Wednesday, November 11, 2015

GOP talks $15


11/11/15 10:02 AM EST

With help from Marianne LeVine and Timothy Noah.

DEBATE RECAP: GOP TALKS $15, INEQUALITY: Fight for $15 got the first question in the GOP debate Tuesday night. “Just outside and across the country picketers are … demanding an immediate hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto said before asking frontrunner Donald Trump whether he supported a minimum wage hike. Trump, predictably, said no. "I would not raise it specifically because I'm interested in making sure that people are able to enter the job market and take advantage of opportunities.”

Notably, Ben Carson changed his position on the minimum wage. Previously he favored legislating an unspecified increase and then indexing it to inflation in the future. Now, apparently, he opposes a raise. He also said minimum wage hikes always increase unemployment. That is not true. Multiple studies have observed instances in which the minimum wage rose and unemployment did not rise. The best-known was a 1994 study by economists David Card and Alan Krueger, both then at Princeton.

We didn’t hear anything about paid family leave or on union rights. The candidates did spend some time on inequality, with Sen. Rand Paul saying Democratic-led states are usually more unequal. It’s actually quite mixed. Today, the District of Columbia is more unequal than all 50 states—and, yes, D.C. is governed by Democrats. But second place (and the most unequal actual state) belongs to Louisiana, whose governor, Bobby Jindal is seeking the GOP nomination for president. Third and fourth place belong to Democratic New York and Massachusetts, but Republican Mississippi and Alabama rank fifth and sixth.

GOOD MORNING! It's Wednesday, Nov. 11, and this is Morning Shift, POLITICO's daily tipsheet on labor and employment policy. Send tips, corrections and exclusives to, Follow us on Twitter at @politicomahoney, @TimothyNoah1 and @marianne_levine.

FIGHT FOR $15 AND THE VOTE: Amid the nationwide Fight for $15 protests Tuesday SEIU posted online a voter pledge card promoting a $15 minimum wage, expanded union rights, affordable child care, decent long-term care, activism against racism, and immigration reform. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said that low-wage workers have “huge” potential to become a significant voting bloc. “I think it’s quite possible to inspire the 64 million workers earning under $15,” she told the Wall Street Journal. But the real target audience may have been lawmakers. “Come get our vote,” McDonald’s worker Laquita Jackson said in statement provided by Fight for $15.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, took executive action mandating that as of 2021 all state workers be paid at least $15 an hour. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto did the same for city workers. And in Berkeley, Calif., the city council debated an even bigger measure: a $19 hourly minimum by 2020, according to CNN.

McDonald’s workers in Los Angeles said that they weren’t striking for union recognition. “We are striking,” said a letter the Los Angeles Organizing Committee sent a McDonald’s franchisee, “to protest unfair labor practices at numerous locations for which joint employer McDonald’s USA is responsible. We are also striking to demand a $15 an hour wage and the right to join a union without interference. We are not making a present demand for recognition at this time.”

DEMS FIDDLING WITH CADILLAC TAX: Democrats on Capitol Hill are discussing ways to modify the Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent excise tax on expensive (“Cadillac”) health care plans. Unions hate the tax and are trying hard to repeal it before it goes into effect in 2018. "I'm not proposing eliminating it at this point, I’m open to suggestions for changing it," Sen. Dick Durbin told reporters yesterday, according to Reuters. "I don't know if it'll be done this year or next year," Durbin added. "But we're trying to figure out a way to change it or remove it and the impact it would have."

Tom Leibfried, legislative representative for government affairs at the AFL-CIO, told POLITICO yesterday that he counted 160 Democrats in the House and 120 Republicans who support repealing the Cadillac tax.

GO WEST, TEENAGER: Is a decades-long decline in job-related migration within the U.S. impeding upward mobility? Much academic and journalistic research suggests it is, including a recent paper by Jason Furman, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, and Peter Orszag, former White House budget director. Morning Shift’s Timothy Noah wrote about this two years ago in the Washington Monthly, and Eli Lehrer and Lori Sanders wrote about it last year in National Affairs. Now Scott Winship of the conservative Manhattan Institute weighs in.

Winship concludes “we should be less concerned than we are about declining migration” because the only type clearly associated with upward mobility is that of young people between adolescence and adulthood--and that hasn’t declined at all. Less happily, Winship finds that “African-Americans, are less willing, or able, to move to economic opportunity,” and notes housing costs may play a role. More here:

GIG COMPANIES BEGIN LOBBYING OVER ‘PORTABLE BENEFITS:’ Representatives of “sharing economy” companies like Lyft, Handy and Airbnb have been journeying to Capitol Hill to discuss employment law with a group of bipartisan lawmakers, Bloomberg BNA reports. The companies are likely feeling heat from the Labor Department’s ongoing scrutiny of misclassification in the U.S. workplace and from scores of private class action lawsuits targeting tech companies. Now these companies are urging lawmakers to adopt a “regulatory ‘timeout’ in which employers can tinker with worker classification without running afoul of federal laws,” BNA writes.

“Company representatives told caucus members that they’d be interested in expanding their relationship with workers, but are concerned about the increased cost and potential liability that comes with having full-blown employees.”

Meanwhile, earlier this week an eclectic group of workplace advocates, local union leaders and tech CEOs released a statement calling for a “portable benefits” system to help independent contractors and freelance workers gain the benefits normally confined to full time employees.

Will union leaders in Washington get on board? We’re not so sure. Unions may feel reluctant to create a portable benefits system while they negotiate those same benefits for their members. We also wonder whether we’ll soon see a turf war between non-union worker advocacy groups like the Freelancers Union — whose president Sara Horowitz is a signatory to the “portable benefits” letter — and more traditional unions over the future of the law and the workplace.

ENQUIRE WITHIN: One of the most powerful SEIU locals is looking for a new top lobbyist. Kevin Finnegan, who’s been the political director of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is returning to his law practice after seven years, according to Crain’s Barbara Benson.

UNIONS SPENDING BIG TO KILL RIGHT TO WORK IN MISSOURI: About two months ago a cohort of Democrats and Republicans teamed up to oppose right-to-work legislation in Missouri. The bill passed the legislature, but Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it. Unions aren’t resting easy after that victory; they’re already spending heavily to head off right to work in 2016.

The Carpenters’ District Council of St. Louis & Vicinity plans to spend $400,000 by years end on candidates, both Democratic and Republican, who oppose right-to-work legislation that frees non-union members from paying fees to unions that bargain collectively on their behalf.

Labor leaders caution that “unions won’t be able to compete dollar for dollar with the individual megadonors who support right to work,” writes the Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock. “For example, a recent analysis of campaign finance data by the Star showed conservative businessman Rex Sinquefield has donated more than $22 million since 2010 — three times as much as the next biggest donor.”

Labor’s biggest priority will be keeping Missouri’s governorship. They can’t bet on Nixon sticking around: he’s term-limited.

NLRB KNOCKS AMEX ARBITRATION POLICY: American Express violated federal labor law by requiring its employees to sign a mandatory arbitration agreement, the NLRB ruled on Tuesday. No surprises here. The NLRB has consistently ruled against such agreements despite having been reversed by federal appeals courts. The Supreme Court may one day step in to resolve that impasse. Decision here:

OUTSOURCING COMPANIES ‘GAMING’ H1-B SYSTEM: “Congress set up the H-1B program to help American companies hire foreigners with exceptional skills, to fill open jobs and to help their businesses grow,” the New York Times’ Julia Preston writes. “But the program has been failing many American employers who cannot get visas for foreigners with the special skills they need.”

“Instead, the outsourcing firms are increasingly dominating the program, federal records show. In recent years, they have obtained many thousands of the visas — which are limited to 85,000 a year — by learning to game the H-1B system without breaking the rules, researchers and lawyers said.”


— “The Decline of Labor, the Increase of Inequality,” from Talking Points Memo:

— "Why a $15-an-Hour National Minimum Wage Won’t Happen Anytime Soon," from Money:

— Tech company memo says workers should be working 10 hours a day, from Pando:

— Lufthansa crew rejects latest offer, from ABC:




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