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    California Moves to Modify Law Letting Workers Sue Employers

    Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a deal with business and labor leaders heading off a ballot measure to repeal the law, which has cost companies billions.A last-minute political compromise has headed off an effort to repeal a California law allowing workers to sue employers for workplace violations — a legal tool that has cost companies billions of dollars.The compromise, announced on Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, followed meetings with business leaders and the powerful California Labor Federation over ways to modify the 2004 law, the Private Attorneys General Act.The law, known as PAGA, lets employees file civil complaints — on their own behalf and for fellow workers — against businesses, sometimes costing them tens of millions of dollars in settlements.“We came to the table and hammered out a deal that works for both businesses and workers, and it will bring needed improvements to this system,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement on Tuesday. “This proposal maintains strong protections for workers, provides incentives for businesses to comply with labor laws and reduces litigation.”A study released in February by a coalition opposing the law found it had cost businesses around $10 billion since 2013. That same report found more than 3,000 proposed settlements under the law in 2022, a tenfold increase from 2016. (In most cases, the state records settlement proposals but not the amount ultimately paid.)In 2023, Google settled for $27 million after employees used the law as their basis for accusing the tech company of unfair labor practices. And in 2018, Walmart employees won a settlement of $65 million after accusing the retailer of not providing sufficient seating for workers.Business groups got a measure to repeal the law on the November ballot. They agreed to withdraw the measure once legislation reflecting the compromise is passed and signed into law.Labor groups have cited the law as a necessary check on corporations.A recent report from the U.C.L.A. Labor Center found that the prospective ballot measure would effectively eliminate “one of California workers’ strongest remaining tools for preventing and correcting wage theft and other workplace abuses,” said Tia Koonse, the center’s legal and policy research manager.The compromise calls for, among other things, creating higher penalties on employers that flout labor laws and increasing the amount of penalty money that goes to employees to 35 percent from 25 percent. Moreover, it stipulates that any legal action must be initiated by the employee who experiences the violations described in the suit.“This package provides meaningful reforms that ensure workers continue to have a strong vehicle to get labor claims resolved, while also limiting the frivolous litigation that has cost employers billions without benefiting workers,” Jennifer Barrera, president of the California Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement.Lorena Gonzalez, the leader of the California Labor Federation, said in a statement that her group was pleased “to have negotiated reforms to PAGA that better ensure abusive practices by employers are cured and that workers are made whole, quicker.”“PAGA is an essential tool to help workers hold corporations accountable for widespread wage theft, safety violations and misclassification,” she said. More

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    Will Billions More in New Aid Save Family Farms?

    Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has a line about the state of small-scale agriculture in America these days.It’s drawn from the National Agricultural Statistics Service, which shows that as the average size of farms has risen, the nation had lost 544,000 of them since 1981. “That’s every farm today that exists in North Dakota and South Dakota, added to those in Wisconsin and Minnesota, added to those in Nebraska and Colorado, added to those in Oklahoma and Missouri,” Mr. Vilsack told a conference in Washington this spring. “Are we as a country OK with it?”Even though the United States continues to produce more food on fewer acres, Mr. Vilsack worries that the loss of small farmers has weakened rural economies, and he wants to stop the bleeding. Unlike his last turn in the same job, under former President Barack Obama, this time his department is able to spend billions of dollars in subsidies and incentives passed under three major laws since 2021 — including the biggest investment in conservation programs in U.S. history.The plan in a nutshell: Multiply and improve revenue streams to bolster farm balance sheets. Rather than just selling crops and livestock, farms of the future could also sell carbon credits, waste products and renewable energy.“Instead of the farm getting one check, they potentially could get four checks,” Mr. Vilsack said in an interview. He is also helping schools, hospitals and other institutions to buy food grown locally, and investors to build meatpacking plants and other processing facilities to free farmers from powerful middlemen.American Farms Are DisappearingAs agriculture consolidates, fewer operations grow more crops.

    Source: U.S. Department of AgricultureBy The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Teamsters Struggle to Unionize Amazon and FedEx Delivery Workers

    The Teamsters union has made little headway in organizing workers at Amazon and FedEx despite wage and other gains it secured at UPS last year.Last year, two unions representing workers at three large automakers and UPS negotiated new labor contracts that included big raises and other gains. Leaders of the unions — the United Automobile Workers and the Teamsters — hoped the wins would help them organize workers across their industry.The U.A.W. won one vote to unionize a Volkswagen factory in Tennessee last month and lost one this month at two Mercedes-Benz plants in Alabama. The Teamsters have made even less progress at UPS’s big nonunion rivals in the delivery business, Amazon and FedEx.Polling shows that public support for unions is the highest it has been in decades. But labor experts said structural forces would make it hard for labor groups to increase their membership, which is the lowest it has been as a percentage of the total work force in decades. Unions also face stiff opposition from many employers and conservative political leaders.The Teamsters provide an instructive case study. Many of the workers doing deliveries for Amazon and FedEx work for contractors, typically small and medium-size businesses that can be hard to organize. And delivery workers employed directly by FedEx in its Express business are governed by a labor law that requires unions to organize all similar workers at the company nationally at once — a tougher standard than the one that applies to organizing employees at automakers, UPS and other employers.Some labor experts also said the Teamsters had not made as forceful a push as the U.A.W. to organize nonunion workers after securing a new contract with UPS.“You didn’t have that energy that you saw with the U.A.W.’s leaders,” said Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist who studies labor at Washington University in St. Louis.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Federal Money Is All Over Milwaukee. Biden Hopes Voters Will Notice.

    White House officials have barnstormed Wisconsin to make the connection between big changes and their signature laws.Across Milwaukee, residents can see evidence of federal money from laws passed under the Biden administration, if they know where to look.It shows up in a growing array of solar panels near the airport. Ramshackle houses rehabilitated and sold to first-time buyers. The removal of lead paint and pipes. The demolition of a derelict mall. A crime lab and emergency management center. A clinic and food pantry for people with H.I.V. Funding to help dozens of nonprofits provide services like violence prevention efforts and after-school programs.But of the more than $1 billion for Milwaukee County in the American Rescue Plan Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act — legislation that President Biden counts among his greatest accomplishments — much is harder to see, like funds to prevent drastic cuts to public safety during the pandemic. Some money has yet to be spent, like $3.5 million to rebuild the penguin exhibit at the local zoo and $5.1 million to repair the roof of Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport.That presents both an opportunity and a challenge to Mr. Biden’s re-election campaign as it seeks to show Americans how federal investments have improved their lives. Doing so is difficult because the laws delegated many spending decisions to state and local officials, obscuring the money’s source.“The link between the resources themselves and anything that happens on the ground that’s visible to people is very opaque,” said Robert Kraig, executive director of the progressive advocacy group Citizen Action of Wisconsin. “You need to find some way to communicate this idea that there’s concrete progress within people’s communities that improves quality of life — and that there’s more coming.”Vivent Health, a newly constructed facility in Milwaukee that offers services to people with H.I.V.Sara Stathas for The New York TimesSolar panels installed atop the Milwaukee Central Library, which includes a green roof.Sara Stathas for The New York TimesWe are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    A Bill to Limit Canada’s Trade Negotiators on Farm Goods Edges Nearer to Law

    The measure from a member of the Bloc Québécois would ban changes to the supply management system for dairy, poultry and eggs.Private members’ bills, particularly those from members of the Bloc Québécois, rarely make their way through the parliamentary process. But after passing the House of Commons with strong support from members of all parties, a bill from Yves Perron, who speaks for the Bloc on farming, handily passed a second vote in the unelected Senate on Tuesday.Supply management brings stability, but at a price.Ian Austen/The New York TimesAnd perhaps even more surprising, it deals with a contentious issue: Canada’s supply management system, which controls production and sets minimum prices for dairy and poultry products as well as eggs.Many free-market economists and politicians cast supply management as a legalized price cartel that increases Canadians’ grocery bills. And in negotiations for every one of Canada’s major trade agreements in recent decades, the supply management system has emerged as one of the final sticking points.[Read from 2016: Safe for Now, Canadian Dairy Farmers Fret Over E.U. Trade Deal]If Mr. Perron’s bill makes it past the few remaining legislative hurdles and becomes law, it will bar Canada’s trade negotiators from offering any changes to supply management during future trade talks.Under the system, to avoid price-killing oversupply, farmers are assigned a production quota — effectively a license to produce milk, chicken, turkey or eggs — that they cannot exceed. Until recently, imports were effectively banned through eye-wateringly high import duties.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    The Trustbuster Who Has Apple and Google in His Sights

    Shortly after Jonathan Kanter took over the Justice Department’s antitrust division in November 2021, the agency secured an additional $50 million to investigate monopolies, bust criminal cartels and block mergers.To celebrate, Mr. Kanter bought a prop of a giant check, placed it outside his office and wrote on the check’s memo line: “Break ’Em Up.”Mr. Kanter, 50, has pushed that philosophy ever since, becoming a lead architect of the most significant effort in decades to fight the concentration of power in corporate America. On Thursday, he took his biggest swing when the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple. In the 88-page lawsuit, the government argued that Apple had violated antitrust laws with practices intended to keep customers reliant on its iPhones and less likely to switch to competing devices.That lawsuit joins two Justice Department antitrust cases against Google that argue the company illegally shored up monopolies. Mr. Kanter’s staff has also challenged numerous corporate mergers, including suing to stop JetBlue Airways from buying Spirit Airlines.“We want to help real people by making sure that our antitrust laws work for workers, work for consumers, work for entrepreneurs and work to protect our democratic values,” Mr. Kanter said in a January interview. He declined to comment on the Google cases and other active litigation.At a news conference about the Apple lawsuit on Thursday, Mr. Kanter compared the action to past Justice Department challenges to Standard Oil, AT&T and Microsoft. The suit is aimed at protecting “the market for the innovations that we can’t yet perceive,” he said.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    Can Europe Save Forests Without Killing Jobs in Malaysia?

    The European Union’s upcoming ban on imports linked to deforestation has been hailed as a “gold standard” in climate policy: a meaningful step to protect the world’s forests, which help remove planet-killing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.The law requires traders to trace the origins of a head-spinning variety of products — beef and books, chocolate and charcoal, lipstick and leather. To the European Union, the mandate, set to take effect next year, is a testament to the bloc’s role as a global leader on climate change.The policy, though, has gotten caught in fierce crosscurrents about how to navigate the economic and political trade-offs demanded by climate change in a world where power is shifting and international institutions are fracturing.Developing countries have expressed outrage — with Malaysia and Indonesia among the most vocal. Together, the two nations supply 85 percent of the world’s palm oil, one of seven critical commodities covered by the European Union’s ban. And they maintain that the law puts their economies at risk.In their eyes, rich, technologically advanced countries — and former colonial powers — are yet again dictating terms and changing the rules of trade when it suits them. “Regulatory imperialism,” Indonesia’s economic minister declared.The view fits with complaints from developing countries that the reigning international order neglects their concerns.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More

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    The Surprising Left-Right Alliance That Wants More Apartments in Suburbs

    The YIMBY movement isn’t just for liberals any more. Legislators from both sides of the political divide are working to add duplexes and apartments to single-family neighborhoods.For years, the Yimbytown conference was an ideologically safe space where liberal young professionals could talk to other liberal young professionals about the particular problems of cities with a lot of liberal young professionals: not enough bike lanes and transit, too many restrictive zoning laws.The event began in 2016 in Boulder, Colo., and has ever since revolved around a coalition of left and center Democrats who want to make America’s neighborhoods less exclusive and its housing more dense. (YIMBY, a pro-housing movement that is increasingly an identity, stands for “Yes in my backyard.”)But the vibes and crowd were surprisingly different at this year’s meeting, which was held at the University of Texas at Austin in February. In addition to vegan lunches and name tags with preferred pronouns, the conference included — even celebrated — a group that had until recently been unwelcome: red-state Republicans.The first day featured a speech on changing zoning laws by Greg Gianforte, the Republican governor of Montana, who last year signed a housing package that YIMBYs now refer to as “the Montana Miracle.” Day 2 kicked off with a panel on solutions to Texas’s rising housing costs. One of the speakers was a Republican legislator in Texas who, in addition to being an advocate for loosening land-use regulations, has pushed for a near-total ban on abortions.Anyone who missed these discussions might have instead gone to the panel on bipartisanship where Republican housing reformers from Arizona and Montana talked with a Democratic state senator from Vermont. Or noticed the list of sponsors that, in addition to foundations like Open Philanthropy and Arnold Ventures, included conservative and libertarian organizations like the Mercatus Center, the American Enterprise Institute and the Pacific Legal Foundation.We are having trouble retrieving the article content.Please enable JavaScript in your browser settings.Thank you for your patience while we verify access. If you are in Reader mode please exit and log into your Times account, or subscribe for all of The Times.Thank you for your patience while we verify access.Already a subscriber? Log in.Want all of The Times? Subscribe. More