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.

Weekend News & Commentary—April 15-16, 2017

Yesterday, in dozens of cities across the U.S., tens of thousands of protestors took to the streets to demand that Trump release his tax returns.  Reuters explains that organizers of the “Tax March” wanted to draw attention to Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns.  The marches were planned for April 15 because it is the traditional filing deadline for U.S. federal tax returns (this year the filing date was pushed back two days).

Politico reports that the “clock is ticking” for expanding the number of available H-2B visas.  The H-2B visa program permits business to hire temporary, non-agricultural foreign workers, with a cap of 66,000 visas per year.  The 2015 spending bill exempted returning workers from the cap, and business leaders are pushing for Congress to do the same in 2017.  Although a House appropriations bill for the fiscal year 2017 already includes the exemption, business leaders are lobbying the Senate to do the same by April 28, the date by which Congress needs to pass a spending bill to keep the government functioning.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge for the District of Massachusetts Leo T. Sorokin presided over a two-hour hearing regarding two City Hall aides charged with extortion for “allegedly threatening to withhold permits for the Boston Calling festival in September 2014 unless organizers hired union workers.”  According to the Boston Globe, a prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office asserted that the aides thought they were advancing Mayor Walsh’s agenda.  Attorneys for the defense countered that the aides acted as city workers seeking jobs for constituents, that they had the right to negotiate the use of City Hall Plaza, and that the prosecutors “have failed to show that the defendants received anything of value for allegedly urging the labor union jobs.”  As Attorney Thomas Kiley argued, “A violation of the National Labor Relations Act is not the same as [extortion].”

Today’s News & Commentary — May 5, 2016

Earlier this week, the EEOC issued a fact sheet to employers nationwide, stating they must allow transgender employees access to the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity, Politico reports.  The fact sheet explains denying an employee equal access to a “common restroom corresponding to the employee’s gender identity” constitutes sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

The US services sector expanded last month, according to Reuters, but a report published yesterday shows private employers hired the fewest number of workers in three years in April.  Construction firms reported “severe” shortages of unskilled workers.  The services sector accounts for more than two-thirds of the US economy; economists suggest these numbers point to a “solid growth rebound” of the economy in the second quarter.

Yesterday, the EEOC announced the owners and operators of Moonshine Whiskey Bar in Tempe, Arizona, will pay $66,000 to settle a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit.  According to JDSupra, the plaintiff, a bartender, alleged she was discharged because she was pregnant.  During the hearing, EEOC provided an audiotape recording of one of the owners, explaining allowing a pregnant woman to bartend would offend customers.

According to Politico, lawmakers in Congress have quietly begun efforts to expand visas for low-skilled foreign workers.  Republicans and Democrats from states that rely on immigrant labor are lobbying members of the Appropriations Committee to include language in this year’s funding bills to keep last year’s omnibus measure quadrupling the number of low-skilled worker visas.  The AFL-CIO is lobbying strongly against the move.