News & Commentary

January 20, 2016

The Supreme Court will decide whether “President Obama has the authority to offer a ‘lawful presence’ and a work permit to as many as five million immigrants living in the country illegally,” reports the Los Angeles Times. Since the President announced his immigration program last year, Texas and 25 other Republican-led states challenged the executive action. The Obama administration has asked the Court to move quickly, so that if it wins, it can set up the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program before the end of the term. The New York Times reports, “Democratic presidential candidates have said they would continue the program, but most of the Republicans in the race have vowed to dismantle it.” The Los Angeles Times warns that time is of the essence. If millions of applications are already processed by election time, then a new Republican president would face a tough choice: step down from his tough stance on immigration, or deport hundreds of thousands of longtime residents who voluntarily come forward to follow the rules.

The Labor Department attempts to shed light on the joint employer controversy. The Department issued guidance on who is accountable for violations of employment laws. As Noam Scheiber explains in the New York Times, the factors for joint employment for purposes of wage and hour law enforcement are broader than for labor organization. In the former, a company can be consider a joint employer even if it does not supervise, hire or fire workers. Courts do not have to follow the Department’s interpretation, but the guidelines may influence employers and plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Did a child mine the metals in your smart phone? Amnesty International released a report documenting human rights abuses, including child labor, in cobalt mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The report names Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, among others, as purchasers of the cobalt used in their electronics. Newsweek and the Guardian write that some of the companies named in the report denied any child labor in their supply chains, while others accepted or are investigating the claims.

Men and women—but mostly men—are stepping aboard their jets to Davos, Switzerland for the annual World Economic Forum. Theresa Whitmarsh, head of the Washington State Investment Board, and Elizabeth Nyamayaro, head of the United Nations HeForShe, hope to change the gender balance at the conference and in global leadership. Gender inequality and the need for inclusion will get more air time in Davos than in prior years, writes the New York Times. Programing includes discussion on how future skill requirements will affect gender equality, women’s leadership roles in science and technology, and how to end gender biases. Businesses may also start paying attention to gender to boost their bottom line. As Whitmarsh argues, firms miss out on the best talent when they overlook half the population.

If California State University employees choose to strike, they will do so with support from the state’s largest labor federation. The 800,000-member Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO promised to throw its weight behind a potential strike by refusing to enter Cal State campuses to deliver packages or make repairs, reports the Los Angeles Times and the Long Beach Press-Telegram. The California Faculty Association, which represents almost 26,000 professors, lecturers, counselors, librarians and athletic coaches, has been at an impasse with administrators over salary increases since July.

Traveling northward, the Service Employees International Union and supporters delivered thousands of signed petitions to San Francisco City Hall to raise the California minimum wage. According to ABC News, the movement has the support of Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, but the chair of the San Francisco Republican Party anticipates that more businesses will close or choose never to operate in California if the wage increase passes. Voters may decide on the issue as soon as November.

Instead of staging their own protests, Florida teachers became the target of one on Tuesday. Thousands rallied in Tallahassee to ask the Florida Education Association to drop their lawsuit against the state’s tax credit scholarship program for school vouchers, reported the Miami Herald. The union filed the lawsuit after the state legislature voted to expand eligibility criteria to allow families earning above 185% of the poverty line to participate. Martin Luther King III, along with other speakers, compared the fight for the voucher program to other civil rights struggles.

The White House issued a fact sheet on its wage insurance proposal, after President Obama mentioned the idea in his State of the Union speech last week. The proposal contains three key components: wage insurance that would replace half of lost wages; expanding unemployment insurance to more part-time and intermittent workers, for longer periods of time; and providing funding for job retraining programs to incentivize employers to avoid layoffs.

The American Prospect released its report on media coverage of union news in 2016 so far. The survey of the media landscape includes articles on political endorsements, staff unions at the Huffington Post and Gawker Media, and organizing to raise the minimum wage, among other topics.

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