Today’s News & Commentary — April 21, 2017
Amidst a UAW-driven unionization effort, workers at Tesla’s Fremont, CA factory have filed a charge of unfair labor practices with the NLRB. The workers allege that Tesla spied, coerced, and intimidated the workers, and prevented them from communicating with one another. These efforts, they allege, violate multiple sections of the National Labor Relations Act, including their right to unionize. The workers also claim that the confidentiality agreement Tesla makes workers sign as a condition of employment is overbroad, impinging upon their rights. The confidentiality agreement does not just protect trade secrets, but threatens criminal punishment for workers who speak publicly or to the media about “everything that you work on, learn about, or observe in your work about Tesla.” The NLRB office in Oakland will investigate the workers’ charges.
The Minnesota Senate passed pre-emption legislation usurping local control over labor and employment requirements and transferring it to the state, preventing municipalities from setting local minimum wages. The bill passed with a vote of 35-31. Bill sponsor Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, argues that the bill helps Minnesota employers and increases employment because employers no longer have to comply with a thicket of differing laws and standards. The bill will merge with a Minnesota House-passed bill and come before Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who has stated he does not yet know whether he will veto the measure.
Relatedly, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation preventing local governments from requiring contractors to use unionized workers for public projects, and from even considering the use of unionized labor as a positive factor when deciding to whom the municipality ought to award the contract. The legislation passed through the House and Senate along party lines in February. Republicans used the labor costs for the new Milwaukee Bucks stadium as an example of the excessively high wages that the bill would prevent: $12 an hour in 2017, rising to $15 an hour by 2023.
Boston Review published an essay earlier this week on the fraught relationship, historically and in the present day, between labor and the Democratic Party.