News & Commentary

August 23, 2019

Alisha Jarwala

Alisha Jarwala is a student at Harvard Law School and a member of the Labor and Employment Lab.

On Thursday, Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke released a plan to strengthen unions and boost workers’ wages.  O’Rourke’s plan, which he calls “A 21st Century Labor Contract,” includes extending collective bargaining rights to more public sector employees, domestic workers, supervisors, and contractors.  In addition, he advocates for passing the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which among other provisions would penalize employers for violating workers’ union organizing rights.  The plan also includes a $15 federal minimum wage, cracking down on misclassification of workers as independent contractors through turning the “ABC test” into law, and establishing wage boards in industries with low union membership (such as fast food) to bargain over national wage levels.  O’Rourke’s plan comes hot on the heels of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ labor plan, which Sejal discussed in detail yesterday.

Bloomberg reports that the Trump administration is overhauling the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) to give political appointees increased oversight.  In addition, certain government contracting and enforcement positions have been eliminated. WHD Administrator Cheryl Stanton is also scrapping an office that enforces wage and hour requirements on government contracts, which Bloomberg describes as “a move that could be perceived as de-prioritizing those investigations.” 

Demand Justice, a progressive advocacy organization, has launched a campaign to encourage the next Democratic president to stop appointing corporate lawyers to the federal bench.  The campaign’s supporters include SEIU and the AFT.  “The next President must return the courts to the people by nominating judges whose professional experience and expertise demonstrate a commitment to working people and their communities,” said SEIU General Counsel Nicole Berner.

NPR reports that recent ICE raids have resurrected an age-old debate for American employers: if not immigrants, who will do the toughest jobs in America?  One restaurant owner interviewed said that every eating establishment in her Midwestern city has undocumented workers in the kitchen: “You cannot hire American here. . . . You have to be able to stand on your feet all day. It’s not a good paying job.”  The Pew Research Center estimates there are 7.5 million undocumented workers in the United States, primarily working in agriculture, construction and hospitality.  In 2014, about 1.1 million, or 10%, of restaurant workers were undocumented.

Finally, on a romantic note, The Philadelphia Inquirer investigated why so many men in Philadelphia list their union affiliation in their dating app profiles, including on Tinder.  The conclusion: “[I]t might suggest they were a catch. . . . trade union members are paid well, have good health-care benefits, and get that most elusive of perks among young people these days: a pension.”

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