Weekend News & Commentary — January 21-22, 2017

Only a few days into the Trump presidency, and speculation is rife: what will the new President do next?  In his first few hours in office, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at dismantling the Affordable Care Act — and he is expected to take similar executive action “on a nearly daily basis” for the next month to undo his predecessor’s legacy, The New York Times reports.  Undocumented workers will be anxious to see what President Trump does with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  His options include a gradual wind-down of the program or even immediate repeal (POLITICO provides a rundown of the potential scenarios).  But the President’s tough talk on immigration could have costs.  NPR warns that a crackdown on immigrant workers could leave the United States with a farm labor shortage.

In his inaugural address, President Trump painted a bleak picture of the American economy, evoking a landscape of “rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones.”  And while this view is not entirely consistent with reality — as The New York Times points out, the United States is now experiencing one of the longest periods of economic growth in its history — the American worker does face challenges ahead.  President Trump focused on the effects of foreign trade (“The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world,” he lamented), but the graver threat to American jobs might be the rise of automation — something that Andy Puzder, Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, has publicly supported.  Before exiting office, former President Obama warned that technological advancements like the “driverless Uber” could threaten Americans jobs in the near future.  Recode has more.

Speaking of Puzder, Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary is under attack from women’s groups, POLITICO reports.  The National Women’s Law Center and other groups are pressuring lawmakers in the weeks leading up to Puzder’s confirmation hearing, highlighting the nominee’s less-than-stellar record on women’s issues (including his infamous Carl’s Jr. ads and his work as an anti-abortion lawyer in Missouri).  Mounting criticism has sparked rumors that Puzder might back out of the nomination.

Weekend News & Commentary — December 24-25, 2016

Undocumented workers have an equal right to workplace protections, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  In a decision issued earlier this week, the IACHR held that undocumented workers should be compensated for workplace injuries — notwithstanding the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds v. NLRB, which denied undocumented workers full remedies under federal labor law.  The ACLU, which represented petitioners in the case, has more.

Meanwhile, workers in California will now be relieved of all work duties during break times.  In a class action filed on behalf of ABM security guards, the California Supreme Court held this week that employers cannot require their employees to be “on call” or “on duty” during breaks.  Read more here.

In international news, Taiwan will now require employers to provide their workers with two days off each week, in an effort to improve work-life balance.  The mandatory five-day work week will start January 1st, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

Finally, as 2016 draws to a close, JD Supra offers a look back on some of the most noteworthy developments in employment law: the FLSA overtime rule (now on hold), new federal guidelines on recruiting and compensation, and New York’s upcoming minimum wage increase, among others.

Weekend News & Commentary — December 10-11, 2016

Trump’s Labor Secretary pick — Andy Puzder, a fast-food CEO opposed to raising the minimum wage — is still drawing criticism.  Politicians have chimed in; Senator Elizabeth Warren has called the appointment “a slap in the face for every hardworking American family.”  The Atlantic takes a closer look at the controversial choice.

One puzzling aspect of Trump’s pick, as noted in our previous coverage, is that Puzder has disagreed with the President-elect on immigration issues.  Puzder has argued for bringing in more low-wage immigrant workers, and in a Wall Street Journal editorial he penned earlier this year, Puzder claimed that “deporting 11 million people is unworkable.”  While some have viewed the Puzder pick as a hopeful sign of a more balanced immigration policy under the Trump administration, Puzder seems to have already changed his tune on immigration; in a statement released Saturday, he threw his support behind Trump’s immigration plan, claiming that it “will boost wages and ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first.”

Meanwhile, unions are feeling nervous in the wake of Trump’s bitter Twitter war with Chuck Jones, leader of the union representing Carrier workers, earlier this week.  According to The Wall Street Journal, Trump’s Carrier intervention — and the resulting conflict — has union leaders worried that the new President will intervene more and more in the work of organized labor.

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Today’s News & Commentary — November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! While many of us will be spending the holiday with family, Forbes reported that 28 percent of employees plan to spend this holiday with coworkers, an eight percent increase from 2015, according to a CareerBuilder survey.  Some of these workers may be together out of necessity.  The same survey reported that 24 percent of workers are scheduled to work today.  Employers, especially retailers, have faced criticism for scheduling workers for Thanksgiving shifts.  For a list of stores keeping their doors shut today, read more here.

In other Thanksgiving-related news, poultry workers work long hours in unusually dangerous workplaces in preparation for Thanksgiving.  These workers often spend eight to 10 hours a day working six or seven days a week in the lead up to the holiday.  Poultry processing plants have workplace injury rates 50 percent higher than the national average, and poultry workers suffer workplace-related sicknesses at seven times the rate of workers generally.  Slate published an article focusing on poultry processing plants in Arkansas and the injuries many workers at these plants face.  The article reveals substantial underreporting of workplace injuries. Read more here.

Yesterday in the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson, executive editor of the American Prospect and a former Post columnist, published a piece entitled, “Donald Trump Can Kill the American Union.”  With Republican control across the board at the national level, Meyerson suggests that Republicans can erode union protections by eliminating public sector union bargaining and enacting a right to work law at the national level.  Furthermore, if Trump confirms a conservative nominee to the Supreme Court, the Court could decide a case preventing unions from collecting agency fees from non-union workers, in a case similar to Friedrichs.  In the face of this threat, Meyerson observes a “growing appreciation by progressives, centrists and millennials of the indispensability of unions.”  He argues that unions must try and maintain their current protections while struggling to create new modes of worker representation because unions are essential for “American greatness.”

Donald Trump’s rhetoric has already affected the behavior of some workers.  The New York Times reports that immigrant workers have begun spending less money in reaction to uncertain immigration policy.  Due to its large immigrant population, an estimated 10 percent of New York City’s workers are undocumented.  The City has already begun to feel the effects of this decrease in consumer spending.  If these workers were to leave, it could have a ripple effect on the economy. Read more here.

Today’s News and Commentary — November 10, 2016

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s shocking electoral victory, the analysis of his win continues.  The New York Times reports that Donald Trump’s support among white, working-class men carried him to the presidency.  While Hillary Clinton’s campaign believed that their coalition of minorities and women voters would carry the day, their lack of support among white men without college degrees proved problematic for the campaign.  Exit polls indicated that this year’s gender gap “could be the largest in 60 years” with men choosing Trump by 12 percentage points and women choosing Clinton by 12 percentage points.

President-elect Trump has released his plan for his first 100 days.  Trade is featured prominently.  Trump has stated that he will renegotiate or pull out of NAFTA and abandon pursuit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.  Despite Trump’s focus on trade, the Boston Globe warns that Trump’s promise to bring manufacturing jobs back could be difficult to put into practice.  Citing a statistic from Ball State University’s Center for Business and Economic Research, the Globe states that automation and other innovations resulted in an 88 percent decrease in factory positions.  Other items with impacts for workers on Trump’s list include a federal hiring freeze and ending limits on American energy production.  Read Trump’s plan for his first 100 days here.

Yesterday, Politico reported on its conversations with labor law and policy authorities regarding the ramifications of Trump’s election for workers.  These experts highlighted changes on immigration policy, the introduction of anti-organizing measures, a diminishment of labor standards, and the appointment of anti-regulatory judicial nominees as potential effects of Trump’s victory.  Read more here.  Some of these changes require the participation of Congress, but others, such as stronger immigration enforcement, President-elect Trump could enact alone.

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Weekend News & Commentary — September 17-18, 2016

The Affordable Care Act has extended health insurance to millions of Americans.  But it excludes one group: undocumented immigrants.  California’s lawmakers are now seeking a waiver from the federal government that will allow all immigrants to purchase insurance policies on the state’s insurance marketplace without federal subsidies.  The New York Times‘ Editorial Board writes in support of the change, pointing out that immigrants already contribute more in taxes to support public programs than they receive in benefits.

Meanwhile, The Boston Globe examines the conditions facing immigrant workers in a booming construction industry.  Their investigation reveals that these workers are paid below the prevailing wage and are more likely to be subjected to unsafe conditions, without insurance for medical costs or lost pay if they are injured.

The Obama Administration continues its efforts to save the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which both Clinton and Trump have opposed.  On Friday, President Obama enlisted the help of Republican governor John Kasich, who called for bipartisan support for the trade deal.  The New Yorker takes a close look at the opposition to the TPP, suggesting that the most persistent argument against trade treaties — the loss of American jobs — doesn’t match the facts: since NAFTA was approved in 1993, American manufacturing jobs have expanded.

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Today’s News & Commentary — August 30, 2016

A new study released by the Economic Policy Institute and co-authored by OnLabor Senior Contributor Jake Rosenfeld won’t surprise readers with its key finding – a significant link between the decline in union membership and increased income inequality in America.  Salon notes that the researchers “looked at both urban and rural regions of the country as well as areas with strong and weak union representation to gain a better perspective on how declining union numbers affect nonunion working men and women as well as those workers with some higher education and those with just a high school diploma or less,” finding that “working-age men without high school diplomas have been hurt the most in comparison with such workers nearly four decades ago.”  The American Prospect further reports that “union membership makes a tremendous difference for people who do not have college degrees.”

Following up on last week’s National Labor Relations Board ruling that graduate students at private universities are statutory employees who can unionize under the National Labor Relations Act, Inside Higher Ed highlights a crop of “anti-union” websites launched to deter students from organizing.  Since the ruling “Columbia, along with HarvardPrinceton and Yale Universities and the University of Chicago, have posted information online about the possible effects of unionization.  Most point out that all union members must pay dues and are expected to participate in strikes, should they occur, and that unionization won’t necessarily improve their working conditions.  Some contain concerns previously voiced to, and largely rejected by the NLRB — namely that unionization compromises the student experience in a number of ways.”

In March, OnLabor’s Sara Ziff asked if Donald Trump’s modeling agency was flouting immigration and employment agency law – and a new Mother Jones report confirms the answer is in fact a ‘yuge’ yes.  In fact, “the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones.  Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.”

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