Yesterday in many parts of the country it turned out to be a good day for the blues — certainly in Virginia, where voters elected Democrat Terry McAuliffe as their new governor, and in New York City, where voters picked Bill de Blasio as their new mayor, the first Democratic mayor in 20 years.
The same might be said in New Jersey, where voters re-elected the incumbent RINO governor Chris Christie — who many there suspect is, deep down, a progressive at heart.
While many across the country spent a part of their day at the polls, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court spent time engaged in a lofty debate about when “clothes” are, well, really “clothes.” The case before them, Sandifer v. U.S. Steel, involved a request by hundreds of steelworkers to have the time during which they change into, and out of, their work attire included in their hourly wages. The Seventh Circuit rejected their request, saying that union contracts and the Fair Labor Standards Act excluded the changing of “clothes” from wage calculations.
For steelworkers, this is no simple jacket donning and shedding. As noted in The Atlantic :
For steelworkers, “work clothes” aren’t just suits or coveralls; they include flame-retardant jackets and pants, protective leggings, Kevlar sleeves, gloves, steel-toed boots, hard hats, safety glasses, earplugs, and hoods. When you work with molten metal, getting dressed for work—and, then, un-dressed—takes some time.
And for the justices, divining the definition of “clothes” turned out to be no simple task. Here’s an excerpt:
JUSTICE ALITO: This is one of the aspects of your argument that seems really puzzling to me. I don’t know when a human being first got the idea of putting on clothing. I think it was one of the main reasons, probably the main reason, was for protection. It’s for protection against the cold, it’s for protection against the sun. It’s for protection against—against thorns. So you want us to hold that items that are worn for purposes of protection are not clothing?
MR. SCHNAPPER: No, Your Honor. We’ve been—we’ve tried to be quite specific about that. We distinguish between items that are designed and worn to protect from a workplace hazard. And the court of appeals argued that everything is, in a sense, protective. That is not the standard that we propose. Workplace hazards are different. And in ordinary usage, when things are being used for that kind of protection, they are typically described in other terms.
JUSTICE ALITO: So if it—if it protects against something other than workplace hazard, it can be clothes. But if it protects against a workplace hazard, it isn’t clothing. Is that your test?
MR. SCHNAPPER: And it’s designed to provide that kind of protection. Let me explain why—why we’ve added that. There are some instances in which one would wear ordinary clothing on the job, things that are no different from what you would buy at J.C. Penney’s, because it was to some degree protective from a workplace hazard. That’s true here. Whatever else you are wearing, underneath it you have to wear cotton or wool.
If any of that’s yesterday’s news to you, here’s a few of today’s heartening headlines:
And as you finish you’re lunch, take heart: you’re over the hump of hump day. Keep going.