Today's News and Commentary — August 1, 2016

Published August 1st, 2016 -  - 08.01.16


The New York Times reported Saturday that Lee Saunders, the President of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, was a key figure in the recent negotiations on the Democratic Platform’s position on trade agreements like the controversial Trans Pacific Partnership.  The agreed upon language, while silent on the TPP, “oppose[s] trade agreements that do not support good American jobs, raise wages and improve our national security.”   Saunders, who is known in the union for his engagement with rank-and-file workers and efforts to fight against threats to public sector unions like his own, has helped provide crucial support needed for Hillary Clinton to secure the Democratic nomination.

Amnesty International has criticized a recent decree from the government of Venezuela allowing citizens to be called upon to join state sponsored organizations to farm the country’s fields, saying the policy amounts to “forced labor.”  Under the decree, workers may be required to work for the organizations for 60 days, at which point their contracts will be renewed or they will be allowed to return to their former jobs.  The decree comes in the midst of an economic crisis in Venezuela, which is currently facing a food shortage, an inflation rate of almost 300% as well as widespread protests.  Erika Guevara Rosas, the Director of the Americas for Amnesty International has said that the decree “completely misses the point” and that “trying to tackle Venezuela’s severe food shortages by forcing people to work the fields is like trying to fix a broken leg with a band aid.”

The Baltimore Sun reports that Baltimore’s City Council will be voting next month on a $15 minimum wage, which would be the highest in the state.  Baltimore is currently subject to the state minimum wage of $8.75 an hour, and while the City Council is reportedly split on the increase, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake  said she would sign the proposal if it reaches her desk.  If the wage is increased, businesses would be required to pay their employees $15 an hour by 2022, and Baltimore would join a growing number of jurisdictions with a $15 an hour minimum wage.  On the national scale, Democrats have recently agreed to make the $15 minimum wage a part of their platform, while Republicans maintain that determinations of minimum wage should be left to the state and local levels.

The New York Times has sought permission from a Federal Judge in New York to dismiss gender discrimination claims made by its employees and to strike gender, race, and age claims from seeking certification.  According to Law 360, the complaint, filed by two African American women in their 60s, alleges that the “paper’s advertising department pays minorities, women and older workers less and has targeted them for buyouts as part of companywide layoffs.”  The plaintiffs are seeking  injunctive and monetary relief under the New York State Human Rights Law, New York City Human Rights Law, New York City Administrative Code, Equal Pay Act and New York Labor Law.

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