Today's News and Commentary — May 15

Published May 15th, 2014 -  - 05.15.141


On Wednesday, an explosion at a mine near Soma, Turkey, killed several hundred workers.  Officials reports that 274 have died, and an additional 200 miners are believed to be trapped underground, according to the New York TimesPrior to the disaster, activists criticized the government for being too close to mining interests and insufficiently attentive to safety concerns.  On Wednesday, demonstrations took place in Ankara, the capital, and Istanbul, according to NPR.  The cause of the explosion is not clear.

Fast Food worker strikes may spread oversees, the New York Times reports.  We’ve previously covered the fast food worker strikes over the past year across America.  Union leaders who are helping to organize the strikes say support rallies may take place in 150 cities throughout 30 other countries.

The NLRB has invited amici briefs in the ongoing legal battle over whether Northwestern football players have the right to unionize, according to the Wall Street Journal.  In March, the regional director of the NLRB held that football players who received scholarships are employees of the university under the NLRA, and therefore have the right to unionize.  Although the athletes voted in April on whether to unionize, the ballots haven’t been counted due to the university’s ongoing appeal.  The NLRB notice lists six questions that briefs could address, including how this case relates to the Board’s 2004 decision that graduate students are not university employees, how student athlete unionization would interact with Title VII, and how collective bargaining might be affected by outside obligations such as NCAA rules.  For more background, see our recent coverage of this issue.

Human Rights Watch recently issued a report documenting child labor on U.S. tobacco farms, according to the Washington Post.  Although child labor is prohibited in most industries, the rules are looser in the agriculture industry.  In 2011 the Department of Labor proposed a rule that would prohibit children under 16 from working on tobacco farms, but withdrew the proposal in 2012.

Unions and business coalitions, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and American Automobile Association, have recently joined forces to encourage Congress to finance a long-term highway bill, according to the Wall Street JournalAlthough these groups are often rivals, Congressional delay in replenishing the Highway Trust Fund has driven them to join forces to lobby more effectively.

In advance of the 2022 Word Cup, Qatar is introducing a draft law to improve workers rights, according to the Washington Post.  The new law would change the existing “sponsorship” system, under which migrant or expatriate workers are tied to a specific employer.  Under the widely-criticized sponsorship system, the sponsor employer can prevent an employee from leaving the country or changing jobs.

In the Washington Post, political scientists Michael Krassa and Benjamin Radcliff present a new data analysis indicating that minimum wage increases “life satisfaction.”  Their analysis, based on OECD data, indicates that this correlation remains true regardless of the size of the economy as a whole, and across all income levels.

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