Today's News and Commentary – July 28
The New York Times’s labor correspondent, Steve Greenhouse, published an article discussing fast food workers’ weekend convention in Addison, IL. He details how, with the support of the S.E.I.U., the “Fight for Fifteen” campaign has shifted to encompass both wage increases and unionization. Of S.E.I.U.’s interest in the campaign, Janice Fine, a professor of labor relations at Rutgers university and guest contributor to this blog, wrote, “My sense is there’s been a recognition on the part of the S.E.I.U. that to get the labor movement out of the very deep rut it’s in, it’s going to take more than an individual local organizing drive — that this is a moment to do a large-scale, high-visibility effort to alter the climate for labor.” The article also highlights a suit that fast food workers recently filed with the NLRB, where the fast food workers are pushing the general counsel to declare McDonald’s a joint employer of restaurants run by its franchisees. Such a finding would expand the scope of the workers’ unionization drives. The Chicago Tribune offered further details on the convention, where Mary Kay Henry, international president of the S.E.I.U., spoke.
PublicSource reports that over 13,000 disabled Pennsylvanians are legally earning an average of only $2.40 an hour. PublicSource analyzed 1,600 pages of reports provided by the federal government after the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry refused to release them. The piece highlights a debate as to whether a federal program that allows employers to pay disabled individuals sub-minimum wages to perform menial tasks leaves them trapped in dead-end jobs or provides them with necessary job training.
According to Reuters, General Motors South Korea has reached a tentative deal with its labor union today, averting a strike. In December, GM had announced that it would not build the new Chevrolet Cruze at the Gunsan plant in South Korea. It has reversed this decision as part of the agreement. The deal will also increase workers’ wages by 63,000 won as well as improve their benefits.
In minimum wage-related news, yesterday, Governor Ted Strickland of Ohio published an opinion piece in Politico entitled “I Tried to Live on Minimum Wage for a Week.” He describes all the inconveniences and difficulties he experienced living on a weekly budget of $77. He encourages other politicians to take the Live a Wage challenge (www.LivetheWage.com) before opposing an increase.
The Chicago Sun-Tribune reports that, in Illinois, prominent Democrats have gone on the attack against GOP senate and governor candidates for their failure to support an increase in the minimum wage. The politicians are supporting a non-binding referendum to encourage the Legislature to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.00 an hour.
The Alaska Dispatch News features a piece briefly summarizing the opposing opinions in Alaska’s minimum wage debate. In November, Alaskans will vote on a measure to determine whether the state will increase its minimum wage from $7.75 an hour to $8.75 on Jan. 1, 2015, and to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2016.