Weekend News & Commentary — July 16-17, 2016

With Wal-Mart poised to settle the last remnants of a proposed nationwide class action alleging gender discrimination on behalf of 1.6 million women, six workers have sought permission to intervene in the lawsuit and certify a regional class centering on California.  The intervenors argue that by settling the case, the named plaintiffs no longer adequately represent the interests of a potential class denied certification in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes decision.  Though the Ninth Circuit previously refused to hear an interlocutory appeal of that denial, the intervenors propose taking the case to a final judgment so that the denial can be appealed as a matter of right.

The New York Times reports on recent efforts by progressive advocacy organizations to expand Social Security benefits, especially for workers who have taken time off to care for family members.  The article takes note of a recent shift in rhetoric from concerns about the program’s financial stability toward bipartisan support for at least some benefit increases, though identifying additional revenue for the Social Security trust fund remains crucial to most proposals.

Just over two weeks after their previous contract expired, the largest union representing municipal workers in the City of Philadelphia agreed on a new four-year contract.  Avoiding the controversies that often attend the renegotiation of pension contributions, the deal found workers agreeing to a compromise system of tiers in which higher-paid employees contribute more to the retirement fund.  All workers will receive a raise compounding to 12% over the life of the contract, far exceeding the recent average increase in similar public sector negotiations.

Moving quickly to address the potential trade consequences of Brexit, new British Prime Minister Theresa May began negotiations this week on fresh deals with the United States and Australia.  While a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom had been prevented from signing separate agreements.  Despite trade and its impact on workers being a divisive issue within both campaigns in the American presidential race, Republicans in Congress have already begun to pressure to the Obama administration to move quickly to avoid disruptions in the economic relationship between the two countries.