News & Commentary

February 20, 2023

In today’s News and Commentary, the hearing to determine the lawfulness of ExxonMobil’s 2021 lockout began last week, the Biden Administration is beginning the process of identifying outgoing Labor Secretary Marty Walsh’s replacement, Iowa is considering a bill that would allow teenagers to work in previously restricted industries, and DC 37 secured a tentative agreement with New York City.

The hearing to determine whether ExxonMobil Corporation’s 2021 lockout of 650 members of the United Steelworkers was unlawful began last week. The lockout was a response to a USW strike notice issued after several months of unsuccessful contract negotiations. The Beaumont, Texas refinery continued to operate through the lockout with assistance from Exxon employees from other plants as well as temporary local workers. USW workers allege that Exxon used the lockout to incentivize members to remove the USW as their bargaining representative, an initiative that was ultimately rejected. The NLRB judge will hear testimony from Exxon representatives as well as USW officials this week. If the lockout is deemed unlawful, the company could be expected to pay tens of millions of dollars in backpay to the locked out workers.

As Labor Secretary Marty Walsh prepares to leave his position next month, the Biden administration is gearing up to name his replacement. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus sent a letter to President Biden the day after Secretary Walsh’s announcement urging him to select current deputy labor secretary, Julie Su. Su would be the first Asian American to serve as a Cabinet secretary in this administration. Representative Nancy Pelosi has been drumming up support for the nomination of former New York Representative Sean Patrick Maloney.

Iowa is considering a bill which would allow teenagers as young as 14 to work in jobs previously deemed unfit for children due to safety reasons. The bill, a response to staffing shortages since the pandemic, will allow teenagers to be hired in dangerous industries such as mining or meatpacking so long as employers can prove that they need more workers. A senate committee will consider Senate File 176 this week. Critics of the bill say that its passage will have an outsized effect on low income and marginalized communities.

DC 37, New York City’s largest union representing a quarter of the city’s unionized workforce, reached a tentative agreement with the city on Friday. The agreement guarantees an $18 minimum wage, 27% higher than the state rate. Workers can expect annual raises of 3% in the first four years and a 3.5% raise in the contract’s final year, as well as a $3,000 signing bonus for every member. The contract will create a committee to explore flexible work options such as remote and hybrid work and will include a major investment in a child care trust fund. If the union votes to ratify, this contract will cover approximately 90,000 municipal employees until November 2026.

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