News & Commentary

July 7, 2015

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a 75 year old criminal statute prohibiting contributions by contractors to parties and federal candidates.  In upholding the statute, the appellate court applied the “closely drawn” standard—measuring whether a statute is closely drawn to avoid unnecessary abridgment of associational freedoms. Judge Garland, writing for the court, concluded that the statute was closely drawn, noting the historic public concern with “pay to play,” a system in which contractors influence governmental action by paying to obtain lucrative contracts, and the existence of other avenues for contractor support of candidates.

A Cook County Circuit Court judge ruled today that state workers in Illinois will not be paid in full and on time without a fiscal 2016 budget in place, Reuters reports. Judge Diane Larsen’s ruling increases the pressure on the Democratically controlled legislature and the Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, to end their impasse over a spending plan for the fiscal year that began July 1. The governor has assured workers they will paid their entire wages on time, but Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has contended that such a move would not be permissible under state law. According to Judge Larsen’s ruling, only those workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act will be paid the federal minimum wage plus overtime in the absence of an enacted state budget.

The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump, who described undocumented immigrants as drug dealers and “rapists” during his announcement of his presidential bid last month, employs undocumented workers on a construction project in Washington, D.C. According to one construction worker, who obtained legal status through marriage, “The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally . . . and we’re all here working very hard to build a better life for our families.” According to the Post, at least 15 laborers working on the project crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally before they settled in the D.C. region and began working on the Trump construction project. In response to questions from the Post, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization issued a statement that the company and its contractors followed all applicable U.S. immigration laws when hiring the site’s workers.

In international news, London Underground workers will go on strike tomorrow evening for 24 hours, as attempts to resolve a wage dispute with management have failed. Unions had been given until 6:30 pm BST to accept a final pay offer, which included a 2% rise and a bonus for drivers on a new night Tube service. However, some union reps have maintained that unions were not given enough time to consider the proposals. Union reps also note that the new night service, which will begin in mid-September, will disrupt workers’ work-life balance.

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