This past weekend, when hundreds of thousands rallied in the People’s Climate March, a significant number of the marchers were union members. In fact, the labor movement has long been involved in the fight for environmental justice. For unions like SEIU, the strength of commitment to this fight has only increased in recent years as union members witness firsthand the immediacy of the climate crisis. The struggle over the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the effects of more frequent superstorms like Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina, evidence an unavoidable conclusion: environmental crises hit hardest and first poor communities and people of color. Union members understand that environmental injustice is one of the most significant threats to the achievement of economic and racial justice for working families. Climate change is creating increased pollution, which is already affecting public health. We know that one in six black children has asthma, as compared to one in nine children overall. Black children are three times more likely to suffer asthma attacks that require hospitalization and twice as likely to die of asthma. This is no accident. Coal-fired power plants are the single biggest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and are disproportionately located near (i.e. within three miles of) communities of color and low-income communities. This proximity exposes these communities — who too often lack the economic resources to prevent adverse health outcomes — to dangerous particulate matter and ozone precursors that cause and contribute to respiratory illnesses like pulmonary disease and lung cancer.
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].”
Jake Rosenfeld is Associate Professor of Sociology at Washington University-St. Louis and an OnLabor Senior Contributor. Patrick Denice is a postdoctoral researcher in the sociology department at Washington University in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Washington (Seattle) in 2016. His research examines stratification in education and the labor market.
A spate of labor-related election postmortems converged on one key theme: Donald Trump managed to cleave significant union support away from the Democrats. “Donald Trump Got Reagan-Like Support from Union Households,” ran one typical headline; “It Looks Like Donald Trump Did Really Well With Union Households,” declared another. But what if these prognoses have it wrong? Could it be that instead of Trump’s unique appeal to union household voters, the election results really suggest sagging enthusiasm among union households for the Democratic candidate?
It is true that the Democratic-Republican vote split among union households was narrower in 2016 than in any time since, well, Ronald Reagan’s re-election. In 2016, exit polls indicate that voters in union households supported the Democratic over the Republican candidate by only 8 points. In 2012, by contrast, the Democratic advantage among members of union households was a yawning 18 points. And 2016’s gap looks positively miniscule compared to the Democratic vote advantage among union households Bill Clinton enjoyed. In 1992, exit polls suggest that members of union households preferred Clinton to George H.W. Bush by over 30 points.
Below we display exit poll results from every presidential race dating back to Ronald Reagan’s defeat of Jimmy Carter in 1980. The figure shows the Democratic candidate advantage over the Republican candidate in the union household vote. In Reagan’s first victory, there was hardly any Democratic advantage: In 1980, Reagan managed 45% of the union household vote, compared to 48% for Jimmy Carter (the rest went largely to the 3rd party candidate in that race, John Anderson).
Based on this figure alone it sure appears that the postmortems have it right. In 2016 the partisan split among union households was smaller than at any time since Ronald Reagan’s re-election in 1984.
But there is another way of investigating the issue. Continue reading
While President Trump has launched a campaign against undocumented immigrants, his administration has not spoken out about the employers who hire them, notes the New York Times in an editorial today. Faulty enforcement and high evidentiary hurdles make holding employers accountable difficult. The Times faults the administration’s one-sided focus on demonizing immigrants while not providing a path to citizenship and putting money into (controversial) solutions to verify employment eligibility, like E-Verify.
Trump’s push to bring back coal jobs (“a delusion,” according to the New York Times in a separate editorial) is prompting Republican legislatures in coal country to reenact looser mine safety laws. Some lawmakers claim that the “federal government can do the inspections just as well as the states”—a seemingly out-of-character stance, until one looks at the current federal government, which has no interest in regulating coal companies and plans to cut the Department of Labor budget by 21%. Other legislatures are passing laws that cut down on annual safety checks (in exchange for a “‘safety analysis’ based on conversations with miners”) and proposing bills that lower standards.
A former law student of Neil Gorsuch claims that the Supreme Court nominee implied that women manipulate companies during interviews to gain maternity benefits, according to NPR. The former student wrote a letter detailing her class experience to Senate Judiciary Committee leaders, which was posted by the National Employment Lawyers Association and the National Women’s Law Center last night.
Labor secretary nominee Alex Acosta will be heard before the Senate HELP Committee this Wednesday, reports The Hill. Acosta, whose hearing was delayed once already, hasn’t faced the same level of criticism as former nominee Andy Puzder. Many are eager to learn more about the Labor tap, who has managed to avoid the spotlight and is a “blank page on policy,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
On the campaign trail, President Trump pledged that he would create 25 million jobs over the next decade. Will he keep his promise? The New York Times thinks not. The Editorial Board takes aim at the President’s “wheezing jobs effort,” pointing to his recently released budget proposal — which would cut the Department of Labor’s budget by 21% and eliminate several important jobs programs — and his neglect of important job markets, such as the clean energy sector.
President Trump’s labor policies have also attracted the ire of unions and labor leaders. The SEIU and Food Chain Workers Alliance have announced a general strike on May 1 (#May1Strike), coinciding with International Workers’ Day. More than 300,000 food chain employees and 40,000 service workers are expected to turn out, The Hill reports, to protest the Trump administration and in particular its hardline stance on immigration.
Meanwhile, the administration’s immigration crackdown has worsened the farm labor shortage in California, The Los Angeles Times reports. Although farm wages have shot up, few Americans have been willing to accept those jobs — casting doubt on President Trump’s claim that tougher borders will help American-born workers.
Disney will be paying $3.8 million in back wages to 16,339 of its “cast members” as part of a settlement with the Department of Labor. The DOL’s investigation revealed that Disney resorts in Florida deducted a “costume” expense that caused some employees’ hourly rates to fall below the federal minimum wage. The Christian Science Monitor has more.
Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland dealt a blow to President Trump’s revised travel ban yesterday. In Honolulu, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick K. Watson granted a nationwide temporary restraining order preventing the Trump Administration’s executive order from taking effect. Hours later, U.S. District Court Judge Theodore D. Chuang in Maryland issued an order preventing the key provision, which would have stopped the U.S. from issuing visas from six countries for 90 days, from being implemented. Read more here.
The Federal Reserve raised the benchmark interest rate yesterday for the third time following the financial crisis. It opted to raise the benchmark by a quarter of a percentage point and continues to predict two additional rate increases this year. In a press conference regarding the decision, Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, showed confidence in the economy stating “[w]e’re closing in, I think, on our employment objective; we’re coming closer on our inflation objective. … It looks to us to be appropriate to gradually raise the federal funds rate to neutral.” A historical examination of the Federal Reserve’s involvement in rate increases can be found here.
Yesterday, the Senate voted 51-48 to repeal an Obama Administration regulation restricting the sectors in which states could require a drug test for unemployment benefits. President Trump is expected to sign the repeal into law. Because the regulation was repealed under the special procedures outlined in the Congressional Review Act, Congress only requires majorities in both chambers to undo recently finalized regulations. This regulation is the eighth Obama regulation to be repealed under the Congressional Review Act.
At the New Yorker, Jonathan Blitzer suggests that the case of Daniel Ramirez, a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, demonstrates how the Trump Administration could undermine the program without formally abolishing it. Ramirez and his legal team have alleged that Ramirez’s due process rights were violated when he was arrested. The government has responded that DACA status can be revoked at any time if a DACA beneficiary is convicted of a crime or considered to be a threat to public safety. Ramirez has not been convicted of a crime, and he and his legal team maintain that the government has no evidence that he is a threat to public safety. The article questions whether DACA’s protections and the emphasis on high-priority immigration enforcement will prove illusory in the face of such broad discretion delegated to immigration enforcement officials. Blitzer states that “[w]hile the Trump Administration may preserve DACA on paper, honoring the policy in practice would require being clear about who is and isn’t a priority for detention by immigration agents.”