Today's News and Commentary — September 26

Published September 26th, 2014 -  - 09.26.14


This week, the U.S. Department of Labor posted a video that compares the paid leave policies of the U.S. with other nations, highlighting that the U.S. is one of the only nations in the world with no paid maturity leave. In a country with more than 30 million working families with young children and more than 25 million workers providing unpaid care for elderly family members or loved ones, the Labor Department appeals that America has to do more to help working families. Although 60 percent of U.S. workers are eligible to take unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, many can’t afford to take it because the impact of a loss of a couple weeks, let alone months, pay would be devastating. That is why Secretary Perez has said, it’s time for America to lead on paid leave.

New York City Mayor de Blasio this week canceled a $82 million food service contract with Maramont Corp., a supplier of prepackaged meals that in June a judge held had been committing wage theft against its workers for more than a decade, New York Daily News reports. In July, few weeks after the first ruling, a second judge in a class-action of workers against Maramont Corp. ordered the company to pay $88 million in back wages to employees. Despite the rulings, in August the city’s Department of Education awarded the company a five-year $82 million contract to supply meals to New York City schools. In response to tough questions raised by journalists following the public announcement of the contract, the Mayor ordered the Department of Education to cancel the contract. “This doesn’t reflect our values,” mayoral spokesman Wiley Norvell said after New York Daily News raised questions.

As Election Day nears, Republicans in some tight races are moving toward the middle, at least in their speeches, on the issue of raising the minimum wage, NPR reports. For example, Bruce Rauner, who is running for governor of Illinois, has said in the past that he believed the minimum wage could be eliminated. But now, Rauner says, in exchange for policy change in other areas like taxes, he would support raising the state and federal minimum wage. In Arkansas and Alaska, where minimum wage referendums are on the ballot this November, Republican Senate candidates Dan Sullivan (AK) and Tom Cotton (AR) say that while they were formerly opposed to a minimum wage hike, they would vote in support of the state initiatives. Some Democrats are “crying foul on these tactics,” since it was Republicans that blocked a federal minimum wage hike earlier this year, and see this is an example of Republicans “acting out of political expediency rather than out of convictions and courage.” Republican strategist Sarah Fagan told NPR that this is just good politics paired with what the Republicans consider to be good policy. “Remaining opposed to a federal wage hike but supporting a state hike allows them, says Fagen, to be true to ‘their economic philosophy but still be reasonable to voters who are demanding that the minimum wage be increased.’”

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