Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

Republicans Are Set to Destroy Iowa’s Labor Unions

Source: Emmett Rensin and Lucy Schiller, New Republic, February 7, 2017

With the GOP now in full control of the state, 40 years of carefully negotiated agreements are about to be erased. ….

….In 1974, a few years after a public teachers’ strike in which schoolteachers spent 19 hours in jail cells, then–Republican Governor Robert Ray signed the Iowa Public Employment Relations Act into the Iowa Code. The legislation was hyped as a thoughtful balance between employers’ and public unions’ interests. Chapter 20, as the deal came to be called, presented Iowa’s public workers with a trade-off: They lost the right to strike, but won the legal recognition of their unions and their right to collective bargaining. The law outlined mandatory bargaining issues, topics on which employers were required to negotiate, including wages, insurance, overtime, vacation, health and safety. While not entirely satisfying to either party, Chapter 20 has essentially worked: No public sector workers have struck since 1974, and each year, 98 percent of public contracts move forward without binding arbitration.

But now, with the GOP fully in control of the state, a cadre of Republicans have moved to gut Chapter 20, beginning with a bill introduced Tuesday morning that moves both health insurance and supplemental pay from the mandatory to prohibited column. If passed, the bill would bar Iowa public unions from raising these topics in negotiation, thereby allowing public employers to unilaterally impose whatever terms they like. ….
Related:
Iowa Republicans propose sweeping changes to collective bargaining laws, public unions
Source: Brianne Pfannenstiel and William Petroski, Des Moines Register, February 7, 2017

Republican lawmakers on Tuesday proposed sweeping changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining laws that govern the way 184,000 of the state’s teachers, corrections officers and other public sector union workers negotiate for wages, health care and other employment benefits.

Representatives from labor unions across the state filled the Capitol to protest the changes, chanting and holding signs while urging their elected officials to back down from a piece of legislation that faces all but inevitable passage. ….

….. Since gaining control of the House, Senate and governor’s office for the first time in nearly 20 years, Iowa Republicans have called collective bargaining reform one of their top priorities. Both the House and Senate plan to hold subcommittees on the legislation Wednesday, setting it on a course to receive final approval from the governor as early as next week. Gov. Terry Branstad even called an unscheduled afternoon press conference with Lt. Gov Kim Reynolds and Republican legislative leaders to express his support for the bill. ….

…. The bills — House Study Bill 84 and Senate File 213 — also would require unions to go through a certification process ahead of each new contract negotiation. That would require a majority of their members to agree to be represented by union negotiators …..

Emergency Medical Services in California: Wages, Working Conditions, and Industry Profile

Source: Ken Jacobs, Nereida Heller, Saba Waheed and Sam Appel, UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education – UCLA Labor Center, February 2017

From the press release:
More than 16,000 emergency medical service workers are employed in California, with the vast majority working for private providers. Wages in the industry are low, employees work long hours often without rest and meal breaks, and injury rates are high, according to a joint study by UC Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and the UCLA Labor Center. The study looks at working conditions addressed in the Emergency Medical Services Workers’ (EMS) Bill of Rights, or Assembly Bill 263, proposed today by Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona/Chino).

Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics provide critical pre-hospital emergency care often in life or death situations. Unfortunately, the stress of the job and long work shifts can take a toll on their health. Previous research has found that EMS workers suffer disproportionately from post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicidal ideation. ….
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Summary

Five Steps to Maintain Unity and Membership under Right to Work

Source: Leah Fried, Labor Notes, February 1, 2017

Number one on the new administration’s anti-union to-do list is “right to work”—or as many prefer to call it, “no rights at work” or “right to work for less.” But whatever you call it, more of us will be faced with new laws that codify freeloading, making it optional to pay for union representation.

Today Republicans in Congress are expected to introduce a bill to enact nationwide right to work in the private sector. And it’s nearly certain that a conservative-majority Supreme Court will make the entire public sector right to work within 18 months to two years.

How can unions operate under these hostile conditions? There are already 27 right-to-work states where we can look for lessons. Unions there take a big hit—but some manage to survive and even thrive, despite the extra challenges.

At the Electrical Workers (UE), where I organized for 19 years, we developed trainings to help members in right-to-work states maintain their unity and membership. Here’s what it takes:

1. FIGHT THE BOSS. ….
2. ASK PEOPLE TO JOIN. ….
3. MAKE MEMBERSHIP THE UNION’S BUSINESS, NOT THE BOSS’S. ….
4. TRACK UNION MEMBERSHIP. ….
5. INVOLVE MEMBERS IN BIGGER MOVEMENTS. ….

The Supreme Court Vacancy and Labor: Neil Gorsuch

Source: Hannah Belitz, OnLabor blog, January 31, 2017

This post is part of an ongoing series on the labor decisions and positions of some of the likely potential picks to replace Justice Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Neil Gorsuch currently serves as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. He was appointed by President George W. Bush on May 10, 2006 and confirmed just over two months later. As SCOTUSblog and numerous other outlets have pointed out, Judge Gorsuch may be “the most natural successor” to Justice Scalia, “both in terms of his judicial style and his substantive approach.”

Last August, Judge Gorsuch “made real waves in the normally sleepy world of administrative law” by advocating the end of the doctrine of Chevron deference. See Gutierrez-Brizuela v. Lynch, 834 F.3d 1142, 1158 (10th Cir. 2016) (Gorsuch, J., concurring). Writing a separate concurrence to his own opinion, Judge Gorsuch opined, “We managed to live with the administrative state before Chevron. We could do it again. Put simply, it seems to me that in a world without Chevron very little would change – except perhaps the most important things.” Id.

The following provides an overview of Judge Gorsuch’s opinions in cases involving the NLRB and employment discrimination. ….

Right-to-work laws

Source: Ballotpedia, 2017

Right-to-work laws are pieces of legislation that guarantee that no employee can be forced to join, or not join, a union, or be forced to pay dues to a labor union as a condition of employment. Right-to-work laws also prohibit labor unions and employers from entering into contracts that only employ unionized workers for the jobs under the contract. ….

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Paid Family Leave and Sick Days in the U.S.: Findings from the 2016 Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits Survey

Source: Nisha Kurani, Usha Ranji, Alina Salganicoff, and Matthew Rae, Kaiser family Foundation, Data Note, December 2016

From the introduction:
Workplace benefits are an important part of balancing work, family, and medical needs. So called “fringe benefits” such as paid family leave and sick days can help employees meet their personal and family health care needs, while also fulfilling work responsibilities. Yet there is no federal requirement for paid leave or sick days, which leaves many individuals, particularly low-income workers, to face tradeoffs such as taking time off while forgoing wages, going to work while sick, or paying for caretakers for their children and family members.

The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) passed under the Clinton administration requires eligible employers to provide unpaid family leave. However, unlike most other developed nations, the U.S. does not have national standards on paid family or sick leave.1 In recent years, there have been a number of local and state initiatives to expand access to paid family leave and sick days in the U.S. Employees not covered by these local laws must rely on voluntary employer policies, which can vary considerably. This is particularly salient for women, who are often the primary caretakers for children and also comprise nearly half of the nation’s workers.2 Approximately seven in ten women with children under age 18 were in the labor market in 2015.3 The issue of paid leave received some attention during the 2016 election, but the incoming administration has not yet signaled any plans.

This data note summarizes state and local policies on paid family leave and sick days and presents new data from the 2016 Kaiser/HRET Employer Health Benefits Survey on the share of firms that offer paid parental leave and paid sick days benefits.