News & Commentary

July 5, 2015

The New York Times takes a closer look at nationwide efforts to organize farmworkers. In Vermont, the organization Migrant Justice has begun organizing the state’s 1,500 dairy workers, many of whom supply perhaps the state’s most famous corporate citizen: Ben & Jerry’s. “They have fair-trade coffee,” says a Migrant Justice spokesperson of the group’s initial focus on the ice cream manufacturer. “They have cage-free eggs. We think they can do more for dairy workers, too.” Notably, farm laborers are exempt from many federal and state labor laws, which means that workers like Arnulfo Ramirez — who supervises the milking of 240 cows per shift and and has taken only six days off during his four-and-a-half year stint in the industry — make less than minimum wage. The Times also discusses related efforts taking place in North Carolina (R.J. Reynolds), California (Costco), and Florida (McDonald’s, Walmart, Burger King, Whole Foods, and others).

Speaking of Vermont (and the nascent presidential campaign of its junior senator), Brian Mahoney of Politico reports that the AFL-CIO is cautioning its state and local leaders not to throw their support behind Bernie Sanders — at least not yet. In a recent memo obtained by Politico, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka reminded its regional leadership of organizational bylaws prohibiting their endorsement of presidential candidates, including making informal statements that might indicate any sort of preference. This news comes shortly after the South Carolina and Vermont AFL-CIOs passed resolutions in support of Sanders, and just days after Larry Cohen, former head of the Communication Workers of America, officially endorsed Sanders in a Huffington Post op-ed.

Staying on the topic of presidential politics, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press this morning. On the topic of immigration reform, Cruz first took aim at the man whom he hopes to replace: “President Obama and the Democrats focus on that issue because the question you’re asking is the most divisive partisan question in this entire debate. And I don’t believe President Obama wants to solve this.” Likely mindful of the crowded Republican presidential field, Cruz then set his sights on members of his own party: “A lot of Republicans in the Washington cartel, they’re all for amnesty too because from the perspective of the chamber of commerce and Wall Street, it’s cheap labor.”

And finally, Harvard Law School Professor Noah Feldman has posted his take on Friedrichs on BloombergView. In contrast to OnLabor guest contributor Professor Catherine Fisk’s focus on Justice Scalia, Professor Feldman centers his attempt at reading the judicial tea leaves on the votes of Justice Kennedy and Chief Justice Roberts. Drawing from the Court’s campaign finance decisions, Professor Feldman contends that the “engine” for the Roberts Court’s “transformation” of campaign finance — as exemplified by its decision in Citizens United — has been “the First Amendment as interpreted by Kennedy, the closest thing to a free-speech absolutist on the current court.” In other words, chalk one up for the petitioners. Chief Justice Roberts, on the other hand, has “at least showed consistency in his judicial restraint by preserving the ACA and opposing gay marriage.” However, “[t]he lesson of campaign finance is that Roberts hates to overturn famous compromise cases, which produces headlines of nonrestraint, but he doesn’t at all mind killing legal regimes using surgical strikes.” Accordingly, Professor Feldman surmises that Chief Justice Roberts may try to “distinguish Abood to death rather than killing it outright.”

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