Today’s News & Commentary — March 24, 2016

Yesterday, the Labor Department released its long-awaited persuader rule, requiring public disclosure of any consultants employers hired to help persuade workers not to form a union or support a union’s collective bargaining position, the New York Times reports.  Labor Secretary Thomas Perez explains the rule is necessary because in about 75% of organizing campaigns, employers hire such consultants, or “persuaders,” and workers are frequently unaware of who is trying to sway them about their labor rights.  Although disclosure of such consultants is already required by the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), the Labor Department argues pervious administrations allowed an enormous loophole exempting consultants with only indirect impact on employees, coaching supervisors on how to influence workers, but not interacting with them directly.  The new rule would require disclosure in government filings of any consultant hired for this purpose, as well as the fees involved.

Some opponents of the rule argue the fee disclosure requirement would discourage employers from seeking legal advice that often ends up benefitting the employees.  Reuters reports several business groups, including the International Franchise Association, said yesterday they would probably sue over the rule.  The rule will be published today and will apply to agreements made after July 1.  You can read the Labor Department’s persuader rule fact sheet here.

This morning, the Labor Department will also unveil its silica rule, which will drastically lower the permissible exposure limit to crystalline silica.  According to Politico, this rule was 45 years in the making.  Crystalline silica is found in rocks and sand, and, when inhaled as dust, can lead to silicosis and lung cancer.  According to the CDC, over 2,000 Americans have died from silicosis this century.  The silica rule will be costly–OSHA estimates that the construction industry alone will have to spend $511 million each year to implement it (the industry claims the real cost is $5 billion)–but, when balanced against monetary benefits from reduced mortality and disease, OSHA figures a net benefit of $2.8 to $4.6 billion.

In minimum wage news, a proposal to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 qualified Tuesday to appear on the statewide november ballot, the Associated Press reports.  California’s current minimum wage is $10 an hour; the measure, backed by California’s SEIU West, would raise it by $1 each of the next five years.  In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would consider phasing in a $15 minimum wage over six years for the state, according to Politico.  In Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel E. Bowser called for increasing the city’s minimum wage to $15 by 2020, the Washington Post reports.