Today's News and Commentary — October 10
President Obama nominated Janet Yellen to chair the Federal Reserve Board Wednesday. The New York Times, L.A. Times, and Wall Street Journal profile the nominee, discussing her background in economics and philosophy of combating unemployment through monetary stimulus.
If confirmed, Yellen will have her hands full. The L.A. Times and USA Today report that 374,000 people filed first-time unemployment claims last week — 66,000 higher than the previous week, and the highest count since Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast. The surge is partially due to a computer system upgrade in California, which had held down jobless claims counts in recent weeks.
Also in federal news, House Republicans plan to unveil today a six-week debt-ceiling increase, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today report. Although the plan would not include policy conditions, it would terminate the Treasury Department’s ability to use so-called extraordinary measures that could allow the Treasury Department to go past the six-week deadline.
Boston school-bus drivers returned to work today, the New York Times and Boston Globe report. The drivers had launched a strike that surprised Mayor Thomas Menino as well as the United Steelworkers, which represents the drivers. Steve Kirschbaum, the chair of the grievance committee that led the strike, listed objections to a new payroll procedure, which made taking bathroom breaks difficult; a new requirement that drivers check in before work as opposed to taking their vehicles keys with them at night; and a new GPS system that drivers called “spy devices.” Mayor Menino argued that “the issues they’re raising are not real issues.” During the work stoppage, city buses and subways carried students for free, as did start-up transportation company Uber, which announced a “No Buses? No Problem” promotion.
In international news, Poland has announced that it plans to transfer $47.6 billion worth of government bonds currently held by privately managed pension plans back to the state. The New York Times reports that Poland plans to cancel the bonds and use the reduction to its 223 billion euro debt to bolster the economy.
In Germany, a union leader on Volkswagen’s supervisory board says that union representation at the company’s Chattanooga, Tenn., plant should not come without a vote, the Wall Street Journal reports. The UAW and Volkswagen have planned to organize the plant using a card check procedure, with the goal of creating a less confrontational “works council” representation model. Although Volkswagen is optimistic about the outcome of a secret ballot election, the Journal notes that the UAW has lost secret ballot elections in the recent past despite having a majority of workers sign unionization cards beforehand.
The Wall Street Journal also reports that a garment-factory fire killed seven people in Bangladesh yesterday. The fire has brought increased attention to the conditions of the factories, which in April made international headlines after a collapse of a factory complex killed more than 1,100 people.