News & Commentary

August 11, 2019

Ryan Gorman

Ryan Gorman is a student at Harvard Law School.

On Friday, the Department of Justice filed a petition asking the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to decertify the union of federal immigration judges. The petition claims that immigration judges should be considered “management officials” ineligible to collectively organize. The move comes as tensions between immigration judges and the Trump administration have escalated. The National Association of Immigration Judges has been outspoken about the administration’s attempts to hold immigration judges to strict quotas and timelines. The union’s president and vice president have spoken out in favor of providing immigration judges with more independence from the Justice Department. According to a Justice Department spokesperson, the petition will likely trigger an FLRA investigation, though the timing of that process varies from case to case.

Politico reports today that labor unions remain split on whether to support the more robust versions of “Medicare for All” being pushed by some members of the Democratic presidential primary. Joe Biden and other moderate Democratic candidates have claimed that union members will lose bargained-for healthcare benefits under a Medicare for All system. Biden ran an ad last month making the argument, while Tim Ryan and John Delaney echoed the claim during last Tuesday’s Democratic debate. Not all labor unions agree with the characterization. As Politico reports, only a few major unions have come out against a single-payer healthcare system. Some union leaders are arguing in favor of getting healthcare off the bargaining table. Current supporters of Medicare for All include the American Federation of Teachers and National Nurses United, as well as the American Federation of Government Employees.

Bloomberg reports that the Department of Labor will send a high-priority overtime rule to the White House for final review on Monday. The rule, proposed in March, would raise the salary threshold at which workers are automatically eligible for time-and-a-half pay for hours worked beyond 40 per week. The current threshold is set at $23,600. The rule would raise that to around $35,000, making approximately one million new workers eligible. The new rule falls short of an Obama era rule that would have raised the salary threshold to $47,500. That regulation was blocked by a federal judge in November 2016, and the Trump administration abandoned the appeal of that ruling. Businesses view the new regulation as a win – the Obama rule would have extended eligibility to about 4 million workers. Meanwhile, several states have introduced proposals that would match, and in some cases exceed, the level set by the Obama rule. Washington state’s Department of Labor, for example, has proposed raising the threshold to nearly $80,000.

On Friday, the Seventh Circuit upheld a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determination that a company did not violate § 8(a)(3) of the National Labor Relations Act when it fired a worker for strike-related misconduct. The fired employee and another striking employee had pulled in front of a company truck going at high speeds on a freeway. The employees then slowed down and created a traffic jam which impeded the truck’s progress. The fired employee, supported by her union, argued that she had only been following the truck so that she could set up a picket at the truck’s destination job site. The Board concluded that the employee intended to intimidate the non-striking truck driver, and that her actions were inherently dangerous and “sufficiently egregious to lose protection of the Act,” in the Seventh Circuit’s words. The Seventh Circuit held that the Board’s decision was supported by substantial evidence.

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