News & Commentary

January 27, 2020

A North Carolina teachers’ union is surveying members about a potential strike as pay raises for teachers have been caught up in the state’s bitter budget stalemate. Democratic North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper vetoed a proposed budget passed by Republican legislators last summer because the proposal excluded funding for Medicaid expansion and for providing a 3.9% teacher pay raise over two years—about half the raise the Governor was seeking. The North Carolina legislature adjourned without a budget agreement last November. With no end in site, teachers are considering going on strike to advocate for robust pay increases, joining a series of #RedForEd teachers’ strikes that began two years ago in West Virginia. Like many public employees, North Carolina teachers do not have a protected right to strike under the NLRA or state law. North Carolina has gone even further, making it a criminal misdemeanor for teachers to strike—but teachers are considering walking out to demand fair pay anyway.

New Jersey just “became the first state to enact a law that guarantees severance pay for mass layoffs,” according to NPR. The new law requires that business “with 100 or more full-time employees pay their workers one week of severance pay for every year of service whenever widespread downsizing or plant closures affecting 50 or more employees is on the horizon.” The legislation “also requires employers to give workers at least 90 days notice” before closures or large layoffs—a significant increase over the 60 days required by the federal WARN Act. Companies that break the new law will have to pay workers an additional four weeks of severance as a penalty.

The National Women’s Law Center is representing a class of Walmart workers suing the retail giant for discriminating against pregnant workers. Borders v. Wal-Mart challenges Walmart’s pregnancy accommodations policies, which pregnant workers say meant the company treated pregnant workers that had similar, reasons (like a temporary disability) for needing work accommodations. An Illinois District Court recently approved a $14 million class settlement, and potential class members—Walmart workers who were pregnant from March 2013 through 2014—have until February 10th to file a claim or object to the settlement. More information is available here.

New Mexico’s minimum wage just went up for the first time in more than a decade—to $9 an hour. The state minimum wage will increase every year to $12 an hour by 2023, under a bill signed into law last spring. The legislation also provides to increase the tipped minimum wage from $2.13 to $3 an hour by 2023. According to the Associated Press, “proposals to tie future wage increases automatically to inflation were stripped from final legislation.”

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