Today's Fair Shots - April 26th, 2017
1-Very Definition of 'Sanctuary City' in Play on the Day of SB4 Texas House Debate
2-Big, Bad Overtime Bill Is Back Under Trump Administration
3-Note on Workers Defense Project Programs for Workers Memorial Day, May Day
4-Texas AFL-CIO Joins in Condolences on Death of Bonnie Smith
1 - Today, where there is likely to be a ferocious Texas House debate on SB 4, the so-called "sanctuary cities" bill, the Trump Administration appeared to contradict Gov. Greg Abbott's view of the behavior of Travis County and Austin in limiting cooperation with federal immigration detention requests.
Holding jailed inmates because of ICE detainers is not mandatory under federal or state law. Yet Abbott chose to withhold federal pass-through funding to Travis County because Sheriff Sally Hernandez has decided to carry out immigration holds, which are expensive, only for inmates arrested on the most serious criminal charges.
Yesterday, the Texas Tribune reports, Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he was told by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that neither Travis County nor Austin will face federal penalties because of how they are handling detainers. Other jurisdictions outside Texas have been targeted for such penalties.
The issue is central to SB 4, which takes direct aim at local law enforcement's choice on how to interact with immigrant communities. An Abbott spokesman told the Tribune that the governor will continue to push for mandating local cooperation with all ICE detention requests.
The United Labor Legislative Committee opposes SB 4. To add to the intrigue, a federal judge has ordered the Trump administration to stop trying to penalize cities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities. (See: http://nyti.ms/2pfQuuR.) Via the Tribune:
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said he was reassured by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday that neither his city nor Travis County are considered "sanctuary" jurisdictions.
But Adler said he was very careful in how he asked for that determination since there doesn't seem to be a legal definition of "sanctuary city" - commonly known as a local entity that doesn't enforce immigration laws. The meeting was first reported by Austin's NPR affiliate, KUT.
"I didn't ask him that question because someone could claim we're a sanctuary city a thousand different ways," Adler said Tuesday. Instead, Adler said he was more specific and asked what made a city sanctionable under the Trump administration's definition of non-compliance.
The issue made national headlines earlier this year after Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced after taking office that she would only comply with detainers - requests from federal immigration officials to turn over inmates in local jails - on a very limited basis.
Adler said he was told by Sessions that "noncompliance" only applies to an entity that "willfully violated [section] 8 of [United States Code] 1373. And that's what it was."
That section states that "a local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual."
Adler said before his meeting with Sessions that he was confident Austin wouldn't be blacklisted and denied federal grant monies because Austin officials communicate with their federal counterparts. He further noted that neither Austin nor Travis County were included on a list of cities the Trump administration contacted last week to request proof that they are complying with the federal requirement.
In a statement, Sessions appeared to confirm Adler's view that Austin is in compliance.
"We are pleased that the mayors who met with us today assured us they want to be in compliance with the law. The vast majority of state and local jurisdictions are in compliance and want to work with federal law enforcement to keep their communities safe," he said...
In a statement, Gov. Greg Abbott spokesman John Wittman said he intends to keep pushing for the detainer-compliance requirement.''
"Unlike the mayor and the Travis County sheriff, the governor believes that releasing violent and dangerous criminal aliens back into our communities once they have had an ICE detainer placed on them is unacceptable," Wittman said. "That's why Texas will pass a law to require counties to comply with ICE detainer requests. It's the governor's belief that Travis County is refusing to live up to this common sense safety standard."
Read more: https://www.texastribune.org/2017/04/25/adler-told-austin-travis-co-are-not-considered-sanctuary-jurisdictions/
2. The United Steelworkers posted a concise review of a bad old bill on overtime pay that had a run during the George W. Bush administration, lay low for eight years under President Obama and is now rearing its head again.
As USW states, the only "flexibility" that sponsors of "Working Families Flexibility Act" want is flexibility to deny working people time-and-a-half pay for overtime hours worked:
The U.S. House could vote in the coming weeks on a bill that would replace our guaranteed overtime pay system with a new "comp time" alternative. The misleadingly-named "Working Families Flexibility Act" (H.R. 1180) is a serious concern. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, corporate human resource organizations and other big-business interests are lining up in support of the bill. Make sure you know what's at stake!
Rather than paying overtime for extra hours worked, your employer could prioritize assigning extra work only to those who "chose" more time off rather than wages. While the bill says an employee can decline compensatory time off in lieu of overtime wages, many employers would simply start assigning extra hours of work to those who have shown they'll accept comp time rather than pay.
The "flexibility" is for employers. Want to use "comp time" to take care of your sick child or for extra time off during hunting season? There are no guarantees. Employers could reject any requests for time off that "unduly disrupt the operations of the employer" or that are not made "within a reasonable period."
It's a blow to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. This law discourages employers from overworking employees by making it more expensive for them to do so. Workers fought hard to get it nearly 80 years ago. This new bill represents fundamental change to that long-standing law.
We could see more mandatory overtime and unpredictable schedules. H.R. 1180 could encourage mandatory overtime by making it less expensive for employers.
Our contracts will help . . . at first. Our collective bargaining agreements' provisions on overtime will still have to be followed. But, if our employers see their competitors cutting costs through "comp time" arrangements, it won't be long before this becomes one more contentious subject at the bargaining table.
If Congress wanted to get serious about making workplaces more family-friendly, there are ways they could do it. Unfortunately, this bill is not one of those ways. Read more on the problems with H.R. 1180 in this EPI report: http://www.epi.org/publication/false-choice-for-workers-flexibility-or-overtime-pay/
3. Our friends at the Workers Defense Project will feature an altar and exhibit at the central gallery in the E2 level of the Capitol extension for Workers Memorial Day, which is Friday, April 28. A program will begin at 11:45 a.m., with legislative visits set for 1 p.m. Facebook link:
WDP will also march on Monday, May 1st, International Workers Day, meeting at Austin City Hall at 2:30 p.m. and marching to the south steps of the Capitol at 3:30 p.m. https://www.facebook.com/events/210946716064879/
4. The Texas AFL-CIO extends our heartfelt condolences to the family of Bonnie Smith, who passed away Sunday. Bonnie, wife of former Tarrant County Central Labor Council President Tim Smith, was for decades a cherished part of the labor family.
Memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Saturday, May 6 at First Baptist Church of Lakeside, 8801 Jacksboro Highway, Lakeside, TX 76135.
Tim Smith is one of the gems of the labor movement, having fought countless battles for working families over many years, with Bonnie at his side. Let's all keep Tim and his family in our thoughts and prayers.
Contact for more information: Brian Golden, firstname.lastname@example.org.