News & Commentary

April 8, 2015

Writing in the New York Times, Noam Scheiber situates a recent labor dispute in Major League Baseball in the context of U.S. labor relations more broadly.  After a team took an action that disadvantaged an up-and-coming star player, the league took a position that “seemed aimed a pitting baseball’s superstars against . . . less prominent players.”  This tactic—attempting to “drive a wedge between different constituencies in the work force”—has often been “deployed across much of the labor force.”  But as Scheiber explains, “[b]aseball players have generally been immune from such tactics.”  The solidarity between star players and those who are less well known, even when that solidarity has been contrary to the interests of the stars, has produced substantial benefits for most players.  In recent years, a dynamic similar to that in baseball, in which a few star performers command outsize attention and earn disproportionately more money, has spread to many other industries.  Baseball, Scheiber argues, “demonstrates the advantages” of solidarity between star performers and “their less-heralded colleagues.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, the “Los Angeles school district and its employee unions have reached a multibillion-dollar tentative agreement on healthcare benefits that would run through 2018.”  The agreement has the backing of both management and unions in the nation’s second-largest school district.

The Associated Press reports on a growing labor protest movement in China “that is posing a growing and awkward problem for the ruling Communist Party.”  The rate of strikes and other labor protests has increased sharply in each of the last four years; there were more than 1,300 such actions last year, “up from just 185 in 2011.”  The increasing protests, however, have brought with them crackdowns from employers and the government.  Still, as one labor scholar explains, “[t]he party has to think twice before it suppresses the labor movement because it still claims to be a party for the working class.”  Chinese workers are permitted to strike, but only under the officially sanctioned All China Federation of Trade Unions, “which critics say is essentially an arm of the government that has failed to stand up for workers.”

In immigration news, the Los Angeles Times reports that democratic lawmakers in California will soon unveil a proposed 10-bill package of immigration-related measures, “including measures that would extend state-paid health coverage to those in the country illegally and offer more protection against deportation.”  Legislators sponsoring the bills said that they “hoped to spur liberalization of immigration laws nationwide.”  The proposals faced predictable opposition from conservatives and advocates for stricter enforcement of immigration laws, who argued that they would merely encourage more illegal immigration into California.

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