Today’s News & Commentary — August 30, 2016

Published August 30th, 2016 -  - 08.30.162


A new study released by the Economic Policy Institute and co-authored by OnLabor Senior Contributor Jake Rosenfeld won’t surprise readers with its key finding – a significant link between the decline in union membership and increased income inequality in America.  Salon notes that the researchers “looked at both urban and rural regions of the country as well as areas with strong and weak union representation to gain a better perspective on how declining union numbers affect nonunion working men and women as well as those workers with some higher education and those with just a high school diploma or less,” finding that “working-age men without high school diplomas have been hurt the most in comparison with such workers nearly four decades ago.”  The American Prospect further reports that “union membership makes a tremendous difference for people who do not have college degrees.”

Following up on last week’s National Labor Relations Board ruling that graduate students at private universities are statutory employees who can unionize under the National Labor Relations Act, Inside Higher Ed highlights a crop of “anti-union” websites launched to deter students from organizing.  Since the ruling “Columbia, along with HarvardPrinceton and Yale Universities and the University of Chicago, have posted information online about the possible effects of unionization.  Most point out that all union members must pay dues and are expected to participate in strikes, should they occur, and that unionization won’t necessarily improve their working conditions.  Some contain concerns previously voiced to, and largely rejected by the NLRB — namely that unionization compromises the student experience in a number of ways.”

In March, OnLabor’s Sara Ziff asked if Donald Trump’s modeling agency was flouting immigration and employment agency law – and a new Mother Jones report confirms the answer is in fact a ‘yuge’ yes.  In fact, “the mogul’s New York modeling agency, Trump Model Management, has profited from using foreign models who came to the United States on tourist visas that did not permit them to work here, according to three former Trump models, all noncitizens, who shared their stories with Mother Jones.  Financial and immigration records included in a recent lawsuit filed by a fourth former Trump model show that she, too, worked for Trump’s agency in the United States without a proper visa.”

Hourly employees in Seattle may soon be entitled to new protections designed to combat the adverse effects of flexible scheduling on workers.  According to the Chicago Tribune, the rule under consideration would require employers of hourly employees “to schedule shifts two weeks in advance and compensate workers for some last-minute changes” and also “would require retail and fast-food companies with 500 employees globally to compensate workers with ‘predictability pay’ when they’re scheduled but don’t get called into work or are sent home early; provide a minimum 10 hours rest between open and closing shifts; and offer hours to existing employees before hiring new staff.”  Seattle previously enacted historic minimum wage and gig economy legislation.

A new memorandum authored by the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board suggests the act of misclassifying a worker as an independent contractor could itself be an Unfair Labor Practice under the National Labor Relations Act.  Bloomberg BNA reports that “the unfair labor practice theory involving worker misclassification hasn’t previously been tested before the NLRB or the courts, but the memorandum shows that’s the approach the general counsel will likely follow in other independent contractor disputes.”  The memorandum could lead the NLRB to intervene in the gig economy if it finds drivers to be statutory employees.

In other news, the Los Angeles Times notes that “California lawmakers on Monday passed legislation that would expand overtime pay for more than 825,000 laborers who bring produce to stores and tables across the state” while WRVO reports on a new NLRB ruling “ordering the central New York aluminum manufacturer Novelis to work with its employees to create a union.”

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