Today’s News and Commentary — January 2, 2017

In an op-ed for the L.A. Times, Scott Martelle outlines the potential threats to labor from a Trump administration with the N.L.R.B., Department of Labor, and federal legislation all subject to change under the new administration.  However, Martelle believes that the various threats may actually be a good thing for the labor movement, providing a galvanizing force for the worker movement.  Citing the Flint sit-down strike eighty years ago, he reasons that the difficult battle that lies ahead may bring workers together.

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. Jobless Claims fell last week to 265,000, continuing the recent trend of steady improvement in the job market.  Jobless claims have now been below 300,000 for 95 consecutive weeks, the longest time period since 1970. However, the Journal notes, these conditions vary widely across regions, with unemployment rates spanning from 1.7% to a high of 20.3% across U.S. metro areas.  The Department of Labor will release its next jobs report at 8:30am this Friday.   According to the New York Times, economists estimate that employers will have added 175,000 jobs last month, and unemployment will continue to decrease.

New York’s highly anticipated Second Avenue Subway opened yesterday and is set to be the most expensive subway in the world.  Although many blame labor unions when infrastructure projects come with a high price tag, a recent article in Vox reports that it may actually be the weakness of U.S. labor unions that causes the inefficiency and skyrocketing prices of infrastructure projects, pointing to European countries with much stronger labor unions and cheaper projects.

Connecticut became the most recent state to “ban the box,” prohibiting employers from asking questions about an applicant’s criminal record at the beginning of the hiring process, except in certain circumstances.  The law took effect at the start of the new year yesterday and subjects employers who violate its provisions to a $300 penalty for each violation.  Under the law, employers may still ask about an applicant’s criminal history at a later stage in hiring, such as during the interview.