Today’s News & Commentary—July 31, 2019
On Monday, U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg blocked a New Hampshire rule that would have required that state’s low-income residents to complete 100 hours a month of work, school, job training or volunteering in order to obtain health coverage under Medicaid. Judge Boasberg’s ruling marks the third time he has struck down Medicaid work requirements since the Trump administration announced in early 2018 that it would allow states to impose them; in March, Judge Boasberg struck down similar work requirements in Arkansas and Kansas.
On Tuesday, Vox reported on the “YouTubers Union,” an informal union of 18,000 content creators that has recently announced a partnership with IG Metall, the largest trade union in the EU, and which Minnie reported on, in May. Like the Instagram memers union that Alisha reported on, in April, the YouTubers Union will not engage in collective bargaining (content creators are not legally YouTube employees), but it will seek to galvanize public demand for changes in company rulemaking procedures. This week, the union launched FairTube, a campaign calling on YouTube to increase transparency in its rulemaking procedures, and to allow for formal participation of content creators in company decisions concerning video monetization and advertising.
The National Law Review reported that ICE has sent more than 3,000 I-9 audits to employers across the country over the last three weeks. The audits require employers to produce I-9 forms for each of their employees in order to verify that they are authorized to work in the country. Employers have three days to produce the I-9s. Large civil penalties can be imposed for mistakes on I-9s, ranging from $220 to $2,292 per violation. Employers with unauthorized workers are given 10 days to terminate their employment. Three thousand audits in the course of three weeks is an unprecedented amount—in 2018, ICE conducted a total of 5,981 audits, up from 1,360 in 2017.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the economic ripples extending from farms struggling under unprecedented rains. (The New York Times also reported on farmers in Nebraska and Wyoming facing sudden draughts after decades-old irrigation systems collapsed earlier this month.) Companies that purchase and re-sell crops have lost profits—CHS Inc., the biggest U.S. farm cooperative, recently reported quarterly earnings 70% lower than the last—and in turn plan to reduce payrolls. Legacy Farmers Cooperative, based in Ohio, reported that it skipped hiring seasonal employees this year and cut overtime, which reduced employees’ take-home pay by an estimated 20%. The Northern Ohio Gran Coop, similarly, plans to shift to a four-day work week in September, and remain at a four-day work week for at least a year. Increased produce prices also stand to push shoppers away from the smaller grocery stores in their towns and towards the nearest chain stores. That shift, too, will affect employees. “People working in a grocery store don’t think of themselves as having an agriculture job,” said an owner of a small-town supermarket, “but they do.”
Finally, the Oklahoma Department of Labor announced that it has awarded employees across the state nearly $1 million in unpaid wages and benefits for the 2019 fiscal year, nearly twice as much as it awarded during the 2018 fiscal year. The increase in awards comes largely from an increase in claims brought against healthcare providers and municipal hospitals.