Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

50 Places Raising the Minimum Wage in 2018

Source: Grant Suneson, Michael B. Sauter and John Harrington, 24/7 Wall St., January 9, 2018

Several dozen American cities, counties, and states raised local minimum wages on January 1. In a few California cities, the minimum wage increased by $2.00 or more per hour. In places like Berkeley, San Francisco, and Mountain View — the latter famously home to the headquarters of Google — the minimum wage increased to $15.00 an hour. Workers rights activists frequently target $15.00 as a living wage.

In addition to the 39 states and municipalities that increased the minimum wage on or around New Year’s Day, 11 more plan to raise the minimum later this year, most of them on July 1. Two — Milpitas, CA and Minneapolis, MN — will raise the minimum twice during the year. Some increases are small, automatic raises meant to account for the inflation-driven rising cost of living, but others are part of larger planned increases that will continue in the years to come.

Everything Passes, Everything Changes: Unionization and Collective Bargaining in Higher Education

Source: William A. Herbert, Jacob Apkarian, Perspectives on Work, 2017

From the abstract:
This article begins with a brief history of unionization and collective bargaining in higher education. It then presents data concerning the recent growth in newly certified collective bargaining representatives at private and public-sector institutions of higher education, particularly among non-tenure track faculty. The data is analyzed in the context of legal decisions concerning employee status and unit composition under applicable federal and state laws. Lastly, the article presents data concerning strike activities on campuses between January 2013 and May 31, 2017.

This Florida Stealth Offensive Against Unions Could Preview GOP Onslaught in 2018

Source: Michael Arria, In These Times, December 22, 2017

Florida Republicans are pushing a bill designed to deal the state’s unions a death blow. House Bill 25, which was introduced by Longwood state Rep. Scott Plakon, would decertify any union in which 50 percent of the workers don’t pay dues, thus preventing them from being able to collectively bargain. Despite the fact that unions negotiate for the benefit of all their workers, no employee is forced to pay dues in Florida, because it’s a “Right to Work” state. ….

Why We Shouldn’t Fall for the Members-Only Unionism Trap

Source: Chris Brooks, In These Times, December 22, 2017

One of corporate America’s next big goals might surprise you: passing legislation to prevent unions from having to represent workers who don’t pay dues. This is just the latest of many business-friendly labor law reforms proliferating across the country. ….

….Some union supporters have argued that the way to solve the free-rider problem is by allowing unions to simply kick out the “freeloaders.”

For example, in a Los Angeles Times op-ed, professors Catherine Fisk and Benjamin Sachs advocate for reforming labor law so unions in open shop states would not be required to negotiate on behalf of all workers, but would instead only represent dues-paying members.

Labor activist Shaun Richman has written for In These Times about the benefits of “members-only” unionism, which, he says, would allow unions to “cede exclusive representation and kick out the scabs.” Now, employer-backed groups are making similar arguments.

The State Policy Network (SPN)—a coalition of corporate-financed right-wing think tanks—is also advocating for laws that would eliminate the requirement that unions represent non-members in a unionized workplace.

What do right-wing advocates of this strategy hope to accomplish? For an answer, we can look at the case of unionized teachers in Tennessee…..

The Supreme Court Case That Could ‘Overturn the Heart of the New Deal’

Source: Simon Lazarus, American Prospect, January 4, 2018

As the Supreme Court gets back to work this Friday, January 5, media coverage of its potentially momentous 2017-2018 term has focused on several high-profile cases that deal with gerrymandering, cell phone privacy, religiously cloaked anti-gay discrimination, and the future of public-employee unions. But one sleeper has received less attention than it deserves. Argued on October 2, this case could strip foundational safeguards in place for over 80 years, essential to ensuring millions of low-wage and non-union workers of their right to fair pay, job security, workplace safety, nondiscrimination, and other guarantees protected by state and federal law. The case gives the Roberts Court, with its newly reconstituted 5-4 conservative majority, a chance to escalate its pro-corporate activism to levels unmatched even by the famously anti-regulatory pre-New Deal Court of a century ago. If the Court reaches the result sought by business advocates, this would, as elaborated by two Seton Hall professors in a 2014 law review article, “effectively end the labor laws.” ….

…. The case—actually three lawsuits, Epic Systems v. Lewis, from Wisconsin; National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil U.S.A., from Alabama; and Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, from California; consolidated by the Court—involves employees’ claims that employers denied them overtime pay and other required benefits, by misclassifying their jobs and other illegal devices. Such claims are anything but rare. On the contrary, one 2009 study showed that in three major U.S. cities, “76 percent of 4,387 full-time low-wage workers in large and small companies across a variety of industries faced unpaid or underpaid overtime and 26 percent reported being paid less than minimum wage.” Court decisions have documented “extensive and systematic wage theft” from workers in construction, garment manufacturing, nursing homes, agriculture, poultry processing, and restaurants…..

Employment Authorization, Alienage Discriminiation and Executive Authority

Source: Leticia M. Saucedo, Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law, Volume 38 Issue 2, 2017

Employees, regardless of immigration status, have rights and protections that come from employment and labor laws. This proposition, while established doctrinally, continues to be highly contested and questioned, in part because it seems to contradict congressional intent to control the flow of undocumented labor in the workplace. As history suggests, however, Congress intended to make employers accountable for pulling undocumented workers into the labor market, and the protections in employment and labor laws were meant to continue to apply to all who are eligible for the status of employee. This Article calls for a doctrinal shift in employment law that removes considerations of immigration status in enforcement. Not only does keeping immigration status out of issues of employment protection benefit all workers, but the separation of immigration status from employment enforcement adheres to long-held principles of equal protection based on alienage, and to congressional intent to hold employers accountable for exploitative treatment of the most vulnerable workers. The Obama administration’s attempt to provide employment authorization to undocumented individuals can be viewed as an attempt to use its authority under the immigration statute to keep faith with these alienage anti-discrimination principles and to ensure equal treatment by providing legal status in the workplace. As the Trump administration uses this authority in its immigration policy, it should heed the same anti-discrimination principles….

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Source: Diana Liu, Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law, Volume 38 Issue 2, 2017

During the 2016 term, the Supreme Court heard Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which presented two questions to the court. First, should public sector “agency shop” arrangements be invalidated under the First Amendment? Second, does requiring public employees to affirmatively object, rather than affirmatively consent, to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions violate the First Amendment? In a non-precedential per curiam opinion that offered no explanation on the merits of the argument, the evenly-split Court affirmed the decision of the Ninth Circuit. The subsequent rehearing petition was denied, leaving the Ninth Circuit decision to stand.

In affirming the Ninth Circuit’s decision, the Supreme Court left in place its previous decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. In Abood, the Court upheld the constitutionality of compelling employees to pay agency fees to their collective bargaining representative. As a result, “agency shop” arrangements remain valid under the First Amendment. The Court also upheld the constitutional validity of requiring public employees to affirmatively object to funding non-collective bargaining related activities. With the divided Court’s per curiam opinion, Friedrichs has for now reaffirmed the controlling power of Abood, leaving undisturbed the future abilities of public employee unions to raise funds to support their collective bargaining activities. ….

Facing Wisconsin-Style Attack, Iowans Stick to the Union

Source: Dave Kamper, Labor Notes, November 16, 2017

Never let a good crisis go to waste. Iowa’s Republican legislative majorities assumed that an aggressive anti-union law would persuade public employees to abandon their unions. Instead they created a backlash, sparking unions to reconnect with members and their communities.

So far 29,552 people have voted to stay union, and just 651 have voted against.

House File 291, passed in February, defangs public sector bargaining and requires a vote, one year before the contract expires, on whether members still want a union at all. The union pays for this election—an anti-union tax set at $1 per member this year, which can be increased at the whim of Iowa’s labor board.

The kicker is, the union must win a majority of all eligible voters, not just of votes cast. Even if nobody votes no, but half the members don’t vote, the union will be decertified. Unions have pointed out that none of the law’s backers could win reelection under these skewed terms.

The law also eliminates public sector unions’ right to collect dues through payroll deduction. And unions can no longer negotiate over insurance, hours of work, professional development, or retirement benefits.

A similar law in Wisconsin, Scott Walker’s infamous Act 10, has decimated public sector unions. Most of the Wisconsin bargaining units that decertified right off the bat in 2011 had a majority of voters opting to keep the union—they just couldn’t get a majority to cast ballots…..

What Unions Do for Regulation

Source: Alison D. Morantz, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 13, 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The question of how organized labor affects the content, enforcement, and outcomes of regulation is especially timely in an era in which protective laws and regulations are being scaled back or minimally enforced and union membership is in decline. This article surveys literature from a wide array of regulatory domains—antidiscrimination, environmental protection, product quality, corporate governance, law enforcement, tax compliance, minimum wage and overtime protection, and occupational safety and health—in an effort to identify common findings on what unions do for regulation. Literature on the topic has taken up five questions: how labor unions affect the passage of protective laws and regulations; how they affect the outcomes that regulators target; how they affect the intensity of regulatory enforcement; the specific activities and channels of influence they use to influence regulated outcomes; and the role they play in self-regulation. Drawing on empirical literature from the domains listed, I review and analyze literature on each of these questions and offer several conclusions and suggestions for future research.