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Walking the Floor of the Great Minnesota Activist Factory

January 17, 2018

by Hamilton Nolan

In November, Labor Secretary Alex Acosta said ominously that he was “looking at” the possibility of imposing new regulations on worker centers that could hobble their ability to get funding and operate freely. This would be the regulatory equivalent of a sniper taking pot shots at the medic who has rushed onto the battlefield to tend to a dying soldier. It is a remarkably bold threat. To see what is at stake, I traveled to frozen Minneapolis, home to one of the most effective worker centers anywhere in America.

[Sharon Block, who served as a Labor Department official in the Obama administration and is now the director Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program] points out that the George W. Bush administration already scrutinized worker centers on the same basis—and the Bush Labor Department sided with the worker centers, twice. “Who am I to argue with the Bush administration?” she laughs.

Trump appointee may give McDonald's a break in landmark labor case

January 11, 2018

by Lydia DePillis   @CNNMoney
 

The Trump administration is moving to undo the actions of former President Obama on almost every front, and now it's happening with breathtaking speed at an agency charged with protecting worker rights.

Now, it appears Robb may also back off what has become one of the most expensive and staff intensive cases in the board's history: A complaint filed against McDonald's in 2014 that claims the company should be held liable for alleged retaliatory actions by its franchisees against workers who participated in daylong strikes as part of the Fight for $15 movement, a union-backed campaign to raise wages.

"I think that's a bellwether issue as to whether this leadership cares about these statutes making sense and applying today," said Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School, who served as head of policy at the Department of Labor until President Trump took office. "Or is this just a way of letting everybody fend for themselves, without the protections that they were supposed to have?"

Bloomberg BNA

Trump's Obamacare Rule Would Let Small Firms Act Like Big Ones

January 4, 2018
By Zachary Tracer  and Josh Eidelson

The Trump administration is proposing to let small firms act more like big corporations to buy cheaper health insurance, a measure that would get around some of Obamacare’s requirements.

The rule would broaden the availability of less-regulated health insurance coverage to more small employers, and to self-employed people. The rule does so by letting many more small firms band together under “association health plans,” or AHPs. Those plans would be exempt from many of the Affordable Care Act’s rules on what benefits have to be covered.

“This rule seems to err on the side of making AHPs broadly available without making any effort to embed the protections that people get from ACA-covered plans,” said Sharon Block, a former senior Obama administration Labor Department official who now runs the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School. “You’re moving people towards less-quality plans and potentially doing harm to the people who stay in the ACA-covered plans.”

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