Today's News & Commentary — September 26, 2016
A recent op-ed in the Washington Examiner argued that federal lawmakers may be able to address the standstill in federal labor law simply by authorizing waivers which would allow states to opt out of the federal regime. The waivers would open the door for states to experiment with policy which better addresses the challenges of modern business models and allow unions to take on new responsibilities to better serve their constituents. In states that waived federal labor statutes, unions could legally unbundle their services and try forms of non-collective bargaining barred by the current law. The waivers would be somewhat analogous to those available to states under the Social Security Act, which allow states to experiment with Medicaid and Medicare. As with Social Security Act waivers, states would need to demonstrate that their policies would meet the underlying intentions of federal labor law, and proposals to waive federal law would be subject to public comment.
Last week, Hillary Clinton announced an agenda to create a more inclusive economy for people with disabilities, including programs to help people with autism and eliminating the “subminimum wage” still available for some people with disabilities. The New York Times reports that people with disabilities may hold significant sway in the upcoming election, with one study projecting that 35 million people with disabilities will be eligible to vote in November. In speaking of her proposal, Clinton said of people with disabilities, “[w]hether they can participate in our economy and lead rich, full lives that are as healthy and productive as possible is a reflection on us as a country.”
In further election news, the New York Times published an op-ed on Friday arguing that Donald Trump’s plan to “Save the Rust Belt” is doomed to fail. Trump’s plan for winning votes in Midwestern Rust Belt states includes appealing to blue collar workers by deriding trade deals like NAFTA, which he believes are responsible for the outsourcing of many American jobs. However, the Times argues, Trump ignores that many blue collar jobs in states like Michigan have been “lost to automation, or to foreign manufacturers operating in the right-to-work South” and instead centers his policies around “economic nationalism.”
Some labor activists have expressed outrage at the AFL-CIO’s controversial decision last week to endorse construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, reports the Huffington Post. In addition to environmental opposition to the pipeline, the Dakota Access project has been particularly controversial because of a contention that it will undermine tribal sovereignty of Native Americans, interfering with both the water supply and sacred land of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe. According to the AFL-CIO, the pipeline’s construction will support 4,500 union jobs, albeit temporary ones.