Today's News and Commentary — May 16
According to the Wall Street Journal, Mitt Romney’s recent comments indicating support for an increase in the federal minimum wage reflect a broader – if still modest – trend among conservatives. Seeing the opportunity for political gains, other Republicans, such as former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, have similarly called for a “wage compromise.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that fast food workers in 33 countries on six continents staged protests on Thursday. The protesters called for increased wages and “the right to form unions without retaliation from bosses.”
The Huffington Post reports that a Walmart warehouse contractor has agreed to a settlement with workers who have claimed that they “were systematically shorted on pay for years.” Under the terms of the settlement, which still requires judicial approval, the contractor, Schneider Logistics, would pay $21 million in backpay. Walmart had been named as a codefendant in the case, but “will pay nothing” under the settlement.
In Ukraine, thousands of miners and steelworkers have seized control of the city of Mariupol from pro-Russian separatist forces, “possibly reversing the momentum in eastern Ukraine,” reports the New York Times. The workers emphasized that their actions were “outside politics” and were merely intended to restore order to the city. Similar groups of workers have mobilized in at least five other cities in eastern Ukraine.
Faced with rising labor costs in China, Chinese companies are increasingly moving production to Africa, according to the Wall Street Journal. In parts of Africa, factory workers make as little as 25% of the wages of a comparably skilled Chinese worker. However, in an effort to “erase China’s image as what critics call [Africa]’s ‘new colonialist,’” the Chinese government is encouraging companies that had, in the past, largely imported Chinese workers for skilled labor to hire locally and establish training programs.