This Weekend's News and Commentary – August 10/11
Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times profiles the Workers Defense Project, a “union in spirit,” and one of the 225 worker centers nationwide aiding many of the country’s 22 million immigrant workers. Greenhouse notes that worker centers like the Austin-based Project have been among the most vigorous champions of overhauling immigration laws and have attracted praise and criticism for recent successes in their advocacy on behalf of housekeepers, tomato growers, young workers, and other constituencies previously considered difficult to organize. The Los Angeles Times discusses how similar Latino organizations, labor unions, and even the Chamber of Commerce have formed an “odd political alliance” on the side of national immigration reform.
In international immigration news, Bloomberg reports that higher wages in China have provoked factories along the country’s east-cost export corridor to hire undocumented and lower-paid workers from nearby countries such as Vietnam.
The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle (subscription) discuss the developing labor dispute between Bay Area transit workers and the management of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART). Both sides have been in negotiations over the weekend, with BART management requesting that workers make contributions to their pension plans and the transit unions requesting pay raises in return. Gov. Jerry Brown has said he will impose a 60-day cooling-off period, guaranteeing service for the next couple of months, if both sides fail to reach an agreement by tonight. The Chronicle notes that BART workers currently receive close to the best pay plus benefits among national transit workers.
New York City has also sought to require public workers to pay premiums, and on Friday, public employees responded with a lawsuit. Bloomberg reports that the Municipal Labor Committee, which negotiates health benefits with New York City officials on behalf of public employees, has filed a complaint in New York state court seeking an injunction to block the city from eventually changing their health benefits without the unions’ consent.
On the Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Economics blog, Phil Izzo discusses the slow jobs recovery faced by teenagers, whose unemployment rate is 23.7 percent, compared to 7.2 percent for the population as a whole. The same author also reports that food-stamp use rose 2.4 percent in the United States over the past year, with more than 15 percent of the national population receiving benefits.
On the New York Times’s op-ed page, a group of Canadian sociologists discuss their findings about what happens when working women obtain more authority at the office after “leaning in,” to use Sheryl Sandberg’s famous phrase. The academics conclude that women encounter stigma for prioritizing work in a way that men do not, leading women to be less likely than men to perceive intrinsic rewards from having symbolic authority if they do not also feel influential. On the same page, Floyd Norris comments on the latest comprehensive revision of the national income and product accounts (NIPA). The revised data now suggests that wages and salary income in 2012 amounted to 42.6 percent of GDP, even lower than the previous estimate — and all-time historical low — of 44 percent.