News & Commentary

July 18, 2019

House Democrats are expected to pass the Raise the Wage Act today after overcoming opposition from within party ranks.  The bill would gradually raise the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by 2024.  Once the minimum reached $15, it would be indexed to inflation.  The bill would also phase out the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers.  It has a harder path forward in the Republican-controlled Senate.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act into law yesterday (see our previous coverage of the bill here).  The signing ceremony was held in the New York Daily News newsroom in Manhattan.  Since the bill was first introduced twenty years ago, the Daily News editorial board penned 93 editorials in support of its passage.  Cuomo’s ex-wife Kerry Kennedy, whose late father Senator Robert F. Kennedy was a longtime ally of the farm labor movement, attended the event.  Writing in The New York Times, author and reporter Miriam Pawel calls on New York to celebrate the passage of the bill, but to learn from California’s example that the law itself means little without organizing in the fields.

This week the D.C. Circuit overturned a district court ruling from last August that had invalidated major portions of three executive orders from President Trump aimed at curtailing the union rights of federal government employees (see our previous coverage of the executive orders here).  The ideologically diverse panel (including Bush I appointee A. Raymond Randolph, Bush II appointee Thomas B. Griffith, and Obama appointee Sri Srinivasan) unanimously held that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the case because the unions should have first brought their challenge to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).  The FLRA oversees labor relations between the federal government and its employees and is currently in the hands of a Republican majority.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Professor Hiba Hafiz of Boston College Law School argues that Uber and Lyft drivers can evade potential antitrust liability for their concerted activity by incorporating their own joint venture.  While independent contractors cannot legally engage in price-fixing when operating individually, antitrust law would not apply if they were acting as a “single firm.”  If Uber or Lyft tried to stop the drivers from incorporating, it would undermine their argument that they are just technology platforms that permit contractors to run their own businesses and not “employers.”  While Hafiz calls for broader labor protections, particularly union rights, for drivers, she says incorporation is an alternative worth trying.

Noam Scheiber and Glenn Thrush profile the Labor Department’s new acting secretary Patrick Pizzella (see Owen’s coverage here).  They write: “His appointment is far more consequential than those of the many acting secretaries who have served in President Trump’s patchwork cabinet.  The man he succeeds, Mr. Acosta, spent two years battling other White House officials who demanded that he push through a sweeping anti-union agenda and coordinate his actions with the president’s political team.  Mr. Pizzella . . . is expected to be a significantly more cooperative partner in those efforts . . . .”


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