News & Commentary

August 19, 2015

After the wave of minimum wage increases across the country, business groups vehemently oppose union carve-outs from the minimum wage floors. Some unions have sought exemptions from the wage mandates if they instead have a collective bargaining agreement. According to the Wall Street Journal, “labor groups often seek the exemptions because they say they provide the flexibility to negotiate better benefits for all union members.”

Amidst the buzz around both harsh working conditions at Amazon and kinder workplaces at big corporations, the New York Times’ Noam Scheiber writes that brutal competition remains the norm at elite companies. Fiercely competitive environments permeate law and consulting firms, investment banks, and tech companies. According to Scheiber, “even the steps that many tech companies take to make the workplace more engaging often result in employees spending more time consumed by their work.” In the future, even the cutthroat companies likely cannot afford to pay top dollar to their most successful employees, while training and then culling out the “weaker” competition.

Rep. Tom Brinkman plans to introduction a right-to-work bill in Ohio, following similar legislation in Michigan and Wisconsin, reports Although Gov. John Kasich opposes such a bill, Rep. Brinkman thinks he can garner support, now that neighboring states have or are pursuing right-to-work policies.

Donald Trump’s latest target is Mark Zuckerberg—for his support of the H-1B guest worker program. Trump criticizes proposals (including by Sen. Marco Rubio) to increase the number of visas for high-skilled foreign workers, rather than hiring domestically. cites conflicting studies of the visa program: one concludes that high-skilled foreign workers complement native-born peers; but another finds that H-1B workers replace some domestic workers and are paid less, increasing the employer’s profits.

The New York Times’ Ben Strauss contemplates how college athletes will organize themselves, after the NLRB’s dismissal of a case involving scholarship football players at Northwestern University. Politico reports that the decline of jurisdiction created more questions than answers. Although college teams are unlikely to unionize in the near future, the decision left open whether individual players meet the Board’s test for employee status.

The NLRB was not so favorable to Pacific Lutheran University, which had sought a religious exemption from federal labor law. A Washington state regional official ruled that the university had “not met its burden of demonstrating that any of its faculty are held out as performing specific religious functions.” According to Politico, this is a big win for SEIU.

Also out west, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders courted Nevada labor unions for an endorsement. The Culinary Workers Union Local 226, the most powerful union in the state, is waiting to endorse either candidate until they reveal their stands on repealing the tax on expensive insurance plans, passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. Some union leaders expressed concern to the Washington Post over Sanders’ viability as a presidential candidate, but that didn’t dissuade National Nurses United from making the first Sanders endorsement.

A picture may be worth a million dollars. NBC reports that the Humans of New York photographer left his perch to focus on Pakistan for a month. After posting the photos and stories of three Pakistani women in bonded labor, his campaign raised $2 million for Bonded Labour Liberation Front, which supports the estimated 4 million Pakistanis working at kilns in forced labor.


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