News & Commentary

June 6, 2014

The New York Times reports that the United Automobile Workers union has elected a new president to serve a four-year term. Mr. Dennis Williams will negotiate contracts with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler in 2015, while UAW members continue to protest against the two-tiered wage system that automakers employ. The union accepted the two-tiered wage system in 2007, which pays some employees less than veteran workers. About a quarter of unionized workers at the automakers are “second-tier employees.”

Unions and labor advocates across the nation continue to laud Seattle’s minimum wage increase, seeing the $15 rate as a beacon of hope. According to the Wall Street Journal, unions support legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 and the base wage for tipped workers from $2.13 to $7.10. At the local level, organized labor continue to push for a $15 minimum wage as in Seattle.

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, announced that organized labor would seek legislation to expand collective bargaining rights to all private sector workers. He suggested that the legislation would require employers to bargain over wages for both union members and nonunion workers. Under the National Labor Relations Act, private sector employees do not have to be represented by a union to bargain collectively as long as they are part of a “labor organization” that represents a majority of workers. It is not immediately clear whether the proposed legislation would eliminate this requirement to bargain collectively.

The private sector has finally regained the 9 million jobs it lost since the Great Recession. However, each industry has felt the effects of the recession differently. Industries that pay roughly in the middle of the wage spectrum have generally lost jobs, including in the airline and construction industries. Overall, the private sector needs to add more jobs to keep up with the growing working-age population.

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