Weekend News & Commentary — January 27-28, 2018

Published January 28th, 2018 -  - 01.28.1812


This week, the Trump administration proposed demoting regional directors within the National Labor Relations Board.  The proposal would force regional directors to report to more senior NLRB officials.  These regional directors resolve approximately 85% of the cases filed with the agency each year.  The policy change would likely result in more pro-employer outcomes in NLRB cases.  The proposal is part of a series of changes initiated by Peter Robb, the agency’s general counsel.  The proposal also reflects the Trump administration’s general suspicion of career civil servants and the reach of the administrative state.

The New York Times explored how consolidation among companies can create wage stagnation. Economists who examined job listings on CarreerBuilder.com found many areas where a small number of employers were responsible for the vast majority of job postings.  In these locations, consolidation was often the reason for having fewer employers.  Having a smaller number of employers was closely correlated with wages stagnating or falling.  The pattern was more prevalent in rural communities than urban ones.  The trend is particularly noticeable in the agricultural-equipment mechanics field.  In 2016, the Bureau of Labor statistics reported that the average farm-equipment mechanic made about $18 per hour.  The median wage for forestry-equipment mechanics, who do similar work, was $6 higher.  Data shows that there is less of a trend towards consolidation in the industry, which may account for the wage gap.  Some economists question the idea that consolidation negatively impacts wages.  An economist at the Hoover Institute pointed to the availability of jobs in more urban areas for skilled workers, and jobs in other industries for unskilled workers.

The Wall Street Journal discussed the effects arbitration agreements have on employees’ willingness to adjudicate sexual harassment, wrongful termination, and discrimination claims against their employers.  The percentage of private-sector nonunion employees who have contracts with mandatory arbitration agreements has more than doubled since the early 2000s, leading more employees to walk away from claims.  In many instances, employees who do want to pursue arbitration have a difficult time retaining counsel.  Lots of plaintiffs’ lawyers are wary of contingency fees because arbitration settlements are often lower than in court.  Employers defend arbitration as a faster, cheaper way to settle disputes that keeps frivolous claims from being brought.  Critics believe the process is often unfair to employees, and keeps many employees with legitimate claims from coming forward.

Florida’s House of Representatives passed a bill affecting public sector unions along partisan lines late last week.  The measure, FL HB25 (18R), would require public-sector unions to petition the Public Employee Relations Commission for recertification if a union’s dues paying membership falls below half of those eligible for unionization.  Police officer, prison guard and firefighter unions would be exempt.  The bill’s sponsor claims that the measure would lead to more accountability and transparency.  Many public-sector unions have come out against the measure as politically motivated and detrimental to unions.  Democrats, who oppose the measure, have argued that the bill violates a provision of the state constitution and would disproportionately affect unions that represent mostly women.  The Senate president-designate has suggested that it is unlikely the bill will gain traction in the senate.

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