Today’s News and Commentary — January 16

Published January 16th, 2014 -  - 01.16.141


Two months after the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel filed a complaint against Wal-Mart for illegally disciplining and firing employees during Black Friday 2012, the NLRB has filed a complaint of its own, the Wall Street Journal, LA Times and New York Times report. The complaint lists violations of the National Labor Relations Act in 14 states, alleging that Wal-Mart threatened employees with reprisals and fired employees for participating in strikes or protests around the major shopping day.

The New York Times reports that workers yesterday at an Amazon warehouse in Middletown, Del. voted 21–6 against forming a union. The vote represents the first unionization vote ever held at an Amazon facility in the United States. A spokesperson for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which sought to organize the facility’s maintenance and repair workers, claimed that Amazon hired anti-union consultants to suppress the organizing drive, while an Amazon spokesperson responded that the vote indicated that the company’s employees prefer a “direct connection” with Amazon.

As the United Auto Workers prepares for labor talks in 2015 with Detroit car makers, the union has proposed to raise membership dues for the first time in decades, the Wall Street Journal reports. The proposal would raise dues from two hours of pay each month to two-and-a-half hours of pay — the first such increase since the late 1960s — which the union reports would go directly into the strike fund.

The weekly number of jobless claims fell by 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 326,000, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today report. The jobs report is a positive sign for the economy, which economists believe has steadily improved over the past few months.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is in the news for its role in Chris Christie’s bridge-closing scandal. Yesterday Michael Powell of the New York Times took a closer look at some of the 15,000 Port Authority employees who work in the New York metropolitan region’s three major airports. Powell observes that the workers typically work long hours for little pay, receive no benefits or vacations, and are not unionized — all in contrast with the higher wages and benefits other airports such as San Francisco’s provide their employees.

The New York Times also released an editorial yesterday arguing that the Republican senators’ reasons for filibustering an extension of jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed are disingenuous. On Tuesday the Senate failed to extend the benefits, which expired in December.

In international news, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development released a study yesterday recommending that Russia remake its labor practices in order to grow its economy, the New York Times reports. The study criticized Russian employers for awarding workers with long breaks and holidays; providing wages that rose faster than labor productivity; and failing to cull their work force in line with economic changes. Russia’s trend growth forecast is only 2.5 percent, which is below the global average and could lead to declining living standards.

Earlier this month in Cambodia, the government violently cracked down on the country’s largest-ever strike of garment workers, killing at least four people and injuring dozens. The Wall Street Journal surveys the aftermath, reporting that while some union leaders have gone into hiding and employees have returned to work, the government and unions remain deadlocked over the issue of doubling the industry’s minimum wage.

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