Today’s News & Commentary — April 19, 2017

The New York Times weighs in on the effect that Trump’s “Hire American” order may have on tech worker visas.  According to the Times, the order “represents a small win for bigger tech companies,” but may hurt smaller technology companies that “cannot afford to pay high salaries and are already struggling to attract talent.”  Senator Schumer, however, had a different take: “This does nothing,” he said. “Like all the other executive orders, it’s just words — he’s calling for new studies. It’s not going to fix the problem. It’s not going to create a single job.”

Is O’Reilly no longer a factor?  That’s the question being asked at Politico, which cites the Wall Street Journal’s report that Fox News “is preparing to cut ties with . . . O’Reilly.”  Since an April 1 New York Times story broke the news that Fox had paid out about $13 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly, pressure has been mounting on Fox to fire its biggest star.

As the New York Times puts it, “[t]he threat of a Hollywood strike is getting real.” Members of the Writers Guild of America will begin voting today on whether to authorize a walkout.  If members approve a strike, it could have “serious implications.” When writers went on strike a decade ago, it cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.5 billion, affecting everyone from the writers themselves to caterers, limo drivers, and florists.  As for how a strike would affect viewers, the Times explains that late-night comedy shows would screen reruns, some scripted series would be delayed, and daytime soap operas would probably end (unless producers bring in non-union writers).  A strike might also speed the shift from network viewing to Netflix and Amazon.

Today’s News & Commentary — November 25, 2015

A group of Disney workers is filing a complaint against Disney, alleging national origin and age discrimination, Politico reports. Earlier this year, Disney announced its plans to fire about 250 workers and replace them with guest workers on H-1B visas employed by a subcontractor. A group of at least 23 of these workers petitioned the EEOC to hear the case, evoking Title VII, and specifically emphasizing “hostile treatment in forcing the Americans to train their replacements.” Computerworld provides more details about the EEOC petition as well as the potential political and legislative ramifications of the case.

Nestle has admitted that fish in its global supply chains are the product of forced labor in Thailand, the Los Angeles Times reports. The laborers come from Thailand’s poorer neighbors Myanmar and Cambodia, and brokers charge them fees to get jobs, trapping them in jobs on fishing vessels and ports until they can pay back more money than they could possibly earn. Nestle disclosed that a self-policing internal investigation shows “virtually all U.S. and European companies buying seafood from Thailand are exposed to the same risks of abuse in their supply chains.” This comes months after the Associated Press reported on slavery in the seafood industry, which has led to the rescue of over 2,000 fishermen. Nestle has announced it will publish the reports and a yearlong solution strategy online as part of its efforts to protect workers.

The Massachusetts legislature has begun discussing creating a state-administered retirement plan for businesses without them, The Boston Globe reports. Earlier this week, Secretary of State William F. Galvin urged legislators to pass a bill that would apply to companies with over 25 employees, and give millions of workers an opportunity to save for retirement using payroll deductions. Following the launch of the Obama administration’s “myRA” program, as well as U.S. Department of Labor’s decision earlier this month to ease regulations to allow states to serve as fiduciaries for multiemployer retirement plans, states across the country are considering similar bills. The Massachusetts legislature’s session is official over for the year, so the earliest this bill will be considered is next year.

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Today’s News & Commentary — November 2, 2015

Local Labor for Bernie.  Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, who has represented Vermont in Congress for over two decades, is enjoying home-turf advantage as he campaigns in New Hampshire.  Recently, he has won the endorsement of three New Hampshire labor unions: the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) chapter, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 490, and Hanover’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 560, reports Seven Days, a Vermont newspaper.  Janice Kelble, speaking on behalf of the APWU, called the decision a “no brainer,” and an IBEW member, Richard Maynard, remarked “I don’t see how any union in the state of New Hampshire would not want him.” Sanders, however, has not fared as well with national labor organizations.  Despite his consistent pro-labor stance throughout his tenure in office, the only nationwide labor group to buy into his camp is the National Nurses United.

Talk of the desirability of importing foreign professionals through the H-1B visa program has lit up conservative media outlets after CNN’s coverage of the third Republican debate last Wednesday.  So what are H-1B visas?  They are the principle immigration vehicle for the admission of temporary professional workers with highly-specialized skills.  Currently the H-1B is capped at 65,000 per year, and much of the current debate is what to do with that ceiling.

At the debate, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump indicated that he is in favor of retaining foreign talent in the U.S. so long as it enters legally, “We have a country of laws . . . It’s fine if they come in, but they have to come in legally,” reports Business Today.  Marco Rubio, another presidential hopeful, also defended the program on air.  He argued that until America can “modernize higher education,” it is critical that we keep the program to fill labor shortages at technology companies and other job-creating enterprises.  Yet favorable opinion of the H-1B program is far from unanimous among the conservative wing.  Ian Tuttle, writing for the National Review, called out the program as a subterfuge for Silicon Valley companies looking to keep costs down, “There is ample evidence that Silicon Valley is using the H-1B program simply to cut labor costs.” Continue reading