Today’s News & Commentary — July 20, 2016
The Republican Party has officially nominated Donald Trump for president, but many are still concerned about his penchant for making false statements on the campaign trail. Writing for The Nation, Richard Trumka suggests that union elections can offer important lessons about regulating Trump’s lies. Trumka highlights an important divergence between the way federal courts and the NLRB regulate false representations during government and union election campaigns, respectively. Both the Supreme Court, in the 2012 case United States v. Alvarez, and the NLRB, have upheld the free speech rights of all parties—candidates, employers, and unions—when they lie during elections. However, unlike the Supreme Court, the NLRB treats “appeals to racial prejudice” differently from ordinary campaign propaganda, because not intended or calculated to encourage the reasoning faculty.” Trumka suggests following the more interventionist NLRB model when it comes to the necessary measure of regulating Trump’s calls for “racial, ethnic, and religious exclusion.”
The Republican National Committee also released its party platform this week. Politico highlights the main labor and employment positions, which are: 1) a proposed national right to work law, 2) a commitment to regulating the minimum wage at the state and local level, 3) a call for the repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931, 4) a pledge to prohibit TSA employees from unionizing, and 5) a commitment to curtailing NLRB authority on Indian land. Conspicuously absent is any firm position on the TPP. The RNC suggests only that “significant trade agreements should not be rushed.” Read about the labor items in the Democratic platform here.
This week, The Atlantic explored the complex question of why some of the country’s biggest companies, including Walmart, Starbucks, and JPMorgan Chase, have proudly announced sweeping wage increases for their workers. The main reason for these boosts is the tightening of the labor market and the resulting competition over the scarce available workers. The author also posits that the current political climate, including the “parade of anti-elite and anti-globalization sentiment” seen in the last year, has forced the companies to attempt to rebrand themselves. The worker-friendly policies have also spilled over into the start-up arena, where a striking number of companies have chosen to reclassify their workers as employees, rather than independent contractors.
And lastly, in a quest to catch all the workplace problems with Pokemon Go, Seyfarth Shaw offers these recommendations for employers concerned about cybersecurity and physical safety risks associated with employee usage of the app. Massachusetts General Hospital and Boeing have already banned employees from playing at work.