Today’s News and Commentary — October 13

Published October 13th, 2014 -  - 10.13.14


The New York Times features a story about the Bay Parkway Community Job Center, founded in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to support day laborers. It describes the plight of individual day laborers, like Manuel Castro, who went to Far Rockaway to find work in the wake of the storm. He worked for $120 a day amidst polluted, flooded streets with only a plastic garbage with holes cut in it for protective gear. Since Hurricane Sandy, the center has endeavored to sets wage standards for contractors seeking hired help and to train workers on workplace safety.

The Associated Press reports that new, ultra low rate airlines like Spirit Air are putting pressure on Southwest Airlines while its employees seek better wages. Southwest is engaged in a drawn out contract dispute with pilots, mechanics, and flight attendants, who seek to translate the airline’s expected 65 percent increase in profits into increased benefits and pay.

According to the Youngstown Vindicator, the Ohio city now ranks as having the sixth highest poverty rate in the United States of any city with a population over 65,000. The steel town shares its spot on the list with post-industrial Midwest cities, Flint, MI, Detroit, MI, Bloomington, ID, and Gary, ID.

Last night in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer (D) sparred in their only debate over pension cuts in Detroit. According to the Associated Press, Snyder defended backing a state emergency manager’s decision to take Detroit into bankruptcy, stating it was “one of the toughest decisions to be made in the United States.” Schauer stated that he would never have allowed retiree’s pensions to be cut.

The Boston Globe reports that there are currently 30,000 open short and long-haul trucking positions open in the US, a number likely to rise to 100,000 in the coming year. The article states that one reason there are so many openings is that pay has barely increased over the last two decades and many individuals are not prepared to make the life style changes necessitated by long drives in exchange for little increased income. The article makes no mention of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters or any other truckers union.

The New York Times describes how the North Central Bronx Hospital will be reopening later this month after an abrupt shutdown in August 2013 amid concerns about staff shortages. At the time, Doctors Council S.E.I.U. had raised concerns in a letter to hospital management that run-down facilities, poor retention of staff, and general shortages were undermining patient care. Dr. Frank P. Proscia, president of the union, states that, “This was an uphill battle each and every step of the way to get them to be transparent and collaborative.” Relationships have since improved, the city has infused the hospital with money, and the otherwise under-serviced neighborhood hospital will open again at the end of this month.

Protests continued in St. Louis, MO yesterday as part of “Ferguson October,” a union-supported movement to end police violence in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting by police officer Darren Wilson this summer. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis police met the largely non-violent protests in regular uniforms rather than the tactical gear seen in Ferguson protests over the summer.

In immigration news, hundreds of activists protested outside of the Karnes County Residential Center, a family immigrant detention center, run by the for-profit prison corporation, GEO. According to Time Warner News Austin, two guards have been accused of raping women in the facility, where immigrant women and children and being held. Advocates state that they have received reports of sexual abuse, guards threatening to separate children from their parents, insufficient medical care, and inadequate food. GEO is the world’s largest for-profit prison corporation, registering $1.5 billion in earnings last year.

The Los Angeles Times, reporting from San Pedro Sula, Honduras, describes the experiences of a Honduran mother attempting to flee the country with her child to go north. The article describes how U.S. State Department-funded Honduran immigration officials have become increasingly strict in processing the papers of migrants seeking to cross from Honduras to Guatemala.

In more international news, the Cambodia Daily reports that over 1,000 garment workers marched in Phnom Phen yesterday calling for decent wages. Six unions organized the rally, the largest since military police fatally suppressed protests last January. Last month, the International Labor Organization issued a finding that two-thirds of Cambodia’s garment workers do not eat enough food to remain healthy.

In the opinion pages, Jonathan Schlefer at the Boston Globe challenges economists to reexamine wage theory as a cause of income inequality. He argues that how profits are distributed to workers is a fundamentally social decision, rather than one that can be left up to the market.

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