News & Commentary

February 5, 2024

In today’s News and Commentary, the Newton, MA teachers strike ends after two weeks, President Biden may join Las Vegas hotel employees on their picket line, and French farmers call off a weeks-long protest after the government announces several new commitments.

After two weeks of striking and negotiating, Newton teachers reached a deal with the city’s School Committee last Friday. The agreement marks the end of years of negotiating, which began in October 2022. Despite it being illegal for teachers to strike in Massachusetts, Newton Teachers Association members walked off the job on January 19, 2024 to protest stagnated negotiations. The strike affected nearly 2,000 educators and around 12,000 students. Students missed 11 days of instruction which the district will need to make up before June 30th. Friday’s agreement includes additional parental and family leave, a pay increase of 12% over the life of the four-year contract, and increased numbers of social workers, school counselors, and psychologists in schools. The union ratified the agreement this weekend, with 97% of membership voting in favor.

The Nevada Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and the Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino must reach an agreement this morning to avoid a strike. The union and the company continued to negotiate yesterday evening ahead of today’s deadline. President Biden will be in the state on Monday for two days of political events. Nevada is seen as a battleground state for the 2024 Presidential election and Biden has committed to joining striking workers when the walk out. Both parties’ top candidates have been competing for the vote of the working class, with President Trump meeting with the Teamsters and Biden courting and winning over the United Auto Workers. The Culinary Union is politically influential and has secured over 30 agreements covering more than 50,000 workers across Las Vegas. Biden narrowly beat Trump in Nevada in 2020, and his campaign has identified the state as one of seven which will be closely contested this go around.

French farmers unions attempted to blockade roads into Paris to protest declining incomes, strains due to environmental regulations, rising red tape, and competition from imports. Hundreds of thousands of farmers parked tractors on key routes into the capital in an effort they called “a siege of Paris.” The goal was to stop food deliveries from reaching supermarkets thereby forcing the government to reach a quick resolution. France, the EU’s largest agricultural producer, is subject to the agricultural policies and subsidies determined by the EU. These include waived quotas and duties for Ukrainian imports in light of the Russian invasion, as well as green policies and animal welfare rules. Last Thursday, after several weeks of protests, the two main farmers unions called for lifting the blockades in response to the introduction of new measures which make “tangible progress” in protecting farmers’ livelihoods. The government has agreed to give a 150 million euro aid package for livestock farmers, to pause a national plan for reducing pesticide use, and to ensure that the country is not overzealous in carrying out E.U. regulations. While the farmers unions laud these commitments, environmental advocacy groups are calling them a step backward, both for the environment and farmers.

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