News & Commentary

January 13, 2015

Today, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Mach Mining, L.L.C. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commissiona case which will determine whether federal trial courts can oversee the EEOC’s pre-lawsuit settlement procedures. The EEOC has a statutory obligation to try to negotiate an end to unlawful employment practices prior to bringing a bias case. To date, lower courts have been split on whether a company may challenge the adequacy of this “good faith conciliation” effort, and move to dismiss a case on that basis. An argument preview from Julie Goldscheid is available at SCOTUSBlog. As Professor Goldscheid writes: “This case raises important questions about access to judicial review in discrimination cases. It highlights the sharply divided views held by employers and workers regarding the role of employment discrimination litigation in advancing workplace equality.”

The New York Times highlights a recent study connecting union membership with higher levels of subjective well-being. Analyzing data collected from the World Values Survey in the United States, the report noticed that “union members are more satisfied with their lives than those who are not members and […] the substantive effect of union membership on life satisfaction is large and rivals other common predictors of quality of life.” These boosts to satisfaction were found to exist, independent of income. Study authors Prof. Patrick Flavin (Baylor University) and Prof. Gregory Shufeldt (University of Arkansas, Little Rock) noted: “Simply put, if one goal of labor unions is to boost the quality of life for their members, our study provides empirical evidence that they are succeeding.”

The L.A. Times reports that a dispute between commercial producers and the Teamsters Local 399 union have escalated, with the Teamsters voting to strike if an agreement is not reached by the end of the month. A walkout would represent the union’s first Hollywood strike in nearly two decades, and would effectively shut down commercial production in L.A. The union contract expires on January 31st, and negotiations will continue through the contract period.

The Wall Street Journal editorial pages discuss Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s relationship to proposed right-to-work legislation. Wisconsin Senate leaders have discussed introducing a right-to-work bill. Recently, however, Governor Walker has called such proposals a “distraction,” noting that there are “lot of things that are going to keep the legislature preoccupied for a while,” like taxes and education. Currently, 24 states have passed right-to-work legislation, which broadly prohibits union security contracts between labor unions and employees.

As one of his last acts in office, outgoing Illinois governor Pat Quinn left an executive order increasing minimum wage for all state vendors and subcontractors. Governor Quinn is succeeded by Bruce Rauner: Rauner’s team has noted that they will “review all of the former Governor’s executive orders.” The Chicago Tribune reports.

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