News & Commentary

January 20, 2021

Marina Multhaup

Marina Multhaup is an Associate at Barnard, Iglitzin & Lavitt—a law firm in Seattle, Washington, that represents unions, and a former student member of the Labor and Employment Lab at Harvard Law School.

Today is the inauguration of President Joe Biden, whose candidacy has been supported by union leaders and worker advocates as a turning point for the labor movement. President Biden previously unveiled plans to implement a $15 national minimum wage, pass the PRO-Act, and expand unemployment benefits, among other pro-labor plans.

President Biden promised to unveil an immigration reform bill today which includes an eight-year path to citizenship for an estimated 11 million people living in the US without documentation. The bill would also quicken the path to citizenship for DACA-recipients, promises to address some of the root causes of Central American migration, and includes paths to citizenship for undocumented and H-2A agricultural workers.

Yesterday the Senate began confirmation hearings for Biden’s cabinet members after significant delays. Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen testified that her priorities will be investing in expanding unemployment benefits, helping struggling workers find good jobs and better wages, and repairing the economy especially with regard to women and people of color.  Ms. Yellen said that the administration should “act big,” prioritizing national spending to rebound economically from the pandemic rather than worrying about national debt.

The Trump Department of Labor issued a last-minute Opinion letter yesterday which advised that certain local news reporters can be considered “creative or learned professionals” under the FLSA and therefore exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements. The Opinion Letter argued that, due to substantial changes in the field of journalism, many local news reporters have shifted from a “just the facts” approach to a more “context-based reporting,” which “requires significantly more autonomy, independence, and originality.” Whether journalists are subject to the “creative” FLSA exception has long been debated in the agency and in the courts. The Biden-led DOL could reverse this guidance.

As Zachary noted yesterday, 1400 members of Teamsters Local 202 went on strike in the Bronx, demanding a $1 per hour wage increase. Police officers arrested several members on the picket line and held them overnight. The circumstances of the arrests remain unclear. Daniel Kane Jr., President of Teamsters Local 202, condemned the arrests, saying, “It is outrageous that after being called essential heroes for months, several of our members were arrested while peacefully protesting for a raise today.” The workers were released early yesterday morning.

Finally, in a statement released yesterday afternoon, the Screen Actors Guild union (SAG-AFTRA), of which Trump is a member, voted to hold a disciplinary hearing for the former president over his role in the deadly Capitol riots. The union emphasized the danger to its broadcast journalist members that Trump incited. After the disciplinary hearing, two-thirds of the union could vote to suspend or expel Trump from its membership.

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