Today's News & Commentary — December 4
SEIU President Mary Kay Henry has issued a statement in response to the grand jury’s decision not to indict the police office who killed Eric Garner. “From the streets of Ferguson to Times Square in New York, our communities have come together in demonstration to demand a fix to a criminal justice system that treats communities of color by a different standard,” Ms. Henry said. Several labor unions joined the demonstrations shortly after Mr. Garner’s death.
Politico reports that the Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday in Young v. U.P.S., a case involving the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Young, a former driver for UPS, was denied light duty work after her doctor restricted her from heavy lifting due to her pregnancy. Instead her employer placed her on unpaid leave. The ACLU, which has submitted an amicus brief, points out that UPS routinely offers light duty accommodations to disabled workers and workers injured on the job. UPS claims it has no legal obligation to accommodate pregnant women like Young. Lower federal courts have agreed with the employer.
The Washington Post reports on efforts to unionize a DoubleTree hotel owned by Harvard University. Harvard senior Gabriel Bayard has compiled a survey summarizing the working conditions of housekeepers and contrasting unionized positions at the university with the non-unionized jobs at the hotel. DoubleTree employees involved in organizing state that Harvard should be able to persuade its tenant, Hilton, to allow the hotel employees to organize. The university disagrees, stating that the workers are Hilton employees.
Steven Greenhouse, labor reporter for the New York Times, is retiring, according to Politico. Mr. Greenhouse has covered the labor beat since 1995 and authored the book The Big Squeeze: Tough Times for the American Worker, which won the 2009 Sidney Hillman Book Prize for nonfiction.
In Rhode Island, a union-backed lawsuit challenging the state’s pension reform may be decided by a jury, the New York Times reports. State Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who will be sworn in as governor in January, spearheaded the pension overhaul. Labor unions sued the state, claiming that the reforms violated employment contracts.
The Japanese light rail manufacturer Kinkisharyo has reached a deal with the IBEW in Palmdale, California, the Los Angeles Times reports. Kinkisharyo won a contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in 2012. Organized labor and community allies raised concerns about the environmental impact of new facilities and threatened to sue under California environmental laws. The agreement includes a card-check provision and states that the environmental issues are now moot.
In immigration news, 17 states have sued the federal government, arguing that President Obama’s use of executive action to defer deportations of up to 5 million undocumented immigrants is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Brownsville. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said President Obama was “abdicating his responsibility to faithfully enforce the laws that were duly enacted by Congress and attempting to rewrite immigration laws, which he has no authority to do.” The Obama administration says that the President’s action was authorized through existing statutes and prosecutorial discretion. The Los Angeles Times reports that Texas Senator Ted Cruz is urging fellow Republicans to block money that would be used to implement the government’s immigration plan. In an attempt to avoid a government shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner suggested funding the federal government except for immigration agencies.