Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress love to refer to regulations as “job crushing.” When Trump spoke recently at the Conservative Political Action Conference he not only said that companies can’t hire because of regulations, but he also said that “we’re going to put the regulation industry out of work and out of business.” Trump has already taken steps to make it much harder for government agencies to do their jobs. When he came into office, he imposed a hiring freeze, and he issued an executive order decreeing that the cost of all new regulations issued by each department or agency for fiscal year 2017 can’t be greater than zero regardless of the benefits to be gained from the regulations. Now, Trump has proposed a budget that would dramatically slash the budgets of most federal agencies. Government “regulators” do a great deal of important work to help sand some of the harshest edges off of our capitalist economy. I’ll leave it to others to talk about the importance of environmental and food safety regulations, but workers desperately need a vigilant Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to protect them from injuries and chemical exposure on the job. To take just one example, in the last days of the Obama Administration, OSHA issued citations to a manufacturing company after two workers suffered severe hand injuries within ten days due to the company’s failure to install proper safety guards on its machines. While the consequences of inadequate wage and hour regulation are less dramatic, a recent Tenth Circuit case illustrates why there is such a pressing need for the government to monitor workplaces.
Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) stood in solidarity with rallying crowd of women for International Women’s Day. According to Politico, labor unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and National Nurses United were in attendance. Rep. Schakowsky addressed the protestors, stating, “American women still earn far less than men 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act.”
The Huffington Post reports that the number of deportations of undocumented workers under the Trump administration, alongside the regime’s immigration policies, begs the question of how reporting standards in immigrant labor will shift. Chicago attorney Christopher Williams, who specializes in immigrant wage theft cases, notes, “There’s a lot of fear out there, and it’s driving workers further underground. I honestly think it’s creating an incentive to hire more undocumented workers, because now they’re even more vulnerable to being exploited.” So far, the Labor Department has not issued a press release detailing wage and safety investigations since Trump’s presidency commenced.
Meanwhile, the D.C. Circuit has issued its opinion in Scoma’s of Sausalito. Scoma’s involved an employer’s withdrawal of recognition of UNITE HERE Local 2850 based on the employer’s belief that the union no longer enjoyed majority support of the bargaining unit. The Board held that the withdrawal was illegal and issued a bargaining order. The D.C. Circuit agreed that withdrawing recognition was an unfair labor practice, but refused to enforce the Board’s bargaining order remedy. Instead, the court of appeals sent the case back to the Board and ordered the Board to come up with a less “extraordinary” remedy for the illegal withdrawal of recognition.
In other NLRB news, the Board has ordered a Regional Director to revisit its decision that NBCUniversal workers in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles were part of a single nationwide bargaining unit.
Today is International Women’s Day, and many women around the country are participating in a strike that has been billed as “A Day Without a Woman.” The action is intended to highlight the economic importance and impact of women on society, and it was organized following the Women’s March on January 21. CNN reports that American women “aren’t the only ones taking to the streets.” In Ireland, women and pro-choice activists are expected to rally across the country in a day of action dubbed “Strike 4 Repeal,” aimed at repealing Ireland’s eighth amendment, which places the right to life of an unborn child on equal footing with the right to life of the mother. In Australia, thousands rallied in Melbourne, demanding economic justice and reproductive rights for women around the world. In the Philippines, women’s rights activists marched to the embassy in Manila, carrying signs calling for employment and discrimination reforms. Protests also took place in Rome and Moscow.
Politico weighs in on Trump’s revised executive order, noting that attention “may now shift to the refugee-related provisions” in the order. The new order exempts valid visa holders and eliminates the provision that called for the U.S. to prioritize religious minorities (i.e. non-Muslims) in refugee admissions, but left in place a 120-day suspension of the refugee resettlement program (although Syrian refugees are now barred only temporarily, whereas before they were barred indefinitely).
At the Atlantic, Alana Semuels interviews David Weil, an Obama appointee who directed the Department of Labor’s wage-and-hour division, about the future of DOL under Trump. One of Weil’s big worries concerns “the overlay of immigration policies on…the labor market.” As Weil put it, “There’s a lot of writing on the wall that deeply, deeply concerns me.”
In international news, Argentina’s main labor union led a mass picket on Tuesday to protest job cuts and pay raises. According to Reuters, the picket attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators and took place in the midst of a two-day teachers’ strike. The protests also come at a bad time for Argentinian President Mauricio Macri: key congressional elections are slated to take place in October, and Macri needs his political coalition to do well “in order for him to keep pushing his economic reforms through Congress and position himself for re-election in 2019.”
Among the executive orders and presidential memoranda issued by the Trump White House during its inaugural weeks in power, the order titled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” — colloquially known as the “travel ban” or “Muslim ban” — stands out for the degree of political and legal fire that it has drawn.
Issued on January 27, the travel ban immediately barred citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. for 90 days, purportedly to provide the Department of Homeland Security with time to review immigrant vetting procedures. It also imposed restrictions on refugee entry into the U.S.
Of the dozens of lawsuits filed against the travel ban, the challenge brought by Washington and Minnesota — Washington v. Trump — has gone furthest toward striking it down. On February 3, the Seattle-based federal district court judge hearing the lawsuit issued a nationwide temporary restraining order (TRO) against the ban’s enforcement, a decision upheld by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In response to the panel’s decision, the Trump Administration is currently revising the ban.
Despite national interest in the travel ban’s legality, however, the news coverage and online commentary about Washington v. Trump have largely overlooked a key feature of the states’ case: the travel ban’s purported effects on their labor markets as the bases for their injuries.
President Trump delivered his first address to Congress last night, in which he called again for increased spending on infrastructure projects and efforts to increase the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States. No details of these plans were provided, though unions and businesses have begun lobbying to secure portions of the predicted infrastructure package. A meeting with television news anchors before the speech partially overshadowed the event, though, with Trump apparently indicating some willingness to discuss an immigration compromise that would allow many undocumented workers to remain in the country.
The Los Angeles Times reports on the growing number of restaurants introducing automated ordering or production to reduce labor costs, including Wendy’s, which just announced that more than 1,000 restaurants will receive self-service kiosks by the end of 2017. The chain’s chief operations officer called the installations an initial step in replacing “repetitive production tasks” with automated systems.
In other news from Washington, as part of an effort to promote job growth through the reduction of regulations, the Trump administration ordered the EPA to begin rolling back an Obama-era regulation that had subjected a number of previously exempt waterways and wetlands to additional pollution standards. Businesses, especially farmers and developers, had objected to the increased burdens the rule placed on economic activity in regulated areas, though sport fishing and hunting groups supporting the rule argue that significant economic benefits have accrued in newly clean waterways.
The teachers union in the nation’s second-largest school system reelected its president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, by a large margin yesterday. United Teachers Los Angeles called the result a clear mandate for Caputo-Pearl’s plans to fight back against school reforms supported by the Trump administration that could harm students and weaken unions through an increased reliance on private and charter schools.
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.