Today's News and Commentary — October 8
Facing pressure from numerous states, the Obama administration yesterday announced that it would delay implementation of a plan to “extend minimum-wage and overtime protections to the nation’s nearly two million home-care workers,” according to the New York Times. The plan had originally been slated to take place on January 1, 2015; instead, the Department of Labor said that it would not enforce it before July 1, and would do so only discretionally until January 1, 2016. Some states are facing sharply increased costs under the new rule, and have called for more time to prepare. California, for example, has said that its costs will exceed $600 million per year. However, advocacy groups criticized the decision to delay the plan. As the Times notes, the “new rule ends a 40-year-old exemption from federal wage laws that treated these workers as companions, like babysitters, who did not qualify.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that Joe Biden appeared in Los Angeles with Mayor Eric Garcetti on Tuesday, offering support for the Mayor’s plan to raise the city’s minimum wage to $13.25 per hour by 2017. The Vice President said that such wage increases represent the “bare minimum that we should be doing to re-establish economic growth in this country.” Meanwhile, members of the L.A. city council are pushing for an even more aggressive plan, one that would raise the minimum wage to $15.25 per hour by 2019.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Wal-Mart, citing rising costs under the Affordable Care Act, will cut health-insurance coverage for over 30,000 part-time workers working less than 30 hours per week. The company also announced that it would raise premiums for all workers, including a 20% increase for its cheapest and most popular plan. Wal-Mart is just the latest large retailer to make changes of this sort: both Target and Home Depot last year ended coverage for part-time workers.
In international news, the Department of Labor released a report on Tuesday that says that worldwide, around 168 million children ages 5-7 worked as laborers last year, “about half of them in hazardous jobs.” The Associated Press reports that U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez said that countries in the West should be doing more to combat these practices: “We are seeing more countries take action to address the issue, but the world can and must do more to accelerate these efforts.” The U.S. currently denies some trade benefits to those countries with the worst child labor practices.