News & Commentary

June 26, 2024

Everest Fang

Everest Fang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: A federal court in California fines meat processor for child labor violations, IATSE union reaches tentative agreement with studios, and a federal judge in Texas seems likely to block the Biden Administration’s overtime rule.

The U.S. District Court for the Central District of California has ordered a meat processor and a staffing agency to turn over $327,484 in illegal profits associated with child labor, and fined the companies an additional $62,516 in penalties. Department of Labor investigators alleged that children as young as 15 were working in the processing plant, where they were required to use sharp knives as well as work inside freezers and coolers, in violation of federal child labor regulations. The Department also alleged that the two companies unlawfully scheduled the children to work more than three hours a day on school days, past 7 p.m., and more than 18 hours a week while school was in session. The workers came primarily from indigenous communities in Guatemala. The court order is part of a settlement agreement, which also requires the companies to provide annual training to employees on federal labor law for at least four years and submit to monitoring by an independent third party for three years.

Yesterday, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract with Hollywood’s top studios and streamers. The provisional agreement will raise wages by 7 percent in the first year of the contract, 4 percent in the second year and 3.5 percent in the third year, following the pattern that SAG-AFTRA established with its strike-ending contract in 2023. The new contract will also include additional penalties for long work days, including a tripled hourly wage for hourly workers when a work day exceeds 15 hours. In response to the union’s concerns about AI, the agreement includes “language that ensures no employee is required to provide AI prompts in any manner that would result in the displacement of any covered employee.” This tentative deal is still subject to a ratification vote, which has not yet been scheduled.

On Monday, a federal judge in Texas seemed likely to block a Biden Administration rule that would extend mandatory overtime pay to 4 million U.S. workers. Judge Sean Jordan of the  Eastern District of Texas suggested during a hearing that the Department of Labor had flouted federal wage law by basing eligibility for overtime pay on salaried workers’ wages rather than their job duties. Judge Jordan is considering a motion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office to prevent the overtime rule from taking effect on July 1, pending the outcome of the state’s lawsuit. The rule would raise the threshold for when employers are required to pay overtime premiums to salaried workers from $35,500 per year to about $58,600 per year. The judge seemed uncertain about whether he can block the rule nationwide or only bar its application in Texas, asking both sides for input on the issue.

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