Weekend News & Commentary — October 4-5
The United Auto Workers (UAW) announced that it will form a local chapter in Tuscalossa, Alabama to represent Mercedes-Benz’s workers at the Daimler AG assembly plant. About 3,400 full-time workers and 1,000 temporary workers help to build crossovers and sport-utility vehicles at the Tuscalossa plant. UAW plans to ask the company to recognize Local 112 without a NLRB election. Currently, Mercedes-Benz says that the company will remain “neutral,” leaving the unionizing decision to workers. UAW hopes to garner support from newly formed locals and incentivize workers to join. However, the union will have to persuade workers “at a time when the plant is expanding and anti-union rhetoric is intensifying among political leaders throughout Southern states.” Historically, UAW has faced difficulty in organizing employees at foreign-owned automobile factories. UAW hopes to strengthen its efforts and currently has the support of German’s IG Metall Union and top labor leaders on Daimler’s management board. In July, the union formed a local near Volkswagen AG’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee after workers had previously rejected the union. We previously covered the developments here and here.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the current share of the population that is employed is at a low of 59%, which is lower than what it was when the recession ended in June 2009 (59.4%). The average hourly earnings has also decreased by a penny to $24.53, indicating that average earnings have risen only 2% in the last 12 months. This increase has not kept up with inflation and might help to explain why many workers still “believe the economy is still in recession, even though the downturn officially ended 64 months ago.” The article proposes that the labor force “is now permanently smaller thanks to demographic changes and the shock of the slow-growth recovery.” According to the author, this trend can only be reversed by substantial economic growth that pays workers more and gives them incentives to stay in the job.
An Opinion article argues that unions’ efforts to increase minimum wages across the country actually hold hidden benefits for the unions themselves. The article cites the example of Los Angeles, where the city council has passed a law requiring large hotels to pay employees at least $15.37 an hour with generous sick-leave benefits. The ordinance includes a provision which allows unions to “waive the requirements in collective bargaining.” The article argues that such an ordinance allows a union to approach a nonunion employer that has difficulty paying the new minimum wage. The union then asks the employer to sign a “neutrality agreement” and to assist it in unionizing employees in exchange for the union allowing the employer to pay less than the new statutory minimum. According to the article, the result is that workers’ lose their freedom of choice and “the living-wage ordinance is exposed as a cynical political ploy.”
The New York Times reports that that U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Wednesday in a wage and hour case brought by Amazon warehouse workers. The workers allege that they are subjected to a 25-minute security check after their 12-hour shifts to make sure they have not stolen any goods. They argue that they should be paid for the time spent undergoing the security check. The Supreme Court will determine “whether the check and related waiting time were part of [employees’] regular, compensable workday or, as the temp agency argues, were time after [their] workday and not compensable.” A study found that 63% of stores performed antitheft checks at the end of the workday, and retailers are sure to keep an eye on the decision. The case comes to the Supreme Court after the temp agency, which employed the workers, appealed a ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which found that the security check was “integral and indispensable” to the employer. The Obama administration has filed a brief supporting the temp agency, arguing that the Ninth Circuit’s focus on whether the checks were done for the employer’s benefit was an “insufficient proxy for determining” whether they were “integral and indispensable” to a principal activity.
According to The LA Times, an increasing number of counties and cities are refusing to honor immigration detainer requests from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The requests ask local law enforcement agencies to detain inmates up to an additional 48 hours after their scheduled release date from jail. During this time, ICE will then arrive at the jail and transfer the inmate directly into federal immigration custody for possible removal proceedings. Just this week, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that she planned to introduce a similar bill in New York City. Across the nation, more than 225 local law enforcement agencies have refused to honor immigration detainers, and another 25 agencies have limited the number of detainers they will honor. However, many localities and municipalities along the southern border continue to honor detainers. Although no county jail in New Mexico honors such requests, only South Tucson has refused to honor them in Arizona and no locality has refused to honor them in Texas.