Today’s News & Commentary — August 19, 2016

Uber is dominating the news once again. This month, the company will be launching its first fleet of driverless cars in Pittsburgh. The cars will  have “safety drivers” for the near future, but regular Uber drivers will still be out of a job. Safety drivers are trained engineers who will be accompanied by “co-pilots” taking notes on any challenges encountered by the technology.  Tablets in the back seat will encourage passengers not to speak with the humans in the front seat, so they can get used to the idea of automated driving.  In more Uber news – a federal judge has rejected the a $100 million settlement negotiated on behalf of 200,000 drivers in Massachusetts and California. Read more about the settlement and OnLabor’s Gig Economy coverage here.

Diane Furgott, volunteer advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and former chief economist to the Department of Labor under George W. Bush, writes in U.S. News and World Report that “joining a union is easy, but getting out of one is too tough for workers.” An interesting glimpse into the policy minds of the Trump campaign’s vision for workers.

Writing for The Street, Jim Cramer takes a look at Walmart’s excellent performance over the last quarter and suggests that increasing employee wages might have been the magic ingredient. Increased wages might mean less employees lost to competitors such as Target, he writes, which means  lower turnover and reduced training costs for Walmart stores. Walmart workers have been fighting hard for the pay raises they won, but many are still pushing for a $15/hr wage. Read more about Walmart workers’ campaign here.