Today’s News & Commentary — July 3, 2015
Across the pond, The Guardian weighs in on the significance of the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Friedrichs case. The Guardian quotes Professor Ben Sachs on the implications of a potential decision to ban “fair-share” fees: “Right-to-work has been decided by voters in 25 right-to-work states and 25 fair-share states. If the court holds that fair-share agreements are unconstitutional in the public sector, that will mean the court would be imposing a very new view of the first amendment and taking the issue away from the voters.” Some legal scholars speculate the court decided to hear the case now because the five most conservative justices are prepared to prohibit “fair-share” fees in public sector unions.
On Thursday, President Obama spoke in greater detail about his administration’s proposed changes to overtime rules in Wisconsin. The Chicago Tribune notes the significance of the president’s speech in historically pro-labor Wisconsin, which has become a right to work state under Governor Scott Walker’s leadership. Soon the Department of Labor will publish the regulation to begin the 60-day comment period, which will elicit strong opinions from both sides. Politico forecasts fierce opposition from business and congressional Republicans. The Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis quotes several business owners who claim they want to better compensate their managerial employees, but cannot afford the administrative or financial burden caused by the new earnings cap.
Unpaid interns faced a major setback. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned a lower court’s 2013 ruling that unpaid interns working on Black Swan should have been classified as employees and subject to wage and hour laws. But, as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal report, the Second Circuit applied a new test to determine if an employee is an intern: whether the intern or the employer is the “primary beneficiary of the relationship. The case will go back to the lower court to apply the new standard. The interns’ attorney says the new standard overlooks unpaid interns’ productive labor provided to the employer.
According to the New York Times’ Niel Erwin, the numbers in this month’s jobs report are gloomier than they first appear. The number of new jobs created has decreased since the end of 2014, and the labor force has shrunk to its lowest figures since 1977. Finally, Erwin sees no progress toward rising wages, in spite of the relatively low unemployment rate. Although employers could increase wages in order to lure more potential employees back into the labor market, Erwin doubts this will occur.
The editorial staff at Salon Media, Inc. plans to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East, according to a letter published by the staff. The online magazine’s staff is the second to unionize this summer, after Gawker Media voted to unionize last month.