Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

Forum: Can Global Brands Create Just Supply Chains?

Source: Boston Review, May/June 2013

Responses include:

Richard M. Locke:
Companies such as Nike and Apple have invested a lot in private programs to improve working conditions in their suppliers’ factories. Do the programs work? Not really.

Isaac Shapiro
Apple’s recent supplier-responsibility report is silent on changes to its purchasing practices.

Tim Bartley:
Even firms praised for responsibility flee countries where reforms are underway.

Jodi L. Short and Michael W. Toffel:
Codes of conduct can support the political action necessary to improve conditions.

Gary Gereffi:
Governments in big emerging economies can pressure foreign companies.

Hannah Jones:
When human capital is valued, labor rights are not far behind.

Pamela Passman:
Corruption and intellectual property theft also pose ethical challenges in global supply chains.

Drusilla Brown
The threat of trade sanctions improved labor conditions a century ago, and it can again today.

Aseem Prakash:
We need to know more about what kinds of private regulation work best.

Layna Mosley
Companies should press host-country governments to enable freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Richard M. Locke replies:
Until the costs and benefits of doing business are shared among everyone involved, innovation will produce at best limited results.

Interest Arbitration as Alternative Dispute Resolution: The History from 1919 to 2011

Source: Joe Slater, Ohio State Journal of Dispute Resolution, Vol. 28 no. 2, 2013

From the abstract:
This paper comes from a February 2012 Symposium, “The Role of ADR Mechanisms in Public Sector Labor Disputes: What Is at Stake, Where We Can Improve & How We Can Learn from the Private Sector.” It discusses the history of an important form of alternative dispute resolution: the use of what is called “interest arbitration” to resolve bargaining impasses in public-sector labor relations. This process is used in many states as an alternative to strikes. While interest arbitration has been a crucial part of public-sector labor law and labor relations for decades, it has come under increased scrutiny recently. Indeed, in the wave of laws passed in 2011 restricting the rights of public-sector unions to bargain collectively, interest arbitration was repeatedly attacked, and in several states it was eliminated or restricted.

This paper gives a historical overview of the development of interest arbitration, discussing how and why it developed as it did. This development was neither inevitable nor “natural” in that many other western democracies generally allow public workers to strike. But only a few states in the U.S. allows any public workers to strike. Thus, the question is: why did U.S. law and policy develop the way it did? This paper traces the relevant history from 1919 through to the new, restrictive laws of 2011. It starts with the Boston Police strike of 1919 — a seminal event in the history of public-sector labor law, that had a profound and lasting impact on how U.S. policymakers felt about dispute resolution in public sector labor law. It then turns to the first public-sector labor law permitting collective bargaining — passed, ironically in view of recent events, in Wisconsin in 1959 — and describes how concerns about dispute resolution were central to debates over that law. The paper continues by explaining how interest arbitration in public-sector labor relations has evolved and how it has worked from the 1960s into the 21st century. Finally, the paper explores the very recent developments in this area in the laws of 2011.

Bangladesh: Cheap Clothes, Deadly Factories

Source: Guest Host: Marc Fisher, Kojo Nnamdi Show, April 29, 2013

The South Asian nation of Bangladesh has risen rapidly within the global garment industry to become the world’s second largest exporter of clothing. European and American companies have been attracted by some of the lowest wages in Asia. But two recent deadly accidents in Bangladeshi factories — including a building collapse that killed more than 300 people — have raised questions about the true cost of cheap clothes. Kojo explores the global clothing economy.

Pietra Rivoli – Deputy Dean and Professor of Finance and International Business, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University; and Author, “The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade” (Wiley)

Top 6 Policies to Help the Middle Class that Won’t Cost Taxpayers a Penny

Source: David Madland and Karla Walter, Center for American Progress, April 24, 2013

…Rather than make excessive short-term budget cuts as we are currently doing, we can and should make needed investments in the middle class, such as expanding access to preschool and child care, as part of a package that reduces the deficit over the longer term, as CAP has proposed on many occasions. Furthermore, there are a number of things that policymakers can do that won’t require any additional expenditures.

To help remind politicians that they have lots of room to act, we have compiled a list of the top six policies that would help the middle class without costing taxpayers a penny. Together, these policies will boost the incomes of millions of hardworking Americans; put families on a path to a sustainable retirement; ensure that workers don’t have to choose between staying home while sick or losing their job; allow struggling homeowners to stay in their homes; and empower students with valuable information on college quality.

While these policies would not address all of the challenges faced by the middle class, they would make a meaningful difference in the lives of millions of working Americans….

1. Increase the minimum wage…
2. Make saving for retirement easier, cheaper, and more secure…
3. Lower monthly housing costs by providing homeowners with principal forgiveness…
4. Let all workers earn paid sick days…
5. Ensure that workers who want to form a union are able to do so…
6. Require colleges to provide consumer information via college scorecards…

Catch 22: The EEOC’s Controversial Guidance on the Use of Criminal History Information by Employers

Source: John D. Bible, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 64 no. 1, Spring 2013
(subscription required)

…This paper discusses the EEOC Guidance. Parts one and two discuss legal difficulties that an employer may face if it does or does not conduct a criminal history check. Part three focuses on the main features of the Guidance and objections that may have been leveled against it. …

The Crisis of US Trade Unionism and What Needs to be Done

Source: Victor G. Devinatz, Labor Law Journal, Vol. 64 no. 1, Spring 2013
(subscription required)

…This paper will proceed in the following manner. The first section will briefly discuss the explosive growth of industrial unionism during the New Deal era before, in the second section, examining and analyzing the trade union movement’s use of business unionism and political action during labor’s “Golden Ear” which covers the period from 1945-1975. The third section will detail the unraveling of business unionism circa 1977 to 1995 while the fourth section will discuss the Sweeney administration’s and the CTW’s implementation of a type of social movement unionism in response to the failure of business unionism. The penultimate section will outline an alternative mode of trade unionism which must be implemented to transcend the current form of social movement unionism in place if there is to be a chance at revitalizing the US trade union movement. The final section will conclude the paper…

The ‘Paycheck Protection’ Racket – Tilting the political playing field toward corporate power and away from working Americans

source: Gordon Lafer, Economic Policy Institute, April 24, 2013

From the press release:
Missouri’s two proposed “paycheck protection” bills would restrict political spending by organized workers while enabling unlimited corporate political spending, a new EPI Policy Center report finds. In The ‘paycheck protection’ racket: Tilting the political playing field toward corporate power and away from working Americans, EPI Research Associate Gordon Lafer explains that though proponents of Missouri’s Senate Bill 29 and House Bill 64 claim the bills would increase workers’ autonomy over how their wages are spent, in actuality, they would silence workers’ voices and continue the long-term effort to restrict the role of collective bargaining in politics…. Enacting SB29 and HB64 would further tilt the political playing field toward big corporations by imposing restrictions on workers’ political activity while leaving corporations free to engage in unlimited political spending. While the nation’s largest corporate lobbies—including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the National Federation of Independent Business—have been promoting such measures for at least the past 15 years in various states, these groups vigorously oppose proposals that would similarly restrict their abilities to donate to political campaigns. Further, these lobbies have actively opposed a real instance of what might be termed “paycheck protection”—a guarantee that employees are actually paid the wages they have legally earned. …

Expediting the Return to Work: Approaches in the Unemployment Compensation Program

Source: Julie M. Whittaker, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report for Congress, R43044, April 18, 2013

The most recent recession led to an unprecedented increase in the number of those unemployed for more than 26 weeks (the long-term unemployed). As a result, congressional interest in policy initiatives to expedite the return to work grew. This report examines a variety of initiatives and measures within the Unemployment Compensation (UC) program that might reduce long-term unemployment for beneficiaries. …

…After a brief description of the federal-state unemployment insurance system, this report examines trends in the duration of unemployment benefits and then reviews a wide range of approaches for speeding the return to work. The report emphasizes measures that have recently been considered by lawmakers or have been tried on an experimental basis, particularly if evaluations of their impacts on duration of UC benefit receipt are available.

Debate: Abolish The Minimum Wage

Source: Intelligence Squared U.S., April 3, 2013

From the summary:
The first attempt at establishing a national minimum wage, a part of 1933’s sweeping National Industrial Recovery Act, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1935. But in 1938, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law a minimum hourly wage of 25 cents—$4.07 in today’s dollars. Three-quarters of a century later, we are still debating the merits of this cornerstone of the New Deal. Do we need government to ensure a decent paycheck, or would low-wage workers and the economy be better off without its intervention.

For the Motion:
James A. Dorn – Cato Institute Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Editor, Cato Journal
Russell Roberts – Research Fellow, Hoover Institution

Against the Motion:
Jared Bernstein – Former Chief Economist to Vice President Joe Biden
Karen Kornbluh – Former US Ambassador, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development