Today’s News & Commentary — August 20, 2019


Published August 20th, 2019 - 08.20.195


Yesterday, the Trump administration released new policy guidance on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) work authorization process for immigrants paroled into the United States. Under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, certain immigrants who may be otherwise inadmissible for entry may be “paroled” into the United States for humanitarian reasons. The new guidance emphasizes that granting these immigrants work authorization remains within the discretion of USCIS officers—even when those immigrants have been temporarily admitted into the country on valid grants of parole. The guidance is likely to make it more difficult for some immigrants to seek work permits while on parole. The Trump administration has taken various other actions to limit these grants of parole, including ending certain categorical parole programs.

Reports emerged yesterday that U.S. Steel would temporarily lay off almost two hundred workers at its Great Lakes facility in Michigan. The company had announced in mid-June that it intended to cut back on production at several of its plants, citing lower manufacturer demand and falling steel prices. Last Tuesday at a rally in Pennsylvania, President Trump declared that, as a result of the administration’s tariffs, the domestic steel industry was “thriving.” The U.S. Steel layoffs tell a different story.

Members of the United Auto Workers will vote next week on whether to authorize a strike during contract negotiations with General Motors. The move is preliminary—negotiators are seeking permission to go on strike as a last resort if the bargaining process breaks down.

Yesterday, The Hill reported that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detained an undocumented restaurant worker who was attending a deposition for a lawsuit against his former employer. Xue Hui Zhang, a former cook at Albany restaurant Ichiban, is suing his former employers for violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Zhang’s attorney says that ICE wrongly detained his client in violation of a memorandum of understanding that the agency has with the Department of Labor, which says that ICE will not detain or arrest workers who are in the process of suing an employer for workplace violations. Zhang’s lawyer, believing that one of his client’s former employers tipped off ICE, intends to challenge his client’s detention on these grounds.

Yesterday, Politico reported on how Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign has been using its resources and infrastructure to raise money for progressive groups and send supporters to labor rallies around the country. While no doubt a boost to these labor causes, the practice also serves a political purpose, as Sanders seeks to distinguish himself from other Democratic candidates competing for endorsements from the labor movement. Sanders is by no means the only candidate using appearances at labor rallies to make his case. Just last month, Sanders joined Elizabeth Warren at a rally at Reagan National Airport, where airport workers who prepare in-flight meals and snacks were demanding a $15 per hour wage and threatening a strike. Catering workers, at Reagan National Airport and other airports nationwide, authorized a strike earlier this summer, but cannot strike until they have been cleared by the National Mediation Board.

German Lopez writes in Vox about his change of heart on unions. In November 2017, when Vox Media workers began a push to unionize, Lopez—a senior correspondent at Vox—had come out against the unionization drive, expressing concerns that union protections would benefit “lazy” workers who would take advantage of Vox’s generosity. In yesterday’s piece, Lopez explains how taking part in the bargaining process caused him to change his opinions on the usefulness of unions, both at Vox and writ large.

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