Labor News and Notes

  • September 27, 2017

This post is an amalgamation of short news notes from the labor and employee relations world that don’t link through to a longer source but are worth knowing about.  All come from Politico news service which CUE holds an annual subscription to as a way to share the latest infomation with our members.

LEE NAMED EPI PRESIDENT: Union veteran Thea Lee on Tuesday was named EPI’s next president. Lee worked for the AFL-CIO for two decades, most recently as chief of staff to the union’s president Richard Trumka, before stepping down in May. She previously worked for EPI as an international economist from 1991 to 1997. She’ll take over for current president Lawrence Mishel when he steps down at the end of the year.

LABOR VOTES POSTPONED: The Senate HELP Committee canceled three labor-related nomination votes previously scheduled for today. The committee had planned to vote on Patrick Pizzella for deputy Labor secretary and on Daniel Gade and Janet Dhillon for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A committee source said there was a scheduling conflict among some members, and that the votes likely will take place Thursday.

ATTORNEY SEEKS EMANUEL RECUSAL: On Tuesday — William Emanuel’s first day on the NLRB — a New York attorney filed a motion urging that Emanuel be recused from taking part in several cases with ties to Emanuel’s former law firm, Littler Mendelson.

Canadian labor leader says U.S. labor proposal unacceptable

The leader of Canada’s largest labor union said Tuesday that a U.S. proposal to incorporate labor provisions into the core text of NAFTA fell short of what was needed to protect workers’ rights and predicted that Canada would have to walk away from the talks if the United States refuses to change key details.

“The American proposal is basically the TPP proposal with a bit of twist, which isn’t going to resolve the issue,” Jerry Dias, president of Unifor, told reporters on the sidelines of the third round of NAFTA talks.

The “twist” is minor technical changes to what was agreed by the United States and other countries in the TPP, Dias continued. Both U.S. and Canadian labor groups agree that the TPP language fell short of what was needed in the revamped NAFTA, he said.

If the United States sticks with the language, “I think Canada will ultimately walk,” Dias said.

Dias, who has not personally seen the U.S. proposal, said he discussed it with Mexican labor negotiators on Tuesday and Mexico’s ambassador to Canada on Monday night.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer defended the U.S. proposal. She called it a “detailed” and “enforceable” plan that is a big improvement over the current “toothless” NAFTA labor provisions, which are contained in a side agreement.

“The United States’ advocacy for workers includes seeking commitments from Mexico and Canada to respect collective bargaining and other core labor standards,” USTR spokeswoman Emily Davis said. “Throughout NAFTA, the United States is dedicated to seeking major provisions benefiting labor, including unprecedented provisions to support U.S. jobs.”

There was no immediate Canadian or Mexican government reaction to the U.S. proposal, although Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland defended Canada’s own proposal in Parliament on Tuesday.

“We are very proud in these negotiations to have put forward the most progressive, the strongest labor chapter that Canada has ever put forward in a negotiation,” Freeland said.

Both Dias and Christopher Monette, a spokesman for Teamsters Canada, praised Canada’s proposal, which goes after “right-to-work” laws in a number of U.S. states.

“The Canadian proposal stands to dramatically increase working conditions for workers, not just here but in all three countries,” Monette said. “We’re telling the USTR they need to consider this a lot more seriously. This is a solid text.” However, any deal that would ban state governments from having right-to-work laws would face strong opposition in Congress.

Monette argued U.S. right-to-work laws depress wages by making it it harder for unions to organize. That is an unfair subsidy that lures investment toward southern U.S. states, he said.