Today’s News and Commentary — December 18
The Washington Post reports that the National Association of Manufacturers filed a lawsuit challenging the Labor Department’s 2010 rule requiring federal contractors to post notices informing workers of their rights to “organize unions, bargain collectively, and go on strike and picket without retribution by an employer… [as well as] their rights not to join a union or be coerced by union officials.” The suit is being made in the wake of a decision by the D.C. Circuit invalidating a similar rule issued by the NLRB.
The Washington Post also discusses efforts by business groups to target Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon as part of their strategy to spread right-to-work policies through ballot initiatives.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the White House is backing a bipartisan Senate proposal to extend by three months long-term unemployment insurance benefits set to expire at the end of the year. The legislation is being proposed by Sen. Jack Reed (D., R.I.) and Sen. Dean Heller (R., Nev.).
Thomas Edsall has an opinion piece in the New York Times discussing potential policy ideas and obstacles to more robust liberal project of “deep structural reform.” Such a project would pursue worker empowerment to complement the present emphasis on the social safety net. Meanwhile, opinion writer Robert Samuelson of the Washington Post discusses a recent study out of the Brookings Institute observing a trend in both the U.S. and other industrialized countries of increasing labor force participation among older workers. Samuelson notes that the trend alleviates some of financial burdens of welfare states, but also reduces the number of jobs available to younger workers.
In New York, construction contractors are waging a public relations battle against construction worker unions and worker safety advocates over an amendment to New York’s Scaffold Law, the New York Times reports. The amendment would introduce a comparative negligence standard into the law which currently holds contractors and building owners liable for accidents resulting from violations of the law. Also in New York, the Washington Post reports on outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s last major speech before leaving office, in which he criticized the “labor-electoral complex” that prevents reform to pension and health care costs that he believes pose a fiscal crisis to New York and cities across the country.
In international news, the Washington Post reports that upwards of 40,000 civil servants participated in a demonstration in Vienna calling for higher wages. The New York Times reports on a practice in Uzbekistan of conscripting workers for little or no pay to pick cotton during the busy autumn harvest season. Although a boycott led the country to stop using student workers, the country nevertheless still calls on about a million people, typically public-sector employees and professionals, to pick the cotton by hand. Many companies in the apparel industry continue to boycott cotton from the country.