News & Commentary

February 24, 2014

Steven Greenhouse in the New York Times profiles the devastating effects of Wisconsin’s 2011 law restricting the rights of public sector unions. Championed by Governor Scott Walker, the law bars public sector unions from bargaining over pensions, health coverage, safety, hours, sick leave, or vacations, and restricts raises on base pay so they cannot exceed inflation. The law also requires public sector unions to recertify every year to maintain the right to bargain collectively, in addition to removing the fair-share requirement that all unionized public employees pay union dues. The bill also requires the legislature to approve raises for union members, which it has been reluctant to do. Hence, while nonunion state employees received a 1 percent raise last July, their first raise in years, unionized employees have not yet received it. As a result of these measures, many Wisconsin unions are struggling to survive as members who have seen their pay drop or their hours cut are reluctant to pay dues to unions that can no longer do much for them.

The Washington Post weighs in on the UAW’s chances of winning its legal challenge to its recent loss in the representation election at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Wall Street Journal reports that five international companies have made the first contributions to a trust fund set up to compensate victims of the Bangladeshi factory collapse that killed more than 1,100 workers last April. The contributors include Inditex, the parent company of the label Zara, which contributed even though it didn’t source from the factory that collapsed. No U.S. retailers have contributed to the fund, despite the fact that several major U.S. companies, like Wal-Mart, benefited from products made in the unsafe building before its collapse.

Economist Nancy Folbre in the New York Times surveys recent literature on the economic effects of living-wage ordinances, finding that out of the more than 125 living-wage ordinances that have been put into effect since Baltimore first implemented one in 1994, no ill economic effects have been documented.

The New York Times reports on recent criticism of unpaid student internships in Canada, presenting the University of Waterloo’s Co-operative Education program as a model alternative.

A new study reveals the need for immigration reform that expands legal pathways for immigrants to enter the U.S. and work as farm guest workers, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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