Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

“Right-to-Work” States Still Have Lower Wages

Source: Elise Gould and Will Kimball, Economic Policy Institute, Raising America’s Pay, Briefing Paper #395, April 22, 2015

From the introduction:
Wages in “right-to-work” (RTW) states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as state macroeconomic indicators. This translates into RTW being associated with $1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker.

U.S. Labor: Satisfying Foreign Investors’ Needs

Source: Steve Stackhouse-Kaelble, Area Development, Location USA, 2015

Although the labor environment varies from state to state, foreign companies choosing a U.S. location are finding competitive wage rates, quality training resources, and workers eager to join their labor forces….

… Unionization and Right-to-Work Laws
That understanding begins with the acknowledgment that the United States is a collection of 50 states, with widely varying characteristics and regulatory environments. That’s not a bad thing, of course, because global site selectors have just as widely varying requirements. Consider the subject of unionization. “Some want to have an open shop, some like to have unions, and some are neutral and have to bring that neutrality here,” Thuston says….

….“Right-to-work” laws tend to drive down unionization rates, which may in turn lead to lower wage rates. Be that as it may, cheaper labor isn’t everything, he says. “What companies are looking for is not necessarily the lowest labor cost, but dependability and the capability of delivering quality.”
Lewin adds that while many companies — including many of the non-U.S. automakers that have sought U.S. sites in recent years — instinctively seek to avoid unionization, others feel less threatened by organized labor. “You can run a unionized operation and do very well in business. In some industries the highest-performing companies are highly unionized.” …

Workplace Bullying Is On the Rise

Source: Amanda Cuda HR News, Vol. 81 no. 3, March 2015
(subscription required) (scroll down)

Ask a public sector human resource professional if they think workplace bullying is a problem and chances are many will say yes. Getting them to specify what constitutes workplace bullying and how to stop it, however, is a little trickier. …. United States is one of the few Western countries that does not have a national law that defines and prohibits bullying. ….

How to Prevent Workplace Bullying From Becoming Lawsuits
Source: Kelly Petrocelli and David B. Ritter, HR News, Vol. 81 no. 3, March 2015
(subscription required) (scroll down)

You cannot scan a news site without spotting an article about bullying involving teens or young adults. With increased frequency, however, bullying has become a problem in the workplace, so much so that California recently passed a law mandating that employers provide training and education to supervisors on preventing “abusive conduct” in the workplace….

Symposium Issue – Reimagining Labor Law

Source: UC Irvine Law Review, Volume 4: Issue No. 2, May 2014

Articles include:
Reimagining Collective Rights in the Workplace
Catherine L. Fisk
…. A group of eminent and rising scholars were invited to address fundamental questions: What are the alternatives to the Wagner Act model of majority unions, workplace collective bargaining, and the current regime of social welfare provision on which it depends? What institutional structures could be created to provide dignity, opportunity, and protection to work? Rather than focusing on the current regime, the authors were challenged to explore alternatives and not to take anything for granted, including the existing divisions between or structures of labor law and employment law.

The articles explore a variety of alternative legal and social regimes based in existing practice in the United States—including the hybrid union-community worker organizations like Our Walmart and Fast Food Forward, sector-based worker groups like the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Occupy initiatives, workers’ centers, national progressive organizations like the National Employment Law Project, and community organizations like the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. Some are based on comparative studies, examining possibilities of creating in the United States institutional structures that show promise elsewhere in the world. Some generalize from careful studies of particular campaigns or organizations, with an eye toward scaling up successful efforts. Some examine different legal regimes—the First Amendment freedom of assembly clause, for example—and some examine different forms of representation and institutional structures, including worker centers. Some explore feasible legal strategies to address the marginalization of unauthorized migrant workers. Others propose legal reforms to invigorate private membership organizations that protect the interests of people at work, such as by reducing restrictions on the collection of voluntary political contributions through payroll deduction and liberating unions from some of the restrictions imposed by state right-to-work legislation. …

….The articles in this symposium collectively argue three important propositions. First, collective activism will be crucial to any revitalization of labor. Labor law reform should aspire to enable the organizing that is essential to effective collective activism. Each of the papers proposes a different way that law can either facilitate such organizing and activism or avoid thwarting it. Second, and related, institutional design matters a great deal to whether worker activism will occur and, if it does occur, whether it will be effective in improving working conditions. Third, legal rules should be crafted to facilitate collective worker action by making worker collectives sustainable and scalable institutions; by giving them crucial roles in existing legal regimes to empower worker voice in many important legal and political forums; by leveraging power at the local, state, and national level; and by thwarting efforts to use legal doctrines like preemption or legal bureaucracies like criminal justice to eviscerate organizing gains.

The third step of the argument is where the authors strike out on four different but intersecting paths. The paths are: (1) empowering collectives, especially at the local level; (2) creating mechanisms to enhance leverage through local, national, and international frameworks; (3) improving access to information to enhance worker power; and (4) strengthening the institutional power of unions by protecting the ability of unions and worker collectives to fund their operations. The first two of these offer macro perspectives on how law facilitates and thwarts worker activism. The third and fourth examine the ways that law creates (or destroys) the institutional frameworks that empower workers to act collectively in organizing, in negotiating and administering agreements over conditions of employment, and in political action. ….

Latin America’s “Third Left” Meets the U.S. Workplace: A Promising Direction for Worker Protection?
Chris Tilly & Marie Kennedy

Beyond Unions, Notwithstanding Labor Law

Marion Crain & Ken Matheny

Not Dead Yet: Preserving Labor Law Strengths While Exploring New Labor Law Strategies
Lance Compa

Riding the Wave: Uplifting Labor Organizations Through Immigration Reform
Jayesh M. Rathod

Policing Wage Theft in the Day Labor Market
Stephen Lee

Productive Unionism
Matthew Dimick

Organizing with International Framework Agreements: An Exploratory Study
César F. Rosado Marzán

Extending the Case for Workplace Transparency to Information About Pay
Cynthia Estlund

Automatic Elections
Michael M. Oswalt

Restoring Equity in Right-to-Work Law
Catherine L. Fisk & Benjamin I. Sachs

Paycheck Protection or Paycheck Deception? When Government “Subsidies” Silence Political Speech
Brian Olney

Earned Sick Days in Jersey City: A Study of Employers and Employees at Year One

Source: Danielle Lindemann and Dana Britton, Rutgers University, Center for Women and Work, April 2015

On September 25, 2013, the Jersey City Council adopted an ordinance to provide private sector workers with a minimum number of earned sick days to recover from their own illnesses or to care for sick family members. The ordinance went into effect on January 24, 2014. It includes a provision for a research study on the impact of the ordinance on employers and employees to be conducted one year after implementation. The Rutgers Center for Women and Work (CWW) undertook the evaluation. This report presents our findings based on surveys of 289 Jersey City employers and 198 employees conducted by the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling in January and February of 2015. The majority of employers surveyed (80.3%) are providing earned sick days to their workers in compliance with the law, and the majority (61.5%) indicated that they had not needed to change their policies in response to the law – they already provided earned sick days.

Most employers are providing paid leave, regardless of their business size. ….
Employers reported an increase in productivity, the quality of new hires, and a reduction in turnover. ….
Employers reported a reduction in the number of sick employees coming to work. ….
There is no evidence that employees are abusing the law. ….
The law produced positive outcomes for employees. ….

Overall, our findings reveal a number of positive effects of the ordinance on businesses and employees in Jersey City and many areas in which the impact has been essentially neutral. Though the short time span since the adoption of the policy means that the effects of the law have not yet been fully realized, even at year one, many benefits are evident….

Guest Post: Do Arguments Against Fair Share Fees Make it Harder for the Government to Privatize Services?

Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor blog, April 14, 2015

….So far, those who advocate for overturning Abood haven’t spent much time addressing whether employment should be treated differently from other benefits or opportunities provided by the government. But, if the Court accepts the argument that the government may never condition the granting of a benefit on providing financial support to an entity that engages in expressive activity that an individual finds objectionable, then a decision overturning Abood could have unexpected and wide-ranging implications. For instance, consider the question of access to national parks. If you want to visit Alcatraz Island, you must pay $30.00 to Alcatraz Cruises, a private ferry service. It’s not clear where the money goes, but according to a sustainability report issued by the company in 2012, some of that money went to the purchase of renewable energy credits and other money went toward the production of on-site renewable energy. Surely not everyone who visits Alcatraz supports these initiatives. If people can’t be required to pay fair share fees to a union in order to have access to public employment, then it is not clear how they could be required to pay fees to Alcatraz Cruises in order to visit a national park.

The same argument applies whenever the government requires individuals to pay money to a private vendor in order to take advantage of government services. Consider the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, known as Part D. According to a 2011 Congressional Budget Office report, beneficiaries receive a federal subsidy of about three quarters of the costs of the basic benefit, but in order to access these benefits, they must pay private insurance companies the remaining twenty-five percent of the premium. These insurance companies obviously engage in a great deal of free speech activity on important and potentially controversial issues. If an individual objects to the speech engaged in by the insurance company providing their Part D benefit, does that raise a serious First Amendment issue?….

The Growing Movement for $15

Source: Irene Tung, Yannet Lathrop, and Paul Sonn, National Employment Law Project (NELP), April 2015

From the summary:
…As the movement for $15 continues to gain momentum, the potential benefits for the U.S. workforce and economy are significant. This report provides comprehensive wage and demographic figures on the substantial swath of the U.S. workforce that today earns less than $15 per hour, profiles notable recent victories in the $15 movement, and offers action recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers and private-sector leaders.

In Part 1 of this report, we look at the portion of the U.S. workforce that currently earns less than $15 per hour in the United States. …
In Part 2, we take a closer look at the largest front-line occupations in six industries—restaurants/bars, retail, child care, auto manufacturing, home care, and hotels…..
In Part 3, we review recent economic research on wage floors, profile the experiences of localities and employers that are transitioning to $15 wages, and give an overview of recent and current $15 wage policy campaigns. ….
Finally, in Part 4, we offer concrete recommendations for action by federal, state, and local policymakers, and private-sector leaders seeking to continue shifting our economy back toward better-paying jobs. …..

A Crowded Agenda: Labor Reform and Coalition Politics during the Great Society

Source: Travis M. Johnston, Studies in American Political Development, Volume 29 Issue 1, April 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
For much of the post-WWII era, conservative forces blocked progressive labor policy from reaching a floor vote. With huge Democratic majorities in Congress, the 1960s represented a rare opportunity for unions to substantively alter industrial relations policy. The decade served as an important moment of policy development for numerous groups in the coalition. Organized labor, however, made few gains during this prolific era. Despite labor’s central position within the governing coalition, Democrats repeatedly failed to pass their most important legislative ambition, the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act’s right-to-work clause. In 1965, Democrats nearly achieved this goal when such a bill passed the House, only to be blocked by a filibuster in the Senate. By analyzing the Democrats’ legislative priorities during the Great Society, I show how coalitional politics structured the party’s policy agenda and how this ordering affected legislation in turn. With the infusion of new coalitional demands, party elites strategically placed labor’s controversial issue at the end of a long legislative agenda, effectively eliminating any chance for passage. Rather than locating all blame with the usual suspects, this rarely studied episode suggests that President Johnson and his leaders in Congress played a central role in the bill’s failure. The study provides new insight into the process, and consequences, by which party leaders decide whose issues to prioritize when setting the agenda.