Today's News and Commentary – January 28
President Obama will give his State of the Union Address tonight. The New York Times reports that President Obama will use the speech to highlight his increasing willingness to use his executive power to fulfill his agenda if Congress remains deadlocked. One way President Obama intends to convey that message is by announcing a raise in the minimum wage for federal contractors from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour. The New York Times notes that although such an executive order would raise wages for “several hundred thousand workers,” it would not come close to affecting the number of workers (21 million) who would see a raise if Congress raised the minimum wage across the board.
The Washington Post reports that day laborers have made great strides in recent years in raising wages and improving working conditions, thanks in large part to the growth of workers’ centers and day laborer networks. The groups have worked to educate workers about their rights and to negotiate contracts with companies to establish wages and working conditions. As a result, many workers have seen their wages rise and the safety of their workplaces improve.
The New York Times reports that the House leadership plans to unveil a plan this week for overhauling the country’s immigration system. The plan calls for “a path to legal status — but not citizenship — for many of the 11 million adult immigrants who are in the country illegally.” However, pro-immigrant organizations that have been briefed on the document warn that it is “not intended to serve as a conservative starting point for future negotiations, but as a gauge of how far to the left House Republicans are willing to move.” The document will be circulated among Republican House members at a retreat beginning tomorrow.
In international news, workers at Ford plants in England are weighing a strike action seeking better job security and pensions, the Guardian reports. Ford recently closed a plant in Southampton, after 100 years of operating there. Unite, a union representing some of the workers, claims that Ford has forced the UK workers to “bear the brunt of cuts, in the wake of the decision to move production of the Transit van from Britain to Turkey.” Ford, for its part, says it has a long history of working with the unions and is negotiating with them.
The construction of “humane” homes for the 50,000+ migrant workers engaged in preparations for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has been delayed, according to the Guardian. The humane homes project was developed after reports surfaced of high death tolls among the migrant workers, due in part to squalid living conditions. The delay in completing the projects from April until at least July has been attributed to the Qatari bureaucracy.