News & Commentary

March 11, 2015

An article by the Associated Press situates Wisconsin’s right-to-work law in the broader context of a “general assault on unions” by Republican lawmakers across the country.  In addition to right-to-work laws, a number of states are considering other measures, including, for example, eliminating requirements of “union-level wages on public projects” and “legislation that would let local governments dissolve collective bargaining agreements in times of economic hardship.”  In all, “nearly 800 union-related bills have been proposed in statehouses,” and even some local governments have moved to pass their own laws restriction unions.  As the article points out, while supporters of these bills couch their arguments in terms of economic growth, the motivation in many cases may be political, since “labor increases the participation of lower-income voters who tend to back Democrats.”

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post reports that in a speech before the International Association of Fire Fighters, a leading union, Vice President Joe Biden sharply criticized the GOP for its attacks on unions.  The Vice President told the crowd that there has been “a concentrated, well-organized, well-paid, well-funded effort to undermine organized labor” and that Republicans are “willing to sacrifice your needs on the altar of ideology.”

The Washington Post reports that workplace drug testing has been in decline since the peak of the drug war during the 1990s, largely “because there’s very little evidence that testing does much to improve safety or productivity.”  Advocates for workers’ rights have applauded this trend; as Barbra Kavanaugh, executive director of the Employment Justice Center in Washington, argues, “Anything that removes arbitrary or unrelated barriers to employment is a good thing.”

In immigration news, according to the New York Times agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced earlier this week that they had arrested over 2,000 noncitizens who had been convicted of crimes “during a five-day nationwide operation in early march.”  As the Times points out, “[s]howing tough immigration enforcement is central to the administration’s strategy to justify President Obama’s controversial executive actions that would protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.”  However, while over 2,000 noncitizens were arrested, the Times reports only that “more than 1,000” of those had committed felonies, while many others had committed minor offenses such as driving under the influence.

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