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The Politics of Preemption and Local Labor Laws: From Minimum Wage to “Right to Work”

May 26, 2016

On Labor

May 25, 2016

by 

Increasingly frustrated by their inability to affect employment law at the federal and state level, progressive advocates have turned their attention to local government.  At this level, they have been able to enact ordinances to raise the minimum wage, guarantee paid sick day laws, and even protect LBGT rights in the workplace — proposals, which have all failed at the federal level.  Conservative groups, most notably, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), have fought these reforms by lobbying for state bills preempting local action.

But, in another context, this dynamic has been turned on its head: ALEC has led the campaign to enact local right to work ordinances.  While ALEC’s instrumentalism has been noted, progressives also have a conflicted position on preemption.  In the face of a rigid preemption regime governing federal labor law, the progressives cannot explore whether the NLRA would benefit from more regional variation as it has in the minimum wage context.

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