News & Commentary

October 20, 2014

The New York Times features a profile of Wisconsin governor and staunch labor opponent Scott Walker’s gubernatorial and presidential prospects. Gov. Walker was elected in 2010 and quickly passed a law eliminating collective bargaining rights for public employees. That decision led to a long-term occupation of the state house in Madison, WI by unions and their allies and an ultimately unsuccessful recall campaign. Recently, Gov. Walker has faced scandal as allegations that his anti-recall campaign illegally coordinated with conservative organizations. Gov. Walker now finds himself in a tight gubernatorial race with Democrat Mary Burke. The article argues that if Walker loses this campaign, his presidential hopes will quickly fade.

Salon also features the commentary of Roxanne Trigg, a home health worker in Wisconsin, who describes the difficulty of living on $9.15 an hour. She calls on Gov. Walker and all candidates for office to stand with her and other home health care workers, inspired by fast food protests, to ask for a $15 minimum wage.

In minimum wage-related news, the San Diego City Council is voting today on whether to revoke an already announced wage increase to $11.50 an hour. The UC San Diego Guardian states that this vote will determine whether the increase is withdrawn completely or put to public referendum in 2016.

In Los Angeles, officials have reached a tenantive agreement with the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112 according to the Los Angeles Times. The deal would address a pay disparity between police and firefighters and requires a vote from Local 112’s 3,000 members.

As concerns over Ebola spreading to the U.S. has taken root, some municipalities are engaging in advanced planning to protect both residents and public employees. CBS reports that New York City officials will meet today to discuss the scare and provide the Municipal Labor Committee, which represents 300,000 NYC employees, a chance to voice their concern for their members’ safety.

According to the New York Times, the National Basketball Player’s Association has hired Gary Kohlman as its new general counsel. Kohlman, formerly of the labor-side firm Bredhoff and Kaiser, argued in February before the N.L.R.B. that Northwestern’s scholarship football players had a right to unionize. The N.B.A. union’s collective bargaining agreement expires in 2017.

In international news, the Washington Post features a profile questioning Botswana’s reputation as one of the most stable democracies in Sub-Saharan Africa. A portion of the coverage describes how Botswana’s first public sector union strike in 2011 yielded few results and how labor is currently working with opposition political parties to challenge the long rule of the Botswana Democratic Party.

The Associated Press describes the safety hazards in Italy’s largely Chinese-run garment sector. In December 2013, a fired destroyed the Teresa Moda factory in Prato, Italy. The blaze overtook the building, where Chinese migrant workers could not escape due to bars on the windows. The Italian garment trade has thrived on producing “fast fashions” that enjoy both easy access to European markets and the label “Made in Italy.” The factories employ largely undocumented Chinese populations who fear reporting safety violations to the authorities.

In commentary, the Upshot column at the New York Times examines unemployment numbers and questions why Democrats are not trumpeting the 2 percentage point decrease in unemployment since the last election cycle in the run up to mid-term elections.

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