Today’s News and Commentary — March 2, 2016


Published March 2nd, 2016 - 03.02.1634


New Jersey unions started the week with bad news: the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on whether the state must pay the full share of its annual public pension contribution, reports CNBC. This leaves in place Governor Chris Christie’s plan, in which the state makes only partial contributions to the fund. New Jersey teachers, state troopers and other government workers entered a contractual agreement in 2011 for full pension funding, but Christie slashed the state’s contribution in 2014, citing a fiscal emergency. Without any Supreme Court review, the unions are left to fight in the political sphere, and will push for a November ballot measure.

The primaries remain in full swing, but Yahoo News is already forecasting the general election—with Labor Secretary Tom Perez as the Democratic vice presidential candidate. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, Democratic senators and Hill aides hypothesize that Perez would be a strong sidekick. At the Department of Labor, Perez has advocated for minimum wage increases, union organization, and disclosure of third-party commissions by financial advisers. Perez’ progressive economic and civil rights policies, as well as his Dominican heritage, may attract both the progressive “Warren wing” and the Latino conservatives that Clinton seeks.

The future Democratic nominee shouldn’t take the Labor vote for granted, however. Boston.com describes one anomalous voting block: union members for Donald Trump. Trump’s stance against immigrants and the Trans-Pacific Partnership speak to Massachusetts’ blue-collar workers. Bay State Republicans, accustomed to living in a liberal state, responded especially well to Trump’s “ideologically mish-mashed platform.” Trump’s rhetoric works; he stole the vote in the state’s Super Tuesday election.

How do you tell the difference between a bookkeeping mistake and breaking the law? For New York state labor investigators, it’s a fine line in the nail salon industry. Regulators have been inspecting the state’s nail salons since May, when the New York Times published an exposé on the industry. Regulators find widespread noncompliance with state and federal labor laws, for a multitude of reasons: intentional evasion, misunderstanding the technicalities of labor laws, improper accounting, or protecting their immigrant employees by paying them under the table. The New York Times reports that some nail salon owners contend they have been “unfairly singled out an industry dominated by Asian immigrants.” The state tries to protect exploited workers without hurting business owners who make innocent mistakes. One salon owner explained: “I want to follow American law and rules to be good citizen….But something we don’t know, they have to let people know first.”

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