Today’s News & Commentary — March 28, 2019
This week the National Employment Law Project released a report detailing how gig companies like Uber and Handy have led a state-by-state lobbying effort with corporate partners to strip gig workers of the legal protections afforded to employees. The report explains that in 2018 alone, the companies’ coordinated campaign resulted in the introduction of bills in eleven states and the passage of bills in six states that exempt gig companies from basic employment standards such as unemployment insurance and wage-and-hour laws. The effort to carve gig companies out of these laws comes on the heels of an earlier, narrower effort to exempt only transportation network companies and foreshadows broader exemption campaigns to come. The gig companies, for their part, say that they need to be exempted from the laws requiring them to provide benefits to workers so that they can provide benefits to workers.
On Tuesday McDonald’s announced that it would drop its longstanding lobbying efforts against minimum wage hikes across the country. In a letter to the National Restaurant Association, an industry group, the company said it would neither engage in its own advocacy to defeat wage increases nor participate in industry-wide lobbying toward that goal. The letter expressed the company’s position that any increases should be gradual and apply uniformly across industries. In a major about-face, the company stated that “[t]he conversation about wages is an important one; it’s one we wish to advance, not impede.”
President Trump plans to nominate Catherine Bird, currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration at the Department of Health and Human Services, to be the next General Counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). At the FLRA, Bird would lead the prosecution of unfair labor practice charges against federal government workers, unions, and agency employers. Bloomberg Law reports that the union representing government employees at Health and Human Services claims Bird played a role in alleged unfair labor practices committed by the department when it imposed unilateral changes on workers last year.
Meanwhile, Gordon Hartogensis, the President’s nominee to direct the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, earned the approval of the Senate Finance Committee by a 26-2 vote. His nomination now moves to the Senate HELP Committee, where Senator Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat, has vowed to stall the approval of Republican labor appointees until Democratic appointees are approved for the EEOC and NLRB. Hartogensis is Senator Mitch McConnell’s brother-in-law.