News & Commentary

October 28, 2021

Maxwell Ulin

Maxwell Ulin is a student at Harvard Law School.

Congressional Democrats’ proposal to institute a national paid family and medical leave program for workers has been officially cut from Congress’s upcoming reconciliation bill, according to several outlets yesterday.  The proposal, which initially sought to establish twelve weeks of paid leave for all workers, had been whittled down substantially in recent weeks in the face of opposition by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), with some proponents pitching a shorter, four-week paid leave program, or a more limited twelve-week program for new parents, to the remaining Democratic holdouts.  In the end, however, Senator Manchin balked at the idea of creating what in his view would have amounted to yet another entitlement program.  Congress’s failure to include even a reduced paid family leave program means that the United States will remain an outlier on the world stage, as just five other countries lack a national paid family and medical leave policy. Globally, the average national paid leave program offers up to 29 weeks to women and 16 weeks to men for medical and familial purposes.

In other congressional news, the House is scheduled to vote today on the Protect Older Job Applicants (POJA) Act, H.R. 3992, according to a notice yesterday from House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office.  The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) would allow job applicants to sue over facially neutral hiring practices that yield disparate hiring outcomes for older workers.  At least two U.S. Courts of Appeals have ruled that such disparate impact claims by job applicants, as opposed to employees, are not cognizable under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which generally protects against agism in the workplace.  The bill is expected to pass the lower chamber after clearing the House Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) earlier this summer but is likely to run into roadblocks in the Senate.

As legislation remains stalled, Biden administration officials continue slowly to reshape federal labor policy through the regulatory process.  Yesterday, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) for its long-awaited heat safety standard.  The notice, which outlines numerous factors at issue in developing the regulation and enables public comment until December 27, marks the first formal step in OSHA’s efforts to craft binding standards to protect workers as climate change increases the risk of heat-related injuries.  A recent analysis by National Public Radio (NPR) found that heat-related worker deaths had doubled in the United States since the 1990s. 

On Tuesday, meanwhile, staff at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) filed a motion for remand with the D.C. Circuit in order to allow the Board to reconsider a case arguably tainted by former Board Member William Emanuel’s undisclosed conflict of interests.  At issue in the case, George Washington University Hospital, 370 NLRB No. 118 (2021), was whether the medical facility’s highly aggressive, arguably unreasonable demands in bargaining constituted “bad faith” under Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  In its 2019 ruling, the Board’s Republican majority reversed the administrative law judge to hold that the employer’s demands were lawful over the objections of now-Chair Lauren McFerran, who called the tactics “egregious.”  The Board’s motion is the first to address any of the five Board ruling’s potentially compromised by Emanuel’s undisclosed conflicts of interests, which were first revealed in report by NLRB Inspector General David Berry in August.

Outside of Washington, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio signed landmark city legislation yesterday designed to ease the path to unionization for thousands of workers in the Big Apple.  The new law, Intro. 2252, will require all city human services contractors to sign labor peace agreements within 90 days of receiving or amending a contract with the city.  Such agreements, which are signed between employers and labor organization, generally require employers to maintain neutrality during union organizing campaign and to agree to card-check union recognition, while the union in exchange waives its right to strike for the duration of the agreement. The law will cover nearly 200,000 workers throughout the city and is widely expected to enable a new wave in organizing throughout the much of the city’s non-profit sector, particularly in service areas like youth education and homelessness outreach.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.