Category Archives: Laws/Legislation

Returning Reserve Troops Are Still Being Denied Their Old Jobs, Witnesses tell House Labor Subcommittee

Source: U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Education and Labor, Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, Press release, February 12, 2008

An increasing number of military service members and U.S. contractors working abroad are being discriminated against on the job and are left with little ability to hold their employers accountable for it, witnesses told the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions today.
“If a worker is wronged while on the job, then that employee should have every opportunity to be made whole under the law,” said Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), chairman of the subcommittee. “Unfortunately, there are too many loopholes in the law today and we have the responsibility to not allow any instance of discrimination to go unchecked.”

Reserve troops returning home from active duty in places like Iraq and Afghanistan are finding it difficult to get their jobs back, government statistics show. According to a U.S. Defense Department report, more than 33,000 reserve service members from 2001 to 2005 have complained to the agency that their employers failed to give them their jobs back – as required by law – or received a reduction in pay and benefits.

Witness testimonies from hearing

Maloney Bill Targets Credit Card Abuses – Legislation Reining in Unfair Interest Rate Hikes and Unjust Fees a Strong Step Forward

Source: Consumers Union, Press release, February 7, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. — New legislation introduced today by House Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Subcommittee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) curbs some of the most abusive credit card lending practices, consumer groups said.

Among the key provisions of the “Credit Card Bill of Rights Act” are prohibitions on:
• Bait-and-switch interest rate and fee hikes for any or no reason at all during the life of the card;
• Assessing hidden and unfair interest rate charges by charging interest on balances already paid off;
• Unjustifiably maximizing interest charges by requiring consumers to pay off balances with lower interest rates before those with higher rates;
• Charging late fees when consumers mail their payments seven days in advance of the due date; and
• Applying certain unfair interest rate hikes retroactively to balances incurred under the old rate.

See also:
HR 5244 To amend the Truth in Lending Act
S. 1395: Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act of 2007

Compulsory Labor in a National Emergency: Public Service or Involuntary Servitude? The Case of Crippled Ports

Source: Michael H. LeRoy, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Volume 28, no. 2, 2007

The Thirteenth Amendment ban on involuntary servitude has new relevance as the United States grapples with national emergencies such as catastrophic hurricanes, flu pandemics, and terrorism. This article considers work refusal and coerced work performance in the context of life-threatening employment. Overwhelmed by fear, hundreds of police officers and health care workers abandoned their jobs during Hurricane Katrina. Postal clerks worked against their will without masks in facilities with anthrax. A report by Congress demonstrates concern that avian flu will cause sick and frightened medical personnel to stay away from work, thus jeopardizing a coherent response to a crisis. How far can the U.S. go in forcing reluctant civilians to perform essential jobs during a national emergency? The author explores solutions to his question by hypothesizing a large release of radiation–whether by terror attack, catastrophic accident, or major earthquake–in a vital Pacific port.

New Laws Take Effect in 31 States in 2008

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

A host of new laws on topics ranging from allowing civil unions in New Hampshire to prohibiting text messaging while driving in Washington state become effective Jan. 1, 2008. Washington and Oregon will prohibit typing messages while driving. In Minnesota, bus cushions must meet new depths. Three states will issue license plates to veterans or family members of military personnel killed in combat. Illinois will allow pets to be included in protection orders. If you sell American flags in Minnesota, they will have to be made in the United States. The minimum wage will rise in New Mexico, and homeowners in Illinois will have new protections to avert foreclosures. Airline passengers will have a bill of rights in New York state. And bad news if you are an old light bulb in Illinois or mercury in Minnesota, you will see new restrictions. Parents of a newborn in South Carolina will have to watch a video on the dangers of shaking a baby.

2006 State Legislation Related to Immigration: Enacted and Vetoed, October 31, 2006

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

In 2006, 570 pieces of legislation concerning immigrants have been introduced in state legislatures around the country. At least 90 bills and resolutions passes the legislatures in 2006. 84 bills were signed into law, more than double the amount of 2005. 6 bills were vetoed. While legislation covered a wide variety of topics, many states focused on education, employment, identification and driver’s licenses, law enforcement, legal services, public benefits, trafficking, and voting procedures.

NCSL 50-State Legislative Tracking Web Resources

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Updated August 2007: At the request of NCSL’s Legislative Research Librarians (LRL) staff section, NCSL has developed this resource of 50-state compilations covering various issues that concern state legislators and legislative staff. Here you will find a topical, alphabetical listing of legislative and statutory databases, compilations and state charts/maps.

Occupational Licensing: Ranking the States and Exploring Alternatives

Source: Adam B. Summers, Reason Foundation, Policy Study 361, August 2007

From press release:
Do you want to be a fortune teller in Maryland? Your future better include a license from the state. How about being a hair braider in Mississippi? You’ll need 300 to 1,500 hours of training and government permission. Want to sell flowers in Louisiana? Only licensed florists can do that. And almost every state requires certification if you want to move furniture and hang art while calling yourself an interior designer.

In California, there are a total of 177 different jobs that require a special license or credential, the most in the country, according to a new Reason Foundation study examining occupational licensing trends.

Northeastern states aren’t much better. Connecticut, Maine and New Hampshire all require job seekers to obtain a license before performing more than 130 jobs. In stark contrast, you can do most of those very same jobs – without a license – in Missouri, where just 41 careers require certification.

Press Release with Complete Rankings
Policy Summary
State-by-State Occupational Licensing List

DHS Announces It Has Finalized “Safe Harbor Procedures for Employers Who Receive a No-Match Letter” Rule

Source: National Immigration Law Center, August 10, 2007

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it has finalized its rule entitled “Safe Harbor Procedures for Employers Who Receive a No-Match Letter.”

The rule is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Monday, August 13, 2007, and will become effective thirty days after the publication. The rule sets forth the steps employers should take if they want to avail themselves of the “safe harbor procedures” upon receipt of a no-match letter from the Social Security Administration (SSA) or DHS.

See also:

Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Safe Harbor for Employers Who Receive
a No-Match Letter

Department of Homeland Security/ Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Final Rule
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) insert letter
Department of Homeland Security fact sheet about no-match letters

Crackdown: Immigration Pressures Are Rearranging Politics in More than One State Capitol

Source: Josh Goodman, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 10, July 2007

When the subject of illegal immigration comes up, the states you think about first are Texas and California. Maybe Arizona. But, as of July 1, it is Georgia, a full thousand miles from the Mexican border, that is at the center of the immigration debate in the United States.

That’s because SB 529, its new immigration law now taking effect, is the most stringent statute of its kind anywhere in the country. It is the sort of law that immigration hard-liners would like to see enacted on a national basis. Under its provisions, state and local government agencies have to verify the legal residency of benefit recipients. Many employers will have to do the same whenever they make a hiring decision. Law enforcement officers are given authority to crack down on human trafficking and fake documents. In sum, SB 529 touches every facet of state policy that relates to illegal immigrants.

The central question about the law is, obviously, whether it will work as intended and reduce the impact of undocumented newcomers on the state. But an equally important question is whether the political situation that led to SB 529 can be sustained and replicated in other places. The topic of illegal immigration has bedeviled virtually every state legislature and the U.S. Congress for years, without much substantive result. What made Georgia different was a populist uprising that all but forced the legislature to crack down on the undocumented community. If that sort of pressure gains momentum elsewhere, the near future may portend a series of state laws as strict as Georgia’s — even if Congress manages to pass an immigration bill of its own. Oklahoma and Colorado have both enacted laws with some provisions similar to SB 529 — the question is how many states will follow.

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.