Beltway Buzz, February 9, 2024
Sunday, February 11, 2024

The ;Beltway Buzz is a weekly update summarizing labor and employment news from inside the Beltway and clarifying how what’s happening in Washington, D.C., could impact your business.

Long-Awaited Border Deal Arrives With a Thud. A bipartisan group of lawmakers in the U.S. Senate this week debuted the text of their long-awaited legislative package addressing the crisis at the United States’ southern border. The Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2024 calls for military funding assistance to Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel while focusing on the methods (e.g., an expedited asylum process and increased deportation authority) and means (e.g., about $20 billion in funding) to secure the border. The bill also contains provisions that would impact employers that supplement their workforces with foreign nationals. For example, if enacted, the bill would add 50,000 additional green cards each year for five years (32,000 for family based; 18,000 for employment-based). It would also provide for automatic work authorization for H-4 dependents of H-1B workers and protect the children of those workers from “aging out” at the age of twenty-one while they await green cards. The bill, however, failed to move forward on a procedural vote in the Senate this week, and it appears that senators may choose to move forward by addressing funding for Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel, separate and apart from the immigration issues.

NLRB Official: College Basketball Players Are Employees. A regional director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has permitted members of the Dartmouth College men’s basketball team to vote on whether they should be represented by a union. Although the basketball players do not receive athletic scholarships, Regional Director Laura Sacks of NLRB Region 1 maintains that the players receive other benefits—such as basketball shoes, lodging, meals, academic support, nutritional instruction, strength training, etc.—and that the school “has the right to control the work performed by the Dartmouth men’s basketball team.” Bethany S. WagnerNeil V. McKittrick, and Zachary V. Zagger have the details. The Buzz will be watching to see if or when the full Board weighs in on the matter.

FTC Commissioner: FTC Should Address Worker Misclassification. On February 2, 2024, at a trade policy conference, Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) delivered remarks entitled, “‘Overawed’: Worker Misclassification as a Potential Unfair Method of Competition.” Bedoya noted recent efforts by the NLRB and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) concerning independent contractors, adding, “It’s time for competition authorities to step up to the plate.” As for why the FTC should play a role, Bedoya stated, in part, that misclassification was “a method of competition that lets law-breaking employers win business from honest ones.” (Emphasis in the original.) The Buzz previously discussed the FTC’s memorandum of understanding with the NLRB.

Senators Push DOL on AI. On February 5, 2024, Senators John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Mike Braun (R-IN), the chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate’s Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety sent Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su a letter requesting information on how the DOL is addressing artificial intelligence (AI) in the workplace. Presumably, the DOL is already working on its assignment from President Biden’s Executive Order on the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence to develop best practices for employers on how to “mitigate AI’s potential harms to employees’ well-being” and to provide “guidance for Federal contractors regarding nondiscrimination in hiring involving AI and other technology-based hiring systems.” In the meantime, Senators Hickenlooper and Braun have asked Secretary Su to let them know how the DOL is “preparing to ensure that its workplace guidance and policies keep pace as AI technologies change.” The letter also asks the labor secretary about potential data the DOL may “need to collect to better predict workforce demands related to AI,” as well as “what current federal laws, if any, would likely need to be updated or revisited by Congress to address the growth and advancement of AI in the workplace?”

House Passes Legislation to Combat Human Trafficking. This week, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed the Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act (H.R. 443) by an overwhelming vote of 407–0. The legislation would require the secretary of labor to “implement a program to provide the training and periodic continuing education … to employees of the Department of Labor whom the Secretary determines should receive such training or education based on their official duties.” The DOL employees would be trained on “how to effectively detect and assist criminal law enforcement in preventing human trafficking.” While floor time is always an issue in the Senate, the overwhelming bipartisan support in the House indicates that the bill has a good chance in the upper chamber.

The Grammys and Politics. The Grammy Awards took place this past Sunday, and did you know that historically the program has had quite a connection to politics? In 1968, for example, then-senator Everett M. Dirksen (R-IL) won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording for his reading of his poem “The Gallant Men.” Other politicians who have won Grammys include the following:

  • Former President Bill Clinton has two Grammys—not for his saxophone playing—but for Best Spoken Word Album for Children (2004), for his narration of the children’s book Peter and the Wolf: Wolf Tracks, and for Best Spoken Word Album (2005) for the audiobook edition of his memoir, My Life. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton won the Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album in 1997 for the audio recording of her book It Takes a Village.
  • Former President Barack Obama has two Grammys (one awarded in 2006 for his memoir, Dreams from My Father, and the other in 2008 for his book The Audacity of Hope), while former Vice President Al Gore has one Grammy (received in 2007 for his audiobook An Inconvenient Truth, though he was not a narrator)—all in the Best Spoken Word Album category.
  • Former President Jimmy Carter tops them all with three Grammys—all awarded in the Best Spoken Word Album category—for recordings of his books Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis (2007), A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety (2016), and Faith: A Journey for All (2019).

It is wild to contemplate that Al Gore has more Grammy awards to his name than Queen, Jimi Hendrix, The Beach Boys, Diana Ross, Bob Marley, Janis Joplin, The Who, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, and Run-D.M.C. combined.

 

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