Homeless Sandy survivors protest outside Gov. Christie’s presidential an...

The protesters gathered outside of Chris Christie’s presidential campaign launch demonstrated more enthusiasm than the rest of the country has for the New Jersey governor’s presidential candidacy.
Video of homeless Sandy survivors protesting outside of Christie announcement:

New threat to public employee unionism

Lyle Denniston Independent Contractor Reporter

Reacting to an undoubted invitation by the Supreme Court to raise the issue, a group of California public school teachers on Tuesday persuaded the Justices to review the constitutionality of requiring government workers to pay fees to support any labor union activity.  The case involves a direct request for the Court to overrule a 1977 decision that had upheld such fees under “agency shop” rules.
It has been clear, since the Court’s ruling exactly one year ago in Harris v. Quinn, that a majority of the Court would welcome a plea to undo the first precedent extending “agency shop” rules to the public sector — Abood v. Detroit Education Association. That four-decade-old precedent was roundly criticized in the lead opinion in Harris, but the opinion stopped short of saying that the ruling should be overturned.
That is the key issue in the new case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.  In fact, that case from its beginning was intended as a direct challenge to the Abood decision, and two lower courts decided it quickly on that premise, sending it on toward the Supreme Court.
The new case will be decided in the Court’s new Term, which opens in October.  The case is likely to come up for a hearing in December or January.
A final ruling may emerge next year in the midst of a presidential election campaign in which the role of labor unions in American life could be a visible issue.  Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, is expected to seek the GOP nomination for the White House after building his public reputation largely out of a showdown with public employee unions in his state.
At the center of the test case before the Court is a practice that labor unions consider essential to their very survival: the ability to draw some financial support from all workers in a unit covered by a union contract, whether they belong to the union or not.  Because unions have a binding legal duty to act in the interest of all workers included in the unit, the labor organizations want to collect fees even from “free riders,” as they call non-union workers.
Under Supreme Court rulings going back at least to 1944, companies in the private sector may be required to engage in collective bargaining with a union representing all of the workers in a bargaining unit.  If the workplace is not a “union shop,” in which all workers must belong to the union in order to keep their jobs, it can still be an “agency shop.”
Under an “agency shop,” all workers pay union fees.  But two rulings by the Court in 1956 and 1961 declared that workers can only be required to pay an amount to support union activities related to collective bargaining, and not for union political activity to which some non-union workers may object.
In the Abood decision in 1977, the Court for the first time ruled that the “agency shop” can be enforced for government workers, too, provided that the fees non-union members paid are related directly to union expenses for collective bargaining, administering the union contract with the employer, or internal grievance procedures.
Even though unions in the public sector attempt to influence government policy-making, to protect the interests of those they represent, the Court declared that that activity is not to be treated as political for purposes of the amount of “agency shop” fees to non-members.
That rationale for the Abood decision is the direct target of the new Friedrichs case.  The lawyers who developed that case contend that everything a public-employee union does is an attempt to influence public policy, so non-union members should not have to pay any fees to support the union, if they have a personal objection.
Thus, the case seeks the overruling of the 1977 precedent, to establish a new ban on the “agency shop” throughout the public sector.
A second issue in the case — added in case the Court chose not to overrule Abood — is whether it is unconstitutional to require non-union public employees to pay fees to support union collective bargaining activity unless they expressly opt out.  The lawyers for the teachers argue that such employees should be charged fees only if they opt in, explicitly declaring their willingness to pay their share of those expense-related fees.
Under California law, all public school districts have the option of setting up “agency shop” arrangements for teachers.  The law specifies that the amount of the agency fee can include the expenses of the union’s lobbying on public education policy.
As the teachers’ challenge moved through lower federal courts, the judges in each court ruled quickly against the claim, finding the issue controlled by the Abood precedent.  Those swift decisions were part of the teachers’ strategy to move the case as quickly as possible to the Supreme Court.

Recommended Citation: Lyle Denniston, New threat to public employee unionismSCOTUSblog(Jun. 30, 2015, 11:04 AM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/06/new-threat-to-public-employee-unionism/

Middle Class Economics Rewarding Hard Work by Restoring Overtime Pay

“Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages... We still need to make sure employees get the overtime they’ve earned.”
– President Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, January 20, 2015

Middle class economics means that a hard day’s work should lead to a fair day’s pay.  For much of the past century, a cornerstone of that promise has been the 40-hour workweek.  But for decades, industry lobbyists have bottled up efforts to keep these rules up to date, leaving millions of Americans working long hours, and taking them away from their families without the overtime pay that they have earned. Business owners who treat their employees fairly are being undercut by competitors who don’t.

Today, President Obama announced that the Department of Labor will propose extending overtime pay to nearly 5 million workers. The proposal would guarantee overtime pay to most salaried workers earning less than an estimated $50,440 next year. The number of workers in each state who would be affected by this proposal can be found here.

The salary threshold guarantees overtime for most salaried workers who fall below it, but it is eroded by inflation every year.  It has only been updated once since the 1970s, when the Bush Administration published a weak rule with the strong support of industry.  Today, the salary threshold remains at $23,660 ($455 per week), which is below the poverty threshold for a family of four, and only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below it.

President Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to update regulations relating to who qualifies for overtime pay so that they once again reflect the intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act, and to simplify the rules so they’re easier for workers and businesses to understand and apply.  Following months of extensive consultations with employers, workers, unions, and other stakeholders, the Department of Labor developed a proposal that would:

·         Raise the threshold under which most salaried workers are guaranteed overtime to equal the 40thpercentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers.  As proposed, this would raise the salary threshold from $455 a week ($23,660 a year) – below the poverty threshold for a family of four – to a projected level of $970 a week ($50,440 a year) in 2016.

·         Extend overtime pay and the minimum wage to nearly 5 million workers within the first year of its implementation, of which 56 percent are women and 53 percent have at least a college degree. 

·         Provide greater clarity for millions more workers so they – and their employers – can determine more easily if they should be receiving overtime pay.

·         Prevent a future erosion of overtime and ensure greater predictability by automatically updating the salary threshold based on inflation or wage growth over time.

The proposal does not include specific regulatory changes to the so-called “duties test” that determines whether salaried workers earning more than the threshold are entitled to an exemption from overtime rules.  Hourly workers would generally continue to receive overtime pay, as they do under current rules.  Consistent with the normal rulemaking process, when the Department of Labor’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is published in the coming days, there will be opportunities to submit comments in writing. Only after reviewing and considering all the comments will the Department determine what to include in a final rule next year.

Overtime Pay Has Eroded, Failing Millions of Workers

For much of the 20th century, most Americans enjoyed overtime pay. Since 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act has required businesses to pay not less than a minimum wage for all hours worked and time-and-a-half for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours per week. These rules apply to most hourly and salaried workers, with exceptions including one for executive, administrative, and professional workers. In 1975, 62 percent of full-time salaried workers, including a majority of college graduates, were eligible for overtime pay.

But today, far fewer workers qualify for overtime pay. The exception for executive, administrative, and professional employees has grown so large that a large majority of salaried workers are denied overtime.  The salary threshold, which for most salaried workers determines whether they are guaranteed overtime or not, has been changed only twice in the last 40 years and now covers far fewer workers due to inflation.  Today, the salary threshold remains at $23,660 ($455 per week), which is below the poverty threshold for a family of four, and only 8 percent of full-time salaried workers fall below it. Workers above this level may be denied overtime even if they spend only a small share of their time on professional, executive, or administrative activities. For example, a convenience store manager, fast food assistant manager, or office worker may be expected to work 50 or 60 hours a week or more, making barely enough to keep a family out of poverty, and not receiving a dime of overtime pay.  For some of these employees, not receiving overtime pay means that they are not even receiving the minimum wage when all of their hours of overtime are taken into account.

This proposed rule will help promote higher take-home pay and allow workers to better balance their work and family obligations. In so doing, it will help shore up the middle class and provide an easier pathway for those aspiring to share in the standard of living it affords.

Building on Additional Efforts to Grow the Middle Class

Modernizing our outdated overtime rules is just one piece of the President’s plan to support America’s workers and grow the middle class. The President believes that all Americans should have the opportunity to succeed in our global economy and all working families should be able to afford the cornerstones of economic security.  Middle-out economics has helped to make America stronger over the past six years, with our businesses creating 12.6 million new jobs over 63 straight months of job growth. President Obama is pursuing policies that will ensure a growing economy— one with hard work, higher wages, higher incomes, fairer pay for women, workplace flexibility for parents, affordable health insurance and adequate retirement benefits.

Higher Wages
  • President Obama has called on Congress to raise the national minimum wage, and took action by signing an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 for workers on new federal contracts.  Since early 2013, when the President first called for a minimum wage increase, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed increases to their minimum wage, which will benefit about 7 million workers.  Many other cities and localities, such as Chicago and Los Angeles, have also passed minimum wage increases, while businesses across the country have taken steps on their own to raise wages for their workers.

Tax Cuts for the Middle-Class
  • In his first term, President Obama cut taxes for the average middle-class family by $3,600.  The American Taxpayer Relief Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2012, permanently lowered income tax rates for 98 percent of American workers.
  • President Obama has extended and continues to fight for 2009 improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which are helping 16 million families make ends meet.

College Affordability
  • Over the past six years, the President and Congress have provided millions of low-income and middle class families across the country access to college by increasing the maximum Pell Grant award by $1,000, and total funding by 70 percent.
  • Families putting a child through college became eligible for as much as $10,000 of additional help over four years from the President’s American Opportunity Tax Credit, the equivalent of nearly a 30-percent discount on tuition at a typical state university.
  • Taken together, these scholarships will provide students and families $50 billion in aid next year to help them afford college.

Equal Pay
  • The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which empowers women to recover wages lost to discrimination by extending the time period in which an employee can file a claim. The President continues to advocate for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, common sense legislation that would give women additional tools to fight pay discrimination.
  • In April 2014, the President signed two executive actions strengthening equal pay laws: an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation and a Presidential Memorandum instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race. The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively.

Workplace Flexibility
  • In June 2014, the White House held the first-ever Summit on Working Families, elevating a national conversation about making today’s workplaces work for everyone, and signed a Presidential Memorandum to enhance workplace flexibilities and work-life balances for federal employees. He has also urged Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow most Americans to earn up to seven paid sick days a year.

Promoting Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces
  • In July 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order that helps agencies better take into account prospective federal contractors’ labor records when awarding contracts.  It also ensures that federal contract workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck and workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated get their day in court by putting an end to certain mandatory arbitration agreements.

Affordable Health Insurance
  • Five years ago, the Affordable Care Act became law — opening the doors to affordable, quality health insurance for millions of people. Today:
    • More than 16 million Americans have gained health coverage,
    • Up to 30 million young adults can no longer be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition,
    • 105 million Americans no longer have a lifetime limit on their health coverage,
    • 137 million Americans are guaranteed preventative care coverage, and
    • The nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever.

Security in Retirement
  • In February 2015, the Department of Labor published a proposed rule protecting retirement savers by ensuring that investment advisors are free from conflicts that prevent them from acting in the best interests of their clients.  This is a common sense rule that protects those saving for retirement from being steered into investments that are in their advisors’ financial interest but not theirs.

10 Things You Need To Know Today 6-30-15

With the European part of its international bailout expiring Tuesday, Athens might lose any possible access to the remaining rescue loans it contains.

Oklahoma and Florida proceed with executions after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of midazolam, a sedative that has been found problematic in several cases. SUPREME COURT-

The escaped inmates who spent more than two weeks roaming in New York woods split up when David Sweat decided his companion Richard Matt was slowing him down.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who spent three years as president of his high school class, is returning to his alma mater to launch a campaign for president of his country.

A year after the most destructive war in Gaza yet, the group remains in control - despite a poll suggesting half the residents would emigrate if the Israeli and Egyptian blockade did not keep the borders closed.

Some experts say NBC's decision to sever ties with the mogul simply gives "The Donald" more of the attention and publicity he craves.
At least 37 people are killed. The C-130 Hercules appeared to develop engine trouble shortly after takeoff.

Experts believe that the bill could help prevent another measles outbreak like the one that occurred at Disneyland.

At least nine others are injured, one seriously, mostly from smoke inhalation, on the famed bullet train.

Schuyler Bailar is recruited to the women's team, but the university lets him switch to the men's squad.

Donald Trump Loses It With NBC Universal

Real estate mogul and presidential candidate Donald Trump responded to the news that NBC will cut ties with him over his comments on  immigration, calling the network "weak and foolish" and threatening to sue over breaking its contracts with the Miss Universe and Miss USA pageants.

"If NBC is so weak and so foolish to not understand the serious  immigration problem in the United States, coupled with the horrendous and unfair trade deals we are making with Mexico, then their contract violating closure of Miss Universe/Miss USA will be determined in court," Trump said in a statement. 
"Furthermore, they will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be," he added.

Trump went on to say that he's "had a great relationship with" with NBC, but they didn’t want me to run because they wanted to do The Apprentice," he explained. "I just told them I cannot do The Apprentice because of the fact that I’m running…They were not happy with this, and now, with my statements on immigration, which happen to be correct, they are going to take a different stance – that’s okay."

"Whatever they want to do is okay with me," he said. "As far as ending the relationship, I have to do that, because my view on immigration is much different than the people at NBC."

"You have to stop immigration. I know NBC might disagree with me, but you cannot have illegal immigration. You do not have a country if you do…I told NBC I can’t change my stance . . . . My stance on immigration is correct." he added.

NBC announced Monday that it's ending its long relationship with Trump in the wake of the presidential hopeful's recent comments about Mexican immigrants.

NBC said it will no longer carry the Trump-produced Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Nor will he return to the long-running reality show "The Celebrity Apprentice" as host, a role Trump already said he would give up because of his presidential bid.

"Due to the recent derogatory statements by Donald Trump regarding immigrants, NBCUniversal is ending its business relationship with Mr. Trump," NBC said in a statement. "At NBC, respect and dignity for all people are cornerstones of our values."

NBC's move comes on the heels of a fight that broke out last week between Trump and Univision. The Spanish-language giant pulled the plug on its planned telecast of the Miss USA pageant after Trump's statements earlier this month about Mexican immigrants. In the news conference announcing his bid for the GOP presidential nomination, Trump asserted that many immigrants coming across the border are "rapists" and bringing in drugs.

The most recent edition of "Celebrity Apprentice" aired on NBC in January and February of this year. The show began in 2004 as "The Apprentice," a competition for aspiring moguls to win a shot at working for a Trump company. It yielded the catchphrase "You're fired" and blazed hot for several seasons. But as ratings tailed off, the format shifted to focus on celebrity contestants. The last non-celeb "Apprentice" aired in early 2008.

NBC's ties to Trump became increasingly problematic for the network in the past few years as the real estate developer took extreme positions on political issues and as he flirted with running for elected office. The outcry over the comments about immigrants and his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to tighten security appears to have been the last straw.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Statement by the Press Secretary on H.R. 2146, H.R. 1295 “Defending Public Safety Employees' Retirement Act,”

H.R. 2146, the “Defending Public Safety Employees' Retirement Act,” which Renews Trade Promotion Authority and for other purposes; and

H.R. 1295, the “Trade Preferences Extension Act of 2015,” which extends and amends several trade preference programs and Trade Adjustment Assistance, and for other purposes.

A “view” from the Courtroom: A marriage celebration

Wide-shot of courtroom as Kennedy's announces opinion (Art Lien)
Wide-shot of courtroom as Kennedy’s announces opinion (Art Lien)
It’s Friday, a rare day for Supreme Court opinions, and some have speculated that the two-year anniversary of the Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor would be an appropriate day for deciding this Term’s same-sex marriage cases. Others say, no, the Court does not think of such things.
In any event, the Courtroom is filled with advocates for the recognition of same-sex marriage. Seated in a group in the bar section are Mary L. Bonauto and Douglas Hallward-Driemeier, who argued the two questions in the consolidated cases, and other advocates and supporters such as Susan L. Sommer of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Paul M. Smith, and Pamela S. Karlan, of Stanford Law School and (temporarily) the U.S. Department of Justice, who did not have to sleep outside in the bar members’ line, as she did for oral arguments in the case.
We ask these advocates if they know whether any of the top legal officers of Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, or Tennessee, the states whose prohibitions of same-sex marriage are at issue before the Court, are at the Court today. We’re told no, we don’t think so.
John C. Eastman, the chairman of the board of the National Organization for Marriage, a group in favor of traditional marriage, is in the Courtroom, we’re told. Brian S. Brown, the president of that group and an outspoken advocate for that side, is outside the Court, we learn later. Jordan Lorence, Austin Nimocks, and Kellie Fiedorek of the Alliance Defending Freedom, another organization that opposes same-sex marriage, are here today, too.
As U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli enters the Courtroom, he walks over to greet the same-sex marriage advocates and Smith, who argued and won the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down same-sex sodomy laws.
In the public gallery, we’re told that James Obergefell is here again, but we can’t see where he is. There are two other Ohio plaintiffs here, Georgia Nicole and Pamela Yorksmith. There are also two plaintiffs from the Kentucky case – Gregory Bourke and Michael De Leon of Louisville, and their two teenage children.
Meanwhile, a few VIPs enter the Courtroom. Jane Roberts, the wife of Chief Justice John Roberts, arrives and takes a seat near Joanna Breyer and Virginia Thomas.
Retired Justice John Paul Stevens enters and takes the VIP seat next to Reporter of Decisions Christine L. Fallon. Other Court employees file in, and the law clerks’ customary vestibule is filling up as well.
At 10 a.m., the Court takes the bench, and the Chief Justice announces that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy has the decision in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Kennedy gives some background, but he doesn’t keep up the suspense too long as to how this will turn out.
“Since the dawn of history, marriage has transformed strangers into relatives, binding families and societies together,” he says, adding a mention of “millennia” as well, a word he used in oral argument that caused some consternation about same-sex marriage advocates.
“But,” he quickly adds, “it does not end there.”
“Over the past half-century, following substantial cultural and political developments, same-sex couples began to lead more open and public lives and to establish families,” Kennedy says.
“Like choices concerning contraception, family relationships, procreation, and childrearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution, decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make,” he says.
“By virtue of their exclusion from that institution, same-sex couples are denied the constellation of benefits that the States have linked to marriage,” Kennedy continues. “The limitation of marriage to opposite-sex couples may long have seemed natural and just, but its inconsistency with the central meaning of the fundamental right to marry is now manifest.”
By 10:07, several of the same-sex marriage advocates in the bar section are wiping away tears.
“These considerations lead to the conclusion that the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty,” Kennedy says. “The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”
He goes on, in an eloquent vein, not the more businesslike tone he took with his announcement inUnited States v. Windsor, for another minute or two. And then what everyone is waiting for: the line-up. Kennedy is joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.
He then announces that the Chief Justice has the main dissent (joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas), that Scalia and Thomas have their own dissents, each of which is signed by the other, and that Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., has his own dissent, joined by Scalia and Thomas.
Roberts leans forward a bit to deliver a dissent from the bench for the first time.
“From the dawn of human history,” he says, marriage has been a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, including for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese.
“But today five lawyers have ordered state to change their definition of marriage,” Roberts says. “Just who do we think we are? I have no choice but to dissent.”
The Chief Justice goes through his dissent at some length. He notes that public opinion has been shifting rapidly on same-sex marriage, including in Maine, where in 2012 voters reversed the result of a referendum from just three years earlier that had upheld traditional marriage.
“However heartened the proponents of same-sex marriage might be on this day, it is worth acknowledging what they have lost, and lost forever: the opportunity to win the true acceptance that comes from persuading their fellow citizens of the justice of their cause,” Roberts says. “They lose this just when the wind was at their backs.”
“If you are among the many Americans—of whatever sexual orientation—who favor expanding same-sex marriage, by all means celebrate today’s decision,” the Chief Justice says. “Celebrate the achievement of a desired goal. Celebrate the opportunity for a new expression of commitment to a partner. Celebrate the availability of new benefits. But do not celebrate the Constitution. It had nothing to do with it.”
“I respectfully dissent,” he adds.
The same-sex marriage advocates are ready to celebrate, despite the Chief Justice’s point. But not so fast. Roberts announces that Justice Scalia has the opinion in Johnson v. United States. The case is about sentencing under the Armed Career Criminal Act.
“Don’t go away,” Scalia commands, in a tone that quickly breaks the tension of the Chief Justice’s dissent. Everyone laughs, even to the point of a second ripple of laughter.
Scalia goes on at some length in this eight-to-one decision in a case that was argued and re-argued this Term. The bottom line is that imposing an increased sentence under the ACCA’s “residual clause” violates due process.
When Scalia is finished, the Chief Justice makes the announcement indicating that the Court is ready to finish the Term, by announcing its final three decisions.
“The Court will next sit on Monday morning at 10 o’clock,” he says. “At that time, we will announce all remaining opinions ready during this Term of the Court.”
As Court breaks, there is the brief sound of one person clapping – no more than one or two claps, really — before decorum prevails. Outside the building, a crowd that has grown immensely over the last hour will briefly spill from the sidewalk to the Court’s own plaza. Though demonstrations of any kind are officially forbidden, this celebration is allowed to run its course.

Recommended Citation: Mark Walsh, A “view” from the Courtroom: A marriage celebration,SCOTUSblog (Jun. 26, 2015, 6:13 PM), http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/06/a-view-from-the-courtroom-a-marriage-celebration/