News & Commentary

August 13, 2013

The New York Times reports that the Obama Administration has delayed another portion of the Affordable Care Act – new limits on how much people have to pay for their own heath care in out-of-pocket costs – until 2015. News of this decision has been “on the Labor Department’s Web site since February, but was obscured in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went largely unnoticed” until now.

The Wall Street Journal reports that newly confirmed members of the National Labor Relations Board – two Democrats and two Republicans – are preparing to get to work, marking “the first time in a decade that all five board seats are filled with members who have been confirmed by the Senate.”

In the New York Times, Joseph Stiglitz argues that “it’s extremely important to recognize that Detroit’s demise is not simply an inevitable outcome of the market.” Instead, Stiglitz contends that it reflects the fact that “our country is becoming vastly more economically segregated.”  He argues that this phenomenon is reversible, advocating “policy alternatives that can soften such transitions in ways that preserve wealth and promote equality,” including “investment in education, training and infrastructure.”

Farmers across the country tell the Wall Street Journal that the aging pool of farm labor is “one of the problems that highlight American agriculture’s urgent need for an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system.”   Increased border security and immigration enforcement, combined with oil patch booms in Texas and a construction recovery in California, are forcing farmers and other industries to compete for the same supply of low-skilled, and aging, labor.

After a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis ruled in May that Patriot Coal Corp. could reject its contract with the United Mine Workers of America – allowing Patriot to stop contributing to the pension plan and impose tougher work rules – the Wall Street Journal reports that the two sides have settled their long-standing labor fight.  The deal provides significant improvements in the areas of wages, health-care benefits, paid time off, and pensions.

Arguing that the U.S. Government itself has become a low-wage employer that ignores or undercuts worker protections, the New York Times Editorial Board calls on President Obama to sign “an executive order aimed . . . at raising the pay of millions of poorly paid employees of government contractors” similar to the executive order President Johnson signed in 1965 mandating nondiscrimination in employment by government contractors.

In the field of health care, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that California schools may give students insulin injections and other medications without having to call in licensed nurses, a defeat for the powerful California Nurses Association, which had argued that only licensed healthcare workers could administer medicine under state law.

Finally, in the American Prospect, Harold Meyerson analyzes the implications of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ decision to leave the Change to Win federation to rejoin the AFL-CIO. He argues that although Change to Win’s stated strategy of targeting whole nationwide companies, sectors and markets – particularly those that included jobs that “couldn’t be offshored or easily digitized” – may have seemed innovative and promising, these campaigns were very similar to those that “member unions had been waging before the new federation formed.” According to Meyerson, the formation of Change To Win did not “do much to remedy the structural weaknesses of some of its member unions—weak locals, inadequately resourced organizing—or the tendency of nearly all unions . . . to pursue new members in the public sector, where labor law was more favorable to organizing.”

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