News & Commentary

October 11, 2013

Negotiations to end the government shutdown continue, reports the New York Times, though no agreement to a avert a default or reopen the government appears in sight. On Thursday, Republicans presented a plan to extend the government’s borrowing authority through November 22, in exchange for a promise to negotiate a long-term deficit reduction package. Both sides promised talks would be ongoing, and the President is set to meet with the entire Senate Republican caucus on Friday. The Washington Post reports that several agencies, including the CIA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are returning to work certain employees whose extended absence could threaten national security.

The New York Times reports that the Bay Area transit system averted a strike, at least temporarily, when its employees announced they would keep negotiating with the organization over the weekend. A state-ordered 60-day “cooling-off period” expired on Thursday evening, and would have prompted a strike if the union did not extend the talks. Two transit workers unions, representing about 2,400 employees, were encouraged by recent progress made in negotiations, as both sides reported they were close to a settlement. The two sides are trying to reach a broad agreement about employee pensions, health benefits, and wages. The extension is temporary, with the union pledging to strike if no agreement is reached by Sunday at midnight.

In the planned merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways, a district court judge recently allowed a union that represents 20,000 workers at American to weigh in on the deal, according to the Chicago Tribune. The Transport Workers Union supports the merger, but wants to protect the agreement it reached in January, guaranteeing immediate 4.3% wage increases following the merger. The union can now submit a brief in a case initiated by the Justice Department to block the merger, on the grounds that the newly formed airline would control too many prominent routes.

Local Teamsters unions of UPS workers are divided over whether to ratify a new contract that was accepted last year, reports the Wall Street Journal. Locals in Pennsylvania and Ohio rejected supplements to the new contract, while others approved them. The split will cause delays, as UPS cannot implement the contract until it negotiates separately with the union’s local bargaining units, and they each approve the deal. The Journal reports UPS wanted to settle these labor issues by last summer, as “customers are spooked by ongoing labor negotiations, fearing they can lead to possible slowdowns or disruptions.”

Uncertainties in the labor market in South Africa have caused BMW to rule out the country from a new line of vehicles, according to the Wall Street Journal. BMW is not the only company affected by recent strikes: Ford, General Motors, and Toyota have all been affected by work stoppages, at both their own companies and their component suppliers. The strikes ended this week when “car-parts workers agreed to end their three-week strike in return for a 10% pay increase this year and another 8% in each if the next two years.” The government is reaching out to BMW and the other automakers to try to mediate the dispute and stop the country from losing any more business associated with the strikes.

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