AFL-CIO president "ready to sue" over changes to overtime rules

It seems as if you can’t turn on the news these days without seeing somebody else who’s ready to “Resist Trump!” or bring a lawsuit against the new administration. This week the AFL-CIO joins the list, preparing to sue the Department of Labor if the White House seeks to “water down” some new overtime rules which were introduced (and immediately suspended) under Barack Obama. We’ve written about that one here before, but the short version is that the change would have doubled the maximum base salary for workers who must receive time and a half for overtime even if their employer classifies them as “management.” (Bloomberg)

The AFL-CIO will sue if the Department of Labor tries to water down a boost in overtime eligibility put in place by the Obama administration, the chief of the labor federation said in an interview.

“Anything that dilutes it is bad,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka said in his Washington office. Taking Obama’s overtime expansion away from even one worker could have devastating consequences, he said. “Think about the effect that it’d have on that person’s family, their lives.”

Millions of additional white-collar workers were poised to gain overtime eligibility last December under Obama’s change until it was blocked by a federal judge in Texas. If allowed to take effect, the change would double, to $913 per week, the threshold beneath which employees must be paid time-and-a-half even if designated as managers.

I’ve been on the fence about this rule since the subject first came up. In an ideal world, America’s economy would be booming to the point where employers would need to offer these sorts of incentives absent any government regulations just to land capable workers. Unfortunately, we’re nowhere near that point. The practice of taking low level employees and classifying them as “management” or professionals or anything else to move them out of the time and a half overtime category is widespread enough that it’s clearly being abused, so I actually have a bit of sympathy for labor’s side of the argument.

But much like nearly everything else which was happening on Obama’s watch, an idea we might have found some common ground on was immediately ramped up too far. Doubling the threshold in a single swipe will deliver a shock to the system which could easily end up forcing employers to cut back on hiring and depress the recovery. But rather than working toward some middle ground, Trumka is just diving in with the usual union line of refusing any compromise and killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. And the truly bizarre part of the story is that the Obama rule never went into effect. It was blocked by a federal judge in Texas last year and remains in limbo, so the labor union leader is actually fighting to defend a benefit he never even received.

As the article notes, Trumka has plenty of other fires to put out at the moment rather than worrying about this issue. You may recall the fight which erupted last year over mandatory union fees being deducted from government workers’ paychecks even if they weren’t union members. That case was Friedrichs v. California and it went all the way to the Supreme Court where the justices split 4-4, with Antonin Scalia’s seat still vacant. Well, now there’s another one coming up the chain from Illinois and just this weekend a ruling was handed down which could have it showing up on the SCOTUS doorstep later this year. (Illinois Review)

CHICAGO – An Illinois lawsuit challenging mandatory union fees paid by government workers could soon make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court as a result of an appellate court ruling issued this afternoon.

The plaintiffs in the case, Janus v. AFSCME, are two employees of Illinois government who are required to pay mandatory union fees to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 and Teamsters Local 916 as a condition of employment. They are represented by the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court, which was the result the plaintiffs had sought from the appeals court. Now, this case can potentially proceed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is a nightmare scenario for Trumka and it highlights the necessity of getting Neil Gorsuch on the court sooner rather than later. We can finally put an end to these so-called “fair share” fees with a win in Janus v. AFSCME, and Gorsuch is very likely the vote we will need to get it done. At that point, the government employees’ unions will need to reconsider their strategy of picking the pockets of workers and donating the money to politicians who the employees may not support. That’s no way to do business.