Today's News and Commentary — February 9
Breitbart reports that the Labor Department has announced that 235 union pension funds may lack the assets necessary to pay 80 percent of their promised benefits. Of the funds, 150 are in “critical status.” That status obligates trustees to consider the option of cutting some benefits. The December $1.1 trillion federal spending bill included an amendment that would permit benefit cuts to more than a million workers as a means to shore up the funds.
In immigration news, the Minnesota-based Star Tribune discusses changes in the Obama Administration’s executive action on immigration that would make it easier for green-card applicants to switch employers within the U.S. and give their spouses permission to work. Advocates of STEM immigration have argued that restrictions on green card applicants switching jobs have allowed employers to take advantage of them. Businesses lobbying for more work visas have criticized the reform as insufficient. Sarah Radosevich of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce argues that more could be done to ensure that recent foreign student graduates of U.S. schools could stay and apply their degrees here.
This week in Missouri, a House committee approved right-to-work bills, setting the stage for a vote in the House. According to the Associated Press, the measure failed to win a majority of support last year. Democratic Governor Jay Nixon has stated that if such a bill reached his desk, he would veto it. The Associated Press also reports that Rep. Caleb Rowden of Missouri introduced a bill last week that would prevent municipal governments from raising the minimum wage.
The Portland Tribune profiles the work of economist Tom Potiowsky, who argues that an increase in Oregon’s minimum wage is not a cure all for economic inequality. Potiowsky, a professor of economics at Portland State University, embraces an increased from $9.25, the second highest in the country, but states that a breakdown in income inequality would require greater spending on public works and reining in the cost of higher education.
In international news, the BBC reports that more than a tenth of United Kingdom health care workers are being paid less than the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour. A study by the Resolution Foundation attributes the low pay with strains on the care industry as funding is cut and the UK’s population ages. The report hypothesizes that care companies competing for local contracts offer bids that would not allow them to pay their employees lawful wages.