... the number of Labor Department judges, who hear a wide range of workers’ compensation, immigration, wage and whistleblower cases, has fallen to 35 nationwide, from 41 in early 2013 and 53 a decade ago. The department’s caseload, meanwhile, is soaring, forcing some sick and injured workers to wait years for benefits.President Obama would like to begin to undo a small part of that damage:
President Obama’s fiscal 2015 budget would add 10 people to the OALJ, though it’s unclear how many would be judges and how many would be support staff. The proposal comes on the heels of a Feb. 18 letter to the White House from six members of Congress, who complained of “untenable delays in adjudicating claims, such as claims under the Black Lung Benefits Act and alleged violations of employment law. These delays directly and severely impact the lives of workers throughout the country, placing an undue financial and emotional burden on the affected individuals and their families.”So Obama's hoped-for budget would likely still leave a lower number of judges than in 2013, and 2013 was already bad enough. We'll see what Republicans do with this request, but nothing in their recent record suggests that the likely response is "Wait, vulnerable, injured, and sick workers are waiting ridiculous amounts of time for justice for ways they've been hurt or wronged on the job? We have to fund the justice system to fix this!" (Ha ha ha, right?)
The lawmakers said a total of 11,325 cases were pending in the OALJ in fiscal 2013 — nearly double the number from 10 years earlier.
Continue reading for more of the week's labor and education news.
A fair day's wage
- Coal miners at Armstrong Coal Co. say they were surveilled and harassed for making safety complaints.
- New Haven, Connecticut, is cracking down on wage theft.
- Check out this very nifty map of minimum wage and average income by profession across the United States.
- Las Vegas casino and hotel workers could end up going on strike because of provisions in Obamacare:
Union leaders have long voiced concern over the health care law’s effect on their Taft-Hartley plans, which are collectively bargained plans maintained by multiple employers and a labor union. Under the Affordable Care Act, Taft-Hartley plan recipients (like the members of CU 226) are not eligible for tax subsidies. That makes some union employees more expensive for employers who provide health care, making employers less agreeable when it comes time to foot the bill.These plans were formed to be one of the best ways to health care under the old system, but now the working- and middle-class people who get their health care this way are sort of trapped. It's a real problem, but of course Republicans are prone to want to use anything they can as a cudgel against unions and against Obamacare, so finding a fix will be tough.
- No, Connecticut's paid sick leave law did not hurt business.
- Exotic dancers sue, claiming they were misclassified as independent contractors when they were, in effect, employees.
- The last of the radium girls has died. Don't know who the radium girls were? Neither did I, actually, but it's fascinating and you should read about them.
- HOT NEW TREND! Unemployed people selling their possessions on Craigslist. Just great.
- The Working Families Party is a third party that's winning. But what will it do about Andrew Cuomo?
- A parent's letter to President Obama on schools and standardized testing:
Why does the law distill the interactions of our teachers and students over the course of a year into a high-stakes multiple choice test? Is this really a valid system of accountability for teachers, based so heavily on their students’ test scores? If so, why are so many public school parents, teachers and students pushing back against it? And why aren’t the private schools insisting on it?
In my daughter’s English class at Clarke Central, students engage the works of Plato and learn to discern and make philosophical arguments about abstract concepts like piety; they read Hemingway and learn how to engage questions such as whether a protagonist’s moral code can be attributed to the author. You cannot pick “A, B, C, or D” for such things, or if you can, then the entire experience is trivialized. Of course assessments are a necessary part of any educational process, to help guide, inform and improve instruction, but the high-stakes test-and-punish regime now in place is not doing that.
- Last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was withdrawing permission for three Success Academies charter schools to be co-located, rent-free, in public school buildings, ending the preferential treatment the chain had gotten from the Bloomberg administration. Tuesday, de Blasio planned a lobby day in Albany to build support for universal pre-K programs. In a stunning coincidence, Success Academies founder and former city councilwoman Eva Moskowitz decided to close her schools for the day to send students to Albany to lobby, not for pre-K, but for charter schools.
Moskowitz drew criticism from Daniel Dromm, the chair of the city council education committee, and from the Rev. Al Sharpton. Moskowitz insists that she supports pre-K and wasn't intending to distract from the effort to build support for it. It's just that the thing she closes her schools for and buses kids a couple hours to lobby on is preferential treatment for charter schools, and it just happens to coincide with the pre-K efforts of a mayor who isn't following his predecessor's lead in giving her everything she wants.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo also dove in to defend the poor beleaguered charter schools. I mean, they might not get every single public space they want, rent-free, even as their executives pull in big salaries. The horror.
- Speaking of charter schools, the founder of some North Carolina charters is under federal investigation.