- “Telling Employee He Is ‘Eligible’ For Bonus Not Enough to Create Contractual Obligation” [Chris Parkin/Daniel Schwartz; Connecticut appeals court]
- Richard Epstein on Obama’s anti-LGBT-discrimination edict for federal contractors [Hoover “Defining Ideas”]
- D.C. Circuit panel, Janice Rogers Brown writing, strikes down DC tour guide licensing scheme [Ilya Shapiro/Cato, WaPo, Orin Kerr]
- “Why Progressives Shouldn’t Support Public Workers Unions” [Dmitri Mehlhorn/Daily Beast]
- “James Sherk of Heritage on Members-Only Bargaining” [On Labor]
- As discrimination law gradually swallows all else: “Rep. Keith Ellison wants to make union organizing a civil right” [MSNBC]
- NY Senate committee gives approval to “workplace bullying” law. On thin constitutional ice? [Hans Bader/CEI, earlier]
- California tenure lawsuit exposes rift between Democratic establishment and teachers’ union [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner]
- NLRB pushing new interpretation to sweep much outsourcing into “joint employment” for labor law purposes [Marilyn Pearson, Inside Counsel]
- Restaurant “worker centers” campaign against tipping. Perhaps a sign their interests not fully aligned with waitstaffs’? [Ryan Williams, DC]
- NLRB’s edict against non-union employers’ confidentiality policies emblematic of its activist stance lately [Karen Michael, Times-Dispatch]
- Three public sector unions spent $4.3 million on Connecticut state political activities in 2011-2013 cycle [Suzanne Bates, Raising Hale]
- Sen. Lindsey Graham prepares funding rider to block NLRB “micro-union” recognition [Fred Wszolek, background]
- “Table Dance Manager” glitch alleged: “Exotic dancers + allegedly malfunctioning software = Fair Labor lawsuit” [Texas Lawyer]
In more than a dozen states in recent years, governors, legislators or both have arranged through law or regulation to install unions to represent the fast-growing ranks of home health and child care workers, who in many instances are family members receiving a state stipend for looking after their own loved ones. In Harris v. Quinn, a five-member majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it violates the First Amendment rights of these recipients to require them to pay dues to a union of whose views and activities they may not approve. It did not alter — for now, at least — the 1977 Abood precedent under which full-fledged public workers can be required to pay such dues, instead recognizing a new category of “partial public employees.”
P.S. A tip-off from SCOTUS on where it intends to take Harris logic? One view from the Left [In These Times] Ruling is rebuke to various governors, including Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, who have employed executive orders to unionize home health carers [Marc Kilmer, MPPI; related, George Leef] Eugene Volokh dissents on the underlying “bedrock” First Amendment issue [Volokh Conspiracy] Will a teacher’s case called Friedrich v. CTA be the vehicle for revisiting Abood? [Jason Bedrick, Cato] And some clues that the first draft of Harris v. Quinn might have overturned Abood, before the majority reconsidered and pulled back [Jack Goldsmith, Sachs, Homer, at On Labor]
Cross-posted from Cato at Liberty, a guest post from my Cato colleague Andrew Grossman:
Enough is enough, the Supreme Court ruled today in Harris v. Quinn regarding the power of government to force public employees to associate with a labor union and pay for its speech. Although the Court did not overturn its 1977 precedent, Abood, allowing states to make their workers contribute to labor unions, it declined to extend that principle to reach recipients of state subsidies—in this case, home-care workers who receive modest stipends from the state of Illinois’ Medicaid program but are not properly considered “employees” of the state.
The Court is right that Abood is “something of an anomaly” because it sacrifices public workers’ First Amendment rights of speech and association to avoid their “free-riding” on the dues of workers who’ve chosen to join a union, the kind of thing that rarely if ever is sufficient to overcome First Amendment objections. But Abood treated that issue as already decided by prior cases, which the Harris Court recognizes it was not–a point discussed at length in Cato’s amicus brief. Abood was a serious mistake, Harris concludes, because public-sector union speech on “core issues such as wages, pensions, and benefits are important political issues” and cannot be distinguished from other political speech, which is due the First Amendment’s strongest protection. A ruling along those lines would spell the end of compulsory support of public-sector unions, a major source of funds and their clout.
It was enough, however, in Harris for the Court to decline Illinois’ invitation “to approve a very substantial expansion of Abood’s reach.” Illinois claimed that home-care workers were public employees for one purpose only: collective bargaining. But these workers were not hired or fired by the state, supervised by the state, given benefits by the state, or otherwise treated as state workers. And for that reason, Abood’s purposes, which relate only to actual “public employees,” simply do not apply. Were the law otherwise, the Court observed, “a host of workers who receive payments from a governmental entity for some sort of service would be candidates for inclusion within Abood’s reach.”
While Harris is not a watershed opinion that remakes labor law consistent with First Amendment principles, it does put an end to the forced unionization of home-based workers, a practice that has spread to nearly a dozen states and had provided a substantial number of new workers to the labor movement in recent years. Harris also lays the groundwork for a challenge to what it calls “Abood’s questionable foundations.” If recent Roberts Court precedents like Shelby County and Citizens United are any guide, Harris is a warning shot that the Abood regime is not long for this world and that the next case will be the one to vindicate all public workers’ First Amendment rights.
- “Coming to Your Workplace Soon? Union Organizing Efforts Via the Company’s Email System” [Daniel Kaplan, Foley & Lardner]
- “Pennsylvania Unions Still Exempt from Harassment [Law], Continue Harassing with Impunity” [Trey Kovacs, Workplace Choice, earlier here, here, here]
- Music production gravitates to right to work states attract in part because union musicians less afraid of discipline for taking gigs there [Variety on union’s dispute with videogame-composer member]
- New definition of “nationwide strike”: protesters show up at a few Wal-Marts, few workers pay attention [On Labor]
- Presently constituted NLRB and U.S. Department of Labor are zealous union partisans, not impartial arbiters [Alex Bolt]
- “Workers filing wage-and-hour lawsuits under Labor Act at record pace” [Crain’s Detroit Business]
- “Despite repeated failures, Card Check still top Big Labor priority” [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner]
They wouldn’t show him the warrant because it was sealed [Bill Frezza, Forbes]:
While 30 men in SWAT attire dispatched from Homeland Security and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cart away about half a million dollars of wood and guitars, seven armed agents interrogate an employee without benefit of a lawyer. The next day [Gibson Guitar CEO Henry] Juszkiewicz receives a letter warning that he cannot touch any guitar left in the plant, under threat of being charged with a separate federal offense for each “violation,” punishable by a jail term.
Up until that point Gibson had not received so much as a postcard telling the company it might be doing something wrong….
Juszkiewicz alleges [federal prosecutors] were operating at the behest of lumber unions and environmental pressure groups seeking to kill the market for lumber imports. “This case was not about conservation,” he says. “It was basically protectionism.”
Earlier on the extraordinary Gibson case here.
- “House Report criticizes EEOC for litigation before conciliation” [HRM America, attention-stirring Merrily Archer survey and more]
- Do you gripe about upward spiral of executive salaries? Do you want to force employers into fuller pay disclosure? Be aware of the tension between those two positions [Gary Shapiro of CEI, Daily Caller]
- Because the union is all about respect: Laborers/LIUNA brings giant inflatable rat to St. Louis funeral home [KTVI]
- Reality-based: “during five of last six federal minimum wage increases, nation fell into recession” [Thomas Firey, Cato via @scottlincicome] Minimum wage and automation [Ira Stoll, earlier]
- Minnesota legislature expands employer regulation under apple-pie heading of “Women’s Economic Security Act” [Courtney Ward-Reichard guest-posting at Daniel Schwartz’s] How well are state-mandated employee leaves working in California? [Coyote]
- “EEOC continues fight against severance agreements, while employers fight back” [Jon Hyman, earlier on CVS case]
- OSHA targets auto suppliers in South for enforcement crackdown, rationale to be supplied later [Sean Higgins, DC Examiner via Instapundit (“Well, he can’t come right out and say it’s about hurting non-union shops”)]
- Los Angeles officials push SEIU-backed scheme to fasten unions on nonunion workforce at LAX airport [Brian Sumers, Contra Costa Times]
- Want to empower cities? Reform binding labor arbitration [Stephen Eide, Urbanophile]
- “Explainer: What Does President Obama’s Equal Pay Day Executive Order Change?” [Rachel Homer, On Labor]
- One lawyer’s advice: “when an employee complains about discrimination, or otherwise engages in protected conduct, you must treat that employee with kid gloves” [Jon Hyman on Sixth Circuit retaliation case]
- Detroit juggles pension numbers to fix deficit, papers over the real problem [Dan Kadlec, Time; Shikha Dalmia, Washington Examiner]
- No room left to cut budget, part 245,871: federal grants promote labor unions [Examiner]
- More on EEOC’s campaign to limit employment criminal background checks [Coyote, Daniel Schwartz]
- Resistance mounts to NLRB’s revived “ambush unionism” plans [Epstein Becker Green, Fred Wszolek, three members of Congress/Washington Times, earlier]
- Fifth Circuit: employer’s blanket “don’t talk about company personnel or financial matters” policy violates NLRA [Texas Employment Law Update, Jon Hyman]
- Minimum wage: “Silver Bullet or Poisoned Chalice?” [U.K.-based Institute of Economic Affairs] Nonmonetary impact of minimum wage hikes found “not only in reduced fringe benefits but in increased work demands and decreased job training”” [Richard McKenzie/NCPA via Tyler Cowen]
- Connecticut lawmakers press for pro-labor-union curriculum in public schools [AP/Albany Times-Union]
- Labor/employment, tougher regulatory enforcement top business concerns in new Norton Rose litigation trends survey;
- Incumbent practitioners, not consumers, nearly always the ones pushing for tougher occupational licensure [David Stokes’s Missouri testimony, Show-Me Institute, PDF]
- Court again upholds Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s public sector labor legislation against challenge [Journal-Sentinel, earlier here, etc.]
The 2009 economic stimulus package promoted by President Obama included $5 billion to weatherize some 607,000 homes—with the goals of both spurring the economy and increasing energy efficiency. But the project was required to comply with a statute called the Davis-Bacon Act (signed into law by President Hoover in 1931), which provides that construction projects with federal funding must pay workers the “prevailing wage”—basically a union perk that costs taxpayers about 20 percent more than actual labor rates. This requirement comes with a mass of red tape; bureaucrats in the Labor Department must set wages, as a matter of law, for each category of construction worker in each of three thou- sand counties in America. There was no schedule for “weatherproofers.” So the Labor Department began a slow trudge of determining how much weatherproofers should be paid in Merced County, California; Monmouth County, New Jersey; and several thousand other counties. The stimulus plan had projected that California would weatherproof twenty-five hundred homes per month. At the end of 2009, the actual total was twelve.