Today’s News & Commentary — October 7, 2015

Published October 7th, 2015 -  - 10.07.1511


The Supreme Court began its 2015-16 term on Monday.  On the docket are two cases that may, as Craig Becker, Sally Greenberg, and Wade Henderson explain at The Hill, “limit the ability of ordinary people to act cooperatively in exercising their rights by forming a labor union or filing a class-action lawsuit.” One of the cases is Friedrichswhich involves fair-share contributions from all employees.  The other case is Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, which involves class-action certification.  The current Court has begun to chip away at long-standing precedents validating modes of collective action, and it remains to be seen whether the Court will continue to do so this term, or whether it will “proceed no further in eroding the power of real persons to come together in order to make themselves heard.”

At the Los Angeles Times, David Savage echoes these concerns.  In an article entitled “Why liberals fear new Supreme Court term could hurt abortion rights and unions,” Savage reviews the five most contentious issues currently facing the court: union fees (i.e. Friedrichs), election districts, affirmative action, abortion, and religious liberties.  It’s difficult to predict the outcomes of these cases, but if the conservative judges prevail, they could deal a serious blow to labor unions.

The UAW is threatening a strike at Fiat Chrysler, the New York Times reports. The UAW told Fiat Chrysler that it will dissolve its current labor contract on Wednesday, indicating that a failure to reach a deal may lead to a strike.  According to the Wall Street Journala UAW walkout would constitute the first strike against a U.S. auto maker since 2007.  The terms of the government auto industry bailout have prohibited the UAW from striking GM and Fiat Chrysler since 2009, but that prohibition ended this year.

The New York Times also reports that the Teamsters’ pension fund has filed for reorganization and has warned over 400,000 of its members that it may cut their benefits.  Barring “the most dire circumstances,” it is usually illegal to cut retirees’ pensions. However, the executive director of the fund, Thomas Nyhan, stated that the only way the fund can avoid a “devastating collapse” is to reduce payouts. In the upcoming months, The Treasury Department will review the restructuring plan and decide whether to approval the proposal.

At the Washington Post, Lydia DePillis explains that the new trade deal has the potential to help millions of workers.  It requires countries to honor the International Labor Organization’s fundamental rights, which include the ability to join unions and collectively bargain, freedom from employment discrimination, and the elimination of child labor and forced labor.  The deal also requires countries to implement legal standards for occupational safety and health, work hours, and a minimum wage.  The only problem?  It’s unclear how effectively the deal will be enforced.

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