News & Commentary

October 7, 2013

As the US government shutdown nears its second week, Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor, announced that it would furlough 2,400 staff, a less severe cutback than previously expected. According to the Wall Street Journal, Boeing and the US arm of Britain’s BAE Systems are other large contractors considering furloughs.

In the New York Times, Steven Greenhouse profiles the United Automobile Workers efforts to unionize a Nissan assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi. As part of this effort, the UAW has enlisted thousands of union members in Brazil to picket Nissan dealerships there.  The purpose of this pressure is to get Nissan to agree to what the UAW calls “fair election principles” that would allow its organizers equal time on company ground to discuss unionization with workers.

The Washington Post reports on the increased competition faced by unionized grocers from nonunion newcomers in the Washington, DC area. Since 2000, 21 grocery stores have opened within the city alone. As a result, unionized chains like Safeway and Giant have seen their market share drop, forcing them to close stores. The impending arrival of Wal-Mart to the District promises to further complicate matters for unionized grocers, particularly in light of the recent failure to pass a living wage of at least $12.50 an hour—the DC Council measure was recently vetoed by Mayor Vincent Gray.

Amazon warehouse workers in Germany are threatening to go on strike during the Christmas shopping season as a result of months of stalled negotiations over salaries, according to the L.A. Times. As a result of protracted labor disputes in Germany, Amazon has recently begun to look at possible sites for distribution centers in Poland and the Czech Republic, where union density and salaries are lower. The first of these centers could open in Poland as early as next year.

The New York Times Editorial Board published an op-ed highlighting the need for comprehensive immigration reform. The editorial contrasts the dysfunction of the federal government, where immigration reform efforts have stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives, to California, which just passed a new law, the Trust Act, making it harder for federal agents to detain and deport unauthorized Californians who are non-criminals or minor offenders and pose no threat. President Obama has deported nearly two million people during his time in office.

The players of the Minnesota Orchestra have been locked out since their last contract expired on October 1, 2012, reports the New York Times. The players recently rejected a fourth proposal for a new contract, which would see them take home a base salary of $89,000, down from the $113,000 base salary the players received in the contract that expired last year. The Orchestra faces a $6 million deficit.

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