Weekend News & Commentary — May 28-29, 2016

Published May 29th, 2016 -  - 05.29.16


Will mandatory arbitration survive its most recent challenge?  Now that the Seventh Circuit has struck down a collective-action waiver in an employment agreement, creating a circuit split, the Supreme Court has an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.  Commentators at Politico attempt to read the tea leaves, arguing that “[t]he new composition of the Supreme Court will likely determine whether the Seventh Circuit’s decision wins the day.”  While an Obama or Clinton appointee will likely show deference to the NLRB, a Trump appointee — someone “closer in spirit to the late Antonin Scalia” — will probably stick to the Court’s recent pattern of favoring arbitration.

Strikes in France continue.  Workers have taken to the streets in protest of the government’s proposed new labor law, which will loosen France’s worker protections in hopes of spurring economic growth.  With the bill poised for debate before the Senate next month, unions have ramped up their protests.  But their show of strength belies potential weakness, according to the New York Times.  With membership on the decline — less than 8% of all French workers are unionized — and political fault lines emerging among their leadership, French unions now struggle not only for workers’ rights, but also for relevance.  (Although the proposed bill is not entirely bad news for workers.  The New Yorker reports on one of its more worker-friendly provisions, which grants employees the “right to disconnect” from work e-mail during “off” hours.)

Verizon might have reached a deal with its workers this week, but the effects of their recent strike won’t be forgotten any time soon.  According to Bloomberg, the Verizon walkout pushed the number of striking U.S. workers to its highest in more than four years and could depress job numbers in the Department of Labor’s upcoming May report.

Meanwhile, farmers across the country are waiting for work visas to come through for their planters and pickers from across the border.  NPR reports that the H-2A visa program is delayed for the third year in a row, putting the American farmers who depend on seasonal immigrant labor in a real bind.  Immigration reform is much needed, but “not likely to take root anytime soon” in the current political climate.

And lastly, the debate continues on what a Trump presidency might mean for workers.  When asked about his future vision for the Republican Party in an interview with Bloomberg last week, Trump responded: “You’re going to have a worker’s party.  A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”  The Atlantic takes a stab at what a “Trumpist Workers’ Party Manifesto” might look like, noting that some aspects of Trump’s platform — like his support of strong infrastructure investment, and his commitment to social insurance programs — are reminiscent of the socialist movements of the twentieth century.  Meanwhile, the Christian Science Monitor argues that the Republican Party is already a workers’ party — but only a white workers’ party.  Minority workers remain a “solid Democratic constituency” and are unlikely to back Trump.

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