Puzder to Withdraw from Nomination for Secretary of Labor

The President’s nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is expected to withdraw from consideration before his confirmation hearing tomorrow.  With four firm Republican votes against him, with as many as twelve possible, top Republican Senators urged the White House to withdraw Puzder’s nomination. Puzder’s spokesperson has not yet released a statement. Read more from Reuters here.

Today’s News & Commentary — February 15, 2017

Today the House is scheduled to vote on rules for state-sponsored retirement savings plans aiming to fill the gap for workers who do not have employer-sponsored plans. Seven states (California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington) are already in the process of implementing such plans, and have been aided by Labor Department rules governing automatic-enrollment and payroll deductions. However, Republicans are now trying to block those rules. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.), the chairman of the House subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pension, issued a statement saying that “[o]ur nation faces difficult retirement challenges, but more government isn’t the solution.” Also up for a vote today: the unionization of 3,000 Boeing workers in Charleston. Read coverage of that vote here and here.

Earlier this week, protestors from all over Wisconsin marched to the Milwaukee County Courthouse for “A Day without Latinos.” Several thousand protestors gathered in opposition to Trump’s immigration policies and the recent series of ICE raids. Specifically, they sought to challenge Milkwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke’s decision to enroll his deputies in an ICE program that would allow them to perform immigration law enforcement functions in the county. According to an organizer from Voces de la Frontera, more than 150 businesses owned by Latinos and non-Latinos voluntarily closed for the day in support of the protest. During the march, Sheriff Clarke posted a statement in response, stating in part that “[t]here must be a zero tolerance for allowing people to illegally enter this country and establish permanent residency.”

Finally, could Ivanka Trump give the Democrats the bump they need for paid maternity leave? On Monday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) unveiled a new bill called the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act and said that she is hopeful the President’s daughter will help advocate for its passage, in part based on her support for the issue during the Republican National Convention. Rep. Maloney said that she sent a copy of the legislation to Ms. Trump and is waiting to hear back. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and would provide six weeks of paid leave to all federal employees following the arrival of a child.

Lawsuit Alleging Antitrust Violations Filed Against Puzder’s Company

Yesterday, shift leaders at Carl’s Jr. filed a complaint on behalf of themselves and those similarly situated alleging various antitrust violations by Carl’s Jr. Restaurants and CKE, of which Andrew Puzder is CEO. The complaint was filed in California Superior Court.

The complaint is based on a “no hire” policy extending to all CKE franchises, under which franchisees must agree not to hire or seek to hire anyone who works as a shift leader or any higher position at a CKE restaurant or has worked at a CKE restaurant in the prior two years. The policy might not be a problem if all the workers were employed by CKE, but “CKE and Puzder have gone out their way” to stress that the franchises are not part of a single entity that hires and fires workers (thereby avoiding some federal and state labor protections). According to the complaint, the effect of the “no hire” policy has been to “suppress the wages of the restaurant-based managers” and “worsen[ ] working conditions” by diminishing competition between the restaurants.

The complaint was filed just as Puzder’s confirmation hearing was rescheduled for the fourth time to Feb. 16. A spokesman for Puzder said that the delays were “prompted by Puzder’s need to divest financial holdings that the Office of Government Ethics judged a conflict of interest.” If confirmed, Puzder would have to sell his stake in the fast-food companies, which are valued at 10-50 million dollars.

Today’s News & Commentary — February 1, 2017

Last night, the President nominated 10th Circuit Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. As Hannah reported yesterday, Judge Gorsuch shares a similar legal philosophy to that of the late Justice Scalia and is known for advocating for an end the doctrine of Chevron deference to administrative agencies. Gorsuch’s labor record is sparse, as he has only written four NLRB opinions. In those opinions (three majority; one dissent), Gorsuch deferred to the NLRB three out of four times, with the result of only one union-friendly outcome. He also wrote for the majority in 14 published opinions on employment discrimination, of which 9 were favorable to the employer, 3 were favorable to the employee, and 2 were mixed results (partially affirming and partially reversing the district court, resulting in favorable and unfavorable effects for the employer and employee). The New York Times Editorial Board reports that Gorsuch “spells big trouble for public sector labor unions.”

The Washington Post announced yesterday that it had obtained a draft executive order that, if enacted, would substantially overhaul the current system for administering immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. The draft order is entitled “Executive Order on Protecting American Jobs and Workers by Strengthening the Integrity of Foreign Worker Visa Programs” and states that its goal is to protect American workers—”our forgotten working people.” The draft order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to review all regulations that permit immigrants to work in the U.S. and to collaborate with the Secretaries of State and Labor to “restore the integrity of employment-based nonimmigrant worker programs.” The Post reports that, if enacted, the order would “immediately restrict[ ] the flow of immigrants and temporary laborers into the U.S. workforce.” The draft order is partially premised on the unsubstantiated idea that immigrants are more likely to rely on public benefits than those born in the U.S. In fact, studies from Harvard and the Cato Institute show that the opposite is true.

The hearing for Labor Secretary nominee Andrew Puzder has been postponed for the fourth time since he was nominated on December 8. The hearing was most recently scheduled to take place on February 7, 2017, and no new date has been confirmed yet. An aide for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions told the press that the Committee is still waiting to receive Mr. Puzder’s paperwork from the Office of Government Ethics. Experts have called the repeated delays “unusual” and suggested that the delays indicate problems for the nominee in the vetting process.

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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 and Commentary — January 4, 2017

Democratic representatives and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka shared a rare moment of unity with President Elect Trump during a press conference yesterday morning, in which they pledged to support Mr. Trump in revising NAFTA and other trade deals. During the conference, Trumka specifically called for tougher trade enforcement and the reworking of labor deals in NAFTA, while stating broadly that the entire agreement needs to be improved. Representatives also voiced their support for the President Elect officially putting an end to the TPP in his first 100 days. However, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), along with others, cautioned that they would not support any measures proposed by Trump that would be detrimental to the environment or the lives of U.S. workers.

The New York Times Editorial Board delivered a sharp critique of the “crony capitalism” occurring between the President Elect and the corporations that are helping him “lie” about his successes in creating and preserving American jobs. Most recently, Sprint and its parent company SoftBank have been helping Mr. Trump take credit for adding 5,000 new jobs that were actually pledged before the election. Softbank executives have every incentive to ingratiate themselves to Mr. Trump, because they are hoping that the regulators he appoints will permit a merger between Sprint and T-Mobile. (Regulators appointed by President Obama effectively blocked the merger in 2014.) According to the Editorial Board, that merger would do lasting damage to the economy that would far outweigh the benefits of 5,000 jobs, and Mr. Trump’s failure to see the bigger economic picture should greatly worry Americans.

The Washington Post reports that federal agencies are scrambling to fill thousands of positions before the inauguration on January 20. According to OPM, the number of jobs posted in November and December of 2016 represented a 15% increase from the same period in 2015 (up more than 8,000 total postings). At the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, HR representatives were forced to cancel their year-end vacations to process offer letters and other paperwork for new hires. The President Elect has promised to freeze federal hiring and not replace employees who leave, “regardless of [agencies’] workload or workforce needs.”


Today’s News & Commentary — December 14, 2016

After a particularly horrific week in Syria, which a UN official described as “a complete meltdown of humanity,” there is a bright spot to be found in Syrian immigrants who have made it to the U.S. The Center for American Progress reports that Syrian workers here are doing extremely well. Their median average wage is $16,000 higher than that of immigrants overall and $7,000 higher than that of U.S.-born workers. Syrians also have extremely high rates of business ownership, including medical offices (which are the most common), food services, and auto dealerships.

A federal court in Kentucky held this week that a lawsuit by a transgender employee against employer GE may go forward, reiterating that discrimination based on gender identity is actionable as sex discrimination under Title VII. The plaintiff, Mykel Mickens, was penalized for taking long bathroom breaks, due to the fact that GE would not allow him to use the men’s bathroom, and the women’s room was far away from his work station. Mickens also alleges that he was singled out and reprimanded for conduct while his co-workers were not. In a similar vein, a transgender man in Louisiana recently prevailed in arbitration on a Title VII claim against his employer, who mandated that he dress and act as a female. Read about existing protections for LGBT workers here.

This week CityLab summarized findings on the economic effects of raising the minimum wage, based on studies of the 18 states and D.C. that had raised minimum wages after 2014. The data shows that raising the minimum wage as an anti-poverty measure works and does not result in collateral damage to employment levels overall. Despite these encouraging findings, the President-Elect’s selection for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, is opposed to raising the minimum wage.

Lastly, the New York Times reviews what has been “a year of upheaval for restaurants that ended tipping” in 2016. An “immediate motivation” in New York for many restaurants for ending tipping this year was the impending minimum wage increase to $15 by 2018. The article describes some negative effects for employees, such as decreased numbers of workers per shift. But no tipping also means more equity for workers across the restaurant, and removes incentives for servers to tolerate harassment, whether “verbal, sexual, or professional.” Read more on labor and tipping here.