The new administration has made no secret of its intent to dismantle remaining protections for reproductive rights. Despite the fact that 79 percent of Americans think abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, President Trump and Vice President Pence have both made statements indicating their desire to overturn Roe v. Wade, and Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is likely to be hostile to reproductive rights. The administration has also made moves to defund Planned Parenthood via the global gag rule, entrench the Hyde amendment, and repeal the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act. A drastic anti-choice bill was introduced in Congress that would ban abortion after six weeks, a point at which many people do not even know they are pregnant.
These attempts to constrict reproductive choice are not only an affront to the basic principles of liberty and privacy that underlie this country’s abortion jurisprudence, but also a threat to the labor rights of anyone capable of becoming pregnant. Should the new administration’s assault on reproductive rights come to fruition, many of those capable of becoming pregnant will be coerced into pregnancy and parenthood—a kind of labor they did not choose. These burdens will be placed most severely on low-income women and women of color who cannot afford to access reproductive services. Cuts to funding and services will further negatively impact trans men, who already face ignorance and discrimination when trying to access reproductive healthcare.
Yesterday, Republican lawmakers “proposed sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws” in the form of House Study Bill 84 and Senate File 213. As the Des Moines Register explains, the new bills would limit mandatory negotiations for most public-sector union workers (public safety workers such as firefighters and police officers are exempted) to base wages only; negotiations over issues like health insurance and overtime would be prohibited. The bills would also require unions to go through a certification process before each new contract negotiation. Additional coverage is available at the New Republic, which also provides a brief historical overview of collective bargaining law in Iowa.
The New York Times reports that New York is attempting to revive the once-thriving, now-troubled garment industry. City officials have increased efforts to create a new garment industry in Sunset Park, including a $115-million renovation of the city-owned Brooklyn Army Terminal, which will expand manufacturing space by 500,000 feet. They have also partnered with the Council of Fashion Designers of America in order to assist companies with modernizing their manufacturing processes and workplaces.
Can Andy Puzder survive? That’s the question Politico asks, noting that Puzder has faced allegations of beating his wife, began his career working for “one of the most notorious mob lawyers in the country,” and just admitted that he employed an undocumented immigrant as his house cleaner and didn’t pay taxes on her employment. Despite these scandals, however, Puzder is “somehow . . . still standing.”
In other news, the New York Times observes that the appeals panel that heard oral argument yesterday in State of Washington v. Donald Trump “appear[ed] skeptical of Trump’s travel ban.” The Times also notes that nearly 130 companies, most of them from the tech industry, filed an amicus brief in support of Washington State.
2017 could be a tough year for labor unions at the state level. According to NPR, Kentucky has become the nations’s 27th “right-to-work” state, and Missouri and New Hampshire could join it in February. New Hampshire would become the first “right-to-work” state in the Northeast. Advocates in New Hampshire claim that “right-to-work” will entice businesses to relocate to the state, while opponents assert that “right-to-work” creates free rider problems and constitutes political reprisal against unions for supporting Democrats.
At the federal level, things might not be much better. The Washington Examiner reports that two Republicans will introduce national “right-to-work” legislation tomorrow. President Trump’s purported support has “right-to-work” advocates optimistic, despite previous failures in Congress.
With respect to President Trump’s agenda, unions are prepared to fight. Per Bloomberg BNA, “labor groups representing immigrants, women, blacks, Latinos and Asian-Americans vowed collective action against President Donald Trump at a rally in Washington Jan. 27” and “[Representatives from AFL-CIO constituency groups] promised grass-roots organizing with regional union chapters to protect immigrants and union workers and to ensure sanctuary cities remain.”
I reported on Saturday that at the very moment Donald Trump was at the Capitol delivering his Inaugural Address promising a better life for the working class, a staffer was inside the Department of Labor taking information off the DOL website. The first to go was a report on efforts to promote LGBT inclusion in the workplace. After a furor on social media about the deletion of the report, it was briefly restored to the site, but now it is gone again.
Other things have also disappeared. For example, if one searches “Paid Leave DOL” on Google, or on the DOL site, one gets the following:
Charlie J. Morris is Professor Emeritus at the Dedman School of Law, Southern Methodist University.
This is a piece whose unlikely outcome is based on wishful thinking. It’s what I want to believe, not what I really believe. But whether I’m right or wrong, the information that follows should prove useful for general understanding of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA or Act) and its policy, and perhaps someday for improving the functioning of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board).
As a result of the Presidential election, there is one evidentiary fact on which there’s wide agreement, which is that an unacceptable level of economic inequality exists in America. Inasmuch as Donald Trump made a major campaign promise to “rebuild our economy for working people,” he now faces the prospect of having to seriously address that condition. Although this is one of the few areas in which Democrats may find common ground with his administration, there will obviously be substantial disagreements as to what steps should be taken to move toward the common objective of bettering the lot of the American middle class. And further complicating those limited areas of agreement are the areas where the Trump campaign is, or will be, at odds with conventional views of the Republican establishment—especially the Republican Congress. The extent to which the Trump administration will be willing to pursue objectives that differ from traditional Republican positions is mostly unknown. For example, If one assumes the possibility of President Trump prevailing in intra-party disagreements concerning matters involving labor-relations—which is pure wishful thinking—a fundamental question arises as to whether he might actually oppose some of the extreme anti-union positions that have long been hallmarks of the Republican establishment and perhaps even initiate some reasonable actions that favor both organized labor and the economy as a whole.
At first blush such occurrences seem unlikely—if not impossible—but Trump’s public statements and his extensive labor-relations record have created an area of mystery that makes this unlikely possibility worth examining. As we all know, Trump changes his positions readily and is full of surprises. A potential subject for one such unlikely surprise has crossed my mind. But before examining that subject, we should first look at its likely setting and at Trump’s known record as an active participant in union-management relations, all of which can be contrasted and compared with his public statements.