Weekend News and Commentary: March 29-30

Published March 30th, 2014 -  - 03.30.142


The Wall Street Journal reports that Major League Baseball and its players union have reached an agreement on drug testing and penalties, raising standards in a joint effort to eradicate doping. 

The UAW has gained the support of pastors and students as it turns efforts to unionization of a 5,000+ worker Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi. As the L.A. Times writes, “from pulpits, at leafleting campaigns outside Nissan dealerships and at auto industry events in Brazil, Geneva and Detroit, these new organizers have a message: God supports the working man.”

 The New York Times discusses labor shortages among California’s farmworkers, and how farm-owners have begun to support immigration reform efforts. According to studies at the University of California, Davis, nearly all farmworkers in California are immigrants, and roughly half are illegal residents. In 2013, diminished worker supply led farm wages in the area to rise by $1 an hour.

A recent decision in the 8th Circuit may increase employer duties to monitor fees and costs associated with employee 401(k) plans. Generally, 401(k) plan sponsors (usually an employer) have a fiduciary duty to guard their workers’ retirement accounts. In Tussey v. ABB Corp. – one of the first 401(k) fee cases to go to trial – the 8th Circuit found that a company violated fiduciary duties by failing to monitor the internal costs of their plan and paying excessive fees. As the New York Times writes, the case “sends a powerful message to plan sponsors everywhere: If you think you’ve done your fiduciary duty simply by offering low-cost funds as investment options, think again.”

Though the SAT has been the subject of a recent high-profile overhaul, employers such as McKinsey, Bain, and Goldman Sachs still request the standardized test score. The New York Times suggests that scores, though out of date and perhaps unreliable, still remain “a handy screening device that helps [employers] weed out candidates without too much effort.” 

The Nation considers the significance and potential outcomes of Harris v. Quinn. Author Joel Rogers discusses whether Justice Antonin Scalia will extend reasoning expressed in his concurrence in Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association (1991), affirming “the logic of fair-share agreements, even in the public sector and the full light of the First Amendment.” See some of Prof. Goldsmith and Sachs’ posts on the matter, posted previously at OnLabor, here, here, and here.

 At the New York Times, Professor Andrew Ross criticizes New York University, the Louvre Museum, and the Guggenheim, whose construction projects in Abu Dhabi have drawn from labor markets with substandard practices. As Ross notes, the Abu Dhabi construction force is nearly 100% comprised of immigrants who are bound to sponsoring employers by recruitment debt. These employers typically confiscate employee passports on arrival, house workers in labor camps, and pay below initially promised wages. Ross calls on cultural and educational institutions operating in Abu Dhabi to “abolish the recruitment debt system, pay a living wage, allow workers to change employers at will and legalize the right to collective bargaining.”

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