Weekend News & Commentary — June 10-11, 2017

Published June 11th, 2017 -  - 06.11.1714


Lawmakers are moving to reform the H1-B visa program, a hotly contested temporary visa program for specialized workers.  According to Politico, Senator Chuck Grassley met with Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta Thursday to discuss the program.  In the past, Grassley has stated that the program is “short on enforcement” and has co-sponsored a bill with Senator Dick Durbin to reform the program to increase enforcement.  On the other hand, Senator Orrin Hatch is expected to introduce a bill in the upcoming weeks expanding the program from 65,000 to 115,000 and lifting the cap on visas for applicants with Master’s degrees or higher.

The Department of Labor announced Thursday night that it would be taking steps to reverse the Obama-era “persuader rule” requiring companies to disclose contacts with consultants in response to unionizing efforts.  The regulation, which was finalized in 2016 but has not yet taken effect due to a nationwide injunction issued last November, would require companies to disclose “actions, conduct or communications” they’ve pursued to “affect an employee’s decisions regarding his or her representation or collective bargaining rights.”  According to the Washington Post, the Labor Department announced it would be issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to take public comment on rescinding the rule altogether. AFL-CIO spokesperson Josh Goldstein has disagreed with the proposal, saying “Corporate CEOs may not like people knowing who they’re paying to script their union-busting, but working people do.”

Tech companies in Silicon Valley may be the next sector to see a wides-scale push for unionization among its low-wage workers like janitors, security guards, food service workers, and shuttle bus drivers.  Salon reports that in January, thousands of security guards working for companies like Facebook and Cisco voted to unionize, and will be represented by SEIU United Service Workers West in upcoming labor negotiations.  According to Jeffery Buchanan, co-founder of labor rights group Silicon Valley Rising, this is part of a broader effort to push tech companies to take more responsibility for these workers, who are often hired through outside contractors and make as little as $20,000 per year.

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