News & Commentary

August 30, 2013

In front of 1000 stores across 6o cities, fast food workers and supporters demonstrated yesterday for higher wages, in what the L.A. Times describes as perhaps the “biggest effort yet” for low-wage workers hit hard by the recession to demonstrate the hardship posed by working for minimum wage.

While the protesters took to the streets, the Wall Street Journal documents the behind-the-scenes efforts to establish formal labor union representation for fast food workers. Union officials and some fast food workers were enthusiastic about the organizing efforts, but some labor experts expressed skepticism about the likelihood of widespread unionization taking hold.

The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse notes the “prominence of young faces and for the audacity of their demand” in the national movement to increase wages for fast food workers, while the Washington Post’s Jena McGregor writes that the movement for better wages takes place in the context of declining employee turnover for fast food restaurants and a new class of long-term low-wage restaurant workers.

Not all of today’s commentators viewed the union and worker demands positively: unions have won some battles but are “losing the war by insisting on inflated wages”, according to Richard S. Pieper in the Wall Street Journal.

Moving from low-wage workers to workers who make quite a bit more, the New York Times reports that the NFL will pay $765 million to settle lawsuits brought by players and family members, who had alleged that the League concealed information about the dangers of concussions in the sport. The Wall Street Journal describes the settlement as a “big victory” for the League.

A development in the ongoing tensions between unions and the White House over Obamacare, the Wall Street Journal reports that AFL-CIO President Trumka is “hopeful” that a solution can be found to change provisions of the new health care law that unions fear will drive-up costs of union-sponsored health plans, and may prompt employers to drop the coverage altogether. This change of tone comes after a mid-summer letter to key Congressional Democrats from several major unions complained that their concerns were being “stonewalled” by the Obama Administration.

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