Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

Public Sector Unionism Under Assault: How to Combat the Scapegoating of Organized Labor

Source: Joseph A. McCartin, New Labor Forum, Vol. 22 no. 3, September 2013
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…The antiunion victories in Wisconsin and Michigan have lent momentum to efforts in other states where Republicans control the governorship and the statehouse. Not content with the range of antilabor legislation already on the books in their state, North Carolina’s Republican legislators recently moved toward adding a “right-to-work” provision to the state constitution. Kansas’ legislators, meanwhile, have been working to eliminate dues check-off for teachers unions. “Right to work” advocates continue to advance their cause in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and other states. Meanwhile, federal “sequestration” has further weakened public sector unions by causing layoffs and furloughs. Altogether, these initiatives suggest a dark future for public sector labor.

We have seemingly reached a watershed moment when two conclusions appear to be indisputable. First, a vibrant public sector labor movement will not be sustainable indefinitely with less than 7 percent of private sector workers organized. The fate of government workers’ unions increasingly hinges on whether labor can engineer a private sector union revival. Second, if public sector unions do not start defending themselves more effectively than they did in Wisconsin and Michigan, they will likely suffer more such defeats in the years ahead. …

One-Day Strikes: A Word to the Wise

Source: Robert M. Schwartz, Labor Notes, October 2, 2013

More and more unions are turning to one-day or other short-term strikes to add punch to contract campaigns. Walmart, fast food, and other non-union workers have also used the tactic to demand changes in wages, working conditions, and safety, and to protest discharges.

A short-term strike sends a powerful message to management, dramatizing workers’ anger and determination.

Workers, both union and non-union, who take part in a short-term strike have the same legal protections as workers who engage in open-ended strikes. They cannot legally be disciplined for failing to give advance notice or failing to call in early the day of the strike (an exception is the health care industry, where 10 days’ advance notice is required). Nor can the employer count the days as absences under an attendance-control program….

The Economic Effects Of Adopting A Right-To-Work Law: Implications For Illinois

Source: Frank Manzo IV, Roland Zullo, Robert Bruno, Alison Dickson Quesada, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, School of Labor and Employment Relations, Labor Education Program, Policy Brief, October 7, 2013

….Since the 2010 elections, initiatives to include RTW laws in a state’s legislative agenda have begun in at least 10 other collective bargaining (CB) states, including Illinois. Recently, the governor of Missouri pledged at an American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference that a right-to-work measure would be put on the ballot in 2014. If voters passed the law Missouri would become the 25th state to adopt the anti-union law. While considerable efforts have been made by legislators and political organizations to pass RTW laws in states across the country, the empirical evidence on the effect of adopting a RTW law on labor market outcomes and state budgets is both varied and mixed. If the adoption of a RTW law is to be in the policy discussion for another state, the state’s voters, residents, workers, and policymakers deserve information on the probable impact of such action. This policy brief provides a forecast on the effect of RTW laws on important labor market outcomes– including earnings, employment, unionization, and inequality. The paper also investigates RTW’s impacts on two particularly affected industries (manufacturing and construction) and three demographic groups (African-American, Latino/a, and female workers). The findings are subsequently applied to the State of Illinois to project the potential law’s impact on Illinois workers and on the state’s tax revenues….

Illinois legislation fights fraud, protects workers

Source: Derek Prall, American City and County, September 25, 2013

A new law in Illinois is collecting millions of dollars from business owners who sought to defraud the system.

The law, dubbed “the personal liability legislation,” has led to a voluntary increase in funds paid to the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). 

The law allows IDES to hold business owners personally liable for cheating on their payroll taxes, according to the Morris Daily Herald. This shift from penalizing the business to fining the owners themselves has lead to increased compliance and more funding for state unemployment protections.

Comparison of Student Views on Minimum Wage, Unions, Income Inequality at York & Cornell

Source: David Doorey and Wilma Liebman, Doorey’s Law of Work blog, September 26, 2013

How do undergraduate business students in Canada and the United States feel about employment regulation, unions and collective bargaining, and income inequality? Do they see the world of work law differently?…

…We both distributed an anonymous, 5 question survey at the beginning of the term, before we had started teaching any substantive material on the law. Therefore, we were interested in the student opinions that they bring to the class. The survey asked about three substantive areas: (1) the appropriateness of minimum wage regulation; (2) the value (or lack thereof) of unions and collective bargaining; and (3) whether income inequality in the two countries is a cause for concern necessitating a legal response.

Here is the survey, with the comparative results from the students in the two countries. Obviously the sample size is too small to draw any big conclusions, but the results are nevertheless interesting. …

Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination in Employment: A Legal Analysis of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Source: Jody Feder, Cynthia Brougher, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R40934, July 15, 2013

Introduced in various incarnations in every congressional session since the 103rd Congress, the proposed Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA; H.R. 1755/S. 815) would prohibit discrimination based on an individual’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity by public and private employers in hiring, discharge, compensation, and other terms and conditions of employment. The stated purpose of the legislation is “to address the history and persistent, widespread pattern of discrimination, including unconstitutional discrimination, on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity by private sector employers and local, State, and Federal Government employers,” as well as to provide effective remedies for such discrimination. Patterned on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the act would be enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Inflation and the Real Minimum Wage: A Fact Sheet

Source: Craig K. Elwell, Congressional Research Service (CRS), CRS Report for Congress, R42973, June 21, 2013

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938 established the hourly minimum wage rate at 25 cents for covered workers. Since then, it has been raised 22 separate times, in part to keep up with rising prices. Most recently, in July 2009, it was increased to $7.25 an hour. Because there have been some extended periods between these adjustments while inflation generally has increased, the real value (purchasing power) of the minimum wage has decreased substantially over time….The peak value of the minimum wage in real terms was reached in 1968. To equal the purchasing power of the minimum wage in 1968 ($10.70), the current minimum wage’s real value ($7.90) would have to be $2.80 (or 26%) higher. Although the nominal value of the minimum wage was increased by $5.65 (from $1.60 to $7.25) between 1968 and 2009, these legislated adjustments did not enable the minimum wage to keep pace with the increase in consumer prices, so the real minimum wage fell.

Economic Growth and Right-to-Work Laws

Source: Michael J. Hicks and Michael D. LaFaive, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2013

From the summary:
This study aims to measure the impact of right-to-work laws on states’ economic performance. It uses average annual growth rates in employment, real (inflation-adjusted) personal income and population to measure the economic well-being of right-to-work states. On the whole, the results of this analysis show that right-to-work laws have a statistically significant and economically meaningful positive impact, although the results vary.

There are research challenges to studying the impact of right-to-work laws. One such problem is timing. For instance, it may take a significant period of time, perhaps more than a decade, for the impact of certain policies like right-to-work laws to generate any demonstrable impact on a complex state economy. For these reasons, this study analyzes data from a 64-year period — from 1947, when federal law changed to allow for right-to-work laws, through 2011, the most recent year for which data are available.

Another challenge related to timing is that the effect of right-to-work laws may change as economies and government policies evolve over time. For instance, most would agree that the economy of the 1991-2011 era is different in many ways than that of the 1971-1990 era. For this reason, this study analyzes the effect of right-to-work laws over the entire aforementioned 64-year period, but also in three distinct periods: 1947-1970, 1971-1990 and 1991-2011….

The Rise and Fall of Radical Civil Service Reform in the U.S. States

Source: Robert J. McGrath, Public Administration Review, Volume 73, Issue 4, July/August 2013
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Initiated by a 1996 Georgia statute, “radical” civil service reform quickly swept the United States. This article explains the wax and eventual wane of state efforts to increase the number of at-will employees at the expense of the population of fully protected merit system employees. Using an event history approach to explain this policy diffusion with state-level variables, the author shows that electoral competition and gubernatorial powers are the most significant determinants of this kind of policy diffusion. Whereas previous literature concluded that these reforms ceased spreading because the new programs were failing to create the promised governmental efficiency, this article argues that the institutional conditions for these human resource management policies have been less propitious in recent years. The article signifies an important contribution in that it brings civil service reform back into the scope of policy diffusion literature and identifies political insights into a perpetually important question….

Commentary: Does “Radical Civil Service Reform” Really Abandon Merit?
Source: Doris Hausser, Public Administration Review, Volume 73, Issue 4, July/August 2013
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“Opportunities for Defiance”: Embracing Guerilla History and Moving Beyond Scott Walker’s Wisconsin

Source: Beth Robinson, Thomas Adams, Joe Walzer, Jacob Glicklich, John Terry, Staughton Lynd, Dawson Barrett, LaborOnline, August 16, 2013

This long submission is an essay submitted originally to Labor: Working Class Studies of the Americas from graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee who are seeking to grapple with lessons and issues they took from battles in Wisconsin. Editor Leon Fink suggested that it was better suited to a dialog format of our blog and I agreed. We encourage readers to make their way through both the essay and the commentaries, one by Thomas Jessen Adams, a young scholar who is grappling with these issues himself, and one by Staughton Lynd, noted historian and activist. Then, please post your own comments about these issues. – Rosemary Feurer, Editor

There is a lot going on in this lengthy article. We have compiled a table of contents for your convenience.

Beth Robinson, “We Are Wisconsin
Joseph Walzer, “We Are Scholars
Jacob Glicklich, “We Are Workers
John R. Terry, “We Are Graduate Students
Dawson Barrett, “We Are Teachers
Response by Thomas Jessen Adams
Comment by Staughton Lynd