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Government workers worry about shutdown continuing into the new year

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The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which handles human resource issues for government workers, has advice for the roughly 800,000 people who won’t receive their paychecks as scheduled during the partial government shutdown: get a lawyer and barter your services if you can’t make ends meet.

On Thursday, in an attempt to assist employees facing mounting bills and rent payments, OPM officials tweeted out sample letters for workers to send to creditors, mortgage companies, and landlords. One such letter, intended for an employee’s landlord, reads, “I will keep in touch with you to keep you informed about my income status and I would like to discuss with you the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments.”

While the letters have been used in the past for other shutdowns — and though employees say they are sometimes effective — many workers still worry they may not be enough.

“Car payments, insurance payments, rent, storage, etc., they build up quick,” Chris, an employee at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), whose last name has been withheld, told ThinkProgress this week.

If the current shutdown, which began December 21, lasts longer than two weeks — which it’s currently expected to do — “that’s when I would start worrying,” he added.

OPM officials suggested workers “consult with [their] personal attorney” if they have trouble navigating especially tricky situations or are concerned about pressing issues. As some have noted, however, many middle income workers don’t have ready access to a personal attorney and may find themselves in an unwanted situation as a result.

Some workers simply can’t spare the extra cash for an attorney, because it’s being used for more important purposes. Chris, for example, moved back home to his parent’s house after his father suffered a stroke and is helping his father with the mortgage.

“I do not have an attorney nor do I plan on getting one,” he said, though he noted the letters to creditors and landlords had helped him “in past shutdowns” and would likely “prove useful again if the shutdown continues.”

In Chris’ case, if the government’s lapse in funding isn’t resolved soon, he may have to take out a retirement plan loan or cancel upcoming travel. That includes an overseas trip his family has planned at the end of January for his grandmother’s funeral.

About 380,000 federal workers will be furloughed without pay and 420,000 federal workers will continue to work without pay if the shutdown, which began after Republicans and Democrats were unable to reach a consensus on funding for President Trump’s proposed border wall, continues into 2019, according to a fact sheet assembled by Senate Democratic staffers earlier this month, NBC News reported.

Many departments and agencies, such as the office of Food and Nutrition Services that oversees the Child Nutrition, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), saw staffing slashed to nearly zero, with related programs only operational “based on available resources,” CNN noted.

Now on its seventh day, the shutdown has been a nightmare for affected federal workers. It has also hit contractors, who typically are not paid retroactively as regular employees are, said Susan Moser, a partner at the Cherry Bekaert law firm, whose clients have been affected in the past, in a recent interview with HuffPost.

Those struggles are unlikely to end anytime soon. The shutdown impasse is expected to last until at least January 3 when the new Congress is seated. Lawmakers told Politico they were concerned the shutdown might persist longer than that, well into January.

Credit unions that serve federal employees are currently offering loans to workers to stave off financial hardship, and nonprofits such as Coast Guard Mutual Assistance are also providing financial support. But many employees say they’re already living paycheck to paycheck and that temporary support means nothing if a long-term solution is not reached.

After Trump told reporters on Tuesday that “many” federal workers supported the shutdown, several of them fired back on social media.

“My husband is a federal worker,” Theresa Garcia tweeted. “[W]e need our paycheck next week to pay our mortgage.”

Another federal worker tweeted at Trump, “We live paycheck to paycheck. Who will pay my mortgage January 1st? You?”

On Thursday, the president suggested that “most of the people not getting paid are Democrats,” suggesting that Democrats were hurting themselves by not agreeing to his demand for wall funding, which currently stands at a proposed $5 billion. Democrats have roundly rejected that offer.

Chris countered that assertion, saying he knows many federal workers affected by the shutdown who are Republican — including those working for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and TSA, who support Trump’s policies.

“I can definitely say that most federal workers are not Democrats. But I can say that most federal workers are good people,” he said.

He added, “I am hoping there will be resolution — and not just for me, but for all 800,000 federal employees.”

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on December 28, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Casey Quinlan is a policy reporter at ThinkProgress covering economic policy and civil rights issues. Her work has been published in The Establishment, The Atlantic, The Crime Report, and City Limits.

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No OSHA Head This Session

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Barring a last minute Christmas miracle on Capitol Hill, the odds of having an Assistant Secretary for OSHA this year have gone from slim to pretty much none, according to Politico: “A deal to push through a slate of labor nominees appeared all but dead Thursday as lawmakers raced to avert a shutdown.”

As we’ve written before, the confirmation of Scott Mugno to head OSHA, as well as several other Labor Department appointees, remains mired down in a fight between HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and Republicans who don’t want to confirm Democratic nominees for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC.) Utah Republican Mike Lee continues to refuse to confirm Chai Feldblum for the EEOC, calling her “an [LGBT] activist intent on stamping out all opposition to her cause.”  Lee previously stated that he fears Feldblum would “use the might of government to stamp out traditional marriage supporters.””

Republicans also oppose the re-appointment of Democratic nominee Mark Pearce to the NLRB.

Meanwhile, Daniel Gade, who has been caught in the fight and had been waiting for confirmation as EEOC Commissioner for 16 months, has withdrawn his name from consideration.

If a Christmas miracle is not forthcoming, President Trump will have to renominate everyone, and they will then have to be re-approved by the HELP Committee and confirmed by the Senate. But will things get any better in a new year, while Republicans continue to hold the Senate? Does Scott Mugno still want the job? Will Loren Sweatt continue her lonely existence atop OSHA?

Stay tuned.

This blog was originally published at Confined Space on December 21, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Jordan Barab was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, and spent 16 years running the safety and health program at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

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Federal workers won’t get paychecks, but they do get these handy letters asking creditors to go easy

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Hey, federal workers, don’t worry about your lack of a paycheck for as long as Donald Trump decides to keep big parts of the government shut down. Federal agencies have form letters explaining to creditors that it’s not your fault you can’t pay the bills!

The Department of Homeland Security offers up a letter similar to or the same as one from the 2013 shutdown, saying that DHS “extend[s] our thanks for your patience and compassion towards our employees during this time.” For sure that’s going to keep the credit card company from charging interest, and the landlord or mortgage holder from causing problems.

The federal Office of Personnel Management similarly tweeted “sample letters you may use as a guide when working with your creditors during this furlough,” but advised that “If you need legal advice please consult with your personal attorney” presumably bringing the sample letter in and getting “your personal attorney” to work for free.

Literally the government is advising its workers on how not to get evicted or foreclosed on while they’re not being paid, all because Donald Trump is throwing a temper tantrum over a wall.

This blog was originally published at Daily Kos on December 27, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos.

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Los Angeles teachers will go on strike next month

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Los Angeles teachers will strike on January 10, about half a year after the teachers union declared they were at an impasse with Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD). The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) made the announcement during a press conference on Wednesday.

UTLA said teachers are asking for smaller class sizes, reductions in standardized testing, a 2 percent bonus, 6.5 percent salary increases, and a $500 stipend for materials and supplies. They’re also interested in expanding charter school accountability, creating school climate and discipline plans, and spending more money on ethnic studies and bilingual education.

Last July, the union said that it was still at loggerheads with LAUSD over these requests. Unless the district now meets many of teachers’ demands, the planned strike will be the first of its kind among L.A. teachers since a nine-day strike that took place in 1989.

Alex Caputo-Pearl, the head of the teachers union, said the district has made no movement on class sizes or what he calls “common sense regulation of charter schools,” among other key demands. Unless there are “dramatic shifts” in the district’s approach toward spending money on students, Caputo-Pearl says, there will be a work stoppage in January. The union has argued that as the school district has nearly $2 billion in its reserve fund, there are more-than-adequate funds on hand to meet its demands.

While Los Angeles teachers voted to authorize a strike in August, it took a considerable amount of time for teachers to select a strike date because they needed to go through several regulatory requirements. UTLA and LAUSD went through mediation, followed by a mandated fact-finding process over many weeks, prior to giving advance notice of their intention to strike in January

Tensions between the union and school district only increased after the release of the fact-finding report. On Tuesday, LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said the report showed that the district and union agree on a pay increase and backpay. He said, “Los Angeles Unified’s offer of 6 percent is appropriate and UTLA has agreed that is appropriate.”

The union later released a statement calling on Beutner to immediately retract his statement and said no agreement on salary on anything else had been reached between the district and union.

“Implying that an agreement has been reached tells us he is more interested in perpetuating falsehoods than finding a real path to an agreement that respects teachers, parents, our students, and communities,” said Caputo-Pearl.

The UTLA says that parts of the report supported their demands, recommending a settlement to “involve a percentage of money to be used for the employment of teachers and other staff to reduce class size and provide additional student access to the services of librarians, nurses and other professional staff.”

The report also appeared to support greater oversight of co-location of traditional public schools and charter schools through more staff input. Traditional public school teachers are passionate about about the issue of co-location, which they say is inequitable for traditional public school students.

However, on the issue of raises, the report favored LAUSD by supporting the district’s salary offer. The district offered teachers a 3 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2017, and another 3 percent raise as of July 1, 2018. The union has said it wants a 6.5 percent raise, retroactive to July 1, 2016.

Last weekend, thousands of teachers, community members, and students marched through downtown L.A. to show the district they were serious about demands to improve public education. They marched from City Hall to the Broad Museum.

Teachers, parents, and the district have been preparing for the possibility of a strike for weeks, if not months. In October, several teachers told ThinkProgress that they had reached out to parents and members of the community to let them know why they had reached an impasse with the district and to gather public support for their demands.

The union decided to transfer up to $3 million from its strike fund for immediate use in September. Members of the UTLA recently escalated actions by boycotting staff meetings at schools.

LAUSD responded by filing an unfair labor charge with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) against the union. The district has produced a guide for parents to prepare for a strike and said schools would stay open and be supervised by district staff.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on December 19, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Casey Quinlan is a policy reporter at ThinkProgress covering economic policy and civil rights issues. Her work has been published in The Establishment, The Atlantic, The Crime Report, and City Limits.

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Death on the Job: 2017 Fatality Numbers Released

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics today released its 2017 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries — and it contained good news and bad news. 

The good news is that workplace fatalities fell slightly, less than 1% last year from 5,190 fatal injuries reported in 2016 to 5,147 last year. The fatality rate also declined slightly from 3.6 to 3.5 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers.

That bad news is that still means more than 14 workers are killed on the job every day in this country (in addition to the roughly 135 who die each day from diseases related to work like silicosis, black lung and asbestos-related disease.)

According to the AFL-CIO’s Peg Seminario,

Today’s sobering report comes at a time when the number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors is at the lowest point in decades and the Mine Safety and Health Administration inspection force has dwindled. 

Instead of increasing life-saving measures aimed at protecting working people at their workplaces, the Trump administration is rolling back existing safety and health rules and has failed to move forward on any new safety and health protections.

Most of these job deaths were preventable, caused by well-recognized hazards.

The other troubling parts of today’s report were:

  • The number of workers killed in falls climbed to their highest level in the 26-year history of the BLS survey, accounting for 887, or 17 percent of all worker deaths.
  • Workplace deaths involving confined spaces rose 15 percent to 166 in 2017 from 144 in 2016.
  • The number of older workers killed on the job — 65 and older — reached a new record. Fifteen percent of the fatally-injured workers in 2017 were age 65 or over. In 1992, the first year CFOI published national data, that figure was 8 percent. 
  • 258 farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers were killed in 2017 and almost two-thirds of those were age 65. Forty-eight were over 80 years old.
  • The number of workplace deaths among Hispanic or Latino workers rose 2.7% to 903 in 2017, after falling 3% last year.
  • Workplace violence deaths were down last year, but violence-related deaths remain the 3rd leading cause of death in the workplace.
  • Fatalities in health care and social services rose from 117 to 146, a 25% increase.
  • Workplace fatalities in the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry increased 26 percent to 112 in 2017. Fatalities in the industry had reached an all time low in 2016. Over 70 percent of these fatalities were incurred by workers in the oil and gas extraction industries.
  • Alaska and North Dakota had the highest fatality rates. North Dakota’s rose. The number of deaths in North Dakota rose 36% last year after dropping 40% last year.
  • Deaths from unintentional overdoses due to non-medical drugs or alcohol while at work increased 25 percent.  272 workers died on the job last year from accidental overdoses, a staggering 318 percent increase since 2012 when only 65 unintentional overdose deaths were reported. This was the fifth consecutive year that unintentional workplace overdose deaths increased by at least 25 percent.

Other good news includes

  • Crane-related workplace fatalities fell to their lowest level ever, possibly due to OSHA’s release of its Cranes and Derricks standard several years ago.
  • The number of workers killed getting caught in running equipment or machinery declined 26.2%. to 76 deaths.

And according to OSHA:

“While today’s report shows a decline in the number of workplace fatalities, the loss of even one worker is too many,” said Loren Sweatt, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “Through comprehensive enforcement and compliance assistance that includes educating job creators about their responsibilities under the law, and providing robust education opportunities to workers, OSHA is committed to ensuring the health and safety of the American workforce.”

This blog was originally published at Confined Space on December 18, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jordan Barab was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, and spent 16 years running the safety and health program at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

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Time’s Up to spend CBS donation on a new diversity initiative

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Les Moonves, the former CBS CEO who has been credibly accused by many women of sexual violence and coercion along with the systematic destruction and obstruction of female talent and women-centric shows at his network, is still angling for the exit package of his dreams. Though originally owed $120 million, Moonves may be left holding nothing at all if the network can demonstrate he’s being fired for cause — in this case, by failing to cooperate with the investigation into his alleged misconduct.

In the meantime, CBS has donated a total of $20 million to 18 different advocacy groups as part of Moonves’ departure. Recipients are “organizations dedicated to fostering safe and equitable work environments and eliminating sexual harassment in the workplace,” including RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the National Women’s Law Center, and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.

On Friday, Time’s Up announced how it will spend its $500,000 share: The group is starting an initiative in the entertainment industry aimed at diversifying the producer and executive pool in Hollywood. Called “Who’s in the Room,” its goal is to “increase the number of people of color and people from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds among producers and execs,” according to The Hollywood Reporter:

The program will select mentees currently in entry-level positions and assistant positions that could lead to junior-exec promotions and provide mentors, instruction and financial aid if needed. The first class of mentees, comprising 10 individuals, will be mentored for nine months; the second class will have 50 mentees supported for two years each.

The program will have a financial aid component (up to $10,000 per candidate) for everything from more exciting professional opportunities, like film festival attendance, to emergencies or basic needs. Who’s in the Room will also have “accountability measures” built in, with regular check-ins and events for mentees.

An intuitive truth: The more diverse a creative, behind-the-camera team is, the better the representation will be on-screen as well. One recent study to this point found that when a television show has at least one female creator, more women are hired for behind the scenes and on-camera roles.

Meanwhile, it seems every day brings a new report about something sordid, if not outright unlawful, from Moonves’ tenure at CBS.

On Thursday, the New York Times revealed that the network paid actress Eliza Dushku $9.5 million to keep her quiet about sexual harassment she endured on the set of Bull from Michael Weatherly, a regular CBS star for a decade and a half. She confronted Weatherly about his harassment, the Times reports, and was subsequently fired; believing her termination was retaliation for speaking up about Weatherly, she went through mediation with CBS and wound up with $9.5 million, approximately what she would have earned if she’d stayed on the show for four seasons.

In the investigation report which contained the details about Dushku’s experience, lawyers said CBS’s handling of Dushku’s complaints “was not only misguided, but emblematic of larger problems at CBS. When faced with instances of wrongdoing, the company had a tendency to protect itself, at the expense of victims.”

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on December 15, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Jessica M. Goldstein is the Culture Editor for ThinkProgress.

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Trump administration begs SCOTUS to let it ban transgender people from the military now

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The Trump administration, in a series of emergency briefs on Thursday, pleaded with the Supreme Court to allow a ban on transgender people serving in the military to take effect, rather that waiting a year to take up the case.

The Department of Justice initially filed a set of briefs over Thanksgiving weekend asking the Court to take up the matter, an attempt to circumvent the four cases still playing in federal district and appeals courts.

In the new filings, the administration doubled down on this request, insisting that if the Court doesn’t take up the case this session, it should stay the injunctions the lower courts have imposed, allowing the ban to take effect until it’s able to visit the case in 2019.

Letting thousands of transgender people already serving in the military keep their jobs poses “too great a risk to military effectiveness and lethality,” the filing claims. Allowing an injunction to remain in place “well into 2020” is “a period too long,” and “contrary to the Nation’s interests.”

Such arguments have failed wildly in the lower courts. In September, for example, U.S. District Judge Jesus Bernal said “loss of unit cohesion” had been cited as an argument against allowing Black people, women, and gay people from joining the military. “The military has repeatedly proven its capacity to adapt and grow stronger specifically by the inclusion of these individuals,” he wrote, dismissing claims that including transgender people would generate any different outcome.

A core argument of the administration’s latest filing is that the injunctions should only apply to the specific individuals who filed the various lawsuits, rather than protecting all current and prospective transgender military personnel. It claims the ban is based on the medical condition of gender dysphoria, not transgender identity, and thus does not infringe on any group’s equal protection under the law.

The administration’s description of those impacted by the ban, however, undermines it’s own claims. “Individuals with a history of gender dysphoria would be permitted to join the military if they have not undergone gender transition, are willing and able to serve in their biological sex, and can show 36 months of stability,” it states, arguing that gender dysphoria is not a disqualifying factor, but rather transitioning.

The brief also objects to several motions for discovery filed in the cases, claiming that all documentation related to how the ban was established would fall under executive privilege. Such documents might shed additional light on interference by Vice President Pence and anti-LGBTQ conservativesDefense Secretary Mattis’ memo — which gave the study committee no choice but to uphold the ban — or how the information the committee collected contradicted its conclusions.

If the Court stays the injunctions but doesn’t consider the case in the meantime, transgender people would likely be banned from the military through 2020. Contrary to the administration’s claims, this would impact countless people beyond the plaintiffs.

This blog was originally published at ThinkProgress on December 14, 2018.

About the Author: Zack Ford is the LGBTQ Editor at ThinkProgress.org, where he has covered issues related to marriage equality, transgender rights, education, and “religious freedom,” in additional to daily political news.

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The Group That Brought Us Janus Is Waging a New Stealth Attack On Unions

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Last week, a case was filed in federal court in Pennsylvania that may mark another major front in the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s (NRTW) war on labor. Though the NRTW has been attacking labor since its official founding in 1955, it has only recently come into its moment, having enormous success with the courts. Since 2012, the NRTW has brought four cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, including the major Janus case, which overturned a 41-year-old precedent by pushing all public-sector workers into “right to work.” This legal framework permits workers to not pay any dues to the unions that represent them, and “right to work” laws have become one of the Right’s favorite weapons to defund and sow discord among labor. In its newest effort, the NRTW is attempting to overturn a body of labor law, in place for decades, that encourages employers to bargain in good faith after settling an unfair labor practice charge.

Under normal circumstances, any time 30 percent of unionized workers file a decertification petition, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will hold a vote to determine if the union has lost a majority of its support. However, there are certain circumstances where the NLRB will not hold a decertification election because it interferes with the employer’s legal obligations. One such instance, which the NRTW now attacks, was developed in a 1951 NLRB case called Poole Foundry, which holds that the NLRB won’t hold a union decertification election if the decertification petition is filed after the union and employer settle an unfair labor practice complaint, if the settlement contains a provision that the employer bargain with the union in good faith.

In 1951, the NLRB said the rule exists to account for the fact that a union’s support may decline after the employer has engaged in unfair labor practices. Furthermore, if decertification elections were permitted during the required bargaining period, the employer would have an incentive to not bargain in good faith:

It is well settled that after the Board finds that an employer has failed in his statutory duty to bargain with a union, and orders the employer to bargain, such an order must be carried out for a reasonable time thereafter without regard to whether or not there are fluctuations in the majority status of the union during that period. Such a rule has been considered necessary to give the order to bargain its fullest effect, i.e., to give the parties to the controversy a reasonable time in which to conclude a contract. Similarly, a settlement agreement containing a bargaining provision, if it is to achieve its purpose, must be treated as giving the parties thereto a reasonable time in which to conclude a contract.

In the case that the NRTW is now suing over, Krise Transportation took over operations of STA of Pennsylvania and then refused to reinstate many of the union employees. The NLRB issued an unfair labor practice complaint against Krise Transportation, alleging that when it took over the company, it became a successor employer and violated the law when it tried to avoid its duty to bargain with the union by not reinstating those employees. The NLRB and Krise settled the complaint, and Krise agreed to reinstate the union employees and to bargain in good faith with the union for 12 months.

However, instead of complying with the terms of its settlement agreement, Krise Transportation did not reinstate the employees and only met once to bargain. Less than two months after the settlement agreement was approved, a decertification petition was filed with the NLRB by a group of employees that did not include those who were supposed to be reinstated. In denying the decertification election, the regional director of the Pittsburgh Region of the NLRB recognized the damage done to workers and unions when a successor employer engages in such conduct, writing:

When a successor employer engages in discriminatory hiring in order to evade a bargaining obligation with the predecessor employer’s union, it “inflicts a particularly potent wound on the union and its members.” As the Supreme Court has recognized, a successor employer’s refusal to bargain with the union that represented the predecessor’s employees “disrupts the employees’ morale, deters their organizational activities, and discourages their membership in unions.”

The NRTW appealed the decision to the full Board, and the Board upheld the Regional Director’s order. But, the two Republican members of the Board dropped an important footnote that stated that they followed the 1951 precedent “for institutional reasons,” but “they would consider revisiting the Board’s settlement bar policy in a future appropriate proceeding.”

Instead of waiting to bring a future case in front of the NLRB, the NRTW has instead taken a multi-pronged approach to trying to change these important rules. First, it filed a case in federal district court in Erie, Pennsylvania, challenging this decades-old rule on constitutional and statutory grounds. The NRTW is unlikely to win in district court, but it has shown that it is adept in losing at the lower levels but having an agreeable audience at the Supreme Court.

A few days after filing the lawsuit, on December 3, the NRTW sent a 17-page letter to the NLRB requesting that the Board use its rulemaking authority to get rid of “all existing non-statutory election ‘bars’ and ‘blocks.’” Using the technical legalese of labor law, the NRTW is essentially requesting that the NLRB make it easier for workers to vote the union out when they are dissatisfied with the union. Under federal labor law, workers have the right to vote a union in or out. But the rules proposed by the NRTW would create a scenario in which employers can illegally fire workers who support the union so that the non-supporters can vote the union out. Employers could also illegally refuse to bargain with the union—which was voted in specifically to bargain with the employer and secure a contract—and then use that worker dissatisfaction with lack of progress on a contract to get the workers to kick the union out.

Though these rules are technical and may constitute “inside baseball” for many outside of union negotiating committees and management attorneys, changing them as requested by the NRTW could lead to yet another structural impediment to workers having a voice at the workplace. Settlements of unfair labor practice charges are quite common. In 2009, the last year that the NLRB released an annual report, 7,795 of the 22,943 charges filed at the NLRB settled. While, not all of these settlements included provisions to bargain, many likely did, and the Poole Foundry rule helped enforce that provision. Without the rule, employers would have yet one more incentive to commit unfair labor practices, to not bargain in good faith with the union and to gerrymander their workforce—in an attempt to push unions out of the workplace.

This article was originally published at In These Times on December 13, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Moshe Z. Marvit is an attorney and fellow with The Century Foundation and the co-author (with Richard Kahlenberg) of the book Why Labor Organizing Should be a Civil Right.

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New York City’s transgender community faces significant employment discrimination, new report finds

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The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) released a new report Tuesday detailing systemic discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people across the city.

Compared to the general New York City population, TGNC individuals are five times more likely to be unemployed, and among those with college degrees, more than four times more likely to be making less than $30,000 a year, the report found.

The report also outlines specific barriers TGNC people face while trying to find a job. Thirty-one percent reported experiencing discrimination before they even finished applying for jobs because they were asked what gender they were assigned at birth, a question employers are not legally allowed to ask. Others said they were asked for references from past employers who only knew them by their “dead name,” or the name they used before they transitioned.

Over half of respondents said they were forced to educate their coworkers about their identities, and a third reported being isolated by coworkers and receiving unwanted sexual comments. Many were overqualified for their jobs, while others said non-TGNC peers received higher salaries for the same work. A third of respondents said they were unable to use their health insurance to receive the gender affirming care they needed.

The New York City Anti-Violence Project (AVP) released a new report Tuesday detailing systemic discrimination against transgender and gender non-conforming (TGNC) people across the city.

Compared to the general New York City population, TGNC individuals are five times more likely to be unemployed, and among those with college degrees, more than four times more likely to be making less than $30,000 a year, the report found.

The report also outlines specific barriers TGNC people face while trying to find a job. Thirty-one percent reported experiencing discrimination before they even finished applying for jobs because they were asked what gender they were assigned at birth, a question employers are not legally allowed to ask. Others said they were asked for references from past employers who only knew them by their “dead name,” or the name they used before they transitioned.

Over half of respondents said they were forced to educate their coworkers about their identities, and a third reported being isolated by coworkers and receiving unwanted sexual comments. Many were overqualified for their jobs, while others said non-TGNC peers received higher salaries for the same work. A third of respondents said they were unable to use their health insurance to receive the gender affirming care they needed.

Renata Ramos, a 57-year-old transfeminine Latina immigrant, claimed she lost a catering job when she transitioned because the business owner was allegedly concerned about “how their customers would react.” She claimed she was repeatedly told by employers such Trader Joe’s and a local dollar store that there were no open positions for which she could apply.

ThinkProgress has reached out to Trader Joe’s for comment on the allegation.

Lolan Sevilla, an AVP training coordinator and co-author of the report, told ThinkProgress that for many TGNC individuals, instances of discrimination were often compounded by their race. “For example, there was a significant disparity between trans and gender non-conforming people of color and white respondents on education, employment, and income,” they said, noting TGNC people of color with bachelor’s degrees were nearly four times more likely than to their white counterparts to make less than $10,000 a year.

“In order for us to have true economic justice for trans and gender non-conforming people, these issues must be looked at, and addressed, holistically with a framework that includes other identities held like race, disability, and immigration status,” Sevilla said.

New York City protects against employment discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression, and has even issued guidance specifying that those protections apply to issues like correct name and pronoun usage in the workplace. The report recommended the city take things one step further and create educational opportunities and employment programs to help TGNC individuals overcome inequities they still face while attempting to enter the workforce.

It’s often impossible for TGNC individuals to know whether they are being treated differently, as many are simply unaware of the favorable treatment afforded to their non-TGNC peers. The report therefore recommends screening employers to ensure they are welcoming of TGNC employees through methods like resume testing.

The Washington, D.C. Office of Human Rights conducted one such test in 2015, sending various fake resumes to different employers, some with indications that the invented job candidate was transgender. In nearly half of the tests, employers favored a less-qualified cisgender candidate over a more qualified transgender candidate. As a result, the office was able to take enforcement actions against several of these employers for violating nondiscrimination laws, even though no real-life transgender people experienced discrimination.

New York City has used a similar process for identifying anti-transgender discrimination at substance abuse centers.

Chanel Lopez, Transgender Communities Liaison at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, emphasized the importance of such work and the need to continue pushing for more transparency in a statement Tuesday. “As we know all too well at the NYC Commission on Human Rights, TGNC individuals endure a range of discrimination and harassment in their daily lives, including in the workplace,” she said. “This is simply unacceptable.”

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on December 12, 2018. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Zack Ford is the LGBTQ Editor at ThinkProgress.org, where he has covered issues related to marriage equality, transgender rights, education, and “religious freedom,” in additional to daily political news. In 2014, The Advocate named Zack one of its “40 under 40” in LGBT media, describing him as “one of the most influential journalists online.”

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Mugno or not to Mugno: The Senate Must Decide

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As the sun sets on the 115th Congress and the mid-point of this term of the Trump administration, the sun also seems to be setting on any chance of seeing an Assistant Secretary for OSHA in the foreseeable future.

Or maybe not….

You may recall that former FedEx Ground safety director and Chamber of Commerce favorite Scott Mugno was nominated by President Trump in October 2017, has survived a Senate confirmation hearing and has been approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) committee (twice) on party-line votes. But Mugno’s nomination has never come to a final vote on the floor of the Senate.

Politico’s Morning Shift reminded us last week that the nomination of Mugno, as well as the nominations of Cheryl Stanton for the agency’s Wage and Hour Division, William Beach at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and Gordon Hartogensis with the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation continue to be mired in a fight over the confirmation of two Democratic favorites: Mark Gaston Pearce to be reconfirmed for a seat on the National Labor Relations Board, and Chai Feldblum to be reconfirmed for a seat on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (There are two other DOL nominees out there as well: John Pallasch for assistant secretary for employment and training was cleared by the Senate Committee last week, and Bryan Jarrett for assistant secretary for policy has not yet had a hearing. )

The business community (e.g. Chamber of Commerce and others) and their Republican cohorts in the Senate hate, Hate, HATE the idea of confirming Pearce and Feldblum more than they love the idea of having someone head the other labor agencies. The Chamber opposes Pearce because he “engineered some of the most harmful decisions and regulations in the Board’s history.”  And even though he was only on the Board from 2010 to 2018, he somehow managed to reverse “more than 4,550 years of precedent,” causing King Tut to roll over in his sarcophagus. According to Bloomberg Law, the Republicans fear that Pearce will slow down their efforts to roll back worker protections that were strengthened under Obama. But their real worry is that if Trump is defeated in 2020, Pearce would be the likely candidate to become NLRB Chair — with the downfall of Western Civilization shortly to follow.

Chai Feldblum served as EEOC chair throughout the Obama administration and has been renominated by Trump.  Her main sin is being an “open” lesbian and gay rights activist which is more important than the fact that she is a graduate of Harvard Law, clerked for Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun, and is a Georgetown Law School professor.  Utah Senator Mike Lee is particularly incensed with Feldblum’s nomination, calling her a “threat to religious liberty and the institution of marriage.”

Senator Patty Murray, ranking member of the HELP committee reemphasized last week that Democrats would continue to block the Labor Department nominees until the Senate confirms Pearce and Feldblum.

Why did Trump renominate these candidates who threaten the American way of life?

Because the party controlled by the President gets three appointees to these Boards, while the minority party gets two. Traditionally, the parties get to put up their own candidates who are then nominated by the President. In other words, they’re traditionally a package. Technically, the Democrats can’t block the DOL nominees because the Republicans eliminated their ability to require 60 votes, but Democrats can force Senate Leader Mitch McConnell to consider the confirmation of each candidate separately (instead of as a package), which would take up an enormous amount of scarce Senate floor time that McConnell would rather use to confirm Trump’s judges and higher level nominees. If the nominees aren’t confirmed in the next couple of weeks before this session of Congress ends, the entire nomination process starts all over again.

So what will happen? Will the dam break next week? Rumors of high level talks between the Democrats, McConnell and the White House have been flying, but if I had a nickel for every time a deal was reported to be imminent…

This blog was originally published at Confined Space on December 6, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Jordan Barab was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor at OSHA from 2009 to 2017, and spent 16 years running the safety and health program at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

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