News & Commentary

July 8, 2014

The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s task force, the Minimum Wage Working Group, recommended Monday that the city’s minimum wage be raised to $13 by 2018. Tacked onto the recommendation was a caution that city council put off any vote until after state lawmakers tackle the issue following the November election, to prevent municipal action from discouraging state lawmakers from approving a statewide hike. The group was appointed by Mayor Emanuel in late May after a group of alderman joined together to push a wage increase to $15 an hour within four years. Timing here is an important motivator for the aldermen, all 50 of whom face re-election next year. If a vote on a wage increase falls near their election in February, each alderman would be forced to choose whether they wanted to be the darling of business or labor interests.

DOJ is taking on North Carolina and their voter ID law, The Washington Post reports. The law requires voters to present some form of government-issued photo ID at the polls, eliminates same-day voter registration and reduced early-voting days from 17 days down to 10 days. Lawyers from the DOJ, alongside lawyers from the NAACP, and League of Women Voters will argue for a preliminary injunction against portions of the law on Monday. North Carolina NAACP describes the law as discriminatory, and Attorney General Eric Holder stated in a press conference announcing the suit that the law “defies common sense” and is the state legislature’s “extremely aggressive” step to “curtail the voting rights of African-Americans.”

Yesterday, The Detroit News commented on the changing face of the average U.S. union member. The typical union worker today is more likely to be an educator, an office worker, or a food or service industry worker than an auto worker, factory worker or electrician. Far more women are union members than men. The article tracks the decline of traditional unions in the private sector and notes the several blows public unions have been dealt by the courts this year. Despite recent grim decisions and the declining number of union members in traditional industries, one commentator argued that while the basic structure of labor unions may have changed, these changes in many ways just reflect the changing economy. Union members remain a powerful force in politics, a role that is not diminishing, says Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University.

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