After winning back the House of Representatives in last Tuesday’s election, House Democrats plan to grill President Trump’s Department of Labor about its policies regarding tipped workers. In December, the DOL proposed a rule allowing employers who pay tipped workers the minimum wage to take their workers’ tips. According to the Economic Policy Institute, such a policy change would cost tipped workers $5.8 billion a year, with a disproportionate impact on women workers. Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC), noted that the proposed rule would push tipped workers “further into financial instability, poverty, and vulnerability to harassment and assault.” Indeed, even the DOL’s own analysis found that the Department’s proposal would rob workers of billions of dollars. However, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta and Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney worked to hide this analysis from the final proposed rule. In February, Congressional Democrats wrote to the DOL objecting to the department’s decision to scrap the analysis. Following the Midterm Elections, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), who will chair the Education and Workforce/Education and Labor Committee, told Bloomberg Law, “If you’re having a regulatory change, the law requires you to produce the evidence to support the change.”
House Democrats also plan to grill the DOL on its child labor policies. The Department of Labor has put forth a proposal that would allow teenagers to work more hours in dangerous health care jobs, such as positions that require employees to use power-driven patient lifts. In August, Congressional Democrats wrote a letter to Acosta and Mulvaney in August discussing their concerns with this proposal and demanding scientific reviews from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
The NLRB’s ethics officer has cleared Board Member William Emanuel to participate in the Board’s drafting of a new joint employer rule. The Republican majority on the NLRB has been looking for a way to overturn the more expansive joint employment standard established by the Obama-era Browning-Ferris decision. As Sharon Block has explained in OnLabor, because of Emanuel’s conflicts of interest — his former firm, Littler Mendelson represented the employer in Browning Ferris — the Board has been unable to overturn this standard through adjudication. But, as NLRB Chairman John Ring (R) told Bloomberg Law, “The recusal standard for rulemaking is very different than for [adjudication] cases.”
In Wisconsin and Illinois, the unions and labor advocates who helped bring down two of the nation’s most anti-worker governors — Scott Walker and Bruce Rauner — are celebrating their victories. Victoria Gutierrez, a member of SEIU Health Care Wisconsin, told InTheseTimes, “We needed this victory, but I don’t want the momentum to stop: There is so much work ahead to undo what Walker and company did these last eight years against Wisconsin workers.”