News & Commentary

September 27, 2013

We have reported on the ongoing negotiations to avert a shutdown of the federal government. The Obama Administration told union leaders this week that government employees would know by Friday afternoon whether they can report to work on Tuesday if the government shuts down, according to the L.A. Times. The article reports that union leaders were critical of the uncertainty and distraction that the looming possibility of furloughs has created. A Politico piece argues that unions have largely abstained from the President’s struggle against House Republicans because, as the piece asserts, it is difficult for progressives to mobilize around a budget deal that many view as overly conciliatory.

According to the New York Times, a new Labor Department report shows that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits has sunk to its lowest point in six years. The article states that the report “reinforced recent private surveys showing that service companies added jobs in August at the fastest pace in six months and that more small businesses are stepping up hiring plans than at any time since the recession began in 2007.”

The L.A. Times reports that SAG-AFTRA, the largest performers’ union in Hollywood, will hold its first national convention this week in Los Angeles. The union, which has more than 165,000 members, was formed in March 2012 with the merger of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. Delegates to the convention will consider several dozen policy proposals, including membership terms for background performers (extras) and a provision that would increase the autonomy of local union offices over their own budgets.

The AFL-CIO entered into an official partnership with United Students Against Sweatshops, according to the Wall Street Journal. The partnership was the first in an ongoing initiative announced by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka at the union’s convention earlier this month. The partnerships are meant to facilitate closer ties between the union and outside groups, and to cement relationships for future collaboration.

In international news, Portugal’s constitutional court rules that several changes made to the national labor code last year are unconstitutional, according to the Wall Street Journal. “The changes made it easier for companies to fire workers whose posts were redundant or who were considered unable to adapt to the changes to their jobs.” The court, however, ruled that the changes violated the principle of only firing workers when there is just cause to do so. According to the article, the court has made several other rulings over the past year that have struck down key austerity measures planned by the government.

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