Today’s News and Commentary — November 21
Thousands of workers at several University of California campuses led a one-day labor strike Wednesday, the L.A. Times reports. The walkout affected medical centers, libraries, cafeterias, and campuses from Irvine to San Francisco. A spokesman for AFSCME Local 3299, which represents 22,000 UC employees, told reporters that the walkout was in protest of unfair labor practices, intimidation of workers, and dangerously low staffing levels. The University responded that the union refuses to agree to higher employee contributions for pensions. The UC Student Works Union UAW 2865, which represents 12,000 student tutors and teaching assistants, struck in support. The California Nurses Association, whose 11,70 nurses at UC facilities planned to take part in a sympathy walkout, decided not to join the strike after the University reached a four-year tentative contract agreement with the association, the L.A. Times writes.
A record 67.5 million women are working in the United States today, up from the prior peak of 67.4 million in 2008, the Wall Street Journal reports. The numbers are not only historic, but suggest that women have recovered the jobs they lost during the recession while men have not. The unemployment rate for women stands at 6.9 percent compared with 7.6 percent for men; the Journal attributes some of the discrepancy to the failure of male-dominated sectors like construction and manufacturing to fully recover from the recession.
The L.A. Times profiles the barriers women seeking military combat roles are facing in light of the Pentagon’s two-year procedure for lifting its ban on women in combat roles, announced last January. Although the first three women to complete Marine infantry training will graduate today, the women will be placed in staff and support jobs as opposed to infantry units. The placement is significant in part because combat experience is crucial to career advancement; many women deciding whether to reenlist are therefore basing their decision on whether they will be allowed to compete for combat positions.
The Senate Banking Committee has sent Janet Yellen’s nomination to lead the Federal Reserve Board to the full Senate today, the New York Times and L.A. Times report. On the New York Times’s Economix blog, Jared Bernstein and Dean Baker discuss Yellen’s stated goal of full employment and suggest that the Federal Reserve should shoot for a 4 percent unemployment level to balance growth and employment against high inflation.
Jobless claims also fell more than expected today as the Labor Department released its weekly and four-week estimates of the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits. USA Today and the L.A. Times report that the weekly number fell 21,000 to 323,000, while the four-week average dropped 6,750 to 338,500. USA Today notes that both figures are close to pre-recession levels, and a steep decline from early October when applications spiked due to the government shutdown.
A recent study suggests that women who are caregivers for family members are significantly less likely to be in the labor force compared to other women, the New York Times’s New Old Age blog reports. The study’s lead author expresses concern that if caregiving is pushing people out of the workforce during their prime earning years, they will not have enough opportunity to contribute to pensions or save for their own old age.