Today’s News & Commentary — September 5, 2018
Yesterday, the D.C. Circuit ruled that Columbia University’s Teachers College had unlawfully denied a request for information from UAW Local 2110, which represents the school’s secretarial and clerical workers, regarding the work performed by some employees outside the bargaining unit. A three-judge panel led by Chief Judge Merrick Garland held that the school’s withholding of information violated the National Labor Relations Act insofar as the requested information related to a pending grievance. The union has been seeking information from the Teachers College regarding the possibility that the school had transferred work designated for the bargaining unit to non-union employees.
The Wall Street Journal reports that a business lobbyists are opposing President Trump’s most recent nominee to the NLRB. Last week, Trump renominated Mark Gaston Pearce, an Obama appointee who served as board chairman for five years and is generally seen as favoring unions and workers. If Pearce is reappointed, he will be one of two left-leaning members on a five-member board that is otherwise dominated by conservatives. So far, both the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the International Franchise Association have indicated that they will lobby the Senate to oppose Pearce’s nomination. All signs indicate that Pearce’s renomination is part of a deal with Senate Democrats to speed up the confirmation process of pending nominations at many federal agencies, including the Department of Labor.
The New York Times reports that workers at Disneyland are fighting to pass a living wage ballot in Anaheim, California. On November 6, Anaheim will vote on an initiative to raise the minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2022 for employees at large hospitality businesses that receive city subsidies, including Disneyland. Workers and unions staged a months-long campaign highlighting the economic insecurity of low-wage workers at the theme park, finally obtaining the requisite number of signatures for the ballot measure in June. Shortly thereafter, Disney reached a contract agreement with four unions representing almost 10,000 employees at Disneyland under which the minimum wage would increase to $15 per hour by 2019. If successful, the ballot measure will supersede the union contract, requiring Disneyland to eventually increase wages above $15 per hour. However, Disneyland recently turned down over $200 million in tax incentives from Anaheim, raising the possibility that the theme park may not be covered by the new law.
Over in the UK, a new report commissioned by the Institute for Public Policy Research’s Commission on Economic Justice, argues that Britain needs stronger unions and higher taxes on the wealthy. The report, titled “Prosperity & Justice: A Plan for the New Economy,” sets out a ten-year plan for reshaping the British economy, citing the country’s looming exit from the European Union as a “repudiation of the status quo” that has seen wages stagnate and economic insecurity rise. The report calls for an expansion of collective bargaining to cover 50 percent of the British workforce—nearly double the current level—arguing that collective bargaining leads to higher productivity and increased wages for workers. The report also recommends an increase in the minimum wage and the mandatory inclusion of employees on the boards of large companies. The commission’s members include business executives, academics, trade union leaders, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has spoken publicly on the need for economic reform.
Meanwhile, one of the UK’s largest trade unions has called for a referendum on Brexit. The GMB Union, which represents over 600,000 members in retail, manufacturing, and other sectors, criticized politicians for making false promises during the initial Brexit vote and warned that workers are facing increasing uncertainty about their jobs and the economy. GMB is the first of Britain’s big three unions to explicitly call for a Brexit referendum. Union representatives will debate a Brexit referendum next week at a conference convened by the Trades Union Congress, Britain’s largest trade union federation.