OSHA’s Walkaround Reg in Effect. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) walkaround rule takes effect today, May 31, 2024. The controversial rule, which allows third parties to access employers’ private property while accompanying an OSHA official during a workplace safety inspection, is the subject of both a legal challenge and a Congressional Review Act resolution.

Senate Republican: Administration’s Labor Policies Put Politics Over People. This week, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) released a report, titled, “How Biden’s Labor Agenda Puts Politics Over People: Weaponizing the Federal Government to Benefit Political Backers at the Expense of American Workers.” The report criticizes many of the administration’s policy prescriptions that should be familiar to readers of the Buzz. It argues that the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) independent contractor regulation deprives workers of opportunity and flexibility, the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) joint-employer rule undermines the franchise business model, and the overtime regulation “will destroy jobs and make it harder for nonprofits to provide services.” Additionally, according to the report, the administration is providing handouts to labor unions; the report cites an August 2023 Board decision, OSHA’s walkaround regulations, and the administration’s project labor agreement and Davis-Bacon Act regulations. Should a new administration occupy the White House in 2025, the report could serve as a potential roadmap for labor policy reversals.

Republican Bill Addresses College Athletes’ Employment Status. Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced the Protecting Student Athletes’ Economic Freedom Act, which clarifies that “a student athlete may not be considered an employee of an institution, conference, or association.” The debate concerning whether graduate students and student athletes should be classified as “employees” has been going on for years at the NLRB. Most recently, in February 2024, the Board’s Boston regional office ruled that men’s basketball players at Dartmouth were “employees” under the National Labor Relations Act.

House Republicans Push Back on White House Pension Initiative. The Buzz recently discussed a White House event in which five major pension plans agreed to “encourage their portfolio companies to remain neutral when workers seek to exercise the freedom to join together in a union; and when applicable, enter into neutrality agreements with labor organizations that include voluntary or card-check recognition, reasonable timelines to first contract, and a commitment to non-interference in union organizing.” Well, Republican leaders on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce aren’t too happy with the situation and are exploring whether the funds are violating federal retirement law. Representatives Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the committee, and Bob Good (R-VA) recently sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su seeking “documents and information relating to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) involvement in efforts to use pension funds to promote labor union interests.” The letter argues that “diverting pension fund assets to promote collective bargaining is contrary to statutory protections for pension funds subject to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).”

Foxx Wants Union Transparency. The Buzz has covered recent Republican actions on Capitol Hill to seek more accountability and transparency from labor unions. In keeping with that theme, this week Representative Foxx introduced the “Union Members Right to Know Act” (H.R. 8573). The bill would amend the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 to require labor unions to notify members of their right to be non-members and refrain from funding union activity unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment. Unions would also be required to notify members of their right to seek “a reasonable accommodation, based on the religious beliefs or practices of the individual, not to pay dues or fees to the labor organization.” Various iterations of this concept have been floated in legislative form over the years but have obviously never been enacted.

The Immigration Act of 1924. One hundred years ago this week, the Immigration Act of 1924 went into effect. By banning all immigration from Asia and establishing restrictive quotas for immigrants from the rest of the world, the xenophobic law represents a dark chapter in the history of U.S. immigration policy. Feeding fears that immigrants would negatively impact the American identity and undercut jobs by providing cheaper labor, the legislation was supported by the likes of both the Ku Klux Klan and the American Federation of Labor. According to the Office of the Historian of the Department of State, “the most basic purpose of the 1924 Immigration Act was to preserve the ideal of U.S. homogeneity.” Though the act was subsequently amended by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 and replaced by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, some of its features remain. For example, the act established the U.S. Border Patrol (originally contained within the DOL), as well as the requirement that potential immigrants first obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate abroad before traveling to the United States.