OVERTIME: Labor Stories of the Week (Feb 19, 2016)

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The week’s best labor stories assembled, hyperlinked, and summarized here for your convenience.

Game-changer. Just as we were editing our obituaries for the American labor movement, the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia likely means that fair-share union fees in the public sector will be spared. The Atlantic’s Charlotte Garden runs down the potential outcomes of the Friedrichs case .

Nevertheless. Labor should not take too much comfort in these developments, as “right to work” continues to sweep over the country. This week West Virginia, formerly a union stronghold, became the 26th state to adopt “right to work” legislation .

Throwback: labor rights and Jesuit schools. Writing for the Jesuit Post, Ken Homan pens a much-needed reminder of the inspiring ways Jesuits have supported workers over the past century . He lays out this rich history as guidance for how Jesuit universities should treat their own staff and subcontracted workers.

Bargaining for the common good. Public school teachers in Saint Paul are famous for their innovative bargaining demands that seek to improve public education and address social injustices that impede students learning. A new interview with the teachers’ union leaders reveals that this contract cycle, they’re going to the mat for restorative justice practices, responsible banking, and the freedom to opt out of standardized testing .

“Our members are always told that they can only control what’s in their classroom, that they can’t do anything about poverty that kids come into the building with. Our union is about empowering our members to make a difference in their students’ lives, and this is one way that we can. Our members are saying, no, we don’t want to work for a district that does banking with a bank that’s going to foreclose on our kids’ homes during the school year. That’s wrong. Let’s find a bank that won’t do that.”

Pope Francis: those who mistreat workers will have to answer to God. While addressing hundreds of laborers in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Pope Francis spoke movingly against the exploitation of workers and offered a vigorous defense of Catholic social teaching on worker rights.

Wages too low, workload too heavy. On Wednesday, four thousand janitors in the twin cities went on strike seeking a living wage and manageable workload for both full-time and part-time employees.

Student loans bankrupt black and hispanic communities. Fascinating new data maps from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth reveal that people of color are disproportionately harmed by the student debt crisis .

Better late than never. This week President Obama signed legislation closing an 85-year-old loophole that allowed U.S. companies to import goods made with slave labor when American domestic production could not meet demand.

The real free speech issue on college campuses. While college students have been accused of clamping down on speech, it is non-tenured faculty members and low-wage employees who are truly being silenced . The contingent nature of their employment keeps many from speaking out about working conditions on campus.

And “Black Workers Matter, Too.” A chorus of authors in the Nation call for a movement linking civil rights with the right to organize  that would narrow the racial wage gap and reinvigorate American labor.