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The Supreme Court case that has unions on edge

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ON THE DOCKET: The Supreme Court on Tuesday is set to hear oral arguments in a case that is being closely watched by labor unions fearful that the conservative majority could undercut the appeal for workers to strike and sap authority from the National Labor Relations Board.

At issue is whether employers can sue unions accused of destroying property as part of a labor dispute in state court, or whether such a lawsuit is preempted by federal labor law.

The house Glacier Northwest Inc. v. International Brotherhood of Teamstersstems from a 2017 labor dispute in which workers at a Washington concrete company went on strike in protest of contract negotiation delays.

The company filed a lawsuit in state court against the union that represents the truck drivers involvedarguing that it should be compensated for the cost of cement that became unusable after workers walked off the job.

Glacier Northwest argued that the stoppage was intentionally timed to ruin cementwhile the Teamsters said they were careful to prevent the mix from hardening by returning cement trucks to the property and keeping them running before striking.

“The right to strike is crucial to the collective bargaining process and allows a union to time a strike to apply substantial economic pressure,” the Teamsters wrote to the Supreme Court.

Washington’s Supreme Court ruled that Glacier Northwest’s civil lawsuit should be dismissed because the legality of the strike falls under the NLRB (which later sided with the union). In court filings, businesses and conservative legal groups argue these types of lawsuits are not preempted by federal law and should be allowed to proceed.

Unions and labor supporters are concerned that doing so would incur substantial legal expenses and put the economic costs associated with strikes onto the workers, thereby lessening the leverage on employers that discourage employees from using the tactic.

“Who’s going to go on strike when you know that if your strike is successful, you’ll be sued?,” Cornell University’s Cathy Creighton told Shift.

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AFTER SPEAKER VOTES, MORE VOTES: After a weekend recovering from the dayslong adventure to elect Kevin McCarthy as speaker of the House, the chamber will set about a few other key votes before the term can proceed.

First there’s the rules package to govern how the House will conduct its business, which includes a swipe at the congressional staff unionization effort that caught fire within Democratic offices last year.

And as soon as Monday, Republicans will have to settle the messy matter of choosing who will win the handful of prized committee chairs that have multiple members jockeying for them.

That includes the Committee on Education and the Workforce (RIP: Ed. and Labor), where former Chair Virginia Foxx (RN.C.) is looking to regain the top job over Rep. Tim Walberg of Michigan.

EEOC COMES UP EMPTY:Agencies across the federal government last week unveiled their semi-annual regulatory agenda for the next few months. Except for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, that is.

It’s part of a longer trend, as the EEOC has not put out an update since the back end of 2020 — before the Biden administration came into office.

The lack of a public regulatory agenda is a blow to government transparency, although these filings are far from gospel. Agencies can, and do, roll out items that were not disclosed and the target dates are loose approximations, at best.

But the inaction is another manifestation of the commission’s struggles the past two years, as chronicled by POLITICO and othersas Democratic appointees are in charge but are unable to push through anything without GOP support.

EEOC Republicans have pushed to schedule a public meeting to work on the regulatory agenda but have been rebuffed by Chair Charlotte Burrows, resulting in the yearslong standstill.

“Instead of setting such a meeting and holding a public vote on the matter, the Chair withdrew the matter from consideration,” Commissioner Andrea Lucas said in an email. “The responsibility for the EEOC’s failure to submit a regulatory agenda lies solely with the Chair.”

In a statement, an EEOC spokesperson acknowledged that no regulatory agenda was released as it “must be approved by a majority vote of the EEOC Commissioners,” but that the agency remains in “full compliance” with federal rulemaking requirements.

Much of the EEOC’s work is unaffected by this hangup — on Friday it announced a $2 million sexual harassment settlement involving a McDonald’s franchise owner — but the dynamic seems unlikely to shift unless and until the Senate confirms Biden’s nominee, Kalpana Kotagal, and gives Democrats a critical third commissioner.

SOME LIKE IT (NOT TOO) HOT:The American economy added 223,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate ticked down to 3.5 percent, according to Labor Department data released Friday.

Put another way, that is the lowest monthly growth in two years. But it is still a net gain and caps a year in which employers added about 4.5 million jobs overall.

Other indicators also point to an economy that is growing but losing steam — potentially good news for officials at the Federal Reserve who have sought to bring inflation under control.

Wage growth was 0.3 percent over the previous month, which also came in below the revised reading for November.

More workplace news: Drugstores make slow headway on staffing problems,” from The Associated Press.

CLEANING HOUSE: The union representing many of California’s state government workers on Saturday ousted President Richard Louis Brown after he stole documents and intimidated staff, the Sacramento Bee reports.

An investigation into Brown found that he “failed to properly conduct board meetings, undermined the authority of the union’s executive committee, improperly suspended three of Local 1000’s vice presidents, threatened to discipline staff for communicating with the ‘suspended’ vice presidents, illegally occupied the Local 1000 headquarters, stole union records and improperly approved 12 holidays for Local 1000 staff without board approval or collective bargaining.”

SEIU Local 1000 had suspended Brown in February and as part of Saturday’s action the union barred him from serving as a steward until 2025. He won the presidency in 2021 in a low-turnout election and quickly ranked other leaders at the union.

More union news:UAW workers reject CNH offer, extending 8-month strike,” from The Associated Press.

BLACK MS WORKERS SETTLE DISCRIMINATION CLAIMS: A group of 13 Black farmworkers who accused operators of hiring white South Africans over them reached an out-of-court settlement, Mississippi Today reports.

Last year the paper published a lengthy investigation showing how several farms in the area misused the H-2A visa program, which is intended for agricultural businesses who cannot find enough domestic workers to run their operations.

The attorneys who represented the workers said they are planning to file similar suits against other farms in the area.

TITLE 42 LATEST: US border policy has led to a pile up of migrants in Mexico that has created a humanitarian crisis, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“As President Biden prepares to visit El Paso on Sunday, his first trip to the border since taking office two years ago, this is what he faces: Thousands of people from some of the world’s most oppressive countries marooned in Mexico because of the expansion of a Trump administration policy that allows border agents to immediately expel migrants without considering their asylum claims.”

FROM PLAYBOOK: The American Immigration Council has added Dara Lind as a senior fellow, Mina Devadas as chief development officer and Kimberly Serrano as director of the Center for Inclusion and Belonging. Lind previously was a reporter with ProPublica and Vox. Devadas was previously with the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. Serrano was previously with the California Immigrant Policy Center.

More immigration news:DeSantis activates National Guard as hundreds of Cuban migrants arrive in Florida,”from POLITICO Florida.

— “World’s First MeToo Official Finds a Tougher Job Than She Expected,” from Bloomberg.

— “The Engineers Are Bloggers Now,” from The New York Times.

— “‘We know what it’s like’: Workers in dangerous jobs empathize with NFL’s Hamlin,” from The Washington Post.

THAT’S ALL FOR SHIFT!