Today’s News and Commentary – February 21

Published February 21st, 2014 -  - 02.21.141


The New York Times reports that It is not just private-sector employers who are trying to evade the requirements of Obamacare’s insurance mandate – public sector workers around the country have had their hours cut or capped to keep them under 30 hours of work per week. The Affordable Care Act requires employers, both public and private, to provide health insurance to workers employed for at least 30 hours per week, although this mandate has been delayed twice by the Obama administration in an effort to ease the impact on employers.

A study by the American Farm Bureau Federation analyzing the effect of immigration reform on farm labor has concluded that any legislative effort that fails to expand legal pathways for immigrant workers will hurt both farmers and consumers. According to the Wall Street Journal, an enforcement-only approach would drive up labor costs by shrinking the supply of workers, while a legalization regime would have a similar effect by making more lucrative employment available to immigrant workers. Only a redesigned guest worker program would maintain a sufficient supply of farm labor, the study concluded.

The California teachers’ pension fund, the second largest public pension fund in the country, faces a $71 billion shortfall that worsens by $22 million every day, reports the L.A. Times. Without an increase in contributions from either the state, school districts, or teachers themselves, the plan will be insolvent in 30 years.

Maryland’s St. Mary’s College is considering a proposal that would cap the salary of its college President at 10 times that of its lowest-paid employees. At current wage rates, the 10-1 ratio would cap the President’s salary at $245,000, approximately $80,000 less than the salary of the College’s current interim President. As reported in the Washington Post, the proposal is seen as a move both to address income inequality while also tightening college spending in a time of budget difficulties.

AFSCME Local 3299, representing 21,000 service and patient care workers at the University of California, has called a five day strike starting on March 3 unless their contract negotiations are settled before then. The L.A. Times notes that this strike would be the union’s third, and longest, in less than a year, after a two day strike last May and a one day walkout in November. The two sides are engaged in negotiations over various contentious issues, including pension contributions and safe staffing levels.

New claims for unemployment benefits dropped last week, indicating steady improvements in the labor market despite severe weather which has harmed hiring by employers, suggests the New York Times.

The Washington Post’s Jena McGregor analyzes this week’s decision by The Gap to unilaterally raise wages for its lowest paid employees.

The New York Times Magazine discusses the issue of ‘job lock’ and the effect of Obamacare on employee mobility.

In an op-ed, Larry Harris in the L.A. Times argues that government wage subsidies for low-wage workers, rather than minimum wage increases, would be a more effective policy to address income inequality without costing jobs.

Joe Davidson in The Washington Post describes efforts by some Republican lawmakers to remove employment protections in the Department of Veterans Affairs, in the name of serving veterans and improving accountability.

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