Today's News and Commentary — March 6
CNN Reports that employees at Bloomberg LP’s New Jersey campus are starting a unionization drive. Organizers hope they will join the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, Local 32025. Bloomberg LP is a data and media company that publishes news reports and operates Bloomberg Law, a legal search engine. Bloomberg LP employs about 15,000 workers, approximately 700 of whom are unionized, because their division originally was a separate company that Bloomberg acquired in 2011. Attorney Tom McGlaughin, who is organizing the unionization drive, told CNN that he has collected authorization cards from nearly 30% of employees, the minimum number needed to trigger a union election.
Continuing the news coverage of President Obama’s budget proposal, the Wall Street Journal reports that unions representing federal workers are disappointed with the 1% proposed pay raise for federal employees. Colleen Kelley, President of the National Treasury Employees Union, stated “[g]iven the three-year pay freeze and the 1 percent increase for this year, the amount proposed for 2015 will keep federal workers at an economic disadvantage compared to their private sector counterparts.”
The Wall Street Journal also reports that the President’s budget includes about $200 million in additional funding for enforcement at the Department of Labor. The budget includes more than $40 million new dollars for enforcement within the Wage and Hour division, which enforces overtime and leave laws. It would also allow the department to hire 300 new investigators, according to the Journal. The budget also includes an additional $4 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which enforces workplace safety laws.
In other political news, Director of the White House National Economic Council Gene Sperling reiterated that President Obama is committed to pushing for a minimum wage increase of $10.10, according to the Wall Street Journal. We’ve previously covered the minimum wage and the administration’s efforts to increase it, including President Obama’s proposal in the State of the Union to raise the minimum wage to $10.10. Sperling is leaving his position at the White House at the end of this week. The New York Times Editor’s Blog has an article today explaining that “[t]here are no good economic arguments against raising the minimum wage.” This continues the arguments in the Times Editorial Board’s piece last week, which we previously covered.
The Washington Post reports that President Obama has announced a “two-year extension for individual policies that don’t meet requirements of the new health care law.” The Affordable Care Act places new requirements on health plans, ensuring that they provide minimum coverage. While ultimately these requirements will be good for consumers, it means that some plans will be cancelled—leading to political difficulties approaching the midterm elections. This extension will allow plans two more years to become compliant, and potentially delay any political fallout until after the election. We’ve previously covered Obamacare implementation.
In other health care news, the California health care workers union is collecting signatures to get two proposals on the ballot that it claims would lower health care costs, according to the Washington Post. The union, SEIU-UHW, is proposing one measure that would cap hospital charges to no more than 25% above the actual costs of services, and another measure proposing a cap on non-profit hospital CEO pay. The California Hospital Association opposes the measures and argues they won’t reduce costs.
In immigration news, the New York Times reports that California’s new law offering driver licenses to undocumented immigrants faces some implementation hurdles: immigrants are concerned that signing up for the card will lead to their deportation. Last year, California adopted a law “permitting undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses.” Advocates hailed the result as an accomplishment that “would allow people to commute without fear while also decreasing rates of hit-and-run accidents and uninsured drivers on the roads.” Other states, including New Mexico, Utah, Washington State, and Nevada, have offer driver licenses of some kind to undocumented immigrants, and several cities offer identification cards regardless of immigration status