Commentary, Trump Administration

Trump administration rolls back labor protections

The Trump Administration this week made good on its promise to roll back its Department of Labor’s stance regarding protections for employees who work for more than one company.

Formally adopting its proposed interpretation of “joint employment,” the Department set forth criteria for when it thinks a company is sufficiently involved in a worker’s employment that it should be liable for wage and hour violations suffered by that worker.

Not surprisingly, this new standard is much more stringent that what is being used by most courts, and what the Department’s interpretation was of joint employment under the previous administration.

By restricting a finding of joint employment to those companies who hire or fire, pay, keep employment records, and control schedules and job conditions, it will be harder for the Department to enforce wage standards in workplaces where higher level corporations contract out responsibility to other entities.

Fortunately, because the rule is arguably interpretive rather than legislative, it may not be entitled to much deference by the courts.  It should also be relatively straightforward for a future administration to return to a more common-sense interpretation.  Worker advocates are considering their options.

Resources on Joint Employment are available here and here from the N.C. Justice Center and the National Employment Law Project, respectively.

Carol Brooke is a senior attorney with the N.C. Justice Center’s Workers’ Rights Project. Policy Watch is also a Justice Center project. 

News, Trump Administration

U.S. House votes to check Trump on military action against Iran — What you need to know

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

North Carolina delegation splits along party lines

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House voted Thursday on a resolution to curtail President Donald Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without first securing congressional approval.

The chamber voted 224-194, largely along party lines, to approve the resolution from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), which would direct Trump to halt the use of U.S. armed forces for hostilities against Iran unless it’s authorized by Congress or it’s “necessary and appropriate to defend against an imminent armed attack” against the United States.

The vote on the resolution came days after Trump ordered the killing of a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, who was in Iraq at the time. Military officials said Suleimani had active plans to kill Americans, but Trump’s critics in Congress have said the evidence of such a threat hasn’t been sufficient to risk a U.S. war against Iran.

“Last week in our view, the president, the administration conducted a provocative, disproportionate air strike against Iran, which endangered Americans and did so without consulting Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters Thursday ahead of the vote. “The administration must de-escalate and must prevent further violence. America and the world cannot afford war.”

With one exception (GOP Rep. Mark Walker, who did not vote, but who later issued a statement attacking the resolution), North Carolina’s delegation split along party lines in the vote, with the state’s Republican House members opposing the resolution and Democrats supporting the resolution to limit the president’s military power.

Three Republicans and Michigan independent Rep. Justin Amash joined Democrats to vote for the resolution. Eight Democrats voted against the measure.

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump ally, was among the Republicans who supported the Democratic-led effort.

“If the members of our armed services have the courage to go and fight and die in these wars, as Congress, we ought to have the courage to vote for them or against them,” Gaetz said. “I support the president. Killing Suleimani was the right decision but engaging in another forever war in the Middle East would be the wrong decision.”

Another Republican, Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, said ahead of the vote that his decision to vote for the resolution wasn’t “about supporting or opposing President Trump.”

Massie voted for Trump in 2016 and he plans to vote for him again, he said. “This vote is about exercising our constitutional authority, but more importantly, our moral obligation to decide when and where our troops are going to be asked to give their lives.”

‘Constitutional responsibility’ 

Slotkin, a freshman Democrat and a former CIA analyst, said the resolution was more than a theoretical exercise for her. Slotkin’s husband is a U.S. Army veteran, her step-daughter is an Army officer and her son-in-law’s unit is stationed at Ain al-Assad air base in Iraq, which was targeted by Iranian missiles this week, she said.

“If our loved ones are going to be sent to fight in any protracted war, the president owes the American public a conversation,” Slotkin said. She stressed that her resolution doesn’t tie the president’s hands when it comes to defending the United States. But when it comes to longer-term war, “We have a constitutional responsibility to authorize the use of military force.” Read more

Commentary, Trump Administration

Editorial slams Thom Tillis for Trump birthday card

U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Whatever you think of U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis, add “utterly clueless” to the list.

North Carolina’s Republican senator, pilloried last year for his bizarre flip-flop on President Trump’s emergency declaration, is now earning a lashing for his most recent flattery of the president.

He deserves it too, encouraging folks to sign a birthday card for Trump’s son Eric. There are, of course, a few things going on this week, including a crisis in the Middle East and the president’s pending impeachment trial in Tillis’ chamber.

Fittingly, The Charlotte Observer editorial board excoriated Tillis for the bizarre Tweet on Monday. Read a portion of the editorial below:

There’s nothing wrong with sending someone a happy birthday wish, public or private. So why did Thom Tillis’ acknowledgment Saturday of Eric Trump’s 36th birthday elicit some social media groaning?

It could be that the senator from North Carolina didn’t merely wish the president’s son a happy birthday. Tillis invited Americans to “add your name” to a birthday card for Trump that “we’re putting together,” he said in a tweet. That birthday card, which declared the president’s son an “American Patriot” and said “We’re so thankful for Eric Trump’s work in fighting for America,” was an unusually public and intimate gesture for a U.S. Senator to make for a member of the president’s family.

It could be the timing of the gesture that prompted some eye-rolling. At a moment when the country is grappling with the unsettling U.S. assassination of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani — a time when we’d like our members of Congress to position themselves as a thoughtful check on any president’s action — Tillis was acting more like a party planner.

To be fair, few people have an expectation that Tillis would raise questions about the president’s killing of a foreign official and the ramifications it might have on U.S. interests and foreign policy. Republicans have decided such examination is a fool’s errand, that any questioning of Donald Trump will bring backlash from his base and maybe a nasty tweet from the president himself. Tillis, who’s running for re-election in 2020, has been especially hesitant to raise an eyebrow at Trump. The senator long ago laid his political future at the feet of the president, and he’s dutifully made the rounds on television of late to declare the Trump’s impeachment hearings a sham.

So while it’s disappointing, it’s not unexpected that Tillis, like other Republicans, is declining to push for evidence to back up Trump’s assertion that Soleimani posed an imminent threat to U.S. interests. It’s not surprising that Tillis is publicly untroubled by reports that Pentagon officials were stunned Trump took the most extreme option of assassination instead of more measured, prudent approaches to tension with Iran. It’s hardly unforseen that Tillis has declined to utter a peep of protest over Trump vocal willingness to commit war crimes and attack Iranian cultural sites.

But soliciting Americans to sign a birthday card for Donald Trump’s son? Yes, such “cards” are often designed to help build databases of potential friendly voters. But the gesture showed a troubling lack of distance between a U.S. senator and a president, one that surely had some of Tillis’ fellow Republicans wincing, too.

News, Trump Administration

Alliance for Justice experts explain what’s next with impeachment (Facebook live video)

Experts at the Washington-based Alliance for Justice will hold forth this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. EST (and later, if you want to watch it then)  regarding what comes next with the impeachment of President Trump. Here’s the announcement:

Alliance for Justice plans to go live.

TODAY: We’re going live to answer your questions about what happens next in the impeachment process! We’ll talk with AFJ’s Legal Director, Dan Goldberg, and our Senior Fellow, William Yeomans. Post your questions now, and we’ll answer them when we go live!

Today at 3:00 PM
Live with Alliance for Justice: On Impeachment
Tune in to watch live
Click here to go to the AFJ Facebook page.
Commentary, Trump Administration

Nichol: American inequality soars under Trump

Gene Nichol

In case you missed it, be sure to check out Prof. Gene Nichol’s New Year’s Eve op-ed for Raleigh’s News & Observer (“Trump policies coddle the rich, punish the poor”). Nichol, a UNC law professor who, along with fellow researcher Heather Hunt, chronicles the grizzly details of poverty in North Carolina (see their most recent report here), highlights some startling new statistics and Trump administration policies.

“Berkeley economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman’s new book, The Triumph of Injustice, reveals an astonishing, if somehow unsurprising, set of facts. In 2018, with the implementation of the Trump tax cut, for the first time in American history, the richest 400 families paid a lower total effective tax rate (combined federal, state and local) than the bottom fifty percent of all households. The great 400, last year, coughed up 23% of their earnings, while the poorest half paid 24.2%….

This intense dedication to the interests and well-being of the very, very richest is on something of a roll. In 1960, the top four hundred households paid an effective total tax rate of 56%. By 1980, it had dropped to 47%, still more than double what it is today. During the same six-decade period, the figure for the bottom half remained essentially unchanged — presenting a stout version of reverse Robin Hood. As a result, Saez and Zucman show, over the last 75 years the U.S. tax code has become radically less progressive.

And now, as French economist Thomas Piketty puts it, the U.S. enjoys a higher level of economic inequality “than any other society, at any time in the past, anywhere in the world.”
Of course, as Nichol also highlights, in an effort to pay for his giveaways to the rich, King Donald has moved to slash food assistance to the poor:

“the Trump administration has announced that a three-stage series of cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. That’ll at least help [the deficit] a little. Thank God and Franklin Graham that someone is keeping an eye on the budgetary bottom line.

USA Today reports the rule changes will cut SNAP by $4.2 billion over five years — enacting stricter work requirements, capping utility allowance deductions and “reforming” the way states enroll families when they receive other forms of aid. (North Carolina had already moved on one of these fronts — unwilling to allow anyone to gain ascendancy in its war on poor people.)

The Urban Institute reported 3.7 million fewer people per month will receive benefits and 2.2 million households will have their benefits decreased.”

In short, Nichol notes, Trump has, quite literally, made transferring wealth wealth from the have nots to the haves a central premise of his presidency and, in so doing, dragged us “into the slime with him.”
Click here to read the entire essay.