Daily News & Commentary — February 4, 2015

Published February 4th, 2015 -  - 02.04.1512


Craig Becker, general counsel for the AFL-CIO, writes for Law360 that it’s time to reexamine the “companionship exemption” in the Fair Labor Standards Act, through which employers do not need to pay America’s estimated 2 million home care workers minimum wage and overtime. Becker notes that the home care industry has changed in recent decades, with most home care workers performing a full variety of housework, cooking, and other chores—far beyond the simple “companionship services” that were contemplated by the law’s drafters. He offers a critique of a District Court’s decision in December 2014 that struck down DOL’s more limited definition of the exemption, and argues that our labor laws need to be adapted to the workplace of the 21st century.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal report on Ford Motor Co.’s “historic” plan to increase wages for up to 500 of its “entry-level” union workers. The move comes as the company is experiencing growing demand for its new pickup truck model, prompting the hiring of 1,550 new workers to increase production. The new hires mean that Ford will exceed the number of employees it can place in its entry-level wage category. According to the Times: “The transition is the first time that any entry-level workers at the three domestic carmakers have moved up to the higher wage scale since the companies agreed to a two-tier system in their 2007 contract with the United Automobile Workers union.”

The strike of 3,800 United Steelworkers workers continued into its fourth day today, with no signs of resolution. Politico reports that most refineries continue to operate, relying on trained managers and non-union employees, but that one California refinery has been completely shut down.

Lydia DePillis writes for the Washington Post about the growing trend of companies classifying more of their workers as independent contractors—and the emerging businesses such as Work Market that help connect these workers to available jobs. There are high tradeoffs to this arrangement: independent contractors need to purchase more expensive health care, their capacity to bargain collectively for benefits and wage increases is undermined, and finding steady work remains a constant challenge.

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