Weekend News and Commentary – July 5-6

Published July 6th, 2014 -  - 07.06.14


The Washington Post reports that by 2018, at least 12 states will have a minimum wage of $9 or more. Rhode Island is the newcomer to the party. Governor Chaffee signed a bill Thursday that will raise the minimum wage $1 to reach a $9 minimum, an increase which will go into effect next year. The wage increases will occur on a staggered basis for most covered states, a timeline of which is helpfully illustrated here.

Los Angeles Unified School District reached agreement with SEIU Local 99 to raise the minimum wage paid to district workers to $15 by July 2016. The union represents 33,000 of the school district’s lowest paid employees, its membership including custodians, teaching assistants, security aids and cafeteria workers. The LA Times has called the contract a testament to the union’s political clout, skillfully using both campaign dollars and ground troop mobilization to gain influence in electoral campaigns. This local success for the union could be considered as further evidence of the ball being moved forward in the national debate over raising the minimum wage, for while minimum wage reform may be stalled in our Nation’s capital by legislative gridlock, Seattle has approved a $15 minimum wage and San Francisco has put a similar measure on its ballot for voters to consider this November.

Huffington Post reported Northwestern University filed a brief this week urging the NLRB to overturn the regional director’s decision that scholarship football players at Northwestern are employees within the meaning of the NLRA, and thus have rights under the Act to elect a union representative and bargain collectively. We’ve covered this story extensively here, here, here, here, and here. The University’s brief argues that allowing players to unionize “transforms what has always been a cooperative educational relationship between university and student into an adversarial employer-employee relationship.” Northwestern players voted on the question of whether or not they would like to be represented by the College Athletes Players Association in April. Those results have been impounded while the NLRB reviews the case. Currently there is no deadline for the ruling.

Times Union reports that the U.S. Department of Labor is suing a North Dakota gravel mine operator, Northern Excavating Co., for repeatedly refusing to allow an inspector access to their work site. The inspector was responding to several employee-filed complaints to the Mine Safety and Health Administration about safety law compliance at the work site, including alleged failures to provide protective gear to employees. A Department spokesman has indicated that the agency will not move forward until after judicial approval. But after the likely green light from the court, continued noncooperation from the company could instigate the enlisting of U.S. Marshals to enforce the inspection.

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