TODAY'S FAIR SHOTS - April 11th, 2017
1-John Patrick: SB 75 Supporters Have 'No Sense of Irony or Shame'
2-UFCW: Teens Too Often Face Harassment on the Job, Should Be Able to Choose to Speak Up Together Without Parental Consent
3-Federal Judge Finds Texas Intentionally Discriminated in 'Voter ID' Bill
4-Gorsuch, Now on Supreme Court, May Take Dead Aim at Working People
5-Same Song, Next Verse: Employers Want 'Flexibility' on Overtime Pay
6-Texas Gets Strong Recognition in Pulitzer Prizes
1 -Turning history on its head, the Texas Senate today voted to require parental consent for a minor to join a labor union.
The 20-11 preliminary vote, which will be followed by a final vote tomorrow, flies in the face of the long, honored struggle by organized labor to prevent abuse of children in the workplace.
The Texas AFL-CIO issued this news release:
2) An excellent article on SB 75 in Quorum Report quotes Brother Anthony Elmo of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has a couple thousand minors as members. Like virtually every other union member in Texas, many young workers at Kroger supermarkets choose to speak up together voluntarily to seek a better workplace.
When the bill was originally filed, by the way, some in the lobby wondered aloud whether there even are any minors in labor unions in this state.
The answer is yes.
Anthony Elmo, communications and political director for United Food and Commercial Workers, called the proposal unconstitutional, citing the National Labor Relations Act. Elmo said the union represents anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 minors statewide and the workers at hand are primarily baggers and checkers at Kroger grocery stores.
Many minors who join that union do so to get protections like job security, security in wages, competitive healthcare and other standard benefits, as well as scholarship opportunities through UFCW, Elmo said.
The minors joining the union are often not your traditional youth who live at home with two parents, Elmo noted, adding that a lot of them are emancipated.
"It's taking away rights from a young person that deserves to be able to choose whether they want to be in a union or not," Elmo said of Nelson's bill.
"This bill is a solution in search of a problem," he said. "At the end of the day it's going to end up costing Texas money because we fully intend to litigate this as far as we can go on behalf of these young members."
Many teens seek union representation because they face harassment on the job, ranging from "a rude joke that really a 16-year-old shouldn't be hearing" to sexual harassment, Elmo said.
"Our 15, 16 and 17-year-old members are often harassed by managers and we have the ability to step in as a union and defend them and kind of stand in front of them and take the flames and arrows from the company on their behalf," Elmo said.
3. A federal judge has ruled - once more - that the Texas Legislature intentionally discriminated against minorities in enacting the state's "voter ID" law, The New York Times reports.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos sets up the possibility that Texas will return to federal election oversight and that election rules will be expanded to include more ways for a voter to prove eligibility. Opponents of "voter ID," including the Texas AFL-CIO, have argued that the law insidiously discourages voter turnout by providing hurdles to portions of the Texas population that do not have ready access to the list of photo IDs that can be used.
The 2016 election was conducted under somewhat expanded ID rules, but a new problem emerged when officials threatened prosecution of voters who cast ballots with alternative ID when a photo ID was available to them. That threat of potential felony prosecution is baked into a bill that has passed the Texas Senate and is pending in the Texas House:
A federal judge ruled on Monday that the voter-identification law that the Texas Legislature passed in 2011 was enacted with the intent to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters, striking down the law and raising the possibility that the state's election procedures could be put back under federal oversight.
In a long-running case over the legality of one of the toughest voter ID laws in the country, the judge found that the law was passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory purpose, violating the federal Voting Rights Act.
4. The effect of the Neil Gorsuch-for-Merrick Garland fiasco at the U.S. Supreme Court, a switcheroo by U.S. Senate Republicans that may be a more ill-considered deal than the Lou Brock trade, if not the sale of Alaska, is about to have real consequences. (We are all the Philadelphia Phillies on this one.)
Our friends at Think Progress have compiled a list of "terrible" things that might happen if Gorsuch, who was sworn in today, provides the fifth vote on certain key issues. Among them:
Last year, the Supreme Court heard Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case seeking to defund many public sector unions. By law, these unions are required to bargain on behalf of union members and non-members alike, so if a worker within a bargaining unit decides not to join the union, they still get all the same wages and benefits they would if they did pay union dues. To prevent free-riders, who would enjoy nearly all of the benefits of being in a union without having to contribute to the union's costs, unions often charge "agency" or "fair share" fees to non-members to recoup each non-member's share of the costs of bargaining.
Friedrichs asked the Supreme Court to make these fair share fees illegal, at least when they are charged by public sector unions. The result would be that many individual workers would have an incentive to stop paying into their union, until the union was so starved for funds that it was no longer able to bargain effectively or conduct other union business.
Without Scalia, the Court split 4-4 in Friedrichs. But Gorsuch is likely to be the fifth vote against unions...
The Roberts Court has not been good to workers' rights. Even setting aside Hobby Lobby and the coming attacks on public sector unions, the Court shrunk protections for victims of sexual harassment and for people who face retaliation because they reported discrimination. The very first bill President Barack Obama signed into law was in response to a Supreme Court decision that made it harder for women to bring suits when they experience pay discrimination.
Gorsuch is likely to continue this pattern if he is appointed to the Supreme Court. One case where his influence is likely to be felt right away is Ernst & Young LLP v. Morris, which concerns whether an employee can be forced to sign away their right to bring a class action suit against their employer as a condition of employment.
The Court recently scheduled arguments in this case for its next term.
5. Courtesy of the 2016 election, some lawmakers in Congress are promoting an old chestnut of a legislative proposal to let employers offer "comp time," or compensatory time off, instead of paying time-and-a-half for overtime.
You would think most employers are the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz squeaking "Oil can! Oil can!" amid all their talk about the need for "flexibility" on matters like this. But as the Economic Policy Institute points up in an update from the last time anti-labor lawmakers tried seriously to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act during the George W. Bush administration, "flexibility" always seems to involve making employees work more hours for less pay.
Amazingly, EPI reports there is a way under current law for employers to obtain overtime work at time-and-a-half pay without paying a nickel extra. But the method described below would require "flexibility" on the part of both the employer and the employee:
The FLSA is the original family-friendly law. It permits a wide range of flexible work schedules. For example, under current law, public and private employers may choose to allow their workers to vary the start or end of their workday, including on an ad-hoc basis.
Employers may also choose to permit employees to schedule four 10-hour days with one workday off, or arrange nine-hour workdays with a day off every other week. All of these arrangements are permissible under the FLSA. Employers can and should take advantage of the flexibility the current law already provides.
Perhaps most revealing, under the FLSA, an employer may pay an employee for overtime worked in a given week and then, to reward the employee for putting in extra time, may schedule future unpaid time off. The result would be that the total annual hours worked and income received would be the same as under Rep. Roby's comp time in lieu of overtime proposal, but workers would not have to wait for up to 13 months to be paid for the overtime hours. In other words, everything the comp time bill purports to provide for workers is actually available under the FLSA.
6- Three Texas-based Pulitzer Prize entries for journalism designated as "finalists" in one of the most competitive years in the history of the awards.
Joe Holley, a former Texas Observer editor, was a finalist for editorial writing at the Houston Chronicle. Joe was cited for editorials related to guns, but while editorials are generally unsigned, we suspect Joe has also been involved in some strong editorials on issues that concern working families.
The Houston Chronicle was also a finalist in the Public Service category for its exposure of how Texas shortchanged children by setting artificial quotas on the number of students who could enter special education programs. The Dallas Morning News was a finalist in Breaking News for its coverage of the horrific shooting deaths of five police officers.
Last but not least, congratulations to Art Cullen of The Storm Lake Times in Iowa, brother of long-time Texas journalist Jim Cullen of the Progressive Populist, who won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. The Cullens have built an outstanding record of pro-labor journalism for decades.
To see all the winners and finalists in an amazing year that belies President Trump's charges of "fake journalism," go to: http://www.pulitzer.org/prize-winners-by-year/2017