 2.4 million U.S. workers lose $8 billion because of minimum wage violations. Women, people of color, and youth are the most likely to report being paid less than the minimum wage. Although the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division investigates such violations, the report’s authors note that it has limited staff and is thus unable to fully examine all minimum wage violations.

Michelle Russell with BCG and Lori Lepler with BRANDspeak have a piece in the Harvard Business Review explaining the importance of high-quality apprenticeship programs. They find that such programs led to a 22-percentage-point rise in promotions of female workers, a 5-percentage-point decline in attrition of female workers, and a 20-percentage point-rise in job satisfaction for female employees.

 

 

Alito on Work-Life Balance

In an interview published last week in Seminarian Casual, Justice Alito offered some important remarks about work-life balance.  Asked how he has managed to balance “work and family life,” Alito answered:

I have been fortunate to have jobs that allowed me to control my work schedule to a very great degree.  As an appellate judge, I have had to work very long hours, but I have largely been able to choose when and where I have done my work.  I think I attended just about every one of my kids’ athletic events, concerts, and school programs.  That often meant saving my work for late at night and weekends, but I was able to do that.  Very few people today have this luxury, and it is hard for busy people to balance work and family life.  Our society needs to do a better job of making this possible.

As OnLabor readers will be aware, unions play a critical role in making possible the kind of life that Alito rightly celebrates.  Evidence for this union effect is available herehere, here, here and here.  Alito himself has the capacity to enable unions to play this role, and thus to ensure that our society does a better job allowing more of us to balance work and family life.

(Thanks to Andrew Strom for calling this to our attention.)

Service Animals and Employee Mental Health

Mental health conditions are a growing concern for a number of veterans.   According to the Rand Center for Military Health Policy Research, about 20% of veterans that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a mental health issue, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.  Leon Laferriere is one such veteran.  His PTSD and anxiety qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as they are mental impairments that substantially limit major life activities, including his ability to sleep.  Laferriere’s psychiatrist prescribed him a support animal that is trained to help him control his anxiety and wake him up from PTSD induced nightmares.  In 2015, Laferriere applied to work as a freight driver for CRST International, one of the country’s largest transportation companies.   Aware of their “no pet” policy, he hoped the company would be willing to accommodate the use of his service dog.  The company denied Laferriere’s request, and earlier this month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit, alleging Laferriere was discriminated against because of his disability and unfairly denied a reasonable accommodation, in violation of the ADA.

Laferriere’s discrimination claims are not unique.  According to a Bloomberg BNA analysis of EEOC statistics, claims alleging bias against people with mental health conditions grew to their highest level in 2016, making up 23.3% of all disability related charges filed by the agency, a 40% increase since 2006.  One important way that employers can contribute to the fight against mental health bias in the workplace is by destigmatizing mental illness.  Welcoming service animals for employees suffering from a mental illness can be a powerful way for employers to do so.

ADA: Service Animals vs. Therapy Animals

The ADA defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.”  Employees that meet this requirement may, under Title I, request an accommodation—such as the use of a service animal at work—from their employer.  Although employers are not automatically required to allow service animals in the workplace, they must consider the reasonable accommodation request and must allow the use of a service animal unless doing so would cause an undue hardship.

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