News & Commentary

May 15, 2024

Everest Fang

Everest Fang is a student at Harvard Law School.

In today’s news and commentary: King County raises minimum wage to highest in the nation, Walmart announces layoffs across the country, and lawmakers urge the National Mediation Board to help flight attendants reach a deal.

Yesterday, the Metropolitan King County Council in Washington State voted to raise the minimum wage in unincorporated areas of the county to $20.29 per hour for businesses with at least 500 employees. The county is now tied with Tukwila, Washington for the highest minimum wage in the nation. The new law comes on the heels of similar action at several cities in Washington. SeaTac, Seattle, Tukwila, Bellingham, Renton and Burien have all raised their wage above the statewide minimum of $16.28 per hour. Activists in the state celebrated the move, noting that the entire Seattle area has become a national leader in minimum wage standards. Many of the minimum wage hikes in the region have been the result of voter initiatives. Local organizers in nearby Burien, Washington are now pushing to place a similar minimum wage ordinance on the November ballot to revise significant exemptions in the city’s law.

Walmart announced layoffs yesterday for hundreds of corporate workers across the country. The company also said that it will require most of the remote workers in its Dallas, Atlanta and Toronto offices to relocate to its primary offices in Bentonville, Arkansas; Hoboken, New Jersey; and the San Francisco Bay Area. In a memo, the company said that the relocations are meant to bring more of its employees back to the office after the Covid-19 pandemic, but did not explain the layoffs beyond stating that “some parts of our business have made changes” that will result in job losses. Walmart is the largest private employer in the country, with 1.6 million workers. The company has been working to cut costs over the last year, shuttering all 51 of its health clinics just last month. The layoffs announcement comes days before Walmart’s much-anticipated earnings report on Thursday.

Yesterday, more than 160 U.S. lawmakers publicly urged the National Mediation Board to help about 80,000 flight attendants reach new contract deals. The bipartisan group led by Democratic Representative Melanie Stansbury wrote a letter to the Board saying that flight attendants have been stuck in prolonged contract negotiations for years and asking the board “to use all of the tools at its disposal to encourage the resolution of these negotiations.” Flight attendants at United Airlines, American Airlines, Alaska Airlines and Frontier are among the workers still struggling to reach new contract deals. Under federal law, flight attendants cannot strike without permission of the Board. Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, argued that a credible strike threat is needed to settle the disputes. While saying that “nobody wants to see a strike in the airline industry,” Representative Stansbury suggested authorization of strikes may be necessary, noting that the flight attendants have few other options.

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