Trump Leaves Some States No Choice but to Resist

From the USW

As the Trump administration rolls back worker-friendly legislation put in place by former President Obama, states have stepped up to the plate to re-enact those laws on their own.

Last September, the Justice Department formally ended the Obama administration's expansion of the federal overtime rule by announcing it would not appeal a District Court's ruling that said the government overreached when it expanded the number of people covered by the rule.

Yet just this past week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced he seeks to create his own overtime rule for his state by raising the income limit under which companies would be required to pay overtime to salaried workers.

Right now, Pennsylvania workers on salary who make $23,600 a year or more can be required to work well over 40 hours a week without getting any overtime pay. The governor wants to raise that in three stages, reaching a limit of almost $48,000 a year by 2022.

“Pennsylvania’s overtime rules haven’t changed in more than 40 years and workers are paying the price,” said Governor Wolf in a release. “I am taking this action to ensure hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who work more than 40 hours a week for the same job receive the overtime pay they have earned.”

This isn’t the first time states have acted to preserve legislation after President Trump reversed it via executive order. In January 2017, Trump signed an order that would deny federal funding to cities with sanctuary policies.

The Justice Department threatened to subpoena 23 cities, states, and counties with sanctuary policies that limit local cooperation with federal immigration enforcement. Across the country, mayors of cities including New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh have denounced the decision and have vowed to protect immigrants living in their jurisdictions.

Several mayors including Bill DeBlasio (NYC) and Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles) even boycotted a recent meeting with the president because of the administration’s crackdown on sanctuary cities.

“A year ago the Trump administration threatened our country. And we made very clear that that threat was unconstitutional,” said de Blasio.

Only time will tell if the party that touts their love of “state’s rights” will stick to their convictions and allow these states to implement their own legislation, even if it flies in the face of the White House. For workers’ sake, advocates hope it does.

"The governor's action makes Pennsylvania one of the first states to lock in the Obama overtime raise at the state level," said Paul Sonn, general counsel at the National Employment Law Project. "It provides a road map for other states to protect their residents from the Trump rollback, and we expect more governors to follow his lead."

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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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