News & Commentary

January 26, 2015

The Washington Post reports that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has released union density numbers for 2014. The data shows that union membership has increased both in the public and private sectors. However, since the overall number of people in the work force has increased at an even greater rate, union density is down.

According to Bloomberg, Republican presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Rand Paul were each asked for their perspective on the minimum wage last night at a private donor event for the Koch political network. Citing concerns for working Americans, Rubio stated, “All this focus that the president has on the minimum wage as a cure-all for the problems being faced by working Americans is not only a waste of time, I think it shows how unserious he really is about dealing with the challenges of our time.” The Koch network fundraised $400 million in 2012 attempting to defeat President Obama.

According to Reuters, the United Steelworkers union (USW) is engaged in ongoing contract negotiations with companies that manage 63 U.S. oil refineries. The current contract expires on February 1, 2015. The Steelworkers are seeking an annual pay raise, for work given to non-union contractors to be brought in house, and new healthcare related policies that would reduce members’ individual healthcare payments. USW International Vice President Gary Beevers has stated that he has the authority to call a strike if a new agreement is not reached.

Doctors at the University of California San Diego are scheduled to hold a one-day unfair labor practices strike tomorrow. According the San Diego-based 10News, the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD) began representing the UC doctors at student health clinics in 2013, and are striking in response to alleged illegal behavior at the contract bargaining table. This will be the first strike in the 43 year history of the UAPD and the first time in 25 years that fully licensed doctors have gone on strike in the United States.

In international news, the Daily Star reports that Lebanon’s Labor Ministry has rejected a proposal submitted by the National Federation of Labor Unions earlier this month to create a union for migrant domestic workers. According to the International Labor Organization, Lebanon is home to over 250,000 female migrant domestic workers from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere.

Human Rights Watch has released a report criticizing the Thai fishing industry for labor abuses and human trafficking. According to Voice of America, the United Nation’s International Labor Organization estimates that 20 percent of workers on Thai fishing boats have faced forced labor. Most workers in this seafood industry come from Cambodia or Myanmar.

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