Weekend News and Commentary: February 15-16

Published February 16th, 2014 -  - 02.16.141


On Friday, workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga factory rejected union representation by the UAW. The L.A. Times describes predictions that the defeat “significantly diminishes the UAW’s chances of forming unions at any of the 10 or so foreign-owned auto factories in the South.” (See some of OnLabor’s background coverage of the VW elections here, here and here.)

The WSJ reports that the UAW is currently weighing possibilities for challenging the outcome, including a complaint to the National Labor Relations Board. The challenge could center on Republican Senator Bob Corker’s statements that he had been “assured” the Chattanooga plant would receive a second production line if workers rejected the union. Volkswagen has repudiated Senator Corker’s claim. Reuters notes that challenges hinging on undue influence of outside groups may constitute “uncharted” legal territory.

The WSJ also reports that Volkswagen labor representatives in Germany will continue to push for a German-style works council at the Chattanooga factory. Most experts believe that the NLRA only allows a works council in a company represented by a trade union, but there is a range of opinion on the subject. For more background, see this OnLabor Explainer. Professor Sachs has discussed the works council issue here and here, arguing current law would not allow a council absent a union.

The Third Circuit recently rejected a challenge to the Department of Labor’s regulations on guest-worker minimum wage. In Louisiana Forestry Association v. Secretary, U.S. Department of Labor, a number of business associations argued that the Labor Department lacked the authority to impose regulations governing the calculation of minimum wage for foreign workers recruited under the H-2B visa program. In a 3-0 decision, the court found the regulations – mandating guest workers be paid enough to maintain prevailing wages in the given sector – were valid under the Immigration and Nationality Act. The Huffington Post reports that similar challenges to the H-2B visa regulations have been upheld in a federal district court in Florida, setting up a potential circuit conflict.

The Providence Journal reports that Rhode Island has reached a deal on pension reform with public sector employees. According to the WSJ, the settlement will reduce the state’s unfunded pension liability from $9 to $5.05 billion, increase the retirement age, increase the frequency of cost-of-living adjustments, and restore a 401(k)-style retirement plan for certain workers.

The New York Times reports that Pete Camarata, a Teamster leader pivotal to union reform efforts, has died at the age of 67.

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