Today’s News and Commentary – January 27
Steve Greenhouse of the the New York Times reports that a proposed increase in the tipped minimum wage faces significant resistance from the National Restaurant Association. Under federal law, the tipped minimum wage is $2.13 an hour, while employers have an obligation to make up any difference between what a tipped employee actually earns and the standard minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Senator Harkin’s minimum wage bill proposes an increase in the tipped minimum wage to $7.10 an hour.
The Associated Press reports that Democratic lawmakers are pushing minimum wage increases in over thirty state houses this year. Their strategy is to harness the momentum from President Obama’s State of the Union address, where he is expected to endorse an increase in the minimum wage. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 71 percent of Americans are in favor of raising the minimum wage. This figure included over half of the Republicans polled.
The Washington Post features a series of infographics depicting new figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics last Friday. The infographics show an increase in state-sponsored bills restricting public sector unions’ collective bargaining rights and declining union membership on a state-by-state basis.
The Associated Press reports that working age people, rather than children or the elderly, now make up the majority of U.S. households that depend on food stamps. This news dovetails with recent studies stating that low-wage earners are increasingly relying on government benefits to make ends meet. An AP Study suggests that 13 percent of the increase in food stamp enrollment between 2000 and 2011 is due to low wages and inequality.
The Los Angeles Times editorial board argues that the California legislature must loosen teacher tenure protection laws. In light of a recent lawsuit arguing that California’s teacher protection laws deprive students of equal access to education in violation of the state constitution, the board suggests a legislative overhaul. They recommend that California adopt New Jersey’s binding arbitration procedures for disciplining and firing teachers in the face of union pressure.
Bloomberg News reports that Defending Main Street, a super-PAC funding moderate republicans against Tea Party Candidates, is supported in part by labor unions. This represents a shift from labor’s typical role in funding Democratic campaigns. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America have each contributed to the fund.
The International Brotherhood of Teamsters approved a five year extension of their contract with YRC Worldwide Inc. by a 66 percent vote according to the Wall Street Journal Union members have agreed to a 15 percent pay cut in addition to a 75 percent cut in pension contributions through 2019.
The New York Times also features an obituary of Herbert L. Haber, the former chief labor negotiator for New York City. As head of the then newly established Office of Labor Relations from 1966 to 1973, Haber reduced the number of bargaining units in the city from 300 to 90 and is said to have professionalized New York City’s dealing with its over 300,000 unionized workers.