News & Commentary

November 8, 2013

Yesterday the Senate approved the Employment Nondiscrimination Act by a vote of 64 to 32, with 10 Republicans joining the unanimous Democratic caucus. According to the New York Times and LA Times, the bill “prohibits public and private employers, employment agencies and labor unions from using sexual orientation or gender identity as the basis for decisions about employment, promotion or compensation.” While President Obama supports the bill and has urged the House to take up the issue, there is currently no plan to bring the bill for a vote in the House.

The New York Times reports that the White House is backing a measure to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour. The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. George Miller, would raise the minimum wage from its current rate of $7.25 to $10.10 over a two-year period, and then index it to inflation. The idea exceeds President Obama’s call for a $9/hour wage in his State of the Union address last year, but Democrats believe this idea unites their entire caucus as a way to combat income inequality.

The New York Times also describes a new report from the Office of Management and Budget that quantifies the effects of last month’s government shutdown. Among the highlights: 6.6 million days of lost work, $2 billion of back-pay costs for the furloughed workers, and 120,000 private sector jobs lost. “Other direct costs come from missed fees from national parks, interest due on late payments, the curtailing of tax enforcement actions and certain stop-work orders.” Discussions continue in a bipartisan House-Senate committee over how to avoid another shutdown when the government’s financing expires in January.

The Wall Street Journal reports that German workers are aiding the UAW’s drive to unionize auto plants in the South. Members from Daimler and Volkswagen’s unions have been helping the UAW to represent workers, as “the Germans believe companies and their workers are better off represented by a trade union. Some also see the nonunion plants as a threat to German jobs.”

In immigration news, the Times reports on the New York Immigrant Family Unity Project, the first program to provide free public defenders for all poor immigrants detained in New York who are facing deportation. The initiative is currently a pilot program, and while full funding would cost about $7.4 million a year, its proponents argue that it would save the government and private employers about $5.9 million a year if fully implemented, with most of the savings coming from reducing the amount of time immigrants spend in detention centers.



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