Today’s News & Commentary — November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! While many of us will be spending the holiday with family, Forbes reported that 28 percent of employees plan to spend this holiday with coworkers, an eight percent increase from 2015, according to a CareerBuilder survey.  Some of these workers may be together out of necessity.  The same survey reported that 24 percent of workers are scheduled to work today.  Employers, especially retailers, have faced criticism for scheduling workers for Thanksgiving shifts.  For a list of stores keeping their doors shut today, read more here.

In other Thanksgiving-related news, poultry workers work long hours in unusually dangerous workplaces in preparation for Thanksgiving.  These workers often spend eight to 10 hours a day working six or seven days a week in the lead up to the holiday.  Poultry processing plants have workplace injury rates 50 percent higher than the national average, and poultry workers suffer workplace-related sicknesses at seven times the rate of workers generally.  Slate published an article focusing on poultry processing plants in Arkansas and the injuries many workers at these plants face.  The article reveals substantial underreporting of workplace injuries. Read more here.

Yesterday in the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson, executive editor of the American Prospect and a former Post columnist, published a piece entitled, “Donald Trump Can Kill the American Union.”  With Republican control across the board at the national level, Meyerson suggests that Republicans can erode union protections by eliminating public sector union bargaining and enacting a right to work law at the national level.  Furthermore, if Trump confirms a conservative nominee to the Supreme Court, the Court could decide a case preventing unions from collecting agency fees from non-union workers, in a case similar to Friedrichs.  In the face of this threat, Meyerson observes a “growing appreciation by progressives, centrists and millennials of the indispensability of unions.”  He argues that unions must try and maintain their current protections while struggling to create new modes of worker representation because unions are essential for “American greatness.”

Donald Trump’s rhetoric has already affected the behavior of some workers.  The New York Times reports that immigrant workers have begun spending less money in reaction to uncertain immigration policy.  Due to its large immigrant population, an estimated 10 percent of New York City’s workers are undocumented.  The City has already begun to feel the effects of this decrease in consumer spending.  If these workers were to leave, it could have a ripple effect on the economy. Read more here.