News & Commentary

September 16, 2014

Hundreds of migrants are reported to have died on Sunday and Monday in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting passage to Europe, seeking employment and haven from war-stricken countries, The Guardian reports. On Sunday, a ship carrying more than 200 African emigrants sank off the coast of Libya; fewer than 30 survivors have at this point been rescued. On Monday, it is estimated that as many as 500 migrant workers died off the coast of Malta after their boat was reportedly rammed by human traffickers’ vessels. Only a handful of survivors have been located. “If this story, which the police are investigating, should be confirmed, it would be the gravest case of recent years, since it was not an accident but a mass murder perpetrated by criminals without scruples or respect for human life,” the International Organization for Migration said in a statement. More than 2,200 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean this year, according to the IOM and the U.S. News and World Report. “The numbers dying off Europe’s coasts are shocking and unacceptable,” said IOM’s Director General William Lacy Swing in a statement published by the organization. “These are women, children and men who only hope for a more dignified life. The risks they take reflect their desperation and we cannot keep abandoning them to their fate.”

Yesterday, Fortune profiled the worst paying, fastest growing job in the country; home care worker. America’s aging population and the home care needs that come with it, the “Age Wave” or “Silver Tsunami” as the phenomena has been called, are expected to grow the home care worker and aid industry by nearly 50 percent from 2012 to 2022. However, the increased demand on the services of home care workers has seemingly done little to leverage increased benefits for the people working and serving in American homes. Home care workers have historically been exempt from federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Though a planned January Department of Labor regulatory change will grant most home care workers wages of at least $7.25 per hour and overtime, on the state level discrimination towards this sector of employees persists, even in states taking steps to further worker rights more generally. For example, last week in California, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation making the state the second in the nation to institute statewide paid sick leave. However, home care workers were exempted from relief in last-minute negotiations resulting in amendment, for “cost concerns.” Joe Caldwell, director of long-term services and support policy for the National Council on Aging said to Fortune, “the number of people needing care is going to double in decade, and fewer workers are going to be willing to work for nothing.”

The national poverty rate declined slightly last year from 15 percent to 14.5 percent, according to numbers released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau. With 6.4 million more people working fulltime, this is the first drop in the poverty rate since 2006, L.A. Times reports. However, it is likely not time to start the jubilee. Due to population growth, the number of people living in poverty did not improve significantly, which in 2012 amounted to about 45.3 million people living below the poverty threshold. The federal poverty threshold last year was an annual income of less than $23,624 for a household with four people, including two related children.

On Monday, the NLRB ruled against CNN in an 11-year-old dispute between the cable television network and 300 union-represented employees, ABC News reports. The NLRB upheld a November 2008 ruling by an administrative judge that CNN illegally replaced a unionized subcontractor, Team Video Services (TVS), with in-house non-union staffers because of anti-union animus. The order from the NLRB requires CNN to rehire the former TVS employees for “their former positions or, if those jobs no longer exist, to substantially equivalent positions.” Jim Joyce, the president of the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communication Workers of America, celebrated the decision and expressed hope that CNN would take immediate compliance steps. “These workers have waited far too long for this measure of justice to finally be delivered and have suffered far too much as the result of these unlawful activities. CNN should do the right thing now and immediately comply with the orders…today,” Joyce said in a statement.

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