With help from Allie Bice and Timothy Noah
Editor’s Note: This edition of Morning Shift is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 10 a.m. POLITICO Pro Employment & Immigration subscribers hold exclusive early access to the newsletter each morning at 6 a.m. Learn more about POLITICO Pro’s comprehensive policy intelligence coverage, policy tools and services at politicopro.com.
— The number of work stoppages in the U.S. hit a nearly two-decade high last year.
— The House is expected Thursday to repeal the 1982 ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment.
— President Donald Trump is taking states to court over laws he said “undermine immigration enforcement.”
GOOD MORNING! It’s Wednesday, Feb. 12, and this is Morning Shift, your tipsheet on employment and immigration news. Send tips, exclusives, and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @RebeccaARainey, @IanKullgren, and @TimothyNoah1.
WORK STOPPAGES SURGE IN 2019: There were 25 major strikes or lockouts last year, the most in any single year since 2001, POLITICO’s Rebecca Rainey reports. According to BLS data released Tuesday, in 2019, 425,500 workers were idled by major work stoppages, which BLS defines as actions involving 1,000 or more workers and lasting at least one shift. A wave of educator strikes, including those in Los Angeles and Chicago, made up more than half of those work stoppages, involving 270,000 workers.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the numbers represent a “sea change.” “Working people — completely fed up with an economic and political system that does not work for us — are turning to each other and using every tool at our disposal to win a better deal,” he said in a written statement.
An analysis by Heidi Shierholz and Margaret Poydock of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute noted that 10 of the 25 stoppages last year involved at least 20,000 workers. In a time of historically low unemployment, they argue, the increase suggests workers “know that if they are fired for strike activity, they will be more likely to find another job,” and that if the tight labor market isn’t offering enough leverage to secure higher wages, “they must join together to demand a fair share of the recovery.”
VOTE THURSDAY ON ERA: The House is set to vote Thursday on a bill that would repeal Congress’ June 1982 deadline for states to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The bill is expected to pass, POLITICO’s Eleanor Mueller and Alice Miranda Ollstein report, but will die in the Republican-controlled Senate, meaning “the real fight will likely take place in federal courts.”
Conservatives are framing the ERA as a mandate for taxpayer-funded abortions. Mueller and Ollstein write that “because only women can have abortions, any restrictions on the procedure could be deemed unconstitutional under the ERA.”
Some legal experts say it’s unclear how the ERA’s protections would be interpreted by the courts. Two Supreme Court rulings from the 1970s (Geduldig v. Aiello and General Electric v. Gilbert) concluded that excluding pregnancy from job benefit packages does not necessarily constitute sex discrimination. But ERA opponents cite a 1998 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling that said that state’s ERA required the state government to spend Medicaid funds on medically necessary abortions.
Advocates for the amendment allow that “any debate over women’s rights … must also address control over when and whether to have children,” Mueller and Ollstein write. “There are no equal rights for women without access to abortion, plain and simple,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong supporter of women’s rights, appeared Monday night to pour cold water on extending the 1982 deadline. “I would like to see a new beginning,” Ginsburg said, adding, “There is too much controversy about latecomers.” Her remarks were an apparent reference to Virginia’s state government, which last month pushed the ERA past the 38-state ratification threshold.
TRUMP BATTLES STATES OVER IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT: “The Trump administration dramatically escalated its war with so-called sanctuary states Monday,” POLITICO’s Josh Gerstein reports, as it filed suit against California over its law banning privately run detention centers and New Jersey over a law limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. More details from POLITICO.
MUST-READ: “Jayapal: Seattle border memo based on information from D.C.,” from POLITICO’s Lauren Gardner
GIG ECONOMY COMPANIES LOSE FIRST ROUND OF CALIFORNIA COURT FIGHT: A federal judge on Monday denied Uber and Postmates’ request for a preliminary injunction against a new California law that would reclassify most of the companies’ workers as employees rather than independent contractors, POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White reports. But even if the ruling holds up on appeal, a group of gig companies are funding a ballot initiative that would allow their workers to remain independent contractors.
MEXICAN MIGRANT ARRESTS AT SOUTHERN BORDER CLIMB: Despite an 8-month decline of migrant arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border, border officials said Tuesday that “the number of Mexican adults taken into custody has climbed 32 percent from this time last year,” Abigail Hauslohner reports for The Washington Post.
DHS MOVES: Chad Mizelle, a Stephen Miller ally, has been picked for acting general counsel of DHS, BuzzFeed News’ Hamed Aleaziz reports.
CLASS WARFARE ON THE SILVER SCREEN: New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg writes that “Parasite,” the South Korean film that won an Oscar Monday for best picture, “depicts a world where a chasm divides the rich, who live in airy minimalist splendor, and the poor, who exist — to a degree that becomes increasingly macabre as the film progresses — literally underground.” But by some economic measures, she notes, South Korea, so fiercely pilloried in “Parasite,” is more egalitarian than the United States.
The accolades heaped on the film, Goldberg concludes, are “evidence of the same crisis of faith in capitalism that’s making Bernie Sanders into a front-runner for the Democratic nomination.” That “Parasite” was feted at the Oscars — “where nominees received gift bags worth more than $225,000 that included gold-plated vape pens — could itself be seen as a decadent satire about inequality.” (More from Newsweek about those swag bags.)
PORK SLAUGHTER RULE PROBE COMING SOON: USDA’s internal watchdog hopes to publish by “early April” its report on whether the department used flawed worker safety data to justify its overhaul of swine slaughter inspection regulations — changes which allow some slaughterhouses to operate without line speed limits, POLITICO’s Ryan McCrimmon reports.
But some lawmakers say April’s too late, because processing plants have only until March 30 to decide whether to opt into the new inspection program. Labor advocates have railed against the rule, warning it will put plant workers at higher risk of injury. But USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service maintains that it doesn’t have authority to regulate worker safety issues, which fall under OSHA’s jurisdiction. A lawsuit filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers, several of the union’s local chapters and the left-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen is pending in federal district court.
AMAZON AND SENATE DEMOCRATS FACE OFF: Senate Democrats wrote to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Monday to urge that he “take immediate steps to protect [his] employees from workplace injuries.” The letter, sent in response to reports by the Atlantic and the Center for Investigative Reporting about Amazon workers’ high accident rates, was signed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and 12 others. The senators directed Bezos to take specific steps to improve working conditions, such as reducing quotas and no longer tracking employees’ bathroom and water breaks.
Jay Carney, Amazon’s senior vice president for global corporate affairs, wrote in a New York Times op-ed that Sanders praised the company in 2018 when it raised its hourly minimum wage to $15, but Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have leveled constant criticism against the company since they became presidential candidates. Carney promoted company initiatives like a program to help employees pay for college tuition, but did not address worker safety. Asked Tuesday on CNN, Carney said, “Injuries are woefully underreported by and large across the country. … We aggressively report every injury, and that tends to spike numbers.”
— “Struggle over college athlete pay hits the Hill,” from POLITICO
— “OSHA cites 2 Florida medical marijuana companies,” from POLITICO
— “The largest federal employee union punches back at Trump,” from The Washington Post
— “Path to legal status for the unauthorized is top immigration policy goal for Hispanics in U.S.,” from Pew Research Center
— “T-Mobile, Sprint deal defeats states’ antitrust suit,” from POLITICO
— “Farmers worry Florida bill will worsen labor scarcity woes,” from The Associated Press
— “Texas sues California over law banning state-sponsored travel,” from POLITICO
— ICYMI: “DHS Considered How To Punish States That Deny Access To Driver Records, A Memo Says,” from BuzzFeed News
— “Unions now pouring money into Ohio Republicans’ campaigns,” from The Columbus Dispatch
THAT’S ALL FOR MORNING SHIFT!
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe