Today's News and Commentary – October 21

Published October 21st, 2013 -  - 10.21.131


The New York Times reports on efforts by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers to organize a Maine Lobstermen’s Union. With lobster prices reaching a 40-year low last summer, and costs rising, supporters of the union argue that by coming together, lobstermen can address problems faced by the industry as a whole. Many remain skeptical, however. The machinists’ union has no experience with lobstering, and Maine’s lobstermen are known for their ethos of self-reliance. Thus far, the union has signed up 600 members out of Maine’s 5,000 licensed lobstermen, all of whom work on an independent basis.

Workers at the Port of Baltimore returned to work after striking last week following a breakdown in contract negotiations, according to the Washington Post. On Friday, management and the workers agreed to a 90-day cool down period while negotiations continue.

As the BART strike enters its fourth day, thousands of San Francisco Bay Area workers were left without rail service Monday, reports the L.A. Times. According to the Washington Post, transit officials and labor leaders were in contact over the weekend, but the two sides have no plans to return to the bargaining table. BART is the nation’s fifth largest commuter rail system, with an average weekday ridership of 400,000.

Labor disputes in South Africa’s platinum mines have led to a rise in the price of platinum as investors have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of a mining strike in Marikana, reports Wall Street Journal. While weeks of wage talks have proved fruitless, the chairman of the National Union of Mineworkers local was shot dead near the mine on Thursday night.  Last year, clashes between mine workers and police at Marikana led to the deaths of 34 miners.

According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. candy makers are expanding production in other countries as federal price supports and record sugar crops give foreign rivals with access to cheaper sugar a competitive advantage. Total U.S. confectionary-manufacturing employment sank 22% to about 55,000 between 1998 and 2011. Defenders of the price-support program, which guarantees a minimum price per pound for domestic sugar processers, argue that without the program 90% of the 142,000 sugar-growing and processing jobs in the U.S. would be in danger.

The Washington Post reports on efforts to connect the labor and environmental movements to fight global warming at the Power Shift conference in Pittsburgh. According to the Post, labor groups at the conference expressed frustration with the environmentalist focus on “banning” industries deemed harmful to the environment without taking into account the impact such bans would have on workers and their communities.

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