News & Commentary

November 5, 2013

On Monday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Sandifer v. United States Steel Corp., the New York Times reports. The case poses the question whether the Fair Labor Standards Act requires that steelworkers be paid for the time it takes them to put on and take off their work clothing. The Seventh Circuit, in an opinion written by Judge Richard Posner, had previously answered emphatically no. The opinion went on to warn that workers should be wary of making such claims if “they don’t want the American steel industry to go where so much American manufacturing has gone in recent years — abroad.”

The Washington Post reports that the Senate voted 61 to 30 yesterday to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a law that bans workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill is expected to be debated today and could pass the Senate as early as the end of this week.

The Associated Press reports that Seattle residents will vote today on whether to raise the minimum wage for workers at Washington’s Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to $15 an hour. The current minimum wage in Washington is $9.19 an hour – the highest state minimum wage in the country.

Two recordings secretly made by workers at Iron Mountain, a document storage company in Georgia, capture supervisors warning workers not to unionize, according to In one recording, managers tell workers they are “very disappointed” the workers are seeking unionization, and the managers vow to “educate” them about unionization. In another, a manager confronts employee Wayne Walker about his participation in the union campaign, saying: “If that’s what you want to do, by means do it if you think that’s what’s best for your family, but just make sure you’re educated.” Walker was fired a week later. The NLRB is currently investigating charges that the firing was retaliation for Walker’s organizing efforts.

In international news, the Washington Post reports that street cleaners and garbage collectors in Madrid plan to begin an open-ended strike today to protest planned layoffs of more than 1,000 workers. The workers gathered on Madrid’s Puerta del Sol plaza late yesterday, where they set off firecrackers and started bonfires in denunciation of the announced cuts.

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