As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

We Need A Complete Overhaul Of Labor Laws

You know that labor laws have grown completely insufficient and unenforced when the EEOC is routinely violating the rights of its own employees:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, responsible for ensuring that the nation's workers are treated fairly, has itself willfully violated the Fair Labor Standards Act on a nationwide basis with its own employees, an arbitrator has ruled.

The agency's practice of offering compensatory time off to its employees rather than overtime pay amounted to "forced volunteering" and was a knowing violation of the law, according to the ruling.

"The case before me, in my view, demonstrates action that went beyond mere negligence," arbitrator Steven M. Wolf wrote in a decision released last week.

This is not an isolated incident. While typically, regulatory boards charged with protecting workers aren't simultaneously violating their rights, clearly oversight has fallen short. OSHA barely enforced its own rules on worker safety, leading to multiple unnecessary deaths. The Wage And Hour Division failed to follow up on wage violations flagged by undercover agents posing as workers. Our regulatory structure is corroded, and needs a full overhaul.

Under the leadership of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, things are starting to change. Prevailing wages under the Davis-Bacon Act have been applied to the federal stimulus package, meaning that hundreds of thousands of construction workers will be paid what they're worth. And the regulatory agencies will get staff concerned more with enforcing laws than shielding corporations from them. Obviously the dim prospects for the Employee Free Choice Act is disheartening - although labor continues to press forward with national ads, and allies in the civil rights community are advocating for it as well - but there are additional parts of the labor laws in America where we can make progress.

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