News & Commentary

August 28, 2015

The National Labor Relations Board released its groundbreaking ruling in Browning-Ferris, which considers a company that hires a contractor to staff its facilities to be a joint employer of the workers at that facility. According to the New York Times, a union at a franchisee would now be immediately entitled to negotiate not only with the franchise owner but also with corporate headquarters. The decision may also make it easier for unions to form at all, as parent companies (now joint employers) will no longer be able to use the tactic of shutting down franchises on the verge of unionizing. The 3-2 decision fell along partisan lines and, according to the Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis, “created sharp disagreements within the labor board,” in which the dissent accused the majority of going beyond the Board’s authority. DePillis writes that the NLRB’s action is “just the latest to tackle the trend” of employers misclassifying workers as independent contractors.

One St. Louis resident and outspoken #BlackLivesMatter supporter is less enthusiastic about an increase in the minimum wage. Lydia DePillis writes that Democratic Alderman Antonio French fears that a minimum wage increase will push businesses to relocate. For French, low-paying jobs are better than none, and the city needs to conduct a formal study to determine how an increase will impact on the local economy. But for other activists, French’s concerns about the increase are unwarranted and inconsistent with his other statements. Community organizer Ashli Bolden told the Washington Post, “He’s screaming black lives matter, but we don’t deserve higher wages?”

As the California legislature draws to a close, the assembly members voted to shelve the bill on an increase in state minimum wage. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Appropriations Committee plans to keep the minimum wage increase on the agenda for next year, and may raise wages by region rather than across the state. The Legislature also tabled the vote to provide work permits to agricultural laborers in the country without documentation. “I am deeply disappointed that thousands of undocumented farmworkers throughout the state will continue to live in limbo and fear, despite their significant contributions to California and its economy,” Assemblyman Luis Alejo of Watsonville said.

Vikas Bajaj of the New York Times commented on the Bangladeshi Dhaka High Court’s ban of the the release of a film about the collapse of the building that killed more than 1,100 garment workers in 2013. A labor leader brought the case against the movie, Rana Plaza, out of concern that the film did not sufficiently credit labor unions for trying to protect workers. The court feared that the documentary would “negatively portray” the Bangladesh’s garment industry.

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