Today’s News & Commentary — August 15, 2016

At the New York Times, Binyamin Appelbaum and Michael D. Shear weigh in on President Obama’s “embrace” of executive power.  As they describe, “President Obama has sought to reshape the nation with a sweeping assertion of executive authority,” and “[a]n army of lawyers working under Mr. Obama’s authority has sought to restructure the nation’s health care and financial industries, limit pollution, bolster workplace protections and extend equal rights to minorities.”  President Obama’s actions specifically targeting the workplace include raising the minimum wage for several hundred thousand federal contract workers; requiring contractors to let their workers take paid sick days; banning discrimination against LGBT workers; and increasing workplace protections for all workers at businesses holding federal contracts.  As Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation, put it, “What the president was ultimately doing was holding up the United States government as a model employer.”

The Washington Post reports that the Department of Labor is trying to incentivize states to create their own paid family leave programs.  Last week, DOL announced that it will grant $1.1 million to six states and municipalities — Denver; Franklin, Ohio; Madison, Wisconsin; and Hawaii, Indiana and Pennsylvania — to research how much it would cost to open public aid to its residents.  As it currently stands, the U.S. guarantees only 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new parents, and only three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — guarantee paid family leave for all workers.

According to the Wall Street Journal, car companies once flocked to Mexico due to its abundant supply of cheap labor.  Now, however, demand has outstripped supply.  In order to attract and retain workers, auto makers are raising wages, offering retention and retraining programs, and providing bonuses for employees who agree to stay.  Others, in an effort to avoid raising wages, have offered “perks” like English classes, use of soccer fields, and referral bonuses.  Still, wages — and working conditions — remain a source of contention: this summer witnessed workers’ rallies for higher pay and better working conditions.