Today’s News & Commentary—July 19, 2019
President Trump plans to nominate Eugene Scalia to succeed Alexander Acosta as Secretary of Labor. Scalia—son of Nino—served as Solicitor of Labor under President George W. Bush, and is currently Co-Chair of the Administrative Law and Regulatory Group at Gibson Dunn. Scalia has spent his career representing management and business interests in labor, employment, and regulatory matters. He attracted national attention in the early 2000s through his outspoken opposition to regulation related to ergonomics, which he described as “thoroughly unreliable science.” This position proved damaging to Scalia’s tenure as Labor Solicitor, and he ultimately was not confirmed to a permanent position following his recess appointment. As head of the labor and employment practice at Gibson Dunn, Scalia defended Wal-Mart against suits brought under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and represented the retail giant in a 2006 case striking down a Maryland law that would have required employers with over 10,000 employees to spend at least eight percent of their payroll on health benefits. More recently, in the years following the financial crisis, Scalia has gained a formidable reputation as one of the financial industry’s “go-to guys” for challenging regulation. Democrats are expected to oppose Scalia’s nomination, and Patrick Pizzella will serve as Acting Secretary.
The House passed the Raise the Wage Act yesterday, moving one step closer to what would be the first minimum-wage increase in over a decade, and the largest increase since the minimum wage was first introduced in 1938. As Jared explained yesterday, the bill would increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 over six years. The bill would also eliminate the subminimum tipped wage—a minimum-wage carveout that, as Politico explained earlier this week, is rooted in a two-tiered wage structure that arose as a legacy of slavery. The bill is expected to stall in the Republican-controlled Senate, nonetheless represents a victory for the national Fight for Fifteen movement, which has gained consistent wins at the state level.
The Harvard Graduate Students Union, a UAW affiliate, has published a letter declaring an intention to call a strike authorization vote if the university does not adjust its bargaining positions. Harvard graduate students voted last year to form a union in part of a growing wave of organizing in the academic sector. According to the letter, however, Harvard has failed to live up to its bargaining duty, offering “untenable” proposals including effective wage cuts and a grievance procedure that includes a carveout excluding sexual harassment and discrimination. Graduate students have faced an uphill organizing battle since the NLRB affirmed their right to unionize in 2016. Graduate student unions at both Columbia and the University of Chicago have engaged in recognitional strikes, and unions at Duke and Yale both withdrew their petitions after prolonged battles with university administration. Harvard University and the Harvard Graduate Students Union-UAW have been in contract negotiations since last summer. In April of this year, the Cambridge City Council formally backed the students’ contract demands.