News & Commentary

December 13, 2015

Jon Weinberg

Jon Weinberg is a student at Harvard Law School.

A labor dispute at New Hampshire’s most important television station has led to its exclusion from this week’s Democratic presidential debate in that state.  Politico notes that the Democratic National Committee made the decision on Friday and blamed WMUR and its owner Hearst Communication for the impasse.  The union, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1228, is alleging that the station “is trying to strip pensions from about a dozen of its employees because they decided to join the union.”

In other election-related news, a law enforcement expert told the Boston Globe that the controversial endorsement of Donald Trump by the New England Police Benevolent Association doesn’t reflect the opinion of most police officers in the region.  In fact, the organization doesn’t negotiate labor contracts but rather is a coalition of 5,000 members scattered throughout the region characterized by criminology professor Tom Nolan as “some wingnut faction of cops who came together and made up some club, and then try to get on the national stage by doing these grandstanding political things.”  Nolan further clarified that “they’re trying to give the impression that they represent Boston police officers, but they’re not a labor union that actually negotiates contracts…this organization is largely constituted by small departments in New Hampshire that are attempting to get a big splash.”

Ted Cruz has proposed a new H-1B reform bill that would raise the cost of hiring temporary via workers, Computerworld reports.  The bill “sets a minimum wage of $110,000 for H-1B workers, who currently can be paid well less than half that amount in some U.S. regions under prevailing wage rules.  This base salary will adjust annually for inflation.”  The bill also distances Cruz from President Obama by proposing the elimination of the Optional Practical Training Program, which provides those on a student visa the opportunity to work in the United States for at least 12 months.

ProPublica published a comprehensive report on efforts by meatpacking giant Tyson Foods to push for changes to workers compensation laws state by state that in turn harm workers.  Notably, “over the past 25 years, as the Arkansas company grew to be one of the world’s largest meatpackers, Tyson has taken a lead in reshaping workers’ comp, often to the detriment of workers, a ProPublica investigation has found.”  The investigation found that the company called for subtle changes “such as giving employers more say over medical care, raising workers’ burden of proof or limiting the scope of activities judges have deemed work-related” rather than outright benefit cuts which still “had a comparable effect to cutting benefits, excluding people whose doctors say have legitimate work injuries — especially the costly musculoskeletal disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome that poultry workers are prone to.”

Meanwhile, in South Korea, the public is resisting attempts by the government to loosen labor laws and change a “jobs for life” culture.  According to The Wall Street Journal, restrictions on firing workers are deterring companies from hiring permanent workers.

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