News & Commentary

May 28, 2017

Emily Miller

Emily Miller is a student at Harvard Law School.

Democratic lawmakers, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, have pledged to increase the minimum wage to $15 within the first 100 hours if Democrats take back control of the House in 2018.  According to PoliticoPelosi endorsed a $15 minimum wage back in 2015, and her recent promise to increase the minimum wage drew widespread support from the Democratic Party. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has called for support from the White House, saying that President Trump should “stick up for working people by supporting our bill.”

Republican Senator Johnny Isakson reintroduced a bill last week aimed at reversing a 2011 decision by the National Labor Relations Board to permit “micro unions.” In that case, discussed here, the Board ruled that a group of Certified Nursing Assistants at  a nursing home could legally form a union, as they consisted “of a clearly identifiable group of employees who share a common interest.” The decision has been criticized as allowing for the possibility that a workplace will be organized into multiple small groups of employees, fracturing the workplace and making it difficult for employers to manage their labor relations.  According to The Hill, the Representation Fairness Restoration Act, would reverse that ruling by requiring that a union represents all workers in a “class or craft.”

The Kentucky State AFL-CIO and Teamsters Local 89 filed a lawsuit to strike down Kentucky’s new right-to-work bill, claiming that the law is an “unconstitutional taking” from unions who are required to represent all employees in a union shop regardless of whether they pay dues under the new law. According to the Courier-Journal, the law was a priority for members of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce for years, and it passed early in 2017.  Irwin Cutler, an attorney for the AFL-CIO, stated that the law creates a free-rider dilemma for Kentucky labor unions, as  employees who do not pay dues “are people who are getting the benefits of the contract – the wages, the benefits, the protection against unjust termination – and they don’t pay anything for it. That constitutes, under the Kentucky Constitution, an unlawful taking of the services, the property of the labor unions.”  The group also claims that the law discriminates against labor unions, as other organizations are permitted to require dues from those who benefit from their services.

In the face of recent allegations by the Department of Labor that Google systematically underpays female employees, the company is attempting to fight the DOL’s demands that it turn over internal compensation data, arguing that it would be too expensive to produce.  The DOL maintains that, as a federal contractor, Google is required by law to turn over internal compensation data to prove that it is not violating equal employment laws.

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