Weekend News & Commentary — May 26th, 2019
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan bill on Thursday that would bring major changes to the American retirement system. The bill, H.R. 1994 (Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act, or SECURE Act), seeks to ease some of the barriers Americans face when saving for retirement. In addition to changing a widely-criticized benefit reduction for families of deceased servicemembers from 2017’s tax overhaul, the bill would make it easier for people working in small businesses and part-time workers to contribute to retirement accounts, and delay the age that seniors reach “mandatory draw-downs,” increasing the period over which they can grow their accounts. It is also expected to encourage plans to offer annuities, tackling the issue of seniors outliving their savings and providing a “steady monthly income” in retirement. Next, the bill heads to the Senate, where it is “widely expected to move forward.”
A repeat player with a long history of discrimination and gender bias allegations, Walmart is again entrenched in a legal battle over unfair employment practices. Female employees are asserting the same claims Walmart has been fending off for years by settling individual cases and preventing class certification, a strategy that paid off for the superstore in a favorable 2011 Supreme Court ruling.
Plaintiffs allege pay bias against female employees, as well as discriminatory practices in promotions, where women claim they were often passed over in favor of less-qualified male candidates. Despite reported efforts to correct for these imbalances, Time Magazine notes a lasting reflection of these biases in the company’s structure; while women constitute sixty percent of Walmart’s workforce, they make up less than one third of senior executives. Bloomberg Law reports that the 2019 suits represent a new litigation strategy to redress the same wrongs, aimed at holding Walmart accountable to individual plaintiffs and side-stepping the class action process altogether.
As Vail reported last week, Ford Motor Company’s CEO John Hackett recently announced a “restructuring” plan that entails laying off 7,000 workers, mostly salaried management positions, by the end of August. Hackett, who recently took a six-percent raise, announced in a company-wide email new steps in long-term “Smart Redesign” that will bring further layoffs. The story of Ford’s restructuring has developed alongside its plans for a partnership with Volkswagen to invest in developing autonomous and electric vehicles. As news broke, the Detroit Free Press reported uncertainty among Ford employees at headquarters in Dearborn, MI worried about their futures with the company. Ford is among U.S. firms impacted by steel tariffs and the results of President Trump’s ongoing trade standoff with China.
Finally, the National Right to Work Foundation filed for certiorari asking the Supreme Court to hear Miller v. Inslee, the latest case to test the constitutionality of exclusive representation. As Jared described in March, the Miller case was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, deciding that even after Janus, the SEIU Local 25’s exclusive representation for state-subsidized child care providers did not violate the first amendment. As Ben noted, the case echoed the Eighth Circuit’s Bierman v. Dayton decision, rejecting first-amendment challenges to exclusive representation and finding the state labor-relations method served a compelling government interest in effective negotiations and “labor peace.” The cases distinguish the exclusive representation scheme from Janus’s agency fees question. The Supreme Court declined to hear Bierman in April.