Today’s News and Commentary — March 14

Published March 15th, 2014 -  - 03.15.14


President Obama has directed the Labor Department to “modernize” the work rules concerning overtime pay, according to the Wall Street Journal and LA Times. The DOL might adjust the salary threshold for overtime eligibility, or redefine the meaning of “supervisory duties” to ensure more workers qualify for overtime pay. Neither of these changes would require Congressional action. The decision confirms that the President is seeking to utilize executive power in new ways to combat Congressional inaction.

The LA Times reports that President Obama is reviewing his Administration’s deportation policy, seeking ways to carry out the immigration laws “more humanely” while still enforcing the laws on the books. The announcement has been viewed as one of the moves the President telegraphed in his State of the Union to promote reform in the absence of Congressional action. While details of the President’s review are forthcoming, some advocates hope he will expand the categories of immigrants who can seek relief under the deferred action program.

The New York Times Editorial Board writes about seven lawsuits launched this week by employees of McDonalds against the company, alleging various forms of wage theft. According to the editorial, “the lawsuits argue that both the corporate parent and the independently owned franchises where many of the plaintiffs work are jointly responsible for illegal pay practices carried out by the franchises,” which “strikes at the heart of the low-wage fast-food business model.”

The New York Times reports that this month total employment in the US private sector will reach its highest-ever level, surpassing the previous high of about 116 million employees recorded in January 2008, before the Great Recession.  

Several key senators have struck a bipartisan deal to extend unemployment benefits for the more than 2 million jobless Americans whose benefits have run out, according to the LA Times. However, the deal is not certain to pass the House, and may also face a Tea Party filibuster in the Senate. Unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed was cut off on December 28, 2013, when Congress could not agree on a compromise.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is trying to reach a landmark deal with the city’s teachers’ unions, according to the NY Times: “a nine-year deal that would let the city stretch out potentially huge retroactive pay increases.” Seeking to reconcile the city’s limited finances with generosity to his allies, de Blasio believes the longer time frame will bring the city years of labor peace while also extending the timeframe for retroactive pay increases that backdate to the Bloomberg Administration.

Twenty-five Republican Senators have urged the President to rescind what they deem is a “union carve-out” in the regulations of the Affordable Care Act. According to the Hill, “the rule in question was issued March 5 by the administration and dealt with the Affordable Care Act’s “reinsurance fee.” The fee taxes health plans from 2014 to 2016 to help stabilize the individual insurance market as sick patients come on board. Under the revised regulations, certain self-insured plans, which are used by some unions, would be excluded from having to pay the fee.” According to the article, unions have said the new rule will do nothing to help their members.

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