By Ted Hesson
March 2, 2017
DEMS DISMISS TRUMP IMMIGRATION REFORM TALK: “President Donald Trump says he’s open to a large-scale immigration reform bill if Republicans and Democrats can reach a compromise,” Ted Hesson and Seung Min Kim write in POLITICO. “But he forgot the biggest obstacle to a deal: his own policies and the revulsion they’ve already fueled among Democrats.”
“Trump stormed into the White House with a vow to crack down on undocumented immigrants, and promptly followed through — alienating advocates of a more generous immigration policy. Not only will Trump struggle to persuade Democrats to come to the table, it’s not even clear they’re in the same room.”
“'If he’s serious, he should give us evidence and say, “I’m going to stop the deportations,”’ said Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a key player in past immigration reform efforts. The Illinois Democrat said Trump needs to stand up to his hard-line immigration brain trust — Attorney General Jeff Sessions, chief strategist Steve Bannon and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — whom Gutierrez called the ‘three principal heads of xenophobia.’” More here.
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MINERS LOOK FOR HEALTH AND PENSION FIX: Lawmakers and retired coal miners will push today for a permanent fix to shore up the United Mine Workers’ multiemployer health and pension plans. House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott will hold a press call this morning with United Mine Workers of America Legislative Director Phil Smith about the status of miners’ health and pension plans in Virginia. At the same time, retired coal miners and their families head to the Hill to convince legislators to back the cause.
A continuing resolution in December included a temporary measure to fund healthcare benefits for retired coal miners whose companies went bankrupt. But those funds will be depleted at the end of April. This week, miners began to receive notices that their health benefits will run out on May 1. Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Trump stated privately that he favors finding a permanent solution to shore up the health and pension plans.
SPEAKING OF MULTIEMPLOYER PENSIONS: Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) reintroduced a bill Wednesday that would allow retirees in financially troubled multiemployer plans to have the final say on cuts to their vested benefits. In 2014, Congress passed legislation to allow multiemployer pension plan trustees to cut earned benefits if doing so would prevent the plan from going insolvent. Although plan participants can vote on the cuts, the law requires that the Treasury Department override a “no” vote if bailing out the plan would cost the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation more than $1 billion. Portman’s bill would change that provision and make the plan participants’ vote binding. Portman’s 2016 re-election bid was endorsed by the Teamsters, whose Central States Pension Fund was a target of the 2014 pension bill (though in 2016 Treasury, under election-year pressure, declined to propose benefit cuts).
ICE DETAINS ‘DREAMER’ WITH EXPIRED DACA: “A young woman in the process of renewing her permission as a ‘Dreamer’ to remain in the United States legally was arrested Wednesday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after speaking at a press conference where she urged [Trump] to protect people like her,” Sarah Smith reports for the Associated Press.
“Daniela Vargas, 22, was detained by ICE agents who pulled over a friend's car on a nearby freeway after she left a coalition of clergy members, civil rights lawyers and other advocates for immigrants at Jackson City Hall, according to one of her lawyers, Nathan Elmore,” the AP reports. “Vargas' latest DACA status had expired in November 2016, and she applied to renew it mid-February, after she came up with the $495 application fee.”
“ICE spokesman Thomas Byrd said in a statement that Vargas was taken into custody in a ‘targeted immigration enforcement action’ after the agency verified that her DACA status had lapsed,” the AP reports. “A federal immigration judge will now ‘decide whether or not she is eligible for immigration relief,’ the statement said.” More here.
EEOC MOVES TO DISMISS WELLNESS CASE: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a request Wednesday for a federal court to either dismiss or grant summary judgment in a case challenging the agency’s updated wellness regulations. Last year, AARP sued the commission, arguing that the wellness regulations violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The association claimed the regulations ran afoul of those laws by allowing employers to set the incentive for participation in a wellness program (judged by many a penalty for non-participation) to as high as 30 percent of the cost of an employee’s health insurance.
In the court filing Wednesday, the commission said AARP lacked standing to bring the case. “Plaintiff has failed to show … that it has a member who will be injured by the challenged rules,” the EEOC argued. In addition, the EEOC said that even if AARP did have standing to bring the case, the organization’s argument failed on the merits because the ADA does not prohibit inducements and because the EEOC “adequately explained the basis for regulatory action.” Read the motion here.
HOUSE VOTES TO BLOCK OSHA RULE: The House voted 231-191 Wednesday to pass a Congressional Review Act resolution to block the Labor Department’s so-called “Volks” rule. Although the vote was mainly along party lines, four Democrats joined Republicans to back the resolution, and six Republicans joined Democrats in opposition.
Finalized in December, the rule clarifies that the “duty to record an injury or illness continues for as long as the employer must keep records of the recordable injury or illness; the duty does not expire just because the employer fails to create the necessary records when first required to do so.”
Prior to the vote, Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) who introduced the resolution, called the OSHA rule an “outright power grab.” He said the Labor Department unilaterally re-wrote the law when it issued the final rule and created additional confusion for small businesses. But House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.) defended it. Scott said killing the measure would “undermine workplace safety and health” and would give bad actors a “safe harbor.” He noted that it was “strange” Congress wanted to repeal the rule using the Congressional Review Act, because the rule “creates no new compliance or reporting obligations [and] imposes no new costs.”
WARREN, MURRAY, BROWN PROBE COMPANIES ABOUT OT: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) will send letters to 14 companies today that ask whether they would support an attempt by the Trump administration to block the Obama Labor Department’s overtime rule. The regulation, which was set to take effect December 1, doubles (to $47,476) the salary threshold under which virtually all workers are guaranteed time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours in a given week.
The overtime rule is now in legal limbo after a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction against it. The Obama administration appealed the injunction, but Trump isn’t expected to continue the appeal. We still don’t know where Trump’s nominee, Alexander Acosta, stands on the measure, but Trump’s previous nominee, Andrew Puzder, was a vocal opponent. The letter from Democratic senators asks the companies what steps they took to implement the overtime rule and whether they plan to walk back its implementation. Read a letter sent to Walmart here.
BERNIE SANDERS LEADS RALLY AT NISSAN FACTORY: Longstanding efforts to unionize a Nissan Factory is Canton, Miss., will get a hand Saturday from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who plans to lead a protest at the factory. “Nissan has union representation at 42 out of its 45 plants around the world,” Sanders said in a written statement. “The American South should not be treated differently. What the workers at the Nissan plant in Mississippi are doing is a courageous and enormously important effort to improve their lives.”
DOJ, WMATA REACH AGREEMENT: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority will pay a former job applicant $175,000 and institute policies to ensure that employees with disabilities can communicate any limitations and necessary job accommodations to management, according to an announcement Wednesday by the Justice Department and WMATA. The compensation will go to an applicant who claimed his provisional job offer was rescinded when the agency learned he had epilepsy. The agreement is pending the approval of the D.C. district court.
UBER’S KALANICK SAYS HE’LL ‘GROW UP’ AFTER DRIVER FEUD: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick plans to seek “leadership help” after he was captured on video scolding one of his company’s drivers. In the video, recorded last month and published Tuesday by Bloomberg, Kalanick told the driver, 37-year-old Fawzi Kamel: “Some people don’t like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck.”
The video (watch it here) is actually kind of a nothingburger. Kalanick engages Kamel in a lengthy and quite courteous debate about the company’s pricing policies that turns nasty only when Kamel says: “People are not trusting you anymore…. [I’m] bankrupt because of you.” But Uber has faced a backlash in the last week over claims of sexual harassment (more on that below), and Kalanick was already taking heat for participating in President Donald Trump’s business advisory council (He resigned under pressure on Feb. 2). That likely explains why Kalanick decided an abject apology was the most prudent course. “By now I’m sure you’ve seen the video where I treated an Uber driver disrespectfully,” he said in a note to employees. “To say that I am ashamed is an extreme understatement.” The video, he said, “is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.” Read about Kalanick in Bloomberg here and Ars Technica here.
WHAT UBER’S WOES COULD MEAN FOR WOMEN IN TECH: “Few women in Silicon Valley were surprised by the revelations about Uber detailed this month by Susan Fowler, a software engineer who published an exposé on the culture of sexism and sexual harassment that she said she battled during her year at the ride-hailing company,” Farhad Manjoo writes in the New York Times.
“Still, the Uber scandal feels different,” he writes. “It feels like a watershed. For gender-diversity advocates in the tech industry, Ms. Fowler’s allegations, and the public outcry they have ignited, offer a possibility that something new may be in the offing. What could happen? Something innovative: This could be the start of a deep, long-term and thorough effort to remake a culture that has long sidelined women — not just at Uber but across the tech business, too.” More here.
FACT-CHECKING TRUMP ON IMMIGRATION: Trump said during his joint address to Congress Tuesday night that his administration has taken steps to protect the nation from “radical Islamic terrorism.” But his contentious travel ban, which temporarily restricts citizens of several countries from entering the U.S., wouldn’t have made a difference in the attacks he listed as examples, the Washington Post reports.
“Trump’s comments implied that ‘improved vetting procedures’ would keep terrorists out,” write Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky. “Yet the attacks he cited — the Boston Marathon bombing, the shooting rampage in San Bernardino, Calif., and the 9/11 attacks — were all carried out by U.S. citizens or people born in countries not included in his original ban and not expected to be included in the revised order.” More here.
IMMIGRATION SHOWDOWN IN CALIF: “A bill seeking to restrict cooperation between federal immigration authorities and police in California is shaping up as a major clash between this deep blue state and the Trump administration,” Alejandro Lazo writes in the Wall Street Journal. “Lawmakers here are fast-tracking California Senate Bill 54, which pro-immigrant activists call an aggressive move to thwart [Trump’s] deportation policies.”
“The bill prohibits police from using personnel or resources in civil immigration detentions or arrests,” Lazo writes. “It would block federal immigration officials from entering local jails to conduct interviews with detainees or gain access to police databases for immigration enforcement purposes. In addition, the bill would curtail what police could tell federal immigration authorities about people in custody, and limit enforcement in places such as schools and courts.” More here.
FORMER REPORTER AND FOX NEWS AGREE TO PRIVATE MEDIATOR: A reporter for Fox 5 in New York who filed a lawsuit in December over claims of sexual harassment and discrimination agreed to employ a private mediator to resolve the dispute, according to letter filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Lawyers for the plaintiff, Lidia Curanaj (whose real name is Lidija Ujkic) wrote to ask the court if Curanaj and 21st Century Fox could move forward with private mediation. The judge hearing the case ordered a 30-day stay of proceedings in late February to allow the parties resolve the dispute. Read the letter here.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com