Today’s News & Commentary — March 20, 2017

While President Trump has launched a campaign against undocumented immigrants, his administration has not spoken out about the employers who hire them, notes the New York Times in an editorial today. Faulty enforcement and high evidentiary hurdles make holding employers accountable difficult. The Times faults the administration’s one-sided focus on demonizing immigrants while not providing a path to citizenship and putting money into (controversial) solutions to verify employment eligibility, like E-Verify.

Trump’s push to bring back coal jobs (“a delusion,” according to the New York Times in a separate editorial) is prompting Republican legislatures in coal country to reenact looser mine safety laws. Some lawmakers claim that the “federal government can do the inspections just as well as the states”—a seemingly out-of-character stance, until one looks at the current federal government, which has no interest in regulating coal companies and plans to cut the Department of Labor budget by 21%. Other legislatures are passing laws that cut down on annual safety checks (in exchange for a “‘safety analysis’ based on conversations with miners”) and proposing bills that lower standards.

A former law student of Neil Gorsuch claims that the Supreme Court nominee implied that women manipulate companies during interviews to gain maternity benefits, according to NPR. The former student wrote a letter detailing her class experience to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders, which was posted by the National Employment Lawyers Association and the National Women’s Law Center last night.

Labor secretary nominee Alex Acosta will be heard before the Senate HELP Committee this Wednesday, reports The Hill. Acosta, whose hearing was delayed once already, hasn’t faced the same level of criticism as former nominee Andy Puzder. Many are eager to learn more about the Labor tap, who has managed to avoid the spotlight and is a “blank page on policy,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Today’s News & Commentary — March 6, 2017

The Atlantic interviews David Weil, who recently was in charge of the Department of Labor’s wage-and-hour division, on the future of the Department under President Trump. Trump has spoken out about helping the “forgotten worker,” but if that simply means coal and manufacturing jobs, most workers will be left behind. Weil weighs in on what he thinks the biggest accomplishments during the Obama era were—and what is at stake over the next four years.

A federal judge recently certified a class action covering tens of thousands of immigrants who claim they were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and forced to work for $1 a day—if any money at all. According to the Washington Post, the lawsuit is aimed at the GEO Group, which runs ICE’s Denver Contract Detention Facility, a private prison that houses thousands of people at any given time. Plaintiffs are alleging that the forced labor violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, a law that prohibits slavery.

“Here’s the Reality About Illegal Immigrants in the United States.” The New York Times has a thorough feature on undocumented individuals. The piece explains where they have come from, their ties to America, and settles myths being perpetuated by the current administration. The article also covers the strategies many have taken to work in this country—strategies, like driving without a license or using a fake Social Security Number—that President Trump is now targeting.

Today’s News & Commentary — February 20, 2017

A former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler Rigetti, penned a brave blog post yesterday detailing her repeated sexist treatment while working for the ride-hailing company. She writes about being harassed; how she and other women engineers were discriminated against; and how Uber’s management and human resources were not just unresponsive, but actively fought back against her. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal report how, later yesterday, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced that the company would be launching an investigation into the allegations.

In the Washington Post, Jared Bernstein reminds us why the Department of Labor is so important in today’s times. Specifically, Bernstein talks about the “fissured workplace,” the term coined by David Weil to describe an increasing distance between employers and workers due to franchising, subcontracting, and outsourcing. This reality led the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division—which was run by Weil during the Obama Administration—to be more proactive about monitoring FLSA violations. Furthermore, such a “fissuring” places renewed importance on divisions within the department like OSHA.

Acquisitions and sales are adding to worker tensions overseas. McDonald’s may sell its Hong Kong and China operations to a large franchisee, which the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions warns may affect worker pay. Currently most workers earn just above the current minimum wage in Hong Kong—roughly $4.20 per hour. In the UK, General Motors may sell their Vauxhall business to the French car company PSA, according to Reuters. The purchase is being influenced by “overcapacity at existing sites, Britain’s move to leave the European Union and pension liabilities,” prompting talks with trade unions.

Today’s News & Commentary — February 6, 2016

Nearly a hundred tech companies—including Apple, Facebook, and Google—filed an amicus brief in the Ninth Circuit in opposition of the Trump administration’s recent immigration and refugee ban, according to the New York Times. The brief focuses on economic policy, arguing not only that immigrants create jobs in the United States, but also that the executive order will harm the companies’ ability to “recruit, hire, and retain some of the world’s best employees.” Several companies note that some of their employees have already been “ensnared in the Order’s travel restrictions.” The uncertainty the executive order has created, they argue, reduces the incentive for companies and potential employees to sponsor and obtain work visas.

The Times also reports on a recent study showing that the number of women and minorities on Fortune 500 board seats has increased—but only slightly. The number equals about 31% of total board seats; the rest are filled by white men. The Alliance for Board Diversity has set a target of 40% of board seats to be filled by women and minorities, but at the current rate of increase, that number will not be hit until 2026. “This is not acceptable,” said its chairman.

The New Republic has a feature today by history professor Erik Loomis with an attention-grabbing headline: “The Unions Betraying the Left.” The piece focuses on building trade unions, which have met in person with President Trump and were ecstatic about his decision to start construction back up in the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Mexican border wall. Loomis walks through the history of trade unions and industrial unions—and the tensions between creating jobs and progressive politics. “[T]he trade unions,” he writes, “seem incapable of realizing that the Trump administration is not their friend.”

Several outlets have weighed in on Secretary of Labor nominee Andrew Puzder. The Atlantic notes that Puzder still has not submitted the requisite paperwork to the Senate, causing labor committee chair Sen. Lamar Alexander to delay his hearing four times now. The Chicago Tribune has an in-depth piece contrasting the Department of Labor under the Obama administration and what it may be under Puzder. One large difference? Perspective. The Obama administration saw low-wage workers as struggling to support families; Puzder, on the other hand, may simply see them as teenagers earning pocket change.

Today’s News & Commentary — January 23, 2017

President Donald Trump’s first day in office is slated to be full of meetings and executive actions regarding trade and manufacturing in the United States, though details about his exact agenda remain unclear.

According to CNN, President Trump plans to sign an executive order today withdrawing from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiation process. Trump’s campaign took a very hard stance against the TPP, claiming it would hurt American workers—a view also shared by many unions across the United States. The trade deal, pushed by President Obama, became a divisive issue during the election, even after it lost the support of every major candidate.

Furthermore, NBC News reports that Trump will sign an executive order beginning the renegotiation process around the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Another campaign hot button, the President decried this agreement with Mexico and Canada for destroying manufacturing jobs. He has stated that he will soon meet with the Mexican and Canadian president and prime minister to make changes to the trade deal.

Later today, Trump will meet with various labor leaders and workers, according to Reuters. In the morning, he will meet with business leaders to discuss manufacturing in America, according to a tweet by Trump. Details are still unclear as to who from the labor community will be at the second meeting or what specifically the agenda is.

When it comes to jobs within the new administration, the New York Times editorial board notes that many seem to still be available. Since President Trump “assumed office on Friday with the most incomplete team in recent history.” Currently he has not nominated three-quarters of the top 100 positions that require Senate confirmation, and his White House team—which doesn’t require confirmation hearings—remains light on both numbers and experience. “Clearly, Mr. Trump could have spent more time on the transition and less on Twitter.”

Today’s News & Commentary — January 9, 2017

The Wall Street Journal reports that car manufacturers are feeling political pressure from the incoming administration to invest in plants within the United States, keeping jobs from going abroad. Fiat Chrysler announced yesterday that it will invest $1 billion to create jobs in existing plants, instead of seeking plants in Mexico. This follows the pattern of announcements set by Ford and Toyota this past week, right before the biggest auto show in Detroit. General Motors, however, just announced it would not move its highly profitable Mexico production facilities despite President-elect Trump’s criticism.

Teachers unions have come out strongly against proposed Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, according to the Washington Post. The National Education Association has launched a campaign for its members to contact Congress and urge against DeVos. The American Federation of Teachers is expected to criticize the DeVos pick today too. Both unions worry about DeVos’ stated efforts to privatize public schools, which may adversely affect students and teacher preparation programs.

A column in the Washington Post questions whether Trump will continue the Obama administration’s efforts to diversify national security workers. The likely answer? Probably not. Creating a national security apparatus that better reflects the American population is “a national security imperative,” according to current National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

The Venezuelan government raised minimum wage levels 50%—the fifth raise in the last year, according to CNN Money. These drastic measures are in response to the country’s massive inflation, which is “expected to surge to 1,660% this year and 2,880% next year.”

Today’s News & Commentary — December 26, 2016

USA Today has a survey of what will happen to worker pay and benefits in 2017. The short version: States may continue to raise minimum wages, and there’s a small chance the federal minimum wage will rise to $10 an hour. Regarding overtime pay, a federal judge’s potential overturning of the Obama Administration’s mandate may have a dampened effect: “Many businesses already have increased managers’ salaries to the $47,476 threshold to avoid paying overtime or converted salaried staffers to hourly employees so their hours can be tracked for overtime.” The article goes on to predict the future of the joint employer rule, paid family and sick leave, and subsidized child care.

CNBC explores this “staying power” of the overtime rule in some more detail. Despite the lawsuit, the article notes, the rule’s effects were already underway. Compensation information and research company PayScale analyzed over 500 jobs that offered salaries between the new and old thresholds and “found that the number making in between those two numbers dropped sharply over the past two quarters.” Furthermore, 40 percent of the corporate clients of Salary.com, a compensation and software analytics firm, had made raises over the threshold or had reclassified workers.

For those of you into “very wonkish” economics, Paul Krugman at the New York Times has an analysis of trade deficits’ effects on manufacturing jobs. For those of us who are not, his bottom line: “yes, trade deficits reduce manufacturing production and jobs. They played a significant although far from dominant role in manufacturing job losses after 2000.”