Today’s News & Commentary — May 23, 2018

Published May 23rd, 2018 -  - 05.23.183


The Supreme Court’s decision in Epic Systems Corp. v. LewisNLRB v. Murphy Oil, and Ernst & Young, LLP v. Morris continued to generate reactions on Tuesday.  David Leonhardt explained in The New York Times that the ruling makes Corporate America more powerful at the expense of workers and reminded readers that the decision would have gone the other way if not for Senate Republicans’ refusal in 2016 to vote on President Obama’s appointment of Merrick Garland.  The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board joined Sharon Block and Terri Gerstein in urging Congress to amend federal labor and arbitration laws to explicitly protect class action suits by employees.  University of Chicago law professor Daniel Hemel wrote in Slate that state and local governments could respond with measures such as legislation authorizing employees to bring state employment law claims on behalf of the state.

The New York Times charted the various government-guaranteed job plans emanating from Democratic circles, explaining that Democrats are motivated by a desire to win back support from working-class voters and are not worried by pricetag because of the runaway costs of the Republican tax bill.  Senator Corey Booker’s plan, co-sponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, and Elizabeth Warren, would start out with pilot programs in certain areas.  Senator Chris Van Hollen’s plan would create short-term transitional jobs for unemployed workers.  Representative Ro Khanna’s plan would subsidize private- or public-sector employment for up to two and a half years.  Senator Bernie Sanders’s plan would guarantee public-sector jobs with pay and benefits aligned with those of current federal employees.

Members of UNITE HERE’s Culinary Workers and Bartenders Unions in Las Vegas voted ninety-nine percent in favor of authorizing a strike yesterday.  As we previously reported, the current contracts covering 50,000 members working at 34 resorts and casinos expire on June 1.  Bargaining teams have been in negotiations since February, but have not yet reached a new five-year agreement.  With a favorable authorization vote, union leaders now have authority from their members to call for a strike if settlement remains elusive.

Yesterday ten female McDonald’s workers, including a 15-year-old, filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging pervasive sexual harassment by supervisors.  The Fight for $15 and the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, a venture founded this year by the National Women’s Law Center to provide legal representation to women in sexual misconduct cases, are respectively organizing and funding the women’s legal support.  While the Fight for $15 helped workers file similar charges with the EEOC two years ago, funding from the Legal Defense Fund will now ensure every woman is represented by an attorney.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter this week to campaign against the United Auto Workers (UAW) effort to organize employees at the company’s California assembly plant.  Musk blamed the UAW for the alleged demise of the American auto industry, saying that the union was at fault for the financial troubles of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009.  Musk also questioned why employees would want to “pay union dues” and “give up stock options for nothing.”  The latter statement may create legal trouble for Musk.  Former NLRB Chair Wilma Liebman said that the Tweet might be seen as a threat to take away benefits if workers unionize, which would be grounds for an unfair labor practice charge under federal labor law.

The New York Times data blog unveiled a new tool for measuring a company’s returns to shareholders versus employees: the Marx Ratio.  Using data culled from publicly held corporations required to release median employee compensation by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the tool measures the company’s profits per employee against median pay for rank-and-file workers.  Companies with high Marx ratios, meaning the businesses reward shareholders more than workers, include Pfizer, Philip Morris, Heinz, and McDonald’s.  Companies with low ratios include Walmart, Amazon, Marriott, Hilton, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo.  The measurement has acknowledged flaws.  For instance, median employee pay’s accuracy as a proxy for returns to labor may be diminished by a company’s reliance on part-time and contracted labor.

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