Today’s News and Commentary — December 20

Published December 20th, 2013 -  - 12.20.132


The Wall Street Journal reports that David Weil, President Obama’s nominee to head the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour division, won the Senate labor committee’s approval in a party-line vote, “clearing the way for his expected confirmation by the full Senate.”

In the Los Angeles Times opinion pages, George Skelton argues that public sector unions should stop attacking management and “act more like they work for the public.” Skelton cites polling that shows unions’ approval ratings in California have fallen in the last three years. He attributes the decline to the public’s dissatisfaction over notable strikes (e.g. BART) and so-called “pension envy,” as “public employees pull down generous retirement benefits that private sector taxpayers began losing years ago.” He suggests that “2014 might be a good time to place a public pension reform initiative on the ballot [in California].”

A new report released by the IMF argues that most Americans who have left the labor force as a result of the Great Recession will return to the labor market as the economy improves. The report argues that the current U.S. labor force participation rate of 63%, one of the lowest levels observed since the 1970s, calls into question whether the falling unemployment rate is due to people rejoining the workforce. According to the Wall Street Journal Economic blog, the report is optimistic that that the participation rate will rise as the economy grows, and it argues that the Fed should “drive the jobless rate below its so-called natural rate,” which will “boost demand for workers and draw people back into the labor force more quickly.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that BART union leaders are dismayed over newly-appointed Board chairman Joel Keller’s proposal to prohibit strikes by public transportation workers. The article claims that Keller was convinced by the union’s weakening hand in negotiations with the city after the union staged two high-profile strikes in the last four months. As such a prohibition would require state legislation, Keller suggested an advisory ballot measure in BART’s three counties that would urge state legislators to consider a transit strike ban.

Finally, Al Jazeera America published a retrospective “The Year in Labor” piece, recapping everything from this year’s Wal-Mart controversies and fast food strikes to the AFL-CIO convention and emerging forms of labor organizing.

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