News & Commentary

July 14, 2015

The Washington Post‘s Lydia DePillis wrote about efforts by employers to reach young adults who are unemployed and not in school, a demographic that is “disproportionately non-white, overwhelmingly poor, live far away from large employers and often have their own kids to take care of.”  In order to prepare these individuals for the workforce, a group of seventeen companies have committed to provide them with jobs, internships, and apprenticeships.  Where traditional efforts led by government funding or private foundations have suffered from underfunding, the new program seeks to pair the needs of these individuals with the needs of employers.  Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has been a leader in the initiative.  He hopes that the new effort avoids the pitfalls of previous efforts that have faltered after their initial launches.  “The old days of writing a check and making an announcement and a press release and walking away — people do a lot of that, and they still do that today,” Schultz said. “But the truth is that what’s required today is a coalition of like-minded individuals who bring a skill base and presence on the ground to have an impact on an issue as serious as this.”

On a related note, the New York Times examined the growing attention paid by national leaders and corporate executives to apprenticeships.  The article noted that both Hillary Clinton and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have promoted apprenticeships as an important part of workforce training rather than an “off ramp from the college track.” “We know this works,” said Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez.  “It’s not hard to figure out why the Germans have a youth unemployment rate that is half what it is here.”

The Daily Beast reported on efforts to pass local right-to-work ordinances where such legislation is unable to pass statewide.  The article profiled Brent Yessin, a Florida attorney who runs Protect My Check, a nonprofit that advocates for such measures.  Yessin’s drive for local right-to-work legislation has met success in 10% of Kentucky’s counties and has been espoused by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.  “The goal would be to pass enough of them that you have an influence on state policy,” Yessin said of the local ordinances.  The hoped-for result would be to reach the point where enough local governments have passed right-to-work ordinances that legislators believe the issue has reached a tipping point and a statewide law seems inevitable and less politically toxic.

Over the weekend, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) geared up to increase the commitment of its members in case the Supreme Court rules fair-share fees unconstitutional in Friedrichs, according to the Huffington Post.  Seeking to convince workers to become engaged with and support their union, AFT is planning personal appeals to each individual employee in order for them to become more involved in the life of the union.  “Ultimately, what we’ve learned is you have to have a real, ongoing recommitment with your members,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “You have to walk the walk. You have to engage with them. . . . It’s not thinking of a union as an insurance policy, but as a place to engage and feel fulfilled.”

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