News & Commentary

February 26, 2016

Delays in the Labor Department’s processing of H-2B applications are “reigniting a clash over the program’s merits and whether it harms domestic workers,” reported the Wall Street Journal.  Some in the business community are accusing the Labor Department of intentionally “slow-walking the process to appease unions and other critics” of the H-2B visa program, which allows employers to hire foreign seasonal workers to fill jobs that they say U.S. workers do not want.  The top 10 occupations that H-2B workers filled in fiscal year 2015 ranged from landscaping and groundskeeping to amusement park operations, housekeeping, and construction labor.  Facing criticism from unions that the H-2B program cheats U.S. employees out of jobs, underpays foreign temporary workers, and thus drives down wages for their U.S. counterparts, the Labor and Homeland Security Departments implemented regulations last April to require employers to undertake more robust recruitment of U.S. workers before turning abroad to fill positions, as well as to pay guest workers the regional prevailing wage for the type of work performed.

The New York Times, Politico, and local news outlets covered yesterday’s oral arguments in the latest round of Vergara v. California, the controversial case on California’s teacher job protection laws.  In June 2014, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu struck down job protection measures codified in five state statutes.  Declaring that the student plaintiffs’ evidence “shock[ed] the conscience,” the Judge held that the provisions on teacher tenure, as well as procedural rules and seniority requirements in the dismissal process, “grossly” exposed poor and minority students to “ineffective teachers” in violation of the state constitution’s equal protection clause.  Much of the oral arguments before the California Court of Appeals focused on the propriety of judicial intervention into crafting a policy on teacher job protection.  Appellants argued that such policy decisions are best left to the state legislature.  The case has drawn national attention from teachers unions and education advocacy organizations, and similar challenges to teacher tenure laws have been filed in New York and other states.

Teachers unions fared better in Indiana, at least for the time being.  According to the Indianapolis Star and other local outlets, Indiana’s Republican Senate leader pronounced dead House Bill 1004, which would have allowed school districts to offer more money to teachers in hard-to-fill subject areas without union input.  The state’s teachers unions vehemently opposed the bill, noting that “the law would pit teachers against one another” by subjecting only some to the collective bargaining process.  But the battle is not yet over.  Senate Bill 10, which would also allow school districts and certain individual teachers to negotiate salaries without union approval, is pending.  The House Education Committee is scheduled to hear the senate bill next week.

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