Quick Fix

UNDER MY UMBRELLA:Labor Secretary Marty Walsh unveiled a new initiative Friday afternoon aimed at improving job quality by addressing discrimination and growing union membership, among other things.

The effort will focus on collective bargaining; workforce development; discrimination; prevailing wages; harassment; and more to coordinate work done since the beginning of this administration and often for decades before under one umbrella to promote good jobs, according to a Labor Department press release announcing the effort.


The president has made good, middle-class jobs with equity and access for all the heart of his economic agenda, Walsh said in remarks before the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington. This will make sure we deliver on that goal in everything we do.

On the agenda, per Walsh: 

“Work across federal agencies to build job quality into all our contracting and grant making”

“Engage employers to help them improve job quality so every industry can attract and retain the talent it needs”

“Speak directly to workers making sure they have the information they need to exercise their rights, find good jobs, and get in-demand skills”

“Reach out to local, county and state leaders to understand what you need to create good jobs in your cities and towns”

One specific priority: partnering with the White House to aid implementation of the bipartisan infrastructure law, according to the agency, by advising on how investments can create good quality jobs.

GOOD MORNING.Its Monday, Jan. 24. Welcome back to Weekly Shift, your go-to tipsheet on employment and immigration news, where we can reassure you that we don’t make anything near what these Wharton students guessed. Send feedback, tips and exclusives to [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter at @eleanor_mueller.

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Driving the Day

FIGHT OVER VAX RULES CONTINUES:The battle over the Biden administrations vaccine regulations continues to rage even after the Supreme Court in effect shut down the broadest iteration of the rules.

On Friday, a Texas court blocked implementation of the White Houses rule requiring that federal employees get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Granting the preliminary injunction is about whether the president can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown wrote. That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.

Later the same day, the White House filed its appeal in another vaccine-related case this one centered on 35 Navy sailors who refused to get vaccinated and whom, a court ruled, the DoD could not take action against. Both lawsuits will advance to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sunday, thousands of protesters gathered at the National Mall to protest the regulations.

A crowd of demonstrators, many unmasked, decrying vaccine mandates in the middle of a city that has adopted mask and vaccine mandates to reduce sickness and death from the surge of the viruss omicron variant, which has battered D.C. for weeks, The Washington Post reports.

As speakers took to the stage including a group of doctors in white coats the crowd roared its approval at lines comparing vaccine mandates to the actions of authoritarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union and railing against the news media for its reporting on the scientific evidence supporting the coronavirus vaccines.

On the Hill

HOUSE DEMS URGE ACTION ON UNION GERRYMANDERING:Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee filed an amicus brief late Friday urging the National Labor Relations Board to roll back a pair of Trump-era rulings that gives employers power over who can participate in a union election.

The standards allow bosses to more easily rig union elections by forcing a group of workers seeking to form a union to absorb workers who may have never expressed interest in joining a union, a committee aide said in an email.

An earlier decision, Specialty Healthcare, is more closely aligned with the NLRAs obligation to assure to employees the fullest freedom of association than PCC Structurals and Boeing, the members wrote in their brief. Reinstating this standard would comport with the United States obligations under international law. As a founding member of the International Labor Organization and a signatory to the Declaration on Fundamental Rights and Principles at Work, the United States has an obligation to respect, to promote and to realize the principles concerning the fundamental rights [of] freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.

DEMOCRATS GET REAL:Congressional Democrats are reevaluating what they can accomplish this year after failures to pass President Joe Bidens social spending package, the partys voting rights bill and other key legislative items.

Many Democrats are itching to get back to voting on bills that have plenty of GOP support, such as a new deal to fund the government or changing antitrust laws,our Burgess Everett and Marianne LeVine report. Sure, Democrats will try to revive their signature domestic spending bill, and they say they will keep fighting for election reform. They might even change the Electoral Count Act. None of that, however, is expected to play out on the Senate floor anytime soon.

My advice to leadership is to find those things where we really have a solid amount of momentum, where you clearly have 10 or more Republicans, said Sen. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), who is working on a bill to protect wildlife that has more than a dozen GOP co-sponsors.

MORE HILL NEWS:Biden-tied lobbying firms raked in the dough during his first year, from POLITICO

Around the agencies

PAY DAY FOR FEDERAL WORKERS:OPM released guidance Friday directing government agencies to raise their minimum wage to $15 by the end of the month.

The rule will affect around 70,000 workers, the agency said in a statement. Most report to the Agriculture, Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.

In its guidance, OPM relies on Bidens executive order [last year] establishing a $15 minimum wage for federal contractors to develop special pay rates for both the General Schedule and Federal Wage Service pay scales, Government Executives Erich Wagner reports. The administration noted that without the order to raise the minimum wage for federal employees as well as contractors, feds could decide to jump ship for better paying contractor jobs.

If any agency fails to meet the Jan. 30 deadline, they will be required to make pay raises associated with establishing a $15 minimum wage retroactive to that date, Wagner explains. The U.S. Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission are exempt from the guidance, because they are outside of the scope of OPMs statutory authority.

This treatment of the federal workforce is a welcome change from the previous president, who regularly denigrated their service, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said in a statement.

But every American worker deserves a fair wage, and it is up to Congress to guarantee it to them. As such, I continue to urge the Senate to follow the Houses lead [and] pass the Raise The Wage Act.

MORE AGENCY NEWS:Federal governments coronavirus struggle: When and how to bring employees back to the office, from The Washington Post


NURSING HOMES IN TROUBLE:The nursing home industry has lost more than 420,000 jobs since the pandemic began bringing employment levels back to where they were 15 years ago and jeopardizing an already-fragile sector.

Frustration is surging among the low-wage workers who make up the backbone of the nursing home industry, as tens of thousands of their colleagues call out sick with Covid-19, inflaming shortages that already were at crisis levels, The Washington Posts Rebecca Tan reports. Hailed as heroes during the early months of the pandemic, these workers, most of whom are women and people of color, say theyre facing untenable levels of pressure.

Government support has failed to end the crisis, advocates say, allowing care for the elderly and the infirm to worsen, forcing facilities to limit admission or close entirely and clogging up hospital beds.

Some employees chose to retire early rather than face the intense workload and coronavirus risks at their jobs. Others have been lured away by companies, including Amazon, that offer wages which nursing homes say they cannot compete with.

HOW OMICRON IS DECIMATING SMALL-TOWN WORKFORCES:The new variant is hitting workers in small towns harder than those in larger cities because there are only a handful of people available to keep public services up and running.

With bare-bones workforces already stretched thin, there is no margin for error when multiple workers have to call in sick, The New York Times Jill Cowan reports.

The stresses are the effects of short-term pandemic crises piled on top of demographic trends that have played out over decades as work has disappeared in industries like agriculture and manufacturing, and young people leave for better opportunities elsewhere.

YES, ITS STILL HAPPENING:Record-breaking inflation continues to outpace workers wages even in a historically tight labor market.

Workers are in the drivers seat, with the kind of negotiating power they had never imagined, The Washington Posts Abha Bhattarai reports.

But in an unexpected twist, the same strong economic recovery that is emboldening workers is also driving up inflation, leaving most Americans with less spending power than they had a year ago.

Although average hourly wages rose 4.7 percent last year, overall wages fell 2.4 percent on average for all workers when adjusted for inflation, according to the Labor Department.

MORE WORKPLACE NEWS:Worker absences triple because of Omicron, from CNN


AMAZONS LATEST UNION DRAMA: NLRB officials plan to accuse Amazon of illegally firing a New York-based union organizer unless the tech giant settles the case.

The fledgling Amazon Labor Union alleged in November that Amazon illegally fired one of its organizers, Daequan Smith,Bloombergs Josh Eidelson reports.The National Labor Relations Boards Brooklyn-based regional director found merit in those allegations and will issue a complaint if the case does not settle, an agency spokesperson said.

Lets refresh: Amazon has been grappling with an unprecedented wave of activism and organizing in North America, including walkouts over safety concerns in Staten Island and elsewhere, as well as unionization drives in Alabama, Canada and New York. Workers in Bessemer, Alabama, voted not to join the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union last year, but the labor board ordered a do-over after the union accused Amazon of misconduct, which the company denied. The fresh mail-in election is scheduled to commence next month.

MORE UNION NEWS:Workers at REI Store in Manhattan Seek to Form Retailers Only Union, from The New York Times

STEP INSIDE THE WEST WING: What’s really happening in West Wing offices? Find out who’s up, who’s down, and who really has the presidents ear in our West Wing Playbook newsletter, the insider’s guide to the Biden White House and Cabinet. For buzzy nuggets and details that you won’t find anywhere else, subscribe today.

What We’re Reading

The Pandemic Changed Everything About Work, Except the Humble Résumé, from The New York Times

Opinion: The Underside of the Great Resignation, from The Wall Street Journal

Worker shortage unleashes a forever jobs crisis, from Axios

Why the pandemics work-from-home tech darlings are falling back to earth, from The Washington Post

Documentary Critical of Disney, From the Disney Family, from The New York Times

Why hybrid work is emotionally exhausting, from BBC

Worker shortages, flight delays contributing to slow delivery of rapid tests, from ABC News

You Quit. I Quit. We All Quit. And Its Not a Coincidence, from The New York Times