Today’s News & Commentary — April 13

Published April 13th, 2015 -  - 04.13.1511


The Boston Globe writes that new federal rules will take effect tomorrow that will shorten the amount of time before workers can vote to join a union. We have previously covered issuance of this Final Rule here. Under the new rule, the NLRB regional director responsible for an election will decide “which, if any, voter eligibility questions should be litigated before an election is held.” The rule will also change the contents of the voter lists that employers were already required to provide to unions. Rather than just include employees names and addresses, the list will now include their phone numbers and e-mails. House Speaker John Boehner, the Ohio Republican, called the changes “ambush election rules” last week, saying they threatened workers’ privacy and were “an assault on the rights and private protections of American workers.”

The New York Times profiles a new study by the Berkeley Center for Labor and Education that finds that nearly three-quarters of the people helped by programs such as food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Medicaid are members of a family headed by a worker. Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Berkeley center, argues that this support constitutes taxpayer subsidies for low-paying employers. This disparity has helped propel the movement to raise the minimum wage.

According to the Houston Chronicle, a Texas Senate panel is expected to vote on a bill today that would stop most state employees from paying union dues through payroll deductions. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) would tighten restrictions on public sector unions in a state that has been right-to-work since 1947. Roughly 330,000 public employees would be affected by the legislation. Firefighters and police officers are excluded.

In Connecticut, New Haven fire union rep Frank Ricci has filed a labor complaint against Fire Chief Allyn Wright over a threat of suspension. According to the New Haven Register, Ricci alleges that Fire Chief Wright tried to suspend him for 15 days for sharing photos of a fellow, injured firefighter with a local newspaper. The Fire Department lacks specific rules related to interactions with the press. Frank Ricci was also one of the named plaintiffs in Ricci v. DeStefano, the U.S. Supreme Court case that held that 19 white and one Hispanic firefighter were unfairly denied promotions after New Haven redesigned a civil service exam with low passage rates for minorities.

In Massachusetts, the Harvard Crimson writes that a majority of workers at a DoubleTree Hilton Hotel owned by Harvard University have voted in favor of unionization with UNITE HERE! Local 26 as their representative. The union vote comes after more than two years of demonstrations, a strike, and a boycott of the hotel. The unionization effort is an example of student-labor solidarity, with Harvard’s undergraduate Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM) having organized many of the protests and ultimately making the unionization announcement in a college dorm.

In immigration news, Fremont, Nebraska is struggling to enforce is municipal immigration rules that ban renting homes to undocumented immigrants. According to KLKN-TV, Fremont officials have not revoked any rental permits since the city of 26,000 started enforcing the ordinance last year.

In commentary, writing for the Huffington Post, Peter Dreier accuses the management of Henry E. Huntington Hospital of union-busting, actions to harass and intimidate nurses seeking to join the California Nurses Association (CNA). The nurses are scheduled to vote for a union on April 15 and 16. According to Dreier, the hospital has hosted a number of mandatory and legal anti-union “propaganda sessions” to describe the costs of dues and claiming that the CNA would force nurses to strike against their will.

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