Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

21 States & Localities Approved Minimum Wage Increases in 2016

Source: National Employment Law Project (NELP), Press Release, December 15, 2016

The Fight for $15 continued to accelerate in 2016 – just four years after it began – winning major minimum wage victories from coast to coast. The movement, led by fast-food and other low-wage workers, grew in scale and influence in 2016, with 21 states, cities and counties raising pay for 11.8 million workers. New campaigns seeking to raise pay for 8 million more workers in at least 13 states and cities are teed up for 2017 and 2018.

When combined with increases approved in recent years, on New Year’s Day 2017, workers in at least 40 states, cities and counties will receive raises – followed later in 2017 by raises for workers in another 19 states and cities. Below are highlights of 2016’s minimum wage wins and new campaigns moving forward in 2017 and 2018:

In 2016, a total of 21 states and localities approved minimum wage increases (see Table 1)…..
On or about New Year’s Day, 40 states and localities will increase their minimum wages (Table 3)…..
21 cities and counties will raise their wage floors on New Year’s Day…..
Later in 2017, 19 additional states and cities will increase their minimum wages (Table 4)….
At least 13 more states, cities and counties are launching or continuing campaigns for minimum wage increases of up to $15 over the next two years (Table 5)…..

Do Politicians Use Policy to Make Politics? The Case of Public-Sector Labor Laws

Source: Sarah F. Anzia and Terry M. Moe, American Political Science Review, Vol. 110 no. 4, November 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Schattschneider’s insight that “policies make politics” has played an influential role in the modern study of political institutions and public policy. Yet if policies do indeed make politics, rational politicians have opportunities to use policies to structure future politics to their own advantage—and this strategic dimension has gone almost entirely unexplored. Do politicians actually use policies to make politics? Under what conditions? In this paper, we develop a theoretical argument about what can be expected from strategic politicians, and we carry out an empirical analysis on a policy development that is particularly instructive: the adoption of public-sector collective bargaining laws by the states during the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s—laws that fueled the rise of public-sector unions, and “made politics” to the advantage of Democrats over Republicans.

Firefighters protect us. Who protects them?

Source: Mike Hendricks and Matt Campbell, Kansas City Star, 2016

….Tough luck sums it up well on both the regulatory and legal fronts, The Star found in an investigation of shortcomings in firefighter safety. In most occupations, there are rules to follow and legal consequences for flouting them.

Not necessarily with firefighters.

Because local fire departments are subject to no federal workplace safety rules and scant state regulation in much of the country, firefighters cannot count on government to help correct unsafe practices.

“OSHA cannot come in and do nothing for us, because we are not under OSHA,” Waycross, Ga., firefighter Bill Jordan said.

And because the survivors of fallen firefighters generally cannot file wrongful-death lawsuits against fire departments in Missouri, Kansas and most other states, the fear of shelling out big damage awards won’t spur departments to exercise more caution.

That lack of accountability, especially on the regulatory front, officials inside and outside government say, hampers efforts to prevent injuries and line-of-duty deaths…..
Fatal Echoes

About this series:
The Star set out to examine how and why U.S. firefighters die on the job after Kansas City firefighters John Mesh and Larry Leggio were killed in October 2015.

Reporters Mike Hendricks and Matt Campbell interviewed scores of experts on fire behavior and firefighter safety. Hendricks and photographer/videographer Joe Ledford visited Texas, Georgia, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C., to speak with firefighters and survivors, visit the National Fire Fighters Memorial and observe a federal rule-writing committee in action.

The reporters analyzed hundreds of federal and state fatality investigative reports, five years’ worth of federal workplace safety inspection records and reams of meeting transcripts of an advisory board that recently proposed the first new federal safety regulations governing the fire service in decades.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Proposed Legislation in the 114th Congress

Source: Sarah A. Donovan, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R44693, November 21, 2016

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA; P.L. 103-3, as amended) entitles eligible employees to unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical needs, with continuation of group health plan benefits. The 114th Congress is considering several bills to amend the FMLA. These proposals seek to create new entitlements (i.e., provide additional leave time); expand categories of permissible leave by creating new FMLA-qualifying uses of leave and by expanding the circumstances under which existing leave categories may be used; and modify employee eligibility requirements, generally and for specific worker groups…..

Transforming Labor: A Comprehensive, Nationwide Comparison and Grading of Public Sector Labor Laws

Source: Priya Abraham, Commonwealth Foundation, Policy Report, November 13, 2016

From the summary:
In the last five years, Americans have seen an unprecedented sweep of public sector labor reforms across several states. Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana—and most recently, West Virginia in July 2016—have all become right-to-work states. Other states have limited the scope of collective bargaining, increased the transparency of union contract negotiations, and created stronger protections for individual workers who do not want to be union members. For the first time since states enacted public sector collective bargaining laws in the mid-to-late twentieth century, right-to-work states outnumber forced-union states 26 to 24.

The Economic Effects of Canceling Scheduled Changes to Overtime Regulations

Source: Congressional Budget Office, 51925, November 2016

From the summary:
CBO analyzes how canceling scheduled changes to overtime regulations before they take effect would affect employers, employees, and family income. The potential economic impact of the scheduled changes has raised concerns among some policymakers.

CBO finds that canceling the changes would reduce employers’ payroll and compliance costs and increase profits. The cancellation would also lower employees’ pay but increase real family income.

The new overtime rule will benefit millions of workers across the country

Source: Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, November 17, 2016

The Department of Labor’s new overtime rule, which takes effect on December 1, significantly increases the number of people who qualify for time-and-a-half pay for any hours they work beyond 40 in a week. Under the old, outdated rule, workers paid a poverty level salary of $23,660 per year could be considered exempt executives or professionals and be denied overtime pay. Under the new rule, salaried employees making less than $47,476 a year must be paid overtime.

In total, 12.5 million people (or 23.3 percent of salaried workers) will benefit — most of them because their right to overtime pay has been clarified and strengthened. But millions will for the first time receive time-and-a-half pay for any hours worked over 40 in a week, have their hours scaled back to 40 hours a week while still taking home the same pay, or get a raise to put them above the threshold….

The Limits of Comprehensive Peace: The Example of the FLSA

Source: Lonny Hoffman, Christian J. Ward, Yetter Coleman, University of Houston Law Center No. 2016-A-19, August 6, 2016

From the abstract:
Normally, cases can be settled on broad terms that release all related claims. Although there are added protections that must be satisfied when a settlement is proposed in the class action context (which are provided by insisting on judicial approval of the proposed deal), even then the class representatives and defendant can usually agree to compromise the class’s ability to later bring all transactionally-related claims. But how should the law deal with cases that involve multiple claims with different claim-vindication procedures? In this paper we consider the FLSA, which is one of the most important examples of such a law. For decades, courts have consistently held that workers aggrieved by an employer’s statutory violations may not use modern opt-out class action procedures to vindicate their rights. A frequently litigated, but unsettled question is whether a class action brought alleging state law wage and hour claims can be settled on terms that require absent class members to release both state and federal claims, even though the federal claims could not have been asserted through the class suit. We argue that this form of settlement is not permitted by the statutory text and that our construction is consistent with the legislative history.

The New Labor Law

Source: Kate Andrias, Yale Law Journal, Vol. 126, No. 2, 2016

From the abstract:
Labor law is failing. Disfigured by courts, attacked by employers, and rendered inapt by a global and fissured economy, many of labor law’s most ardent proponents have abandoned it altogether. And for good reason: the law that governs collective organization and bargaining among workers has little to offer those it purports to protect. Several scholars have suggested ways to breathe new life into the old regime, yet their proposals don’t solve the basic problem. Labor law developed for the New Deal does not provide solutions to today’s inequities. But all hope is not lost. From the remnants of the old regime, the potential for a new labor law is emerging.

In this Article, I describe and defend the nascent regime, which embraces a form of social bargaining long thought unattainable in the United States. The new labor law rejects the old regime’s commitment to the employer-employee dyad and to a system of private ordering. Instead, it locates decisions about basic standards of employment at the sectoral level and positions unions as political actors empowered to advance the interests of workers generally. This new labor law, though nascent and uncertain, has the potential to salvage and secure one of labor law’s most fundamental commitments — to help achieve greater equality, both economic and political — in the context of the twenty-first century economy.