Today's News and Commentary — April 4
The Wall Street Journal reports that professional track and field athletes are preparing for collective action against USA Track & Field that might cause some athletes to boycott the U.S. national track and field championships in June. Tensions have steadily risen throughout 2014, which peaked after a pair of “controversial decisions” at the indoor national track and field championships in February. The WSJ reports that “a group representing elite runners, shot putters and pole-vaulters is seeking a greater role in monitoring such issues.” Because track and field athletes are not employees but independent contractors, their incomes come from sponsorship contracts with shoe and apparel companies. This non-employee situation offers minimal opportunity for the athletes to organize as a traditional union.
In international news, the New York Times reports that employees of Israel’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday announced the end of a general strike that shut down the ministry’s offices and the country’s missions abroad for over a week. The labor dispute ended with the signing of a “document of principles” that will serve as the basis of an agreement pledging an improvement in pay and working conditions.
A planned vote by workers at two Toyota plants in Ontario on whether to join Unifor, Canada’s largest labor union, was put on hold late Thursday night after Toyota announced a higher number of total employees at the plants than the union had estimated. The Wall Street Journal reports that Toyota claimed to have approximately 7,500 employees eligible to join the union, while Unifor had estimated there were 6,590 eligible employees, based on earlier public filings by Toyota. In a quote by Jerry Dias, President of Unifor, he claimed that the union would be “surprised if, under such circumstances, Toyota had hired upwards of 1000 people. If Toyota is hiring, that’s wonderful. But it would be unusual—so we are going to look at that list carefully.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the International Labour Organization is calling on Qatar to review its sponsorship system for foreign workers and allow them to more easily form unions to bargain for better wages. This is the latest step in the ILO’s crusade for better treatment of migrant workers ahead of the FIFA World Cup, which will be hosted in Qatar in 2022. The ITUC, Amnesty International, FIFA, the European Parliament and numerous other international bodies have raised concerns about the treatment of workers recently, “pointing to evidence of squalid living conditions, exploitative employer-employee relationships and a string of deaths among Nepalese and Indian migrants.”
The Wall Street Journal’s “Wastington Wire” column examined how Democrats in tough Congressional races are advocating for minimum wage increases, especially in states where voters will be casting a ballot about minimum wage increases in their state elections. Alaska, Arkansas, South Dakota, and Michigan are Senate battleground states where voters will decide whether the state should increase its own minimum wage. In a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 81% of Democrats said they would be more likely to back a candidate who supported raising the minimum wage.
In the ongoing In an article entitles “Out of Work, Out of Benefits, and Running Out of Options,” the New York Times examines the lives of Americans affected by long-term unemployment of 6 months or more. The federal government offers “virtually no help to the 3.8 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months, [and] the maximum duration of unemployment insurance payments fell from as long as 73 weeks to 26 weeks in most states in January.” However, hope may be on the horizon: with Congress “stalemated on most legislation,” this winter the White House announced an “initiative to urge businesses not to discriminate against the long-term jobless.”
Jeremy Stein will resign from the Federal Reserve Board to resume his professorship at Harvard. Stein joined the Fed in 2012 and needed to return to Harvard within two years to preserve his tenured professorship. He has argued that the Fed should temper its efforts to minimize unemployment because those policies encourage financial risk-taking
The New York Times reports that the Star-Ledger of Newark, the biggest newspaper in New Jersey and among the largest in the nation by print circulation, announced Thursday that it would cut 167 jobs, including 40 newsroom positions. According to the Times, “the cuts, which amount to a reduction of 25 percent in an editorial staff of about 160, come days after the newspaper’s owner, Advance Publications, announced a plan to centralize journalism, advertising and marketing across The Star-Ledger, its sister publications and NJ.com, a local news portal.” The layoffs at The Star-Ledger come at a time when “New Jersey politics have become front and center in news coverage of the state.”