Today's News & Commentary — February 18, 2016


Published February 18th, 2016 - 02.18.1631


What should the Supreme Court do with Friedrichs now that only eight Justices remain on the bench? If it were up to the Center for Individual Rights — which, along with Michael Carvin of Jones Day, represents the Friedrichs petitioners — the Court would rehear the case next Term before a full complement of Justices rather than hand down a 4-4 affirmance this Term. The Daily Signal reports that Terry Pell, the organization’s president, is claiming that lead plaintiff Rebecca Friedrichs “believes the case needs to go before the justices again.” In the words of Pell: “[Friedrichs] is obviously sad about Justice Scalia’s passing and is concerned about the effect that has on the case, so I think she fully recognizes the need to press forward and get a full rehearing in order to get an authoritative decision from the court.” Accordingly, the organization “is pushing the high court to rehear the case after a new justice is confirmed to the bench.”

Changes are coming to the way that Walmart schedules its workers. But are the changes enough? Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post takes a closer look at the conglomerate’s recent announcement that it would offer new scheduling options to its employees by the end of the year. Currently, most Walmart stores use a system of “open shifts,” whereby “managers schedule workers within the times the employees said they’re available.”  However, in a purported effort to “improv[e] the daily experience for employees,” the company “plans to make two more options available: Fixed shifts, which guarantee the same weekly hours for as long as a year, and flex shifts, which allow associates to build their own schedules from the hours available, in roughly two-and-a-half-week increments.” Yet DePillis reports that OUR Walmart — which stands for Organization United for Respect at Walmart — “was critical of the new changes, which don’t explicitly guarantee more hours for part-time workers who want them.” In a statement, the group contended that “[f]or workers who have been speaking out, protesting, and fasting for $15 and full-time hours, [Walmart’s] announcement represents a hard-won victory, but without increased pay or additional hours, it falls short of what most associates need to support their families, and or what is needed to improve customer service.”

Workers in SeaTac, Washington — home to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — won the fight for $15 years ago, but that victory hasn’t yet been reflected in workers’ paychecks. Per the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, lawyers have filed class-action lawsuits against 14 employers in SeaTac for failing to comply with the city’s new minimum wage law, which took effect in 2014. An attorney for the workers notes that while “[s]ome employers have argued in court that Sea-Tac Airport is Port of Seattle property and thus not subject to the city of SeaTac ordinance requiring the wage[,] . . . those arguments don’t hold up.” The suits currently “represent at least 1,500 workers now, but could wind up representing upwards of 5,000 workers as more come forward.” In urging his fellow workers to “break the silence,” one worker explained: “We work hard, we like our company, and are requesting to get our rights.”

Paid sick leave is coming to Senator Bernie Sanders’s home state, reports WAMC. Yesterday, the Vermont House of Representatives voted to require “employers employers to provide workers three paid sick days a year for the first two years that the law would be in effect and five thereafter.” The Vermont Senate passed the same bill recently, and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has come out in favor of the bill.

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