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Workplace Protections, Right to Bargain

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March 8, 2017

Standing with Public Workers.

A lot’s at stake for public workers.

Iowa became the latest state to attack the bargaining rights of public workers. A law passed on Feb. 16 allows public worker unions to bargain only about base wages. Bargaining over health care, evaluations, layoff policies and other issues no longer permitted. The arbitration process also was restricted.

Public workers nationwide are bracing for similar assaults, as well as the outcome of more than two dozen legal challenges that could strip away the bargaining rights of all public workers.

Right to Work Battles.

Members of Congress and several states are pushing ahead on “right to work for less” legislation.

A national “right to work” bill was again introduced in the U.S. House in February, and Missouri and Kentucky adopted state laws earlier this year.

The only real purpose of these laws is to lower wages and weaken workers’ ability to bargain good contracts, the Economic Policy Institute said in a January 2017 comparison of RTW-Indiana and non-RTW New Hampshire. (Right to work was defeated in the New Hampshire House on Feb. 16.)

Weakening the NLRB.

There’s a new push in the House of Representatives to roll back rulings by the National Labor Relations Board that have enabled workers to organize unions.

Expect changes that will throw out the commonsense reforms adopted by the Board to limit employer stalling tactics for union elections. Without that rule, employers again will be able to delay NLRB elections and wage campaigns of intimidation, from holding months of forced, captive audience meetings and one-on-one pressure sessions with supervisors to illegally firing and harassing union supporters.

Executive Order Would Limit Job Safety and Health.

CWA, Public Citizen and the Natural Resources Defense Council are challenging an administration order that for every new regulation issued, two must be repealed. CWA filed the lawsuit in federal court.

This order makes no sense, especially for working people, because it requires government agencies to look at the costs of a new rule but ignore the benefits of that rule. It means, for example, that in order to adopt safeguards for nurses and health care workers from infectious disease, we’d have to give up the asbestos workplace standard plus a standard regulating some other cancer-causing workplace substance.

Executive Order on Overtime Pay.

President Obama’s order that extended overtime pay to an additional 4.2 million workers remains on hold. This regulation meant that salaried workers earning up to $47,476 would receive time-and-a-half overtime pay when they worked more than 40 hours a week. The previous level, set in 2004, was $23,660. The rule was to take effect on Dec. 1, but it was challenged by a federal court judge and frozen by the administration.