Today’s News and Commentary – July 23

Published July 23rd, 2014 -  - 07.23.14


On Tuesday President Obama signed into law the Workplace Innovation and Opportunity Act, a bill that provides money to cities and states for job retraining programs. The New York Times notes that the legislation essentially reauthorizes a Clinton-era law, but adds a focus on reducing “the bureaucracy of the previous law by eliminating overlapping and duplicative programs.” In addition, “the new law seeks to impose more accountability on the federal-state training partnerships by requiring a “job-driven checklist” to ensure that federal money is used effectively and by providing “data-driven tools” to give workers better information about career prospects.”

The NLRB ruled yesterday that a group of cosmetics and fragrances workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts were a large enough group to unionize. In a 3-1 decision, the Board found that the employees shared a “community of interest,” and that Macy’s had failed to meet its burden of establishing that the smallest appropriate bargaining unit should include all store employees. According to the Wall Street Journal, some see the ruling as easing the path to unionizing subsets of workers in various industries, though the reach of the decision beyond this particular case remains unclear.

The New York Times reports that a California state court judge has granted class certification to a large group of Apple employees who are alleging that the company failed to provide meal and rest breaks as required under California law. Though Apple changed its official policy regarding meal and rest breaks in 2012—nine months after the litigation was filed—the lawsuit covers the five years prior. Because “under California law, employers are required to compensate workers with an extra hour of pay each time that meal or rest breaks are not given on a timely basis or are not provided at all,” experts say the plaintiffs could be seeking tens of millions of dollars.

In immigration news, lawmakers remain at odds over a plan to address the surge of unaccompanied minors appearing along the US-Mexico border. According to the New York Times, both sides are now saying a deal is unlikely to emerge before Congress’ August recess. While the Senate Democrats have called for about $2.7 billion to address the current problem—approximately $1 billion less than President Obama requested—Republicans are opposed to sending money without limiting the legal protections available for unaccompanied minors in the 2008 Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act.

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