Today’s News & Commentary — March 20, 2017

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.

Arizona as a Test Case for Immigration Effects on Employment

In Arizona, between 2007 and 2012, the number of undocumented immigrants dropped by forty percent.  The exodus has been largely attributed to two sweeping laws targeting undocumented immigrants: the Legal Arizona Worker’s Act (LAWA) (2008) and the controversial SB 1070 law (2010), which advocates on both sides of the issue called “the broadest and strictest immigration measure in generations.”  Though the 2008 nationwide economic downturn explains some of the departures, other large states similarly affected by the recession saw much smaller losses in immigrant populations. The next-largest drops from states with high concentrations of immigrants were 25% (New York), 13.6% (Illinois), and 12.5% (California).

The plunge in numbers in Arizona’s undocumented immigrant population offers a unique opportunity to evaluate the effects of immigration on employment for the workers who remained.  This post provides some background on the immigration laws and how Arizona’s employment landscape changed as its number of undocumented immigrants plummeted.

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An Explainer: What’s Happening with Domestic Workers’ Rights?

A high proportion of low-wage workers in this country are what we would call domestic workers.  Any account of the working poor and middle class in America must consider how domestic workers are faring in our economy.  But one the key tools that workers have historically used to improve wages and working conditions—unionization—is unavailable to domestic workers under the National Labor Relations Act.  Moreover, many of the usual legal protections for workers do not apply to domestic workers. The below explainer summarizes the role of domestic workers in the economy, how labor and employment laws apply to domestic workers, and some of the recent state-level efforts to improve economic conditions for domestic workers both through unionization and through other means.

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