Weekend News & Commentary — May 20-21, 2017

Updating our coverage yesterday, more than 35,000 members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) are striking this weekend after the union and AT&T failed to agree to a new long-term contact by the union’s Friday afternoon deadline.  The walkout forced stores across the country to close, though AT&T insisted that most of its locations were still open.

Laurie Stalnaker with the Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, San Bernardino and Riverside Counties has an op-ed in the Press-Enterprise discussing the recent efforts of the AFL-CIO to protect undocumented immigrants, and issuing a call for additional solidarity among workers across the political spectrum.

Dueling rallies in Italy on Saturday exposed sharp political divisions on worker and migrant issues as the country turns toward parliamentary elections due to occur at the beginning of 2018.  In Umbria, thousands of supporters of the populist 5-Star Movement marched in support of a guaranteed minimum income for Italian citizens, while in Milan, similar numbers demonstrated against racism and intolerance.  The government’s response to the tens of thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean fleeing violence or searching for economic opportunities has boosted 5-Stars’ national profile as it seeks to appeal to poorer Italian voters by melding nationalistic, anti-immigrant messages with an anti-poverty and income inequality platform.

The Canadian government has banned officials from seeking information from social media accounts of applicants for disability benefits, unemployment benefits, and other social programs after reports surfaced that employees were using publicly available information to check details provided in applications.  Senior officials stated that they feared such searches might violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Privacy Act.


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.

Continue reading

Today’s News and Commentary–November 21, 2014

President Obama unveiled the details of his long-awaited executive action on immigration last night. The provisions directly affecting the most people are deferred deportations for (1) parents of legal residents and (2) an expanded number of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. The President’s plan makes several other changes whose impact, though still significant, will be less widespread. Labor leaders Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO and Mary Kay Henry of the SEIU expressed strong support for the President’s action. Some labor experts believe that the President’s action will encourage undocumented workers to unionize and to assert workplace rights, as fear of immigration-related retaliation has stymied action by these workers in the past. This will in turn benefit documented workers who stand to gain from expanded unionization and from not having to compete with undocumented workers whose working conditions fall below legal minimum standards. Empirical studies of beneficiaries of President Obama’s 2012 DACA program deferring deportation for a large group of childhood arrivals show that individuals taking advantage of DACA experienced a significant increase in economic opportunities.

Some labor advocates did express disappointment with certain aspects of the plan. Richard Trumka criticized the President’s suggestion that he would expand access to temporary visas for high-skilled tech sector workers, saying that such an action would continue to depress wages in the tech sector. And the action contained no specific protections for workers complaining of unlawful employer conduct or for farm workers.

According to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, a strong majority of Americans—56%—agree that the political and economic system is stacked against them. The percentage of the country holding this view has steadily risen since 2002, when only about a third of Americans felt this way. This sentiment crosses lines of political party, race, age, work type, and retirement status. The wealthy and people holding advanced degrees account for the bulk of Americans who do not feel the system is stacked against them.

The Senate HELP Committee conducted a hearing yesterday addressing the confirmation of Lauren McFerran to replace Nancy Schiffer on the National Labor Relations Board when the latter’s term expires on December 16, 2014. Outgoing Committee Chair Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa, offered high praise for McFerran and for Sharon Block, whose nomination President Obama withdrew in the face of strong Republican opposition. Harkin expressed his desire for McFerran’s speedy confirmation. At the hearing, ranking member and soon-to-be chair Lamar Alexander, a Republican from Tennessee, criticized Block and touted a bill introduced by himself and Mitch McConnell that would weaken the NLRB. Harkin has said that he expects the Committee to vote on advancing McFerran’s nomination to the full Senate sometime after Thanksgiving.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Scott Walker and John Kasich, two prominent anti-labor Midwestern Republican governors, both of whom are potential 2016 presidential candidates, have indicated that they are unlikely to pursue right-to-work legislation during their second gubernatorial terms. Continue reading