The federal agency charged with protecting employees’ rights to collectively improve their job standards is in limbo. That’s great news for unscrupulous employers who want to take advantage of workers, but it serves as a wake-up call for those of us who care about workers’ rights. Read more »
Shame on Duquesne. The Pittsburgh university is using its Catholic affiliation – a faith rooted in a deep tradition of worker justice – to deny its adjunct faculty their right to form a union. The university is claiming a religious exemption from the National Labor Relations Act and recently appealed a decision by the NLRB regional office ordering the union election to proceed. That Duquesne would choose to follow the route of countless unscrupulous American employers to thwart its employees’ efforts to gain a voice on the job, rather than lead by strong example, is deeply disappointing.
It’s hard to imagine that in 2012, millions of workers are still without minimum wage protections. Even more shocking is that 2.5 million of these unprotected workers are those who provide critical care to the elderly and disabled in their homes. Without minimum wage and overtime protections, the home care workforce suffers from low-wages, high turnover, stress and exhaustion.
Richard Scarry wrote in his classic children’s book that “Everyone is a worker: Farmer Alfalfa, Blacksmith Fox, Stitches the Tailor,” and yes, even “Doctor Lion.” The folks over at the National Labor Relations Board must understand this simple truth. The agency just ruled that resident doctors at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City are workers, not students, who have the right to form unions and collectively bargain. This ruling upheld a 1999 Board decision that medical interns and residents are statutory employees with a right to organize under the National Labor Relations Act.
The residents at St. Barnabas overwhelmingly voted to form a union last year, yet the hospital challenged their right to organize, arguing they were students, not employees.
Update June 11: the NLRB released the vote count totals today: the vote was 119-2 in favor of the union.
As a mother I’ve learned that regardless of his repeated assurances, my toddler will only stop harassing his little brother when there are real consequences to his misbehavior (i.e., no more train video). Yet when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charged Consolidated Biscuit with illegally harassing its union supporters–despite the company’s pledge to stop in two previous settlements—the agency didn’t provide any real consequences.
Rather than pursuing an injunction and contempt-of-court charges against the company to prevent further violations, they decided to negotiate yet another settlement. This milquetoast response to a habitual unionbuster illustrates why we need the Employee Free Choice Act, which would increase penalties for unlawful employers, and require the use of injunctions to curb employers’ bad behavior when there’s reasonable cause to believe that someone’s rights have been violated.
Two contradicting court decisions issued last week leave the National Labor Relations Board in legal limbo. For the past 16 months, Wilma Liebman and Peter Schaumber have jointly issued 400 decisions, preventing a major backlog of cases while the Board was down by three members. Yet the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington just held that it was invalid for them to issue two-member decisions, while a federal appellate court in Chicago upheld the validity of their decisions. It will likely take a Supreme Court decision to clear up the legal matter.
It is all the more imperative now that the Senate swiftly confirm President Obama’s nominees for two vacant Board seats. If the Board is forced to re-examine all of those cases when another member is appointed, it must do so quickly in order to minimize the damage done to workers. Behind each of those cases are real people who are waiting for their union to be recognized, waiting for their employer to come to the bargaining table, and waiting to collect backpay for a wrongful termination.
The National Labor Relations Board may once again be a worker-friendly agency which actually fulfills its mission to promote democracy in the workplace.
President Obama has announced that he is appointing Craig Becker and Mark Pearce to fill two open vacancies on the Labor Board. Both men have a history of advocating on behalf of workers and for reforming labor law through direct legal work and in academic posts. If confirmed, they will join Chair Wilma Liebman and Member Schaumber, with one vacancy remaining.
For more info, check out the American Prospect.
If I were a scurrilous lawyer advising a new employer on federal employment laws, I would tell them not to worry about violating the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). When an employer violates any of the three major federal employment laws covering minimum wage, discrimination, or safety, they must at least pay fines or damages. Yet there are no penalties assessed on employers who commit unfair labor practices under the NLRA. Check out this new chart released by American Rights at Work, which illustrates just how poorly the costs of violating labor law compare with the costs of violating other employment laws:
According to new numbers released by American Rights at Work, 33.5 million people—24% of the workforce—have no legally-protected right to form a union. This is an embarrassing number for an advanced democracy like ours. As a Human Rights Watch report noted, large exclusions of workers from the protections of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) “run counter to international human rights standards compelling broad protection of workers’ freedom of association.”
Why are so many workers without the right to organize? The NLRA excludes several classes of workers, including public employees, agricultural workers, and independent contractors, and many states have failed to pass laws extending coverage to these employees. Additionally, decisions by the Bush Labor Board have excluded employees with minimal supervisory duties, disabled janitors, graduate student assistants, newspaper carriers, and other categories of workers from the law’s protections. And employers are increasingly misclassifying their employees as independent contractors, denying them the right to form unions and gain other employment law protections. Read more »