Posts Tagged ‘public employment’

Labor and employment roundup

  • “For years, a Texas electric utility company and its union feuded over the installation of automated smart meters; the company wanted them; the union didn’t, fearing they would put meter-readers out of work. A repairman for the company testifies to state legislators that the smart meters are combustion prone and damaging homes. Company: Which isn’t true. You’re fired. NLRB: Can’t fire him. His testimony was protected union activity. D.C Circuit: Maybe not. We’re very deferential to the Board, but even so, the NLRB’s reasoning here is ‘too opaque.'” [John Kenneth Ross, Short Circuit, on Oncor v. NLRB]
  • May Day replay: What happened at the Haymarket Affair? [John J. Miller] A Wikipedia footnote [Timothy Messer-Kruse, Chronicle of Higher Education]
  • Decline in number of U.S. manufacturing jobs is not owing to decline in unionization [Colin Grabow, Cato]
  • More for the “I thought contractual non-union arbitration was just a racket to benefit employers” files [Eric B. Meyer, Employer Handbook (prospective “tsunami” of arbitration claims against chain restaurant); Daniel Schwartz (exotic dancers win big in private arbitration)]
  • “Regulating the Modern Workforce,” Federalist Society Regulatory Transparency Project symposium video with James C. Cooper, Clark Neily, Ryan Nunn, Gabriel Scheffler, John Yun;
  • “Consumers do not have the option of abandoning unionized public services if they become too expensive and inefficient, as they can do with unionized services in the private sector.” [Chris Edwards, Cato on Janus v. AFSCME]

Unions explore ways to dodge Janus in advance

In the pending Janus case, the Supreme Court may recognize a First Amendment right of government workers not to be obliged to pay mandatory union dues as a condition of employment, while not disturbing the situation for private sector employees, who have no such First Amendment right. Presto, an opening for union subterfuge involving pretend privatization of the government jobs:

The unions’ version is to create and insert between government and employees sham “private” units to handle human resource and payroll functions and, thereby, assume the role of “legal employer.”

Ironically, some of the first groups of unionized employees to be targeted for such a strategy are in sectors where public-employee status had itself been a subterfuge: independent home health care workers paid with state moneys who had only been declared public employees in the first place as a way to herd them into unions. With the new twist, these independent workers could thus have been reclassified twice: first from private to public so as to allow the fiction of a single employer and coverage by pro-union state policy, and then from public to private to avoid the constitutional protections that would ordinarily accompany work for a public employer. [Red Jahncke, New London Day and earlier The Hill.)

February 28 roundup

Public employment roundup

“Trump proposes biggest civil service change in 40 years”

This could be major: President Trump may be set to propose the biggest civil service changes in 40 years, with goals of flushing underperformers in the federal workforce and boosting pay-for-performance. “Trump is using the VA Accountability Act, which gave the Secretary of Veterans Affairs greater authority to fire and discipline workers, as a model. The White House says that law has resulted in the dismissal of 1,470 employees, the suspension of 443, demotions for 83 others last year.” The head of the American Federation of Government Employees charged that Trump was “interested in political revenge by firing people” and that his proposal “wipes out due process rights for employees.” Currently 99.7% of federal employees get the satisfactory rating (“fully successful”) needed to qualify for stepwise pay increases as well as cost-of-living. [Gregory Korte, USA Today] My City Journal take on the perennial challenge of civil service reform, back when, is here.

Labor and employment roundup

  • Spotted in Senate tax bill: what sounds like an excellent proposal to cut off worker-classification lawsuits [Shu-Yi Oei and Diane M. Ring (who take a very different view of the provision) via Caron/TaxProf]
  • Federalist Society convention video on future of federal workplace agencies with Alex Acosta and Nicholas Geale of DoL, Victoria Lipnic of EEOC, Philip Miscimarra of NLRB;
  • “‘Mistake’ in Pennsylvania homecare contract would have helped unions in fight over healthcare workers” [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner; Cato podcast with David Osborne and Caleb O. Brown]
  • Automatically worth reading, Claudia Goldin on gender pay gap [New York Times]
  • Public sector unions rule in California politics, and pension-spiking is just one of the results [Steven Greenhut] “California Union Bill Looks to Ban Outsourcing Public Services” [same]
  • New report from Dana Berliner, Clark Neily al., “Occupational Licensing Run Wild” [Federalist Society Regulatory Transparency Project]

Labor and employment roundup

Supreme Court could revisit forced advocacy dues for public workers

A 1977 Supreme Court decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, upheld the constitutionality of forcing public employees to fund (through union dues) advocacy they might not like. More recently the Court has questioned the reasoning of Abood in Knox v. SEIU (2012) and Harris v. Quinn (2014), although the trend stalled in last year’s 4-4 split in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Now the Court could revisit the issue by agreeing to review a Seventh Circuit case from Illinois, Janus v. AFSCME [Ilya Shapiro and Frank Garrison, Cato]

Decline and fall of the Contracts Clause

George Leef reviews James W. Ely, Jr., book The Contract Clause: A Constitutional History. The clause, part of Article I, prescribes that no state shall pass any law “impairing the obligation of contracts”:

By the end of the Marshall era, the Contract Clause provided a firm defense against legislative interference for rights under public and private contracts. That would be its high-water mark. Soon state and federal courts began to whittle away at it….

The 1934 Supreme Court case of Home Building and Loan v. Blaisdell is often cited as a turning point in the clause’s demotion, but the stripping away of protection against such laws has continued into more modern times.

Thus, state governments now have nearly unlimited power to tamper with contractual obligations and the reliability of a contract depends upon how judges might weigh several vague factors. Where the Founders wanted certainty, we now have a great deal of uncertainty.

Ely concludes by taking us into recent cases where the clause has been resurrected in efforts by public employee unions to prevent legislatures from whittling away any of their promised benefits through efforts to lower budget deficits.

These may sometimes prevent even laws aimed at reducing “unearned” future benefits arising from public-sector work that has not yet been performed. Even as some courts render such benefits provisions constitutionally binding on subsequent legislatures, they show little interest in reviving the clause’s old scope so as to bar legislation that impairs the obligation of existing private contracts.