Today's News and Commentary – November 18
A new report by Amnesty International reveals widespread and routine abuse of migrant workers in Qatar’s construction sector, reports the Wall Street Journal. Typical abuses include non-payment of wages, harsh and dangerous working conditions, and shocking standards of accommodation. Moreover, the passports of most migrant workers are held by their employers, thereby preventing workers from leaving the country. The Amnesty Report documents one instance where researchers witnessed 11 men signing papers before government officials falsely confirming they had received their wages in order to receive their passports to leave Qatar. Qatar’s labor practices have come under increased international scrutiny as construction begins for the 2022 World Cup. A report by the Guardian in September revealed that 44 construction workers died between June 4 and August 8, and compared Qatari labor practices to “modern-day slavery”.
The University of California reached a tentative contract agreement with unionized nurses at its medical facilities, reports the L.A. Times. While the agreement still needs to be ratified by the 11,700 UC nurses who belong to the California Nurses Association, the nurses have agreed not to join a one-day strike on Wednesday planned by the AFSCME Local 3299, which represents 22,000 patient-care workers, custodians, and food workers employed by the University of California. AFSCME 3299 officials say they continue to plan for the Wednesday walk-out in protest of unsafe staffing levels and unfair labor practices.
Two miners were killed and 20 others were injured in a silver mining accident in Colorado on Sunday, according to the L.A. Times. Between 2008 and 2012, the United States averaged about 46 deaths a year in the mining industry, a significant decrease from the late 1970s average of over 250 deaths a year.
The New York Times warns that unless Congress acts, by the end of December an estimated 1.3 million people will lose access to an emergency program providing them with additional weeks of jobless benefits. As many as 4.8 million people could be affected by expiring unemployment benefits through 2014. Both Democrats and Republicans are skeptical that a deal can be reached given how divided the parties are.
A recent Labor Department survey shows that a record 67.5 million women are working today, reports the Wall Street Journal. This is up from a prior peak of 67.4 million in early 2008. By comparison, 69 million men have jobs, down from the 2007 peak of 70.9 million. Yet despite the fact that more women are obtaining college degrees than men, a wage gap persists. According to the Commerce Department, in 2012 women earned just 76.5 cents for every dollar that men earned.
The Wall Street Journal reports on an explosion in a blast furnace at an Indian steel plant last week that killed one worker and injured several others. Police arrested three plant managers because the explosion occurred during a trial run for which permission had not been sought from the state.