News & Commentary

September 26, 2019

Yesterday the House Education and Labor Committee approved the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act in a 26-21 vote.  It now proceeds to the House Committee on Rules.  Among other reforms, the bill would broaden the definitions of employee and employer under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), bar employers from permanently replacing strikers, overturn Epic Systems, and strengthen remedies under the NLRA.  Republicans used the mark-up as an opportunity to call attention to the United Auto Workers (UAW) corruption probe.  Our previous round-up of the PRO Act is available here.  House Democrats also expressed their intention to reintroduce a bill making it easier to hold employers accountable for employee misclassification under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The D.C. Circuit has declined to rehear a challenge brought by federal employee unions against three executive orders from President Trump aimed at curtailing the labor rights of government workers (see our previous coverage of the executive orders here).  In July a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit overturned a district court ruling from August 2018 that had invalidated major portions of the executive orders.  The panel unanimously held that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the case because the unions should have first brought their challenge to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), now a Republican-controlled body.  The executive orders must be implemented before the unions can bring a renewed challenge before the FLRA.

In a series of determinations issued in July but made public yesterday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said there was reasonable cause to believe that employers limiting the age and gender parameters of targeted job advertisements on Facebook violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  ProPublica and The New York Times first reported on discrimination in job advertising on the social media platform two years ago.  The seven companies for which the EEOC found reasonable cause this summer were Capital One, Edward Jones, Nebraska Furniture Mart, Enterprise Holdings, Renewal by Andersen, Drive Time Auto, and Sandhills Publishing.  The complaints on behalf of excluded Facebook users were filed by Outten & Golden, the Communications Workers of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Yesterday Kaiser Permanente, the giant healthcare consortium, announced a tentative agreement with the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, a group consisting of 11 local unions representing 85,000 of the consortium’s workers.  The agreement forestalls a national strike that was planned for mid-October.  In addition to bread-and-butter issues like raising wages and safeguarding retirement benefits, the contract also requires Kaiser to invest millions of dollars in training to combat the nation’s health care worker shortage.  The agreement now goes to rank-and-file employees for likely ratification.

In awarding University of Michigan philosophy professor Elizabeth Anderson one of its coveted fellowships, the MacArthur Foundation acknowledged the impact of her influential book Private Government: How Employers Rule Our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It).  Her fellowship biography reads: “Anderson calls attention to the ways that many employers—from corporate firms and retail stores to processing plants and restaurants—exercise a far more sweeping scope of power and arbitrary authority over workers’ lives, speech, and privacy than is fully acknowledged in public discourse surrounding the liberating effects of a free market economy.”  OnLabor’s Benjamin Sachs previously highlighted Cynthia Estlund’s review of the book here.

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