This Day in Legal History: National War Labor Board Established
On January 12, 1942, a major event unfolded in the annals of U.S. labor and legal history when President Franklin D. Roosevelt reestablished the National War Labor Board (NWLB) amidst the exigencies of World War II. This strategic move was designed to maintain labor harmony and forestall disruptions in the critical wartime economy. The NWLB, originally conceived by President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, was reborn with a mandate to arbitrate disputes between workers and employers, a task of enormous significance given the heightened industrial demands of war.
The board's jurisdiction extended across vital sectors such as aviation, automobile manufacturing, shipping, mining, telegraph, and railways, reflecting the diverse industrial front of the U.S. war effort. By mediating labor conflicts and enforcing wage controls, the NWLB played a pivotal role in stabilizing the domestic workforce during a period of global upheaval. This stabilization was crucial for ensuring uninterrupted production of war materials, a cornerstone of the Allied victory strategy.
The NWLB's impact went beyond mere dispute resolution. It also shaped broader labor policies, influencing wage standards and working conditions. This intervention was critical in maintaining a balance between the needs of the war economy and the rights and welfare of workers, a delicate equilibrium during such tumultuous times.
The legacy of the NWLB resonates even today, highlighting the intricate relationship between labor relations, governmental policy, and national security. The Cornell University collection of NWLB files from both World Wars serves as a rich repository of information, offering insights into the board's operations, decisions, and overall influence. These documents not only chronicle a crucial aspect of legal and labor history but also provide valuable lessons for managing large-scale industrial and labor relations in times of national crisis.
Today, on January 12, 2024, a lawsuit led by Norma Anderson, a 91-year-old lifelong Colorado Republican, challenges Donald Trump's eligibility for the Republican primary ballot in Colorado. Anderson, who witnessed the Capitol attack on January 6, 2021, believes Trump was responsible and should be disqualified under a 19th-century constitutional provision for engaging in insurrection. This case, set for a Supreme Court hearing on February 8, questions Trump's role in the events of January 6 and its implications for his candidacy in the upcoming election against Joe Biden.
The lawsuit, joined by three Republicans and two independents, is driven by a concern for the constitution and democracy, citing Trump's alleged role in the Capitol attack. It uses the 14th Amendment's disqualification clause, which bars anyone who engaged in insurrection from public office, a provision never before used to declare a presidential candidate ineligible.
Trump's legal team argues against the characterization of January 6 as an insurrection and denies his involvement. The case, initiated by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a watchdog group, highlights the significance of conservatives challenging Trump's eligibility, emphasizing the non-partisan nature of the issue.
Plaintiff Krista Kafer, a conservative columnist and Trump voter in 2020, expresses concern for personal safety and the broader implications of Trump's potential re-election. The case brings to the forefront critical constitutional questions and the enduring impact of the January 6 events on American democracy.
Activision Blizzard Inc. faces two new lawsuits alleging discrimination, despite a proposed $55 million settlement with the California Civil Rights Department over similar claims. The new cases, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, bring fresh accusations including demotion due to complaints about sexist treatment and discrimination against "old white guys." The proposed settlement contains a unique clause stating that no court or independent investigation has substantiated any allegations, which could make it harder for new plaintiffs to use these settled claims in their litigation.
The settlement's strict language doesn't prevent new lawsuits but lacks the usual momentum that follows a significant deal with a regulator. In contrast to many class actions, Activision's deal doesn't automatically include all plaintiffs, allowing individuals to pursue separate claims. The recent lawsuits echo previous allegations of unequal pay, promotions, and a "frat boy culture" at Activision, including serious incidents like an employee's suicide linked to intense sexual harassment.
The $55 million settlement is relatively small for Activision, a company recently acquired by Microsoft for $68.7 billion, potentially encouraging others to file independent claims. These new claims might find the settlement more relevant if they focus on pay and promotion discrimination, rather than harassment. The new lawsuits don't reference the government's investigation, likely due to the settlement's "no admission" clause.
An Activision spokesperson stated that the company takes any allegations seriously and investigates them thoroughly. The existence of these cases could benefit future plaintiffs, as studies show that individual settlements are higher when the government also brings a case. These new claims highlight the ongoing issues at Activision and the complexities of legal settlements in discrimination cases.
A lawsuit has emerged within the late music icon Prince Rogers Nelson's estate, instigated by his nephew and two close associates against four of his other relatives. The legal dispute, brought to light on Thursday, involves Prince's two half-sisters, a niece, and a nephew, and was filed by entertainment lawyer L. Londell McMillan, music producer Charles Spicer Jr., and Johnny Nicholas Nelson Torres. This lawsuit follows a 2022 Minnesota probate settlement, which divided Prince's $156 million estate among his family and friends, and Primary Wave Music LLC, after Prince died without a will.
McMillan and Spicer, as managing members of Prince Legacy LLC, a holding company for the estate, allege that Sharon and Norrine Nelson, along with Breanna and Allen Nelson, breached the operating agreement. They accuse them of attempting to wrongfully remove McMillan and Spicer from their management roles and spread false information online. The lawsuit claims the Nelsons convened an unauthorized meeting to oust McMillan and Spicer and change the rules for selling stakes in the estate, actions deemed invalid by the plaintiffs.
The suit highlights the significant role McMillan and Spicer play in managing Prince Legacy's day-to-day affairs and underscores that their removal is subject to strict conditions, which have not been met. The plaintiffs argue that the Nelsons' lack of music industry experience and history of infighting could jeopardize the business. They fear that the Nelsons' involvement in management could disrupt the operations of Prince Legacy.
This legal conflict, initially filed under seal on January 5, 2024, raises concerns about the future management of Prince's complex and valuable estate. The case is McMillan v. Nelson, and the attorneys for McMillan, Spicer, and Torres are from Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell LLP and Bassford Remele PA, while the Nelsons have yet to make a court appearance.
The U.S. Copyright Office has proposed a rule to simplify copyright registration for online news publishers, potentially leading to more lawsuits, especially as the journalism industry deals with artificial intelligence (AI) companies using their content for training models. The proposal allows publishers to register a month's worth of updates at once using representative examples, addressing a long-standing issue where many digital outlets avoided registering due to the cumbersome process.
This change would make it easier and more appealing for digital content publishers to protect their work, potentially increasing copyright registration among news outlets. The New York Times, for instance, is seeking statutory damages in its lawsuit against OpenAI and Microsoft, citing millions of registered articles. The rule change would allow publishers to register more content in one application, potentially emboldening them to enforce copyrights against violators, including AI companies.
Gannett Co. Inc., a major news publisher, has praised the proposal for streamlining the registration process. However, the rule's scope raises questions about whether it applies to trade publications or other specific content types. There's also concern about its applicability to emerging platforms as technology evolves.
Despite the ease of registration, licensing remains crucial. OpenAI's licensing deal with Axel Springer SE highlights the ongoing negotiations between AI firms and news publishers. Media executives are urging Congress to clarify that using unlicensed copyrighted content to train AI models should not be considered 'fair use'.
The proposal, however, doesn't eliminate the challenges news publishers face in litigation against well-funded tech companies. Comments on the rulemaking are due by February 20, with the expectation that the rule will be adopted with few changes, aiding news publishers in their copyright lawsuits, including against news aggregators and generative AI companies.