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].”

Weekend News & Commentary — April 23-24, 2016

In the wake of the Uber settlement, more outlets release their take on the resolution. The Washington Post provides details of the terms of the settlement, gauging that it is ultimately in Uber’s favor. The Wall Street Journal dives deeper into the tipping notice issue. For the first time, Uber drivers can post a sign stating that fares do not include tips but that passengers may leave tips in cash. Unlike its competitor Lyft, Uber will not build tipping into the app. Given the app’s appeal of riding currency-free, along with drivers’ hesitancy to do anything that might put off customers, drivers don’t know if the optional notices will have any effect on tipping or if they will even post them.

While Uber workers remain classified as independent contractors, the National Labor Relations Board takes up the question of whether misclassification is an unfair labor practice. Politico announced that the NLRB regional office filed a complaint alleging an NLRA violation for misclassification of Southern California port truck drivers as independent contractors. The Teamsters called the complaint a “historic” moment in their organizing drive. Additionally, this summer the NLRB will release decisions on whether graduate student teaching assistants have collective bargaining rights, and whether new rules will make it easier for permanent and temporary employees to unionize in a single bargaining unit.

The Boston Globe released a report on a federal investigation into alleged use of strong-arm tactics to stifle non-union development projects—with the implicated actors risings as high as Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh. As the former head of the Boston Building Trades, Walsh was drawn into the investigation through 2012 wiretaps, in which he reportedly told a development company it would face permitting problems unless it hired union labor on an unrelated development project. Walsh denied threatening any company and maintains that as mayor, “no one gets any special treatment under [his] administration — developers, contractors, or unions.”

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Today’s News & Commentary — November 30, 2015

The Washington Post  reports that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has earned the endorsement of Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh, a lifelong union man.  The endorsement came on Sunday from Boston’s Fanueil Hall where Walsh emphasized something Clinton often does not  —  her gender.  At the rally, Walsh called on union members nationwide to shatter the “glass ceiling” by electing Clinton to the oval office.  “Where are my fellow tradeswomen and men? Get your sledgehammers ready, because we’ve got a glass ceiling to demolish.”  Walsh added, “[i]t’s time we stop talking about having a woman for president — it’s time we make it a reality.”  Clinching Walsh’s support, the Post notes, will likely carry weight among Boston’s union voters who view Walsh as “one other own.”  Walsh is a 20-plus year member and former president of the Laborer’s Local Union 223 and previously headed the Boston Building Trades.

Cash for citizenship?  An editorial in Sunday’s LA Times called for “fundamental changes” to the EB-5 visa program, which provides employment-based immigration preference for immigrant investors who invest $1 million  —  or $500,000 in the case of areas of high unemployment  —  in job growth.  Immigrants who meet the criteria of the EB-5 visa receive a two-year conditional green card for themselves, spouses, and children, that then “convert[s] into permanent resident status with a path to citizenship” once 10 or more jobs are created or preserved.  So what’s the problem?  For the LA Times, at least, the issue is that poor regulation allows immigrant investors to game the system.  “[T]he poorly conceived structure of the regional centers lets investors withdraw their money in two years, once they’ve received their Lawful Permanent Resident status.”   Looks like Washington can now add the EB-5 visa to one of the many employment-based visa programs, think the H – 1B, that are in need of reform.

Germany’s largest airline carrier, Lufthansa, has settled one of its many scores with labor by agreeing to increase wages for all employees and paying lump sums of 2,250 euros ($2,383.3) to 30,000 ground staff, reports the International Business Times.  The wage hike, which raises salaries by 2.2% across the board, will take effect on Jan. 1, 2016.   In the meantime, Lufthansa must still contend with the pilot and cabin staff unions, which have initiated separate disputes against the airline.  All major unions representing Lufthansa staff are set to discuss their grievances at a summit on Dec. 2.

President Obama’s top civil servants are slated to receive an uptick in compensation and other employment perks as a new executive order goes to print, reports the Washington Post.  The employees who stand to benefit are the 7,000 members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) who lead the executive’s federal agencies, but often make less than lower level employees.  Yet while increasing pay is a top priority for the Senior Executives Association (SEA), the organization representing SES members, much more needs to be done to make employment among the agency elite attractive again.  “[T]he risk-reward imbalance of serving in the SES has worsened significantly in recent years” notes the SEA.  “From the standpoint of career executives (and potential candidates for SES jobs) inadequate compensation, lack of pay-for-performance, limited recognition . . . and expanding work-life imbalances . . . threaten the future quality and commitment of the career executive corps.”