News & Commentary

March 15, 2019

Workplace deaths hit a 10-year high in 2018, with over 5,000 workers were killed on the job. But, according to a disturbing new report by the National Employment Law Project, OSHA investigations have fallen steadily during the Trump Administration — even as three million workers suffered serious workplace injuries last year. From 2016 to 2018, OSHA investigations into dangerous heat and the number of significant, high-penalty cases have fallen by almost half.

The National Labor Relations Board, now dominated by President Trump’s appointees, is having third-party subcontractors write its new rule — about subcontracting. The Trump NLRB is reconsidering the “joint employer” rule, which governs whether large companies can be held legally liable by subcontractors or workers at franchisees for violations of their workplace rights. The NLRB Professional Association, a union representing NLRB workers, said it was “galling to find out that Chairman Ring is making plans to spend the agency’s limited funds to hire contractors.” House Democrats slammed the decision, pointing out that the agency has highly qualified staff already on payroll. You can check out OnLabor’s analysis of the Joint Employer rule here, here, and here.

The D.C. Metro is under fire for a proposal to extend its moratorium on service between midnight and 4 a.m., especially from workers who need to return home from late shifts. This week, the Metro finalized a stop-gap plan: giving late night workers a mere $3 subsidy per ride on a ride-hailing service like Uber or Lyft. The proposal was harshly criticized by unions representing late-night workers, including hospitality union UNITE HERE Local 25, who called it an “insult to workers in the DC region.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center fired its famed co-founder Morris Dees yesterday, saying in an email to staff that “although he made unparalleled contributions to our work, no one’s contributions can excuse that person’s inappropriate conduct.” The LA Times reports that the organization’s predominantly white leadership has received numerous complaints of women and people of color: before Dees was fired, nearly two dozen SPLC employees delivered a letter to management saying that internal “allegations of mistreatment, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism threaten the moral authority of this organization and our integrity along with it.”

OnLabor contributor Terri Gerstein has a new piece in Slate explaining how the Trump Administration’s new overtime rule will leave millions of workers — who are classified as “managers” in an attempt by their employers to skirt overtime laws — behind. Under the so-called “white-collar exemption,” salaried managers and executives are exempt from overtime protections available to hourly employees. But in her time at a state Attorney General’s office, Gerstein saw companies classify many regular employees as managers, then force them to work up to 70 hours. Salaried workers are still entitled to overtime if they earn less than a threshold amount, but that “overtime threshold” is low and hasn’t budged since 2004. The Obama Administration proposed raising the overtime threshold to $47,000 — but the Trump Administration has instead proposed a threshold of $35,000, leaving more than half of the workers who would have benefited from the Obama rule behind.

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