News & Commentary

April 12, 2015

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

Writing in The Washington Post, Lydia DePillis explains difficulties the federal government has had complying with minimum wage laws for federal contractors.  Responding to the recent complaint brought by contractors at the National Zoo, covered by OnLabor, DePillis explains that the Service Contract Act and similar laws are difficult to administer because coverage is fluid and work-dependent and worker complaints have to be brought by the Department of Labor.  She notes that the Obama administration has undertaken significant efforts to boost enforcement, but many advocates feel the efforts are inadequate so long as the Department of Labor is overburdened and call for a version of “high road contracting”.

Bloomberg reports that, despite the possibility of gay marriage being legalized nationwide, anti-discrimination laws in many states do not protect gays like they do women and racial minorities.  While public opinion disfavors discrimination and there has been backlash to new proposals in Indiana and Arkansas that were seen to protect the right to discriminate, there is still widespread misinformation regarding the legal right to fire based on sexual orientation and the pace of remedial legislation has been slower than that extending marriage.

According to The Boston Globe, a bill has been introduced to the Massachusetts State Senate that would “expand benefits for permanent disfigurement under the Worker’s Compensation Act,” eliminating existing requirements that the scarring be to the face, neck or hands and increasing compensation.  Massachusetts eliminated coverage for disfigurement other than that to the face, neck or hands in 1991.  The legislation has no timetable but is widely supported.

The Los Angeles Times reports on efforts by the labor movement to spread awareness of alleged unfair labor practices in Mexico by Driscoll’s, the world’s largest berry distributor.  While the company has a positive image of social responsibility, labor leaders are calling for wage increases, overtime pay, the extension of government-required benefits to workers, and a reduction of sexual harassment of female growers.  An industry strike last month collapsed after two weeks, and Driscoll’s claims it is being unfairly singled out for industry-wide problems.

According to The Associated Press, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is pursuing a legislative agenda that includes a reduction in the cost of worker’s compensation insurance and tighter restrictions on eligibility for unemployment benefits.  Gov. Rauner said “he would back a modest increase in the minimum wage if the Democratic-controlled Legislature supports his plans,” but Democrats criticize his proposals as anti-worker.

The International Association of Machinists “might withdraw its petition for an April 22 vote at Boeing South Carolina if too many employees signal a lack of support for union representation,” The Post and Courier reports.  The union is assessing worker support at the plant, which produces the Dreamliner jet and is in a state with one of the nation’s lowest unionization rates.

Writing in The Chicago Sun-Times, Professor Robert Burro of the University of Illinois argues that the costs of work rules are often inflated.  He cautions against changing work rules in the name of costs savings since “the results of academic research designed to measure the effect of work rules reveals that depending on the types of rules and conditions of employment, expected savings are vastly overestimated” and forecasts adverse effects of rule changes.

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