News & Commentary

May 5, 2015

In a 93-6 vote, the Senate has blocked attempts to override President Obama’s veto of a recent union election law. Last month, President Obama vetoed a Senate Joint Resolution that would have halted the implementation of new NLRB rules on union elections. The Hill discusses the vote.

The Wall Street Journal discusses Bain v. California Teachers Association, a case involving four California teachers whom have sued their unions. Plaintiffs in Bain argue that the unions have unconstitutionally burdened their First Amendment rights by conditioning benefits on agency fees which, in turn, fund political union spending. The case follows the Supreme Court’s decision last year in Harris v. Quinn (analyzed previously at OnLabor), where the court found First Amendment rights to include the right not to be “compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.” As Seattle University School of Law Professor Charlotte Garden explained at In These TimesBain distinctly attempts to “bring a First Amendment claim to force a private association to change its terms of membership.”

At The Washington Post, Lydia DePillis delves into a substantial wage and benefits gap between cafeteria workers at the House and Senate. House-side staff have experienced better pay, paid sick leave, and a more responsive work environment in no small part because they have been unionized for two decades, DePillis argues. Senate cafeteria workers, meanwhile, still lack organized representation, caught somewhat in turf skirmishes between the SEIU and UNITE-HERE Local 23.

As WMTW reports, Maine is now the next state to consider right-to-work legislation. At the New York Times, Monica Davey has argued that prevailing wage laws may become as contentious a labor issue as right-to-work bills, with Indiana repealing its common wage law and at least three other states considering similar repeals.

The Brookings Institute held an event commemorating the 40th anniversary of a landmark work in economics, Arthur Okun’s book Equality and Efficiency: The Big Tradeoff. In prepared remarks, former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers expressed shifting views on one of Okun’s central arguments: that the pursuits of greater economic equality hinders economic growth. In today’s economy, Summers argued, the worry that “the minimum wage can be dangerously high and excessively strong unions can do damage if jobs are taken away and inflation is promoted” is no longer relevant. More on the conference is available here, including Summers’ full remarks.

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