Today's News — June 16, 2015

Published June 16th, 2015 -  - 06.16.151


The Washington Post‘s Lydia DePillis profiled technologies designed to help workers navigate the complexities of the modern workplace.  The piece details a variety of products, ranging from electronic versions of anonymous comment boxes to human resource tools to combat latent hiring biases to financial tools designed to smooth out the peaks and valleys in income that wage workers often experience, This burst of technologies designed to help workers has resulted partially from initiatives by the SEIU and National Domestic Workers Alliance.  Ai-Jen Poo of the Alliance summed up the driving force behind the technological push, stating, “We are trying to develop a suite of tech tools that can be helpful to workers in negotiating and asserting their rights — and ultimately in doing their jobs better.”

Community and labor groups have filed a complaint with the IRS accusing the nonprofit Walmart Foundation of improperly aiming its charitable donations in ways that would directly benefit the for-profit retailer, according to the New York Times.  Pointing to escalations in the foundation’s charitable activity in target communities that occurred while the retailer simultaneously sought to open stores in those markets, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Greater New York Matt Ryan said, “I think if this is truly charitable donations, they would be giving this every year. . . . I would characterize it as part of a smoke-and-mirrors campaign that Walmart would run when they’re trying to move into a city.”

It remains unclear, however, whether or not these alleged practices actually ran afoul of the law. Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University, said, ““The optics here are pretty bad. The optics tell us what they’re doing, but is that enough to jerk the foundation’s charter?”  Responding to the complaint’s accusations that the foundation’s donations excluded community groups that appeared to oppose the company’s expansion efforts, Light added, ““It comes very close to a directive, and the I.R.S. could say, ‘Look, this is not a grant, this is a contract.'”

The New York Times editorial board, spurred by reports of employer abuse of the H1-B visa program, called for comprehensive immigration reform as a means of protecting the interests of both American and immigrant workers.  The editorial argued that the failure of immigration reform has allowed employers to take advantage of loopholes in a broken system, explaining, “With no immediate possibility of such an immigration overhaul, opportunistic tech companies are pursuing their own narrow agenda, pushing for vast increases in H-1B visas. That might help their recruiting problems, but leave much of the system as dysfunctional as ever. Better to fix immigration with the right goals in mind: a fair deal for all workers and their families.”

At the Huffington Post, Julian Brave Noisecat has written a fascinating piece concerning labor rights and tribal sovereignty.  Dating back to at least 2004, tribal leaders have tried and failed to convince the NLRB that the National Labor Relations Act does not apply to them in their efforts to evade organizing campaigns at Indian casinos.  Adapting to these failures, those leaders have now focused their efforts on passing legislation to explicitly exempt Indian tribes from the Act.  In the article, Noisecat explores the rifts that the legislation has exposed in intra- and intertribal relationships as well as the cleavage it creates for the Democratic Party, which supports both labor rights and tribal sovereignty.

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