Today’s News & Commentary — June 28, 2019
The Democratic debates kicked off this week on Wednesday and Thursday, and POLITICO reports that all of the candidates support raising the federal minimum wage to $15, except for two. Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet supports raising the hourly federal minimum to $12 and encouraging higher-cost areas to increase to $15 gradually. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang advocates for a universal basic income of $1,000 per month in lieu of any federal minimum wage.
After months of stalled negotiations, workers at several Southern California groceries—Albertsons, Vons, Pavilions, and Ralphs—voted to give union leaders authority to call a strike. The workers’ contract expired March 3. John Grant, the president of UFCW Local 770, told The Los Angeles Times that union members “will not stand by while these wealthy corporations . . . force these hard-working grocery clerks to struggle in order to put food on the table and pay rent.”
On Wednesday, Sejal wrote about Wayfair employees walking out to protest the company’s contacts with the contractors the camps housing migrant children at the border. The New York Times reports that the walkout is raising the specter of consumer boycotts, which have been fueled by social media in the years since President Trump’s election. The article points to Bank of America as another example. The bank was shamed on social media for providing financing to a parent company of one of the border facilities for children. Bank of America has now said that it will end relationships with all private prison companies.
The Hill reports that nineteen attorneys general sent a letter to the Department of Labor to express opposition to a proposed rule that would narrow the interpretation of joint employer status. This interpretation governs the liability of an employer who shares with another employer control over the terms and conditions of workers’ employment. The attorneys general argue that narrowing the definition of who qualifies is inconsistent with the purpose of FLSA and leaves workers vulnerable to violations of labor laws. New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement: “The U.S. Department of Labor exists to protect workers, not empower companies to exploit them. Narrowing the definition of ‘joint employer’ would deny workers’ legal protections and potentially allow employers to evade justice for committing labor violations. Mistreating workers is unacceptable, and we will continue to ensure that bad actors are held accountable.”
Finally, Terri Gerstein of Harvard’s Labor and Worklife Program and former union leader Mark Erlich released a report surveying best practices for curbing payroll abuses such as misclassifying workers or paying them under the table. The Boston Globe reports that Gerstein and Erlich will be presenting their findings to the Massachusetts State House alongside Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. The Globe article notes that some of the payroll abuses have changed overtime: Healey’s office now deals with more issues connected to cash payments and misclassification in industries including hotels and salons.