Today’s News & Commentary — March 31, 2016

 

Springtime brought good news for the job market. Private companies added 200,000 jobs in March, according to the New York Times. The report released by ADP covers only the private sector, but the federal government will publish official numbers on Friday. Although analysts worry hiring will slow down, the ADP numbers indicate solid gains for now.

Minnesota has lost its Midwest niceness. On Thursday, the state’s GOP legislators and public sector unions will begin a showdown over contracts. The Republicans plan to change the typical contract ratification process by voting on each union contract separately, and limiting vacation cash outs, making union dues optional and relieving the state of the duty to collect fees. Minnesota Public Radio presents the dilemma: Republicans worry about adding labor costs through higher salaries and benefits, while Democratic politicians fear the “livelihoods of public employees [are] being used as political leverage.”

Apparently some states (or commonwealths) are too far in the red to pay full wages. Politico writes that the House Committee on Natural Resources drafted legislation with overtime and minimum wage carve-outs for Puerto Rico. The bill would exempt the indebted commonwealth from the Labor Department’s forthcoming overtime rule and allow it to pay a lower minimum wage to younger, newly hired employees.

Technology will displace jobs in yet another sector: banking. Citigroup released a report on Wednesday projecting that up to 30 percent of current employees at American banks may lose their jobs in the next decade, as start-ups replace different aspects of the financial industry. The new “fintech” sector attracted $19 billion in new investments in 2015, reports the New York Times.

One Bronx business provides New York with a test case on the feasibility of a $15 minimum wage. Nebraskaland, a meat distribution company, has voluntarily phased in a higher wage floor, which will reach $15 in July. Those increases will cost the company an additional $350,000 in annual salaries, but have attracted far more workers for formerly hard-to-fill positions. The New York Times reports that Governor Cuomo commends Nebraskaland for its wage increases, consistent with the minimum wage campaign the governor has made the centerpiece of his agenda.

The Silicon Valley labor pool is more diverse than its reputation suggests—if you count service workers. Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post discusses the often ignored subcontracted workers in landscaping, security, maintenance and food service at some of the country’s largest tech firms. Subcontracted laborers who work at these companies, rather than for them, make much less money and are more heavily Latino. The executive director of the South Bay Labor Council reflected: “Silicon Valley has evolved from a place that saw its responsibilities fairly broadly — not only to its shareholders and customers, but also its workers…. Now it is really a place that has focused primarily on its shareholders, and customers as well, and their workers are not really part of their primary considerations.” Several groups hope to change that, through “responsible contracting” policies and alliances between privileged workers at the core of Silicon Valley companies and those on the periphery.