Today’s News & Commentary — April 19, 2017

The New York Times weighs in on the effect that Trump’s “Hire American” order may have on tech worker visas.  According to the Times, the order “represents a small win for bigger tech companies,” but may hurt smaller technology companies that “cannot afford to pay high salaries and are already struggling to attract talent.”  Senator Schumer, however, had a different take: “This does nothing,” he said. “Like all the other executive orders, it’s just words — he’s calling for new studies. It’s not going to fix the problem. It’s not going to create a single job.”

Is O’Reilly no longer a factor?  That’s the question being asked at Politico, which cites the Wall Street Journal’s report that Fox News “is preparing to cut ties with . . . O’Reilly.”  Since an April 1 New York Times story broke the news that Fox had paid out about $13 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against O’Reilly, pressure has been mounting on Fox to fire its biggest star.

As the New York Times puts it, “[t]he threat of a Hollywood strike is getting real.” Members of the Writers Guild of America will begin voting today on whether to authorize a walkout.  If members approve a strike, it could have “serious implications.” When writers went on strike a decade ago, it cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.5 billion, affecting everyone from the writers themselves to caterers, limo drivers, and florists.  As for how a strike would affect viewers, the Times explains that late-night comedy shows would screen reruns, some scripted series would be delayed, and daytime soap operas would probably end (unless producers bring in non-union writers).  A strike might also speed the shift from network viewing to Netflix and Amazon.

Today’s News and Commentary — March 1, 2016

Labor unions have gone digital…media, that is.  The New York Times reports that “Gawker Media and the union that represents its employees announced on Monday that they had reached an agreement on a labor contract, the first designed and negotiated specifically for a digital media company.”  Gawker workers are represented by the Writers Guild of America, East and voted to join the union last year.  The agreement sets wages, gives workers editorial control, and ensures salary increases and severance, but leaves workers as at-will.  Voting on the agreement will take place this week.

French labor law won’t be changing so quickly after all.  Despite earlier reports suggesting a proposal to revamp laws might have been under consideration, Bloomberg notes that “President Francois Hollande held off presenting his proposals to revamp French labor law after the nation’s main unions all opposed the plan.”  The proposals would eliminate France’s 35 hour work week and give businesses more latitude to increase working time and fire workers with limited severance.

The Chicago Teachers Union is moving closer to striking as soon as April 1.  According to the Chicago Sun-Times, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkley said strike preparations would proceed “if Chicago Public Schools follows through on its threat to unilaterally cancel the 7 percent pension pickup it has made for decades.”  Chicago teachers have been working without a union contract since June.

You go to B&H…for discrimination?  The New York Times reports that the U.S. Department of Labor filed suit against New York electronics retailer B&H “for hiring only Hispanic men into entry-level jobs in a Brooklyn warehouse and then subjecting them to harassment and unsanitary conditions.  The company was so unlikely to hire women to work in the warehouse that it did not have a separate restroom for them, according to the suit.”  The suit marks the second time in nine years B&H has been sued by the government for alleged discrimination, and the company came under fire for discrimination during a unionization campaign last year.

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Today’s News & Commentary — October 8, 2015

The New York Times reports Fiat Chrysler and the United Auto Workers struck a tentative deal early this morning, shortly after the midnight strike deadline set by the UAW.  As we reported yesterday, a UAW walkout would have been the first strike against an U.S. automaker since 2007.  The deal will be presented to union leaders on Friday morning, at which time details of the deal will be released. It is subject to ratification by workers, who rejected last week’s deal two to one.

If you missed the live feed of yesterday’s White House Summit on Worker Voice, Reuters summarizes President Obama’s main points from the Summit.  Obama praised unions, finding their role especially important in our technology-driven economy.  He also lauded innovative companies like Uber and Lyft, whose models increase flexibility of workers, while also cautioning that such company models could be detrimental to workers. You can read more about Professor Sachs’s priorities as he headed to the Summit to participate in a panel here.

President Obama has also been drawing attention to other problems arising in our technology-driven economy.  In Obama’s initial attempts at boosting support for the just-completed Trans-Pacific Partnership, he emphasized that offshoring may no longer be the enemy of the American worker; now, it might be robots.  According to Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post, the robotics lobby put out a white paper on Monday to combat this theory, arguing that robots are good for American workers.  Jeff Burnstein, president of the Association for Advancing Automation, urges people to look at job growth and robot growth over the past two decades, and it will show steady growth in both areas over that time.  DePillis pushes back—after all, correlation doesn’t equal causation—and she emphasizes that the rate at which robot shipments is rising is faster than that of job growth, and labor force participation is dropping.

The editorial staff of the Huffington Post is planning to unionize, the New York Times reports.  The organizing committee wrote yesterday, “a union will give us a voice in our newsroom’s future.”  Their list of reasons for organizing includes a push for better pay, clearer job responsibilities, a more efficient hiring process, and more diversity on staff.  Arianna Huffington said in a statement that she supports the unionization.  The staff is the latest in several digital publications that have recently joined the Writers Guild of America, East, including ThinkProgress, Gawker, Vice, and Salon. Continue reading