Today’s News and Commentary – September 6
In ongoing direct action by low-wage workers, the Washington Post describes new protests against Wal-Mart in the metro-D.C. area, calling on the nation’s largest retailer to pay an annual wage of $25,000 for full-time employees. The protesters are also pressuring D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray to sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act, which would require D.C. Wal-Mart stores to pay a 50% premium over the minimum wage.
Meanwhile, the Economist features a story on last month’s fast-food strikes. In the feature, strike supporters argue their actions mark the beginning of a cross-country movement to tackle growing inequality, while restaurant industry representatives warn that “the burgers of tomorrow could be made by robots” if workers succeed in demanding higher wages.
Unionized musicians in the Minnesota Orchestra remain locked-out, as the New York Times reveals that orchestra members have rejected management’s latest offer. The offer would have preserved current salaries for two months, then cut them by 25% for two years if no new deal was reached.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that, halfway through a cooling-off period agreed to in the BART strike, transit workers and management are “back to exchanging accusations instead of proposals.” Union officials accuse management of a lack of urgency while BART officials accuse the union of sabotaging bargaining efforts by maintaining unreasonable demands.
We may have more manufacturing jobs than we think, according to a new study described in the Washington Post. The study notes that census definitions of manufacturing jobs don’t include workers at sites where manufacturing is designed and coordinated but where the physical assembly of products is outsourced.
The Washington Post‘s Jena McGregor writes about Lenovo CEO Yang Yuanqing’s decision – for the second year in a row – to hand over the bulk of his annual bonus to hourly workers who are ineligible for other company bonus or commission programs.
In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal complains of “extortion” and “political bullying” by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez. Perez has threatened to cut-off billions of dollars of federal transit funding if California does not exempt transit workers from its state pension reform efforts. He argues the exemption is required by federal law, while California maintains there is no requirement that pensions be included in collective bargaining.
In Mexico, the Wall Street Journal reports that thousands of members of a “radical union faction” have blocked Mexico City’s airport to protests against a bill that would create a new system of teacher evaluations. Teachers argue the new system fails to account for the challenges of teaching poor students and opens the door to education privatization. The New York Times quotes education advocates who describe the new bill as “diluted” in response to earlier protests, but who maintain it is needed to reform a corrupt system.
In South Korea, the Wall Street Journal reports that a tentative deal has been reached to end the strike by Hyundai auto workers, who had staged a series of walkouts seeking higher pay, better benefits and more say in company decision-making. No such deal has been reached in the strike by workers for Hyundai-affiliate Kia Motors, where more labor actions are expected.