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Archive for March, 2016

Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Worker Attack in Friedrichs Ruling

Thursday, March 31st, 2016
Kenneth Quinnell

The Supreme Court today rejected an attempt by wealthy special interests to restrict the voices of America’s teachers, firefighters, police officers, nurses and others who provide vital services for our communities. The court issued a 4-4 decision in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, upholding a lower court ruling in favor of working people and their right to join together to build a better future for their families.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said the ruling will continue to motivate working people:

AFSCME members are more resolved than ever to band together and stand up to future attempts to silence the voices of working families. As public service workers learn more about the Friedrichs case, they are shocked to hear about such a political attack through the Supreme Court, and more motivated than ever to step up, get involved and organize. It’s never been clearer that our most basic rights are at stake.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, added that the fight is far from over:

Millions of working people who understand the importance of their unions in bettering their lives and the well-being of their communities are breathing a sigh of relief today. Even so, we know this fight is far from over. Just as our opponents won’t stop coming after us, we will continue full speed ahead in our effort to mobilize our members and their neighbors around a shared vision to reclaim the promise of America. While we wait for Senate Republicans to do their job and appoint a new justice to the [Supreme] Court, we’re working hard for the future we want to see—one with vibrant public education from pre-K through college; affordable, accessible health care; public services that support strong neighborhoods; and the right to organize and bargain for a fair wage and a voice on the job.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

Today, working people have persevered in the face of another attack on our rights. All over the country working people are showing that we won’t allow wealthy special interests or their politicians to stand in our way to join collectively and make workplaces better all across America. In the face of these attacks we are more committed than ever to ensuring that everyone has the right to speak up together for a better life.

The well-funded attack in the Friedrichs case is part of a larger anti-worker agenda pushed by corporate special interests that has also sought to restrict voting rights, limit workers’ ability to have a voice, and suppress women and immigrants. This agenda has polluted America’s electoral system and civil political discourse, and has made it increasingly apparent to working families that the stakes of the 2016 election couldn’t be higher.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on March 29, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.

A Scalia-less, deadlocked Supreme Court spares unions. For now.

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

When Justice Antonin Scalia died, virtually every labor activist in the country thought one thing: “Friedrichs?” Now, the Supreme Court has announced its decision on the case in question—and all those labor activists are breathing a sigh of relief.

In January, the Supreme Court heard Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case brought by anti-union groups to explicitly weaken public sector unions by allowing non-members to refuse to pay a fee for the representation they receive from the union. Longstanding precedent said that these workers did not have to pay for union political activity but did have to pay a fee for collective bargaining and other representation … but opponents of unions calculated that the time had come when the court would overturn that. Scalia himself was seen as a critical swing vote on this issue. He had stood by the precedent requiring fair share fees in the past, but in 2014, he had voted to chip away at the workers covered by that in Harris v. QuinnThe stakes were high:

One brief in the case indicates that in states where teachers are covered by collective bargaining but aren’t forced to pay agency fees, about 34 percent are “free riders.” Moreover, states that have the compulsory fees for workers have much higher union membership in the public sector—an average of nearly 50 percent—compared with states where such fees are banned (17 percent).

Again, we’re talking about workers paying for things unions do that directly benefit them: Bargaining contracts with better pay and working conditions, and representing them in grievances. And where workers don’t have to pay a fee, they still get the same level of representation as their coworkers who are union members. Antonin Scalia seemed prepared to join in Justice Samuel Alito’s anti-worker crusade and dramatically weaken unions by forcing them to represent non-members for free. And then he died, and the decision we get is:

The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided Court.

That means the precedent stands and unions aren’t gutted. At least as long as Scalia isn’t replaced by another hardcore conservative, anti-union vote on the court. That’s our fight now.

Please donate $3 today to help turn the Senate blue. The future of the Supreme Court depends on it.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on March 29, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

Another Explanation Why Moving Jobs Out Of The Country Is ‘Good’ For Us

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016

Dave JohnsonOn Monday, yet another “elite” pundit tells us that moving our jobs and factories and manufacturing ecosystem out of the country is good for us. This time it is Neil Irwin writing at the New York Times’ Upshot, “The Trade Deficit Isn’t a Scorecard, and Cutting It Won’t Make America Great Again.”

The U.S. has had trade deficits every year since the late 1970s, when Wall Street started advertising that “free trade” – moving jobs and factories out of the country — is good for us. Last year we had a goods and services trade deficit of $531 billion, $365 billion of that with China. But services ran a surplus, and if you only measure things we make, the goods deficit was $758.9 billion. On top of that the manufacturingtrade deficit was $831.4 billion, a 13.2 percent increase from 2014.

Imagine our economy if our manufacturers received $831.4 billion in new orders for things they make here. Imagine all the new factories opening, the hiring, the job-training centers, the suppliers booming, the stores near the factories booming, theirsuppliers booming, the taxes paid, and so on. Imagine the raises as employers competed for the workers they would need.

Again, we have had trade deficits every single yearsince the late 1970s, when “free trade” ideology was successfully sold to us. We move jobs and factories and manufacturing ecosystems (the expertise, suppliers, tools) out of the country to places where workers and the environment are exploited – because we were talked into letting that happen so that a few people could pocket the differential.

How were we bamboozled into letting that happen? The Irwin column is one more example.

Trade Deficits Are Good For Us?

Irwin writes:

…eliminating the trade deficit would not, on its own, make America great again, as Mr. Trump promises. And in isolation, the fact that the United States has a trade deficit does not prove that trade agreements are bad for Americans, a staple of Bernie Sanders’s campaign in the Democratic presidential primary. In fact, trying to eliminate the trade deficit could mean giving up some of the key levers of power that allow the United States to get its way in international politics.

Getting rid of the trade deficit could very well make America less great.

The trade-off: Getting rid of the trade deficit might make Wall Street less great because “we” can’t get “our” way telling other countries what to do … But it would mean American employers would have to compete for workers, bidding wages and benefits up.

Irwin continues, explaining even harder how moving jobs out of the country is good for us. Using the example of a trade deficit. Irwin says when there is a trade deficit we get more “stuff” and all the other country gets is our money. Again, last year we bought $831.4 billion more manufactured goods than we sold. Irwin explains this is a free lunch, we got stuff, and the only thing those other countries got was the money to hire millions of people and to maintain and modernize their manufacturing ecosystems, their country’s infrastructure and education.

Irwin explains this is also good for us because China then comes here and buys U.S. companies. “So does a trade deficit mean fewer jobs? It depends on which force is more economically powerful: fewer jobs creating exports or investment dollars flowing into the country.”

Note: In the above, “investment dollars flowing into the country” means buying our companies, land, production capacity, our ability to make a living, out from under us.

Reserve Currency

Irwin further explains the advantage of our trade deficits as being the necessary result of the U.S. dollar’s position as the global reserve currency, and therefore the underpinning of global finance. This is a key part of the equation to get:

There’s no doubt that maintaining the global reserve currency creates costs for the United States, namely a less competitive export industry.

But it also creates a lot of advantages. Lower interest rates and higher stock prices are among them (though they have the downside of also feeding debt-driven booms and busts). Even more important is what the dollar’s prominence in global finance does for America’s place in the world.

Summary: the tradeoff is lower wages for American workers but higher stock prices and low interest rates for America’s investor class. Less for the 99 percent and more for the 1 percent. Less for Main Street, more for Wall Street.

This chart, “Manufacturing vs. Finance as % of U.S. GDP” is from “Why Should We Save American Manufacturing?” by Michele Nash-Hoff. It shows how that trade-off has affected our economy.

Manufacturers and therefore workers used to have more power in our economy. Then Wall Street ascended, and here we are.

Advantages

There are, in fact, real advantages to the U.S. from our reserve currency status. Irwin explains,

It helps ensure that the United States can afford to finance wars, and it gives the government greater ability to fight recessions and panics. A country experiencing a banking panic will see money sent out of the country, causing its currency to fall and its interest rates to rise. All that limits a government’s options for fixing the problem. In 2008, when the United States experienced a near collapse of the banking system, the opposite happened.

But it’s not just economics. “A lot of the benefits of having the reserve currency are more on the foreign policy side than the economic,” said Jennifer M. Harris, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of a coming book, “War by Other Means,” on the use of economic tools in foreign policy.

The centrality of the dollar to global finance gives the United States power on the global stage that no other country can match.

This is all for real and does bring positive results for all of us in various ways. But the power imbalances of Wall Street (capital) vs. Main Street (labor) have reached a point of excess where the power of our investor class has become so dominant over our working people that more and more Americans are struggling just to keep from falling behind – and failing. Ask an American voter if she or he would rather have some money for retirement, good schools, a good infrastructure and well-functioning public services, or a strong financial sector able to threaten countries with military force to get what they want. They’ll vote for retirement security, infrastructure and the rest every time. And they’re just about ready to, even if that promise comes in the form of Donald Trump.

This blog originally appeared at ourfuture.org on March 29, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

So MANY Op-Eds Pushing Corporate “Free Trade”

Monday, March 28th, 2016

Dave JohnsonBernie Sanders’ and Donald Trump’s campaign criticisms of our country’s disastrous trade policies are resonating with voters. In response there has been a flurry – a blizzard – of op-eds from noted celebrity, “establishment” pundits, explaining that moving millions of jobs out of the country is good for us because it means lower prices for those who still have paychecks. They sell these lower prices as a “free lunch” that we will never have to pay for.

These opinion pieces present corporate-negotiated trade as an all-or-nothing proposition, as if there were no balanced, fair-trade alternative approaches we could take instead. In these op-eds, proponents of fair-trade agreements are called “anti-trade,” even “anti-commerce.” Many of them not only repeat the same arguments, they actually even use the same words.

This week’s Fact-Check This: Arrogance Of Elites Helps Drive The Trump Phenomenonexplored Glenn Kessler’s “fact check” that awarded Trump “four Pinocchios” for claiming that our country’s corporate-negotiated trade policies and trade deficit are costing our country jobs, wages and wealth. Kessler wrote that the reason we import so much is that “Americans want to buy these products from overseas” when the reality is that companies move jobs and production out of the country to get around paying our country’s wages, taxes and environmental protection costs. (And we let them do that because … ?)

Last week’s Has The Election Finally Killed TPP And Corporate “Free Trade”? took on a Thomas Friedman op-ed promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP):

It seems as though Thomas Friedman got in a cab driven by the head of the Chamber of Commerce … talking about how great a deal the TPP is, writing, “… if we eliminate 18,000 tariffs we’ll be able to keep more production at home and sell more abroad. [. . .] Our workers can compete if we level the playing field …” They’ll be buying a lot from us for sure with that $150 a month, you betcha. Meanwhile companies here that want to pay $150 a month will be closing factories and moving them there…

A Bunch More

Those were just a couple of examples, a flurry before the blizzard. Here are more.

Mark J. Perry, in “Trump is completely wrong about the U.S. trade deficit” at the Los Angeles Times, argues that our enormous, humongous $758.9 billion goods trade deficit is actually good for us, a free lunch that we will never have to pay for,

When American businesses and consumers voluntarily purchase more products from China than Chinese businesses and consumers buy from us, it does lead to a U.S. trade deficit with China. But the trade deficit can’t accurately be referred to a “loss,” because it’s based on millions of mutually agreeable individual exchanges that took place between a willing seller and a willing buyer.

In fact, you could make a strong case that China “lost” last year on trade with America, not vice versa. After all, we acquired $482 billion of merchandise made in China and they acquired only $116 billion of merchandise made in the U.S., for a net merchandise surplus of $366 billion in our favor. China “lost” a net amount of $366 billion of goods that ended up being consumed and enjoyed by Americans.

This batch of bamboozlement explains that if you’re a baker who makes a deal to “trade” by buying supplies from your neighbor in exchange for providing bread, and you buy flour and sugar from your neighbor who then presents you with a huge bill and says he used your money to set up his own bakery and advertise to your customers, this is a good thing, because now you have to come up with a way to pay that bill. Got it?

Robert J. Samuelson, writing at The Washington Post in Trade myths and realities, explains to us that moving so many jobs out of the country is good for us because the 2.4 million jobs lost to China in the last decade were only 2 percent of total payroll employment. (We lost way more than 2.4 million, but who’s counting?)

Samuelson explains that we export, and exports create jobs, ignoring the huge trade deficit that is the result of so many more imports than exports. Exports are great, but he ignores that trade must be balanced or it drains our country of jobs, wages and wealth. Worse, when imports exceed exports for decades we lose (and have lost) important parts of our overall manufacturing ecosystem. But who’s counting?

Cokie and Steve Roberts offer another rationalization for the lost jobs and wages, in “Don’t discount the benefits of trade.” They wrote, “There are always winners and losers, and the losers are both more visible and better organized.” (Laid-off workers are better organized than the Wall Street billionaires who get to pocket their paychecks?)

Their examples of their winners include, “the mom who buys cheap sneakers from Bangladesh.” Never mind the dangerous, near-slave conditions for workers in Bangladesh, and the downward pull on our own wages as Americans try to compete with that. (We could demand that Bangladesh pay decently and protect workers before we allow imports from there, but how would America’s corporate trade negotiators benefit from doing that?)

The Robertses continue, “Moreover, many of the workers losing manufacturing jobs belong to unions, and organized labor has become the most vociferous foe of new trade deals.” This begs the question, if free trade is so great for jobs and brings with it so many higher-paid export jobs, then why would organized labor be free trade’s “most vociferous foe”?

The Roberts pair offer one that we hear over and over. We should just give up, suck it up, and accept our sorry fate because, “The clock cannot be turned back. Lost manufacturing jobs will not return.”

Speaking of “jobs that aren’t coming back,” Ben Casselman, Chief Economics Writer at FiveThirtyEight, writes that “Manufacturing Jobs Are Never Coming Back.” Casselman explains that we should just give up, suck it up, and accept our sorry fate. “A plea to presidential candidates: Stop talking about bringing manufacturing jobs back from China. In fact, talk a lot less about manufacturing, period.”

He writes that we don’t need manufacturing anyway, because service sector jobs something.

It’s understandable that voters are angry about trade. The U.S. has lost more than 4.5 million manufacturing jobs since NAFTA took effect in 1994. And as Eduardo Porter wrote this week, there’s mounting evidence that U.S. trade policy, particularly with China, has caused lasting harm to many American workers. But rather than play to that anger, candidates ought to be talking about ways to ensure that the service sector can fill manufacturing’s former role as a provider of dependable, decent-paying jobs.

Casselman explains that our economy is already replacing well-paid manufacturing jobs with low-paying service sector jobs. “In 1994 there were 3.5 million more Americans working in manufacturing than in retail. Today, those numbers have almost exactly reversed, and the gap is widening. More than 80 percent of all private jobs are now in the service sector.”

Cassleman says candidates should start “talking about” making a service-based economy “work for workers.” With talk like that, no wonder voters are fed up with America’s corporate-favoring trade policies that sending our jobs, wages and ability to make things – including a decent living – out of the country.

This blog originally appeared at ourfuture.org on March 13, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

Over 100 Years Ago, 123 Young Women Working in a Factory Never Came Home. It Changed Our Country

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Photo courtesy the Kheel Center on Flickr

This post originally appeared at Upworthy.

Watch the video Brandon references.

I have a hard time watching this and not getting terribly angry. Those 123 young women and 23 men who died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911, deserve to be remembered. But we’re watching it happen all over again in developing countries that supply Walmart, Gap, and other marketing and retail giants. Sorry/not sorry, I’m mad as hell, and I wish we could live in a world where we didn’t have to take this anymore. Warning: some violent images.

At 2:00, you’ll see the cascading effects that the fire had on workers’ rights and eliminating sweatshops in the United States. But watching it happen all over again in other parts of the world at 3:00 is heartbreaking. It was the same, exact circumstances as the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, word for word. At 4:24, how do they calculate the “value” of a human life? And the images at 6:40—really? All for a $26 pair of pants?

Even as recently as 2013, there was the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,123 garment workers.

It has to end. Right now.

This blog originally appeared at aflcio.org on March 25, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Brandon Weber writes for AFL-CIO on labor and union history.

The Makers of Those Cheesy Anti-Union Movies Will Soon Be More Transparent, Thanks to a New Labor Department Rule

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

The Makers of Those Cheesy Anti-Union Movies Will Soon Be More Transparent Thanks to a New DOL Rule

You’ve probably watched one before.

An anti-union video so painfully corny, you probably had to turn it off after a few seconds.

Anti-union videos—like this one from Target—fliers and other materials are the bread and butter of consulting firms who specialize in “union avoidance.” A nefarious industry that steps in for employers and attempts to squelch workinJackie Tortorag people’s right to a union voice on the job.

 Thanks to a new transparency rule released by the Department of Labor called the “persuader rule,” these firms are no longer allowed anonymity. Employees deserve to know whether these third-party union busters are being employed to influence their decision about forming a union with their co-workers.

Making these union busters more transparent is only fair. While unions are required to file lengthy annual LM-2 financial disclosure reports that detail all receipts and expenditures, the LM-20 form that management consultants will be required to file is two pages, much of which simply requires checking boxes.

Mike Lo Vuolo, a former American Airlines passenger agent, and his co-workers tried three times to form a union at American Airlines with the Communications Workers of America (CWA), under the company’s previous management. In 2012, despite having filed for bankruptcy, American Airlines spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the law firm Sheppard Mullin. Mike recalls high-gloss fliers, video cassettes and DVDs used to discourage and scare employees during organizing drives.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka weighed in on the new rule:

It takes great courage for working people to come together to form a union. Working men and women deserve to know who their employer is hiring and exactly how much they are spending to discourage workers from forming a union.

This blog originally appeared at aflcio.org on March 23, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.
Jackie Tortora is the blog editor and social media manager at AFL-CIO.

What Will Discrimination Cost Georgia?

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

Terrance Heath

Fifty-two years after Lester Maddox famously chased African-Americans out of his restaurant with an ax handle, the phrase “We don’t serve your kind here” may be heard once again in Georgia.

On Wednesday, the Republican-controlled Georgia General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a law that says the state may not “substantial burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a law, rule, regulation, ordinance or resolution of general applicability.” Essentially, the law says that businesses may discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs, and the state can’t do anything about it — even it violates local ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

Last spring, when conservatives legislators in Indiana and Arkansas pushed through “religious freedom” laws designed to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination, Georgia lawmakers were working on their own bill. It didn’t pass, due to strong opposition from businesses in the state.

But Georgia Republican lawmakers didn’t learn anything from their defeat, or the backlash against Indiana and Arkansas last year. Georgia’s zombie “religious freedom” bill was defeated last year, but it didn’t die. It was resurrected in the Senate in January, and passed only after it was forced through while Democrats were in the bathroom, along with another bill that would allow public officials to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and might even allow public employees to refuse to recognize a same-sex marriage on a death certificate.

The bill launched a “civil war” in the state GOP. Moderate Republicans (who somehow still exist in Georgia) wanted little to do with it, and tried to add provisions to make it less awful. Republican Rep. Mike Jacobs proposed an amendment clarifying that the bill must not be interpreted as legalizing discrimination, but conservatives declared that the amendment would defeat the purpose of the bill, and tabled it when the amendment narrowly passed.

Even Georgia’s Republican governor Nathan Deal spoke out against the bill. Deal said that Jesus’ outreach to the outcasts of his time ran counter to the standards of the “religious freedom” bill saying, “If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.” Deal invoked the New Testament Gospel of John to emphasize, “that we have a belief in forgiveness and that we do not have to discriminate unduly against anyone on the basis of our own religious beliefs.”

In response, Georgia’s conservative lawmakers made the bill worse, adding language that could undermine local ordinances protecting LGBT people from discrimination and “permit hospitals to refuse to provide medically necessary care, or allow a taxpayer-funded service provider to discriminate by denying a job because of the applicant’s religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” Sen. Emanuel Jones even got Republican Sen. Greg Kirg to admit that the GOP’s “religious freedom” law would also protect the Ku Klux Klan.

Businesses backlash was strong and swift. The Decatur-based telecom company 373K announced via Twitter that it would be leaving the state.

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“I’m gay, our CFO is gay, we have people from every walk of life working here” co-founder Kevin Williams said. “I’ve got Muslims, Buddhists, atheists here. We’ve got great Christians working for us. They’ve never thought of not serving anyone – that’s not the message of Christ.” 373K Client Relations Manager Brian Greene said the company no longer feels comfortable paying taxes in the state.

Salesforce, one of the nation’s largest tech marketing firms has threatened to pull its 15,000-person convention out of Georgia — along with the revenue it brings into the state — and proceed with moving business out of the state if the governor signs the bill, which “creates an environment of discrimination and makes the state of Georgia seem unwelcoming to same-sex couples and the LGBTQ community.”

“If HB 757 is not vetoed and instead becomes law, Salesforce will have to reduce investments in Georgia, including moving the Salesforce Connections conference to a state that provides a more welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community,” the company said in a statement. The statement is consistent with Salesforce’s actions last year when the company cancelled “all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.”

The NFL issued statement suggesting that the bill could ruin the state’s chances of hosting a Super Bowl. The Atlanta Falcon’s new stadium is set to open next year, and the city had hoped to host a Super Bowl in either 2019 or 2020.

A group of 480 businesses called Georgia Prospers have come out against the bill. The group includes Google, Marriott, Delta, Home Depot, Coca-Cola as well as many small businesses.

Already, events in Georgia are shaping up to resemble last years’ backlash against Indiana.Indiana’s law cost the state $40 million in cancelled deals and cancelled contracts. Discrimination could cost Georgia a lot more, if the state’s Republican lawmakers have their way.

This blog originally appeared in ourfuture.org on March 21, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Terrance Heath is the Online Producer at Campaign for America’s Future. He has consulted on blogging and social media consultant for a number of organizations and agencies. He is a prominent activist on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues.

This week in the war on workers: Five million workers a step closer to overtime pay

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

President Obama’s long-awaited increase in overtime pay eligibility has taken the next step to being a reality—a reality that would mean five million American workers would get overtime pay if they worked extra hours:

The Department of Labor (DOL) has sent its finalized changes to the rule expanding who is covered by overtime laws to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), ThinkProgress has learned, one of the final steps before it can take effect.

President Obama announced an executive order in early 2014 to update the labor regulations that require employers to pay time and a half for working more than 40 hours a week. It took a bit more than a year, but in June of 2015 the DOL announced its proposed rule to increase the salary threshold to $50,440, more than doubling it from where it stands now, thus ensuring that anyone who makes that much or less will be covered. It also proposed updating other exemptions to narrow how many people could be denied overtime because they qualify as highly compensated or as an executive or professional worker. […]

But by releasing the final rule now, the DOL avoids the risk that it would get delayed even further by a Congressional “resolution of disapproval,” which would be an option after May 18. Once the rule is approved by OMB, it will likely go back to the DOL to be put into effect.

Affected workers will either get the same pay and more free time, or work the same hours and get more pay. And affected companies will lose a way to exploit their workers.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on March 19, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

Where Would Obama’s Supreme Court Nominee Merrick Garland Stand on Labor Issues?

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Despite hardline Senate Republican opposition to meeting with, let alone voting on, any potential replacement for recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, on Tuesday, President Obama nominated Chief Judge Merrick Garland of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to fill the vacancy left by Justice Antonin Scalia after his recent, unexpected death.

Garland is a highly qualified, well-respected judge, first appointed in 1997 by President Bill Clinton to the D.C. Circuit Court and confirmed by a vote of 76 to 23 in the Senate. Garland has been under consideration for a seat on the Supreme Court previously; he has a reputation for judicial restraint (quite unlike Scalia’s highly ideological attempt to use the Supreme Court to re-write the nation’s law).

It’s hard to give him a clear political label, but Garland does not seem to be as progressive on workers’ rights issues as Scalia was reactionary. In 2010 Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog, wrote that Garland was “essentially the model, neutral judge. He is acknowledged by all to be brilliant. His opinions avoid unnecessary, sweeping pronouncements.” On criminal law (and cases involving Guantanamo detainees), Goldstein wrote, Garland leaned a bit conservative, on first amendment, environmental and “open government” issues, a bit liberal. One consistent thread seems to be deference towards regulatory agencies, letting them make decisions without the Supreme Court always second-guessing or rewriting the law.

That sentiment may be important for labor issues before the Supreme Court, which has frequently acted to restrain the National Labor Relations Board and crimp worker rights in decades past. Scalia’s vote was crucial in the many 5-4 decisions by the Supreme Court that weakened rights and protections for American workers. His death, for example, seemed to have eliminated (for the moment) a likely 5-4 court decision in the Friedrichs case, which would have prevented public employee unions from charging non-members of the union a fee that paid for the benefits of union bargaining and grievance representation that union by law must provide.

But as Catherine Fisk notes in On Labor, the large number of 5-4 cases on labor issues suggests that “the importance of confirming a progressive is enormous,” both for future cases and potential review and overturn of earlier decisions.

Even if Garland is not a full-fledged “progressive,” his votes on NLRB cases involve more than deference to regulatory agencies,according to Hannah Belitz. In the four cases in which Garland did not agree to defer entirely to the NLRB, she wrote, Garland upheld pro-labor and voted to overturn pro-employer positions, leading her to describe him as having “an outlook that is generally favorable to union activity.”  But deference to the NLRB does not always imply support for workers.

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Mary Kay Henry and UAW president Dennis Williams were labor leaders who quickly welcomed the nomination and urged speedy consideration of Garland’s nomination. Trumka, a coal miner and lawyer before his labor career, praised his “impeccable credentials and deep experience.” Henry, whose union is not part of the AFL-CIO, said he would be

a good choice for working families. His record shows that he believes in the duty of government to protect regular Americans, and our democracy, from being corrupted by the excesses of the super wealthy and their corporate agenda. He has shown that he respects the opinion of the National Labor Relations Board…, and he has upheld disclosure requirements to keep a check on the outsized influence ‘dark money’ has on our government.

Garland appears to be a judge who is pretty nonpartisan in his rulings, caught in a moment of extreme political combat that threatens the public good and could reinforce many politicians’ lack of credibility. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary committee last week argued that President Obama should nominate Merrick Garland, “a fine man,” but the president won’t because he would have to satisfy his base with a liberal appointee.  Will Hatch now vote down a “fine man” to stymie a president he does not like?

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on March 17, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at davidmoberg@inthesetimes.com.

Modernization of Chicago Transit to Be Completed by Chicago's Working People

Friday, March 18th, 2016
Kenneth Quinnell

The Chicago Transit Board awarded a contract this week to CSR Sifang America JV to build the newest generation of Chicago Transit Authority rail cars as part of the city’s modernization program. CSR has pledged to build a new rail car assembly facility in Chicago, the first new assembly of its kind in 35 years. The investment of $40 million is expected to generate 170 jobs, while also reducing maintenance costs and reducing power use through the use of more efficient technology.

The Chicago Federation of Labor has worked with the city to make sure that the modernization program created new U.S. manufacturing jobs. Once the new trains are put into service, the Chicago rail fleet will reduce the average age of cars from 26 (in 2011) to 11. The more than 800 new cars will go into service by 2020.

Jorge Ramirez, president of CFL, explained the importance of the announcement:

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It has been over 30 years since the last rail car rolled off the Pullman assembly line on Chicago’s Southside. Today’s announcement is the culmination of nearly two years of collaboration with Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel to bring rail car manufacturing back to Chicago where it belongs. We commend the CTA for including the U.S. Employment Plan in this bid process, leading the way to high road manufacturing jobs, and thank Mayor Emanuel for his ongoing commitment to build a world-class transit system.

“Providing modern trains and buses is a critical part of having a world-class transit system,” said CTA President Dorval R. Carter Jr. “This rail car purchase—the largest in CTA history—will give CTA one of the newest fleets in the United States and provide our customers with state-of-the-art trains providing comfortable, reliable rides.”

CFL worked with Jobs to Move America in moving the deal forward. Linda Nguyen Perez, the national policy director for Jobs to Move America, said:

Chicago is a shining model for the rest of the nation, providing a blueprint for leveraging the billions of public transit dollars spent each year to bring back manufacturing, encourage investments in workforce training and jobs for U.S. workers. We look forward to partnering with CSR to deliver a high road program that prioritizes the creation of career paths for Chicago’s low income and communities of color.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on March 17, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.

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