Today's News & Commentary — May 23, 2016

Published May 23rd, 2016 -  - 05.23.165


The temporary-work sector has  seen a loss of 27,400 jobs since December, a sign to some that the economy may be in trouble.  The Wall Street Journal reports that many economists interpret a decline in temporary work as a red flag, given that many firms will increase temporary hiring when the economy expands.  The American Staffing Association, however, noted that the decline could mean that more temporary employees are being offered full time work.  More than one in fifty workers were employed as temps in 2015, and tend to make less, on average, than their permanent counterparts.

The New York Times reported yesterday that unemployment in Detroit may be fueled in part by lack of internet access. In addition to other factors, a lack of broadband makes it difficult for unemployed workers to get on their feet, impeding their ability to research opportunities and apply for jobs online.  Detroit, with an unemployment rate of 11 percent, also has the lowest rate of internet access of any major city, with four of its ten residents lacking connectivity.  Although the F.C.C. made internet access a priority in 2015 and declared it a “public utility,” many still cannot afford either the  service or the devices needed to get online.

Volkswagen reached a deal Friday with the union representing 120,000 of its German workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The company agreed to pay a 4.8% wage increase after thousands of workers walked off the job last week, with the union demanding a wage increase of 5%.  Volkswagen, which has faced recent criticism over its executive bonus program, also agreed to make concessions on profit-sharing and pensions.  The wage agreement is valid for 20 months.

Clothing retailer H&M is pairing with trade unions, the International Labour Organization, and other partners in the wake of a recent study finding labor violations in their factories in India and Cambodia, reports Reuters.  The study by the Asian Floor Wage Alliance reported widespread accusations of forced overtime as well as pregnancy discrimination by factory employees.  The fashion industry generally  remains under pressure to improve working conditions since the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh,  which killed 1,136 garment workers.

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