News & Commentary

December 4, 2013

The big news of the day is the ruling by a federal bankruptcy judge that Detroit can enter Chapter 9 bankruptcy and that public pensions are “not entitled to any heightened protection.” Although the judge agreed with opponents of the bankruptcy that the “city had failed to make ‘good faith’ attempts to negotiate with creditors, [he] said that such negotiations had been ‘impracticable.’” At least one union has already filed a notice of appeal. Coverage of the decision can be found at the New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Post, and Time, among others. Both the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have additional commentary on the decision, noting its potential to impact the municipal bankruptcy proceedings in Stockton and San Bernardino, California.

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal report on the Fifth Circuit ruling in D.R. Horton v. NLRB, which overturned a National Labor Relations Board decision that had “barred employers from requiring workers to sign arbitration agreements forbidding them from filing class actions or collective claims on such issues as pay and hours.”

Eliseo Medina of the SEIU and two other advocates ended their water-only fasts on the National Mall after 22 days, the New York Times and L.A. Times reported. The ceremony was attended by top Democratic officials, including Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. The Wall Street Journal’s Washington Wire blog reports that the hiring of Rebecca Tallent, a longtime advocate of immigration legislation, by Speaker of the House John Boehner may be a signal that the Speaker is interested in moving forward with immigration reform legislation at some point in the future.

The Washington Post features a slew of union-related coverage today. Stories include: the filing of a lawsuit against the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) agency by its two largest unions over a disputed FMLA provision in the union contract; testimony to a House oversight committee by the president of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents federal border patrol workers, advocating to changes in overtime policy that would reduce officers’ pay; and the appointment of Tony Clark as the Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, the first former major league player to hold the position.

The New York Times also has heavy labor-related coverage today. The Illinois state legislature passed a reform bill, expected to be signed by the Governor, to address the state’s “debt engulfed pension system by trimming retiree benefits and increasing state contributions.” The paper also reports on the graduating class of the New York City Fire Department’s training academy, a class which is more diverse than any previous class. The increased diversity is “a result of a federal judge’s order that the city reform the hiring practices” which had a disparate impact on minority applicants. Another article discusses the momentum behind SEIU’s efforts to unionize adjunct professors “at private colleges in several urban areas.” The Economix blog continues its coverage of the issue of minimum wages with a post discussing the quality of jobs in terms of the compensation they offer in relation to the quality of the skills of the workers who inhabit those jobs. And finally, the Times reports on the trend in some European countries to “furiously dismantl[e] workplace protections in a bid to reduce the cost of labor.” The article describes this trend as the spreading of American style workplace policies in Europe and discusses the potential long term costs of relaxed workplace protections, including widening the inequality gap.

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