News & Commentary

April 1, 2014

The Associated Press reports that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam tied tax credits, grants, and other funding for Chattanooga-based Volkswagen to the failure of United Auto Workers’ unionization drive. WTVF-TV of Nashville has acquired an August 23, 2013 document stating that a $300 million dollar package for Volkswagen was “subject to works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW being concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.” The UAW lost the election necessary for forming the works council 712-626 and has challenged the election with the National Labor Relations Board.

The Los Angeles Times reveals that a recent survey of fast food workers in Chicago finds that 90% have experienced wage theft. Wage theft includes going unpaid for time worked off the clock and being denied breaks through long shifts. Also in the Times, the city council of Richmond, CA, a small city near San Francisco, has voted to increase its minimum wage from $8 an hour to $12.30 an hour. This is one of the highest minimum wage rates in the country.

According to the Associate Press, Stanford University’s football coach, David Shaw, has weighed in on Northwestern University’s team’s recent move to unionize. He expressed confusion as to why players would need a union, given that they enjoy academic scholarships and healthcare. The College Athletes Players Association has stated its specific goals include reducing head injuries, guaranteeing coverage for sports-related medical coverage for both current and former players, and potentially being allowed to pursue commercial sponsorships.

The New York Times features a story on Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet L. Yellen. In a speech yesterday in Chicago, she suggested that renewed monetary stimulus could relieve unemployment. The Wall Street Journal also covers her speech, concentrating specifically on her use of labor market data.

In opinion pages, the New York Times’ Joe Nocera weighs in on the Chicago regional director of the NLRB’s ruling that members of Northwestern Universities football team could form a union. Nocera highlights that the implications are at least currently not as broad as some pundits suggest. The Washington Post’s John Feinstein writes that the NCAA has raised red flags typical of management in labor disputes. He argues that a union will provide players with a voice.

In the New York Times, Jared Bernstein argues that Washington politicians are unduly concerned that taxes and regulation will impede “job creators” when “job creators” are already incentivized to squeeze labor costs to drive profitability. He asserts that job creation actually requires boosting the bargaining power of workers.

In international news, workers at three Toyota plans in Ontario, Canada will vote next week on whether to join Unifor, according to the New York Times. Also in the Times, Vereinigung Cockpit, the union for Lufthansa pilots, has threatened a walk out beginning at 12:01am Wednesday after the parties failed to resolve a contract dispute over the weekend. The Wall Street Journal reports that the strike would lead Lufthansa to cancel 3,800 flights. According to Reuters, Japan has moved to expand a controversial guest worker program, populated largely by Chinese immigrants working in agricultural and in garment factories. Labor activists allege that these guest workers have faced abuse, including being paid illegally low wages and having their passports confiscated.

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