Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

Guest Post: Do Arguments Against Fair Share Fees Make it Harder for the Government to Privatize Services?

Source: Andrew Strom, OnLabor blog, April 14, 2015

….So far, those who advocate for overturning Abood haven’t spent much time addressing whether employment should be treated differently from other benefits or opportunities provided by the government. But, if the Court accepts the argument that the government may never condition the granting of a benefit on providing financial support to an entity that engages in expressive activity that an individual finds objectionable, then a decision overturning Abood could have unexpected and wide-ranging implications. For instance, consider the question of access to national parks. If you want to visit Alcatraz Island, you must pay $30.00 to Alcatraz Cruises, a private ferry service. It’s not clear where the money goes, but according to a sustainability report issued by the company in 2012, some of that money went to the purchase of renewable energy credits and other money went toward the production of on-site renewable energy. Surely not everyone who visits Alcatraz supports these initiatives. If people can’t be required to pay fair share fees to a union in order to have access to public employment, then it is not clear how they could be required to pay fees to Alcatraz Cruises in order to visit a national park.

The same argument applies whenever the government requires individuals to pay money to a private vendor in order to take advantage of government services. Consider the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, known as Part D. According to a 2011 Congressional Budget Office report, beneficiaries receive a federal subsidy of about three quarters of the costs of the basic benefit, but in order to access these benefits, they must pay private insurance companies the remaining twenty-five percent of the premium. These insurance companies obviously engage in a great deal of free speech activity on important and potentially controversial issues. If an individual objects to the speech engaged in by the insurance company providing their Part D benefit, does that raise a serious First Amendment issue?….

The Growing Movement for $15

Source: Irene Tung, Yannet Lathrop, and Paul Sonn, National Employment Law Project (NELP), April 2015

From the summary:
…As the movement for $15 continues to gain momentum, the potential benefits for the U.S. workforce and economy are significant. This report provides comprehensive wage and demographic figures on the substantial swath of the U.S. workforce that today earns less than $15 per hour, profiles notable recent victories in the $15 movement, and offers action recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers and private-sector leaders.

In Part 1 of this report, we look at the portion of the U.S. workforce that currently earns less than $15 per hour in the United States. …
In Part 2, we take a closer look at the largest front-line occupations in six industries—restaurants/bars, retail, child care, auto manufacturing, home care, and hotels…..
In Part 3, we review recent economic research on wage floors, profile the experiences of localities and employers that are transitioning to $15 wages, and give an overview of recent and current $15 wage policy campaigns. ….
Finally, in Part 4, we offer concrete recommendations for action by federal, state, and local policymakers, and private-sector leaders seeking to continue shifting our economy back toward better-paying jobs. …..

A Crowded Agenda: Labor Reform and Coalition Politics during the Great Society

Source: Travis M. Johnston, Studies in American Political Development, Volume 29 Issue 1, April 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
For much of the post-WWII era, conservative forces blocked progressive labor policy from reaching a floor vote. With huge Democratic majorities in Congress, the 1960s represented a rare opportunity for unions to substantively alter industrial relations policy. The decade served as an important moment of policy development for numerous groups in the coalition. Organized labor, however, made few gains during this prolific era. Despite labor’s central position within the governing coalition, Democrats repeatedly failed to pass their most important legislative ambition, the repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act’s right-to-work clause. In 1965, Democrats nearly achieved this goal when such a bill passed the House, only to be blocked by a filibuster in the Senate. By analyzing the Democrats’ legislative priorities during the Great Society, I show how coalitional politics structured the party’s policy agenda and how this ordering affected legislation in turn. With the infusion of new coalitional demands, party elites strategically placed labor’s controversial issue at the end of a long legislative agenda, effectively eliminating any chance for passage. Rather than locating all blame with the usual suspects, this rarely studied episode suggests that President Johnson and his leaders in Congress played a central role in the bill’s failure. The study provides new insight into the process, and consequences, by which party leaders decide whose issues to prioritize when setting the agenda.

The Impact of Local “Right-to-Work” Zones: Predicting Outcomes for Workers, the Economy, and Tax Revenues in Illinois

Source: Frank Manzo IV, Robert Bruno, Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois, Research Report, April 6, 2015

On April 6, 2015, the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois jointly released The Impact of Local “Right-to-Work” Zones: Predicting Outcomes for Workers, the Economy, and Tax Revenues in Illinois. The report investigates the economic and policy impacts of adopting local “right-to-work” laws in Illinois. The study evaluates the 102 counties in Illinois and finds that higher union membership rates have no discernible impact on employment growth, establishment openings growth, or average household income growth. The analysis also concludes that, if half of Illinois’ counties adopted “right-to-work” ordinances, total labor income would fall by $1.3 billion, the state economy would shrink by $1.5 billion, state and local tax revenues would be reduced by $80 million, and racial and gender income inequality would both increase. Local right-to-work zones would eradicate good middle-class jobs, replacing them with low-wage employment openings and empowering wealthy owners at the expense of employees, the middle class, and taxpayers.

Why the Minimum Wage Orthodoxy Reigns Supreme

Source: Oren M. Levin-Waldman, Challenge: The Magazine of Economic Affairs, Volume 58, Issue 1, January/February 2015
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
There has been a growing chorus in favor of a much higher minimum wage. But the ongoing pressure from orthodox economists keeps a lid on just how high the rate can go. Even when new empirical data show that a higher minimum wage does not cost jobs, the orthodoxy remains convinced it will. Why is this? Few examinations are as thorough as the author presents here. It is a tour de force of analysis about why orthodox views that a hike in the minimum wage will be costly to the economy overall remain.

NLRB Overturns Right to Restrict Employee E-mail Use to Business Purposes

Source: Maureen Minehan, Employment Alert, Vol. 32 no. 4, February 20, 2015
(subscription required)

A small group of employees is disgruntled. You learn they are broadcasting their complaints to coworkers through their work-issued e-mail addresses. You have an electronics policy that limits the use of company computers and systems to business purposes only. Can you discipline the employees for airing their personal grievances over the e-mail system you have provided?

After a ruling on December 11th by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the answer is most likely no. In Purple Communication, Inc., the board overturned an eight-year-old precedent that gave employers the right to limit e-mail use even when employees were discussing terms and conditions of employment. ….

Scott Walker, ‘Right to Work’ and Labor’s Waning Power

Source: New York Times, Room for Debate, March 12, 2015

This week Wisconsin became the 25th state to adopt a “right-to-work” law, preventing unions from forcing workers at the companies they represent to pay dues. Supporters say these measures promote growth and increase jobs. Opponents say they gut unions and lower wages. Are “right to work” laws worthwhile?…
DEBATERS:
Income Rises When These Laws Are Passed
RICHARD VEDDER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR
Capital moves to right-to-work states with a more stable labor environment, and that increases labor demand and, ultimately, income and wages.

Wages Are Lower in States With These Laws

ELISE GOULD, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE
Unions bargain for better wages and benefits, and workers in “right-to-work” states have lower wages and fewer benefits.

Call It “Right-to-Work-for-Less”
GEORGE GRESHAM, 1199SEIU UNITED HEALTHCARE WORKERS EAST
Its aim is to deprive unions of dues money essential to their ability to represent workers and enforce contracts.

Both Sides Exagerrate Its Effects
BARRY HIRSCH, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR
It can strengthen unions by forcing them to be responsive to workers. And they might not encourage growth as much as supporters say.

Adding Inequality to Injury: The Costs Of Failing To Protect Workers On The Job

Source: U.S.Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, 2015

The financial and social impacts of workplace injuries are huge, with workers and their families and taxpayer-supported programs paying most of the costs. …. In summary, despite a more-than-40-year-old legal obligation to provide safe workplaces, the unwillingness of many employers to prevent millions of work injuries and illnesses each year, and the failure of the broken workers’ compensation system to ensure that workers do not bear the costs of their injuries and illnesses, are truly adding inequality to injury. ….

The Potential Effects Of A Right To Work Law In Wisconsin

Source: Abdur Chowdhury, Marquette University, January 2015

There is an ongoing effort to make Wisconsin a ‘right to work’ (RTW) state. Proponents of RTW laws suggest that it will make Wisconsin more attractive to business investment. However, most evidence shows that RTW legislation, by itself, is not much of a factor in where firms locate. In annual surveys of small manufacturers conducted by Area Development magazine, RTW never ranked in the top 10 factors influencing location decisions. Another argument for RTW is the claim that it creates more jobs. But numerous studies have shown that it is not RTW laws that matter, but rather the `pro-business package’ offered by right-to-work states seems to matter. A national assessment of the effect of RTW laws on important labor market outcomes, such as, unionization, wages, employment, inequality and job-related injuries reveal some important findings. First, unionization rates in RTW states are less than half of what they are in Collective Bargaining (CB) states. Second, aggregate employment in RTW states has increased modestly while employment in CB states has declined. Third, wages are lower in RTW states than in CB states. Fourth, RTW increases gender and racial wage inequality and also makes for less safe workplace. The potential net loss in direct income to Wisconsin worker s and their families due to a RTW legislation is between $3.89 and $4.82 billion annually. Using a conservative estimate of an impact multiplier of 1.5, the total direct and induced loss of a RTW legislation is estimated between $5.84 and $ 7.23 billion annually. Based upon the two estimates of lost incomes and an overall effective tax rate of 4 .0%, the economic loss in state income taxes is estimated between $234 and $289 million per year. While considerable efforts are being made by certain legislators to pass the RTW law in Wisconsin, the empirical evidence on the effect of adopting such a law does not support prescribing it as an economic policy tool. Overall, this study shows that RTW legislation would provide no discernible economic advantage to Wisconsin, but would impose significant social and economic costs. Low wages would weaken consumption. Higher rates of labor turnover and adversarial labor-management relations would decrease productivity. It would also burden the state with higher ‘mop-up’ costs. Right to work is a shortsighted and superficial selling point. The citizens and potential investors in Wisconsin are all better served by economic development policies that lead to decent wages and working conditions.

Related:
The Growing Number Of Right To Work States And The Future Of Unions
Source: Diane Rehm Show, March 2, 2015
(audio)

Over the weekend, a few thousand union members gathered outside the statehouse in Wisconsin. They were there to voice their opposition to so called right-to-work legislation. If signed into law, which is expected, Wisconsin would become the 25th state with right-to-work laws on the books. These laws ban workers from having to pay union dues. Organized labor leaders say it’s another blow to their diminishing numbers. Supporters say the laws attract business and are good for economic development. Guest host Tom Gjelten and our guests discuss right-to-work laws and the future of unions.

Guests:
Melanie Trottman reporter, The Wall Street Journal
Philip Dine journalist and author of “State of the Unions”
Ross Eisenbrey vice president, Economic Policy Institute
Matt Patterson executive director, Center for Worker Freedom

An Explainer: What’s Happening In Wisconsin?
Source: Rachel Homer, OnLabor blog, March 2, 2015

Right-To-Work Laws: Designed To Hurt Unions and Lower Wages
Source: Ross Eisenbrey, Economic Policy Institute, Working Economics blog, March 2, 2015