Today’s News & Commentary — October 20, 2015
Carwash owners filed a lawsuit against New York City to stop enforcement of the city’s new licensing regulation, according to the New York Times. The regulation requires owners of nonunion carwashes to post a $150,000 surety bond while only requiring unionized carwashes to post a $30,000 bond. The city regulation was designed to ensure that employees suing their employers for wage violations would be able to collect on their judgments. The carwash owners apparently allege that the National Labor Relations Act preempts the local regulation. Echoing a claim familiar to such lawsuits, attorney Michael A. Cardozo said, “Governments can’t put their thumb on the scales of whether a company should unionize or not unionize.” He claimed that the city regulations were an attempt at “coercing [the owners] into entering a collective bargaining agreement.”
The UAW is ramping up efforts to persuade its members to approve a collective bargaining agreement that the union has negotiated with Fiat Chrysler, according to the Wall Street Journal. After the members rejected an earlier version of the contract this month, the UAW retained a public relations firm to create a social media strategy to convince the workers of the new deal’s merits. In contrast with the rejected deal, the new contract takes more substantial measures to address the two-track wage system that disadvantages new hires and was instituted in response to the financial crisis. The union leadership’s decision to spend money on a social media campaign aimed at persuading its own rank-and-file has irked members. A popular Facebook posting reads: “Once upon a time we prepared to strike instead of hiring public-relations contractors.” Voting begins today on the proposed contract. Many believe that a strike is imminent if the deal fails to pass.
In other internal-union-strife news, a group of actors has sued Actors’ Equity to reverse the union’s plan to enforce a $9 minimum wage for its members at theaters having fewer than 100 seats, according to the Los Angeles Times. The actors claim that the minimum wage hike will prove too great a burden for small theaters, forcing them to scale back production or hire nonunion actors. The union’s decision to enforce the minimum wage upends a longstanding waiver for theaters that dates to a 1989 settlement and comes after local union members voted 2-1 in April to reject the planned wage hike.
In international news, the Wall Street Journal reported on French President Francois Hollande’s plans to overhaul his country’s labor laws. Hollande claims such reform is necessary to create jobs in the face of double-digit unemployment. Speaking to a conference of employers and unions, Mr. Hollande said, ““Our social model must be overhauled. . . . It can’t be frozen forever, outside of the economic context and the reality for workers.”
Across the channel, the New York Times reported on the closing of a century-old steel mill in Redcar, England. Locals blamed the news on the importation of cheap steel from abroad and the British government’s failure to take steps to protect the domestic industry.