Subscribe to E-Update here.
Labor Report

Target, Other Employers Recognizing Value of Higher Wages

TargetTarget Corp. has pledged to raise its workers’ starting pay to $12 an hour next spring and to $15 by 2020 as it continues to reap the benefits of its most recent employee wage increase last fall.

According to an Associated Press report , the nation’s second-largest discount store retailer saw a 60 percent spike in job applications last September after raising its starting wage to $11. Target CEO Brian Cornell reportedly said on March 6 that the quality of the company’s applicants has improved too. In 2016, the company raised its starting wage from $9 to $10.

Meanwhile, a regional Federal Reserve Bank stated on March 7 that skilled worker shortages have been driving wage increases in Western Pennsylvania.

According to the Tribune-Review, a quarterly report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland – which covers 19 Western PA counties along with parts of Ohio, West Virginia and Kentucky – attributed wage increases among some employers, including those in the construction and steel industries, to a “challenging market for talent” caused by workforce turnover and retirements.

U.S. Senators Call for NLRB to Restart Case Against McDonald’s

A group of Democratic U.S. senators has called for the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel to end settlement talks with McDonald’s USA LLC and to move forward with a joint-employer complaint alleging labor law violations at the restaurant chain’s franchises.

In a letter to NLRB General Counsel Peter B. Robb, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her colleagues cited the board’s recent abandonment of a 2017 ruling that changed the standard by which franchisers like McDonald’s should be considered joint employers.

McDonaldsThe NLRB’s so-called “Hy-Brand” ruling last December effectively made it more difficult for franchise employees to hold corporations like McDonald’s jointly liable for violations of federal labor laws at their franchises. The NLRB initiated the case against McDonald’s during the Obama administration when an earlier, broader joint-employer standard known as “Browning-Ferris” was in effect. In the pending case, McDonald’s employees allege that the corporation and its franchises harassed and fired workers who had attempted to organize for higher wages.

The NLRB vacated the Hy-Brand ruling in February, two months after its enactment, when the board’s inspector general found that a Trump-appointed board member had voted on the ruling despite a conflict of interest. Prior to his appointment to the NLRB, Bill Emanuel had worked at a law firm that represented a losing party in the 2015 Browning-Ferris case.

Click here for a report from Law360.

Could Janus, WV Teacher Strike Reverse Decline in Work Stoppages?

I Am A TeacherAn in-depth analysis by Law360 asks labor experts how the potential outcome of Janus vs. AFSCME, the public-sector union case now before the U.S. Supreme Court, could impact the decades-long decline in the number of work stoppages across the country.

Citing the recently-settled statewide teachers’ strike in West Virginia as an example, public-sector unions may become more inclined toward or forced into stronger actions despite an expected decline in their available resources if the Supreme Court were to rule against AFSCME.

Philadelphia Attorneys Analyze Oral Arguments in Janus Case

In another report published by Law360, three Ballard Spahr attorneys described numerous telling moments during the Feb. 26 U.S. Supreme Court hearing in Janus vs. AFSCME, the case in which an Illinois state employee claims mandatory union fees violate his free speech rights.

Of note, the high court’s newest member, Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch, who is widely viewed as the likely deciding vote in an otherwise deadlocked court, sat silent throughout the hour-long session as liberal- and conservative-leaning justices questioned attorneys for both sides.

Professors Agree, Time is Running Out on Congressional Map Challenges

Hearing RoomA panel of federal judges was scheduled to hear arguments today in Harrisburg on a request by eight of Pennsylvania’s Republican Congressmen along with GOP state Senate leaders for a preliminary injunction to stop the implementation of the new Congressional district map ordered by the state Supreme Court last month.

The Tribune-Review and the Morning Call each interviewed academics who agree that if the judicial panel rules against the injunction request, it would likely pave the way for use of the new map in the May 15 primary elections, despite a separate appeal filed by GOP state lawmakers to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In short, Republicans are running out of time with the Congressional primaries looming, so only a quick resolution will help Republicans, according to Duquesne University law professor Bruce Ledewitz.

“A delay in this case decides it, as a practical matter … ,” Ledewitz told the Tribune-Review. “If they don’t get the injunction, they lose.”

University of Florida political science professor Michael McDonald concurred in comments to the Morning Call: “Certainly the clock is ticking here. As each day passes, the likelihood that federal courts will get involved in this case gets more and more remote.”

New Tariffs Could Help Some Workers, Hurt Consumers

Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency advised its clients in a March 5 report that President Trump’s new protectionist tariffs on imported steel and aluminum could lead to more sales, profits and jobs at U.S. steel and aluminum producers. But the tariffs are likely to cause higher steel and aluminum prices that will filter down to other sectors like auto manufacturers, beverage can manufacturers and construction companies, leading to higher prices for consumers.

The Inquirer reported on S&P’s analysis on March 5.

February 2018 National Jobs Update

The national unemployment rate remained unchanged in February 2018 at 4.1%, the same as it was the previous four months. Over the previous month, unemployment rolls increased by 22,000 individuals, with total unemployment rising to 6,706,000. National unemployment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Unemployment – 6,706,000
  • Change Over Month –   UP   22,000
  • Change Over Year –   DOWN   780,000
  • Rate Change Over Year –   DOWN   0.6%
  • Rate Change Over Trump Term –   DOWN   0.7%
  • Rate Change Over Obama 2nd Term –   DOWN   3.2%

Although unemployment rose by 22,000 in February 2018, the national labor force increased significantly, negating an increase in the unemployment rate (rate = unemployment as % of labor force). The labor force is the total number of employed individuals combined with the total number of unemployed individuals actively searching for work. Growth in the labor force is a sign of a strengthening economy from more people working and/or more individuals searching for jobs. In February 2018, the national labor force grew by a staggering 806,000 individuals, a combination of total employment* rising by 785,000 individuals (as opposed to “non-farm” job growth referenced below) and total unemployment up by 22,000 individuals as noted above.

As a result of the increase, year-over-year labor force growth in February 2018 improved to 1.9 million, well above February 2017 year-over-year growth of roughly 1.2 million, but still below the February 2016 level of approximately 2.1 million. Although labor force growth thus far under President Trump (2.2 million from Jan. 2017-Feb. 2018) is encouraging, continued improvement will be needed to match growth seen over President Obama’s second term.

  • Total Labor Force – 161,921,000
  • Change Over Month –  UP  806,000
  • Change Over Year – UP 1,924,000
  • Change Over Trump Term –  UP   2,203,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –  UP 3,955,000

Non-farm* job rolls were up by 313,000 in February 2018, the largest monthly increase since July 2016. Despite the increase, overall non-farm job growth thus far under President Trump remains a disappointment in comparison to prior years. Thus far, average monthly growth under President Trump stands at 191,000, below average monthly growth of 217,000 seen over President Obama’s second term. Year-over-year, the national economy has added 2.281 million new non-farm jobs, its lowest level in the last four years (for the month of February) and 162,000 less than the 2.443 million jobs that were added year-over-year in February 2017. These are far from the levels expected from a President who criticized growth under President Obama and said that he would be the “greatest jobs President God ever created.”

Employment statistics for the month are as follows:

  • Total Employment – 148,177,000
  • Change Over Month – UP   313,000
  • Change Over Year – UP   2,281,000
  • Change Over Trump Term – UP   2,481,000
  • Change Over Obama 2nd Term –  UP   10,414,000

*Total employment for labor force provided by U.S. Census Household survey. The separate BLS Establishment survey measures non-farm jobs only.