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Knight: Workers’ ‘day in court’ axed in Court’s arbitration ruling

June 9, 2018

By Bill Knight / Opinion columnist
Pekin Daily Times

 

A U.S. Supreme Court majority on May 21 unleashed employers to run roughshod over labor law, ruling 5-4 that employers can prohibit their workers from banding together in disputes over pay and other workplace disputes. The Court’s five-justice conservative bloc said employers may require employees, as a condition of employment, to give up any joint legal remedy despite of the guarantee of New Deal laws stating that workers have a right to unionize or “engage in other concerted activities for the purposes...

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Regulate With Prejudice? Joint Employer Issue Tests Board Process

May 14, 2018

by Chris Opfer
Bloomberg Law

The board announced last week that it will issue a regulation to resolve the ongoing debate over when one business is a joint employer of another’s workers for unionization purposes. That question has been clouded by conflicting decisions—the board briefly reverted to a more restrictive approach to joint employment and then dropped the ruling—and conflict-of-interest concerns.

“We know where they want to get to now because of the decision in Hy-Brand,” former NLRB Member Sharon Block (D) told Bloomberg Law. “They appear to be using the rulemaking process to do an end run around conflict-of-interest problems.”

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I worked for Eric Schneiderman. And I still believe in government.

May 11, 2018

By Terri Gerstein
Washington Post

Most public servants are true believers. We choose to work for modest pay and little glory. When I used to send my mother news stories about our cases, she would get indignant: “Why doesn’t it mention your name? You did the case!”

After the initial shock wears off, aides try to understand, trying to make sense of the incomprehensible contrast between the person we knew and the person he turned out to be. Were there signs I missed? Is this just something that happens when people have power? Is it that the wrong kind of people are...

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Inside the Labor Department’s Legal Brain Drain

May 11, 2018

by Ben Penn
Bloomberg Law

A century-plus of combined legal expertise is leaving the Labor Department, setting up four key vacancies in an office with unheralded influence on the administration’s workplace agenda.

The DOL’s associate solicitors for employment and training (Jeffrey Nesvet), occupational safety and health (Ann Rosenthal), and administrative law and ethics (Robert Shapiro), along with the New England regional solicitor (Michael Felsen), are either about to retire or recently did so—all after lengthy careers in the senior civil service....

“Those are four people who have been involved in every important decision in their areas for decades. It’s a tremendous loss,” Sharon Block, who was a senior counselor to Obama’s Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, told Bloomberg Law. “All of us who were there as politicals relied so heavily on the career leadership to provide just that straight up advice on what the law is and what the history of these issues has been, without being outcome-determined in how that information was presented.”... Read more about Inside the Labor Department’s Legal Brain Drain

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For some minor league baseball players, wages can seem like peanuts

April 5, 2018

By Mitchell Hartman
Marketplace

In 2014, Broshuis brought a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco against the baseball owners. The goal was to force the teams to follow the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and pay players as hourly workers, including for all hours of play and practice.

 

Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife Program at Harvard Law School and an Obama administration appointee to the National Labor Relations Board, said that because many minor league players are paid such a low salary — in some cases working out to less than minimum wage for all the hours worked — their lawsuit should proceed.

“We are talking about paying people $7.25 per hour, and time-and-a half when they work over forty hours. These are just bedrock principles of minimum standards,” Block said. And she said that not paying players during spring training flies in the face of other labor law precedent. “Generally, if you are in training and it is for the employer’s benefit, meaning you’re learning to do your job better, you have to be compensated.”... Read more about For some minor league baseball players, wages can seem like peanuts

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The emerging plan to save the American labor movement

April 9, 2018

By Dylan Matthews
Vox

The Trump era has sparked some of the most creative thinking in labor in years.

“Sectoral bargaining is certainly getting more attention in legal academic and labor law policy debates,” Benjamin Sachs, a professor at Harvard Law School and former practicing labor lawyer, says. “The way I would think about it is that there’s an existential panic about what will happen to the labor movement. That’s not new, it’s just getting worse. … If we need unions for economic and political equality as I think we do...

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Labor Board Official Parries Criticism on ‘No-Plan’ Plan

April 4, 2018

Hassan A. Kanu
Bloomberg Law

 

The National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel is standing firm on a series of proposals to restructure the agency starting next year even as concern within the NLRB about the plans is said to have reached a boiling point.

Peter Robb refused to withdraw the proposals per a request from the union representing agency staffers at headquarters in Washington, D.C., according to a letter obtained by Bloomberg Law. Although Congress kept the board’s funding steady this year, Robb noted that the White House budget request for next year is “well below” the current allotment.

 

“He seems to be doubling down on the budget rationale, but it just doesn’t ring true that the president’s budget would drive these kinds of changes in a practical sense,” Block said. “If he’s got other reasons, then he should tell people what those reasons are.”

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All Demand is Local: Why Donors Remain Bullish on STEM Education

March 8, 2018

By Mike Scutari
Inside Philanthropy

Michael Teitelbaum's book, titled Falling Behind? Boom, Bust and the Global Race for Scientific Talent  argues that corporate and political leaders have been sounding the alarm about a STEM shortage ever since the end of World War II. And every time they do, enrollments surge, generating too many graduates and not enough jobs.

Yet there is a surging demand in computer occupations, especially in certain parts of the country. And those donors who are helping universities meet that demand are definitely on the right track.

Ultimately, donors' unrelenting focus on STEM education is a reminder of how often philanthropy is driven by local factors or the challenges of specific institutions. While there may be a glut of STEM graduates at the broadly defined macro-level, the employers and university administrators attuned to nuances of their respective ecosystems have concluded there’s a shortage.

Board Vacates Hy-Brand, Raising More Questions
Sharon Block. 2/27/2018. “Board Vacates Hy-Brand, Raising More Questions.” OnLabor.org. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Yesterday, the National Labor Relations Board vacated its December decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors.  (Ben and Sharon had called for this action in OnLabor last week.  The Board’s unusual action follows a finding by the Board’s Inspector General that Member Bill Emanuel should have recused himself from participation in the case.  The Board noted in its press release that because Hy-Brand had been vacated, “the overruling of the Board’s decision in Browning-Ferris Industries, 362 NLRB No. 186 (2015), set forth therein is of no force or effect.”

The Board’s action was a welcome first step in correcting the damage done by the Hy-Brand decision.  Most importantly, for the time being, the Board will determine joint employer status using the standard set forth in Browning-Ferris – a standard that takes into account the reality of today’s fissured workplaces.  Beyond that important restoration, however, the Board’s one sentence order vacating Hy-Brand leaves many questions about the future unanswered.

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Labor Board Scraps Controversial Joint Employer Decision (Updated)

February 26, 2018

By Hassan Kanu and Chris Opfer
in Bloomberg Law

The National Labor Relations Board is taking a redo on its controversial decision to limit joint employer liability for affiliated businesses, thanks to ethics questions surrounding Member William Emanuel’s (R) participation in the case.

The board announced today that it has vacated its decision in Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors. A Republican-majority NLRB in December used the Hy-Brand case to scrap an expansive Obama-era legal test that made it easier to tag affiliated businesses as joint employers. It overturned a previous decision in Browning-Ferris Industries, a case then pending before a federal appeals court that Emanuel’s former law firm participated in.

“This was one of the most important issues that this board was going to deal with and everyone knew that his firm was involved,” former NLRB member Sharon Block told Bloomberg Law of Emanuel’s participation in the case. The board “broke precedent in dealing with an issue of this magnitude” by taking up the joint employment question in a case in which it could have been avoided, Block added.

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Ethics Conflict at NLRB Pushes Agency Into 'Uncharted Territory'

February 23, 2018

By Erin Mulvaney 
The National Law Journal

The NLRB inspector general’s report reinforced the concerns of union attorneys and Democratic senators that Trump-appointed member William Emanuel should not have voted in the Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors case in December that overturned the broad joint-employment standard the Obama-era board set. Emanuel’s former firm, Littler Mendelson, where he’d been a shareholder in Los Angeles, represented a party in the original case Browning-Ferris Industries that expanded joint-employment liability.

Sharon Block, former NLRB member and now executive director of Harvard Law School’s Labor and Worklife Program, said the inspector general report makes it clear that the Hy-Brand decision must be invalidated. Block said the board could ask for input from the parties in the case to show why it should or should not validate the decision.... Read more about Ethics Conflict at NLRB Pushes Agency Into 'Uncharted Territory'

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Trump’s ‘Tip-Pooling’ Plan Could Screw Your Bartender

February 13, 2018

By Dave Jamieson
HuffPost

The Trump administration is seeking to change wage regulations so that restaurants and other businesses with tipped workers can decide how the gratuities are divvied up.

Sharon Block, a former Labor Department official under Obama, said it’s hard to read the proposal any other way. In adopting a judge’s dissent in a tip-sharing lawsuit, Trump’s team seems to argue that the Labor Department can’t tell an employer what to do ― or not do ― with a worker’s tips if the employer pays the federal minimum wage of $7.25. As the...

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Trump’s Labor Board Is Making it Even More Difficult to Unionize Fast-Food Workers

February 9, 2018

By Michelle Chen
The Nation

In a jarring reversal of fortunes, a pending National Labor Relations Board case that was supposed to be a weapon for unionizing hundreds of thousands of low-wage fast-food workers under Obama may now morph into an anti-labor bludgeon for big business under Trump. The fate of one of the country’s largest poverty-wage workforces now hangs on an arcane legal debate over whether McDonald’s can be held responsible as a formal employer for all the workers who toil under the Golden Arches.

According to Sharon Block, former...

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The Trump administration is abandoning McDonald’s workers — and everyone else

February 9, 2018

By Sharon Block and Benjamin Sachs
Washington Post

For the past three years, the federal government has painstakingly built a case against the world’s second-largest private employer, McDonald’s, charging the company with illegally harassing and terminating employees who have gone on strike with the “Fight for $15″ campaign.

 

Last month, shortly before the trial was expected to conclude, Peter Robb, the general counsel Trump appointed to the NLRB, announced that he wanted to halt the trial to settle the case with McDonald’s and its franchisees.

Settling a case might not sound so bad. But in this instance, “settling” is a euphemism for abandoning at the 11th hour a groundbreaking inquiry into whether a major employer like McDonald’s should be held accountable for violating the rights of its low-paid workers.... Read more about The Trump administration is abandoning McDonald’s workers — and everyone else

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