This Weekend's News and Commentary – August 17/18
In this weekend’s legal news, the Wall Street Journal discusses the Sixth Circuit’s Thursday ruling in Kindred Nursing Centers East v. NLRB. The court upheld an NLRB ruling, Specialty Healthcare, which had approved of a bargaining unit known as a “micro unit”: a small group of workers that included nursing assistants but not other nonprofessional employees. Experts quoted by the Journal predict that unions will gain an enormous advantage if they can organize on the basis of such small units.
The Associated Press reports that Philadelphia public schools have begun to rehire 1,000 of the 3,800 workers the district laid off a few weeks ago. The schools are responding to the city’s announcement that it would borrow $50 million in emergency aid in order to open schools on time, but critics are predicting that the schools will still be mere “shells” without sufficient resources or staff.
On Tuesday, the Department of Justice announced that it would seek to block the $11 billion merger of American Airlines and US Airways, and the companies’ labor unions have begun to respond. Forbes reports that the Allied Pilots Association, Association of Flight Attendants, and Association of Professional Flight Attendants plan to demonstrate in support of the merger.
Internationally, the New York Times profiles Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to reduce the legal restraints on Japanese corporations’ ability to fire full-time employees. Lifetime employment in major companies has long been the norm in Japan, and companies have recently resorted to consigning unwanted employees to “boredom rooms” in the hope that they quit on their own. The Times also analyzes the fallout over the killings in South Africa of 34 striking workers in 2012. The African National Congress’s slow response to the deaths has led to a crisis for the ANC as upstart unions violently compete with unions affiliated with the party for control of the country’s mines.
In the opinion pages, Stephen Moore of the Wall Street Journal criticizes the Service Employees International Union’s campaign to “supersize” the minimum wage with protests outside fast-food restaurants. Moore argues that a higher government-imposed minimum wage would lead to fewer jobs than if businesses were allowed to invest capital where needed. Alissa Quart in the New York Times discusses “the motherhood penalty”: a phenomenon in which women without children are closer to pay equity with men but women with children are lagging behind. Quart suggests that a major factor causing this penalty is the difficulty of working parents to obtain good, affordable day care.