Weekend News & Commentary — January 31-February 1
Labor groups published a Super Bowl beer list of approved beers based upon whether companies are unionized and pay fair wages, The Hill reports. The list includes 200 supported beers.
United Steelworkers told workers at nine U.S. refineries and chemical plants to strike this weekend after negotiations failed to lead to a deal by the established deadline. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “the union has been trying to negotiate a new three-year agreement that addresses industrywide wage increases, safety conditions and staffing issues. The deal would form the baseline for additional talks between companies and local unions, and cover 30,000 workers at 230 refineries, oil terminals, pipelines, and petrochemical plants.” The parties continue to negotiate over safety, pay and benefits.
A conservative group brought suit asking the Supreme Court to strike down state laws providing for mandatory union fees for public sector workers. Commenting to the Los Angeles Times, UC Irvine Law School labor law expert Catherine Fisk said that striking the forced-fees laws would make it harder for unions to collect dues but that the court is unlikely to strike the laws down. If the court rejects the suit, the laws will probably survive.
According to The New York Times, American Airlines pilots approved a new five-year union contract with the airline that will clear an obstacle to the airline’s merger with US Airways. Under the new contract, pilots will receive a salary increase, though the terms do not match those offered by competitor Delta Air Lines.
The National Labor Relations Board filed a brief in support of workers at Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal casino engaged in a federal court battle over their cancelled health insurance and pension coverage, Fox Business reports.
The National Law Review reports that Senate Republicans have introduced a bill that would radically change the National Labor Relations Board by adding a sixth member and requiring an even number of Democrats and Republicans. The bill would require a four-member majority for representation and unfair labor practice proceedings, increasing the probability of stalemates.
Chris Opfer, writing for Bloomberg BNA, describes how Republicans are attempting to use the Congressional Review Act to challenge the NLRB’s new streamlined election rule. While they are unlikely to block the rule, the move will likely slow its implementation.
Nelson Lichtenstein reviewed Thomas Geoghegan’s new book “Only One Thing Can Save Us” in The New York Times. Geoghegan calls for radical change in American labor laws, and while Lichtenstein calls the suggested reform impossible he finds the book to be an extremely useful tool to increase advocacy.
According to the Albany Times Union, the minimum wage for tipped workers in New York State could rise to $7.50 per hour on December 31, 2015, when the minimum wage for other workers will rise to $9 an hour. The proposed raise for tipped workers comes after a recommendation from the state’s Wage Board.