Today's News and Commentary – February 4
The Washington Post reports that, after three years of contentious debate, Congress is expected to send a new five-year farm bill to President Obama this week. The bill cuts about $8 billion in food stamps and thus “will reduce benefits for about 850,000 households nationwide,” “slashes the [Agriculture Department]’s advertising budget for the program,” and includes new mandates for ensuring “that illegal immigrants, lottery winners, college students and the dead cannot receive” benefits, “and that beneficiaries cannot collect payments in multiple states.” The “legislation also creates a new program that will allow the poor to double their food stamp benefits at farmers markets, a move that advocates say will help tens of thousands of SNAP users eat more-nutritious foods.”
The New York Times Editorial Board calls on New York Mayor Bill de Blasio to take a tough stand in negotiating with the “more than 150 bargaining units, representing about 300,000 city employees, that are working on expired contracts,” including by “changing work rules and extracting savings in runaway health care and pension costs” in any new agreements in order to preserve de Blasio’s “big ambitions in areas like affordable housing, health care and new initiatives for the poor and dispossessed.”
The Wall Street Journal has more details on a story we reported yesterday – the agreement between Volkswagen and the UAW to hold a NLRB representation election next week at their Chattanooga facility. The development is particularly notable because Volkswagen itself petitioned the NLRB for the election, and is “allowing union organizers to campaign inside the plant, a step rarely taken by car makers when targeted for UAW organizing drives.”
In other news on worker activism, Salon reports that in the wake of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s recent announcement that it would order contractors to phase in a $10.10 wage and a paid Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday for New York-area airport workers following “a multi-year, union-backed campaign,” unions and low-wage workers are criticizing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie because “the order covers only those workers at New York’s JFK and LaGuardia airports, not their counterparts at nearby Newark International.”
The Spokesman-Review reports that state legislators in Washington have proposed a bill that would make workers in the state “the first in the nation to be guaranteed paid vacation time.” According to the Center for Economic Policy and Research, the United States “is the only industrial nation that doesn’t guarantee its workers any paid vacation time,” and as a result, “nearly 1 in 4 American workers receive no paid vacation or paid holidays.”
Finally, in the Washington Post, Charles Lane criticizes domestic opponents of “major trade-expanding agreements with the Pacific Rim and Europe,” including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the AFL-CIO. Lane argues that “what little additional low-wage competition the TPP [the Trans-Pacific Partnership] imposes on the United States is likely to be offset, at least partially, by improved U.S. market access,” and contends that “the notion that the TPP is NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] redux and that NAFTA devastated American jobs and incomes” is misleading.