Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Law in the Labor Movement’s Challenge to Wal-Mart: A Case Study of the Inglewood Site Fight

Source: Scott L. Cummings, UCLA School of Law, UCLA Public Law Series, Paper 7-01, July 3, 2007

This Article studies the role of law in the successful community-labor challenge to Wal-Mart’s first proposed Los Angeles-area Supercenter in the working-class city of Inglewood. It focuses on the use of legal and legislative challenges to mobilize opposition to Wal-Mart’s Inglewood initiative—a technique known as the “site fight” because of its focus on blocking Wal-Mart at a specific location. The aims of this Article are twofold. First, it seeks to understand the site fight in relation to broader shifts within the labor movement, which have driven some unions to promote pro-labor legal reform at the municipal government level. Part I therefore explores how labor leaders have responded to the limits of traditional unionism by pursuing an alternative model of labor activism that uses political opportunities available in the local development process to advocate policy reforms designed to increase union density.

Part II provides a detailed case study of the defining campaign of the anti-Wal-Mart movement—the Inglewood site fight—in which labor leaders allied with land use and environmental lawyers to oppose Supercenter plans on the ground that the negative community impacts outweighed consumer benefits.

Part III draws four central lessons from the Inglewood campaign.

Mind If I Peek At Your Paycheck?

Source: Brian Hindo, Business Week, no. 4039, June 18, 2007

It still isn’t easy to find out how you stack up against your colleagues.

You probably know what the guy who sits next to you at work has for lunch every day, how often he calls his wife, how much money he bet on the Astros last weekend, maybe even how much his house is worth. But how much he makes for a living? That’s off limits. After all, there is possibly no matter more shrouded in secrecy, nor a riper topic for office gossip, than what everyone gets paid.

Direct Democracy’s Disaster

Source: John Straayer, State Legislatures, Vol. 33 no. 3, March 2007
(subscription required)

Through the initiative process, Colorado recently passed a law with loads of unintended consequences.

Colorado’s Amendment 41 carried the short title, “Standards of Conduct in Government,” and passed with 62.6 percent of the vote. A constitutional amendment, 41 was intended to restrict gift-giving by interest groups and lobbyists to elected public officials and others in positions of public trust. It was also designed to prevent legislators from immediately becoming lobbyists after their terms of office.

But its consequences to date include issuance of official opinions to the effect that scholarships for children of public employees and performance awards for employees are probably illegal; the resignation of more than a half-dozen legislators; questions as to whether the newly elected governor may legally recruit legislators for positions in his cabinet; and the curtailment of Capitol breakfasts, which had been enjoyed by legislators, staffers and student interns for decades.

Legal Protections for Atypical Employees: Employment Law for Workers without Workplaces and Employees without Employers

Source: Katherine V.W. Stone, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, 2006, Volume 27, no. 2

… Professor Stone examines the legal consequences of the changing nature of employment relationships for the growing number of American workers who do not have traditional employment relationships or workplaces: temporary workers, independent contractors, and homeworkers. … That is, to be covered, a temporary worker has to prove she is an employee and not an independent contractor. … The proposition that the temporary agency rather than the user firm is the statutory employer of a temporary worker is based on a legal fiction. … When a temporary employee suffers discrimination on a job assignment, that employee can, in theory, sue both the user firm and the temporary agency. … Workplace discrimination will most likely come from the employer where a person works, not the temporary agency. … Hence a temporary worker has protection against employment discrimination but must complain to the temporary agency as well as the user firm if it wants to get the benefit of suing both entities. … However, when an employee works for a temporary or leasing agency and is placed with a user firm, questions arise as to which employer’s workers’ compensation insurer has responsibility for a workplace injury. … Some have held that both the user firm and the temporary agency are the “employer” for purposes of the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation. … If the homeworker is actively engaged in work when the injury occurs, then it is more likely workers’ compensation will apply. …

Labor’s Critical Role in Workplace Health and Safety in California and Beyond—As Labor Shifts Priorities, Where Will Health and Safety Sit?

Source: Marianne P. Brown, NEW SOLUTIONS: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy, Volume 16 no. 3, 2006

Organized labor has been largely responsible for the health and safety protections many U.S. workers take for granted. This article provides a brief history of labor’s influence on California’s health and safety policies—sometimes with ripple effects beyond its borders. Six cases where various successful strategies were used are examined. These gains were achieved with strong support from international health and safety staff, and, on some issues, support from the state labor federation. But in most cases local union staff involvement was key. Now that labor mobilizes to build its shrinking membership—with only 1 out of 12 workers in the private sector organized—resources are being re-directed toward organizing. Understandably, health and safety advocates have expressed concern that worker protections may suffer. Time will tell, but there is evidence that health and safety demands are front and center in a number of current and upcoming organizing campaigns. Now more than ever, it is in health and safety professionals’ interest to tie their research and clinical work into these emerging campaigns.