Today's News and Commentary – September 9
The quadrennial AFL-CIO convention kicked off in Los Angeles on Sunday, the L.A. Times reports. The convention agenda covers a variety of issues and resolutions including immigration reform, voting rights, racial justice, and the Affordable Care Act. Senator Elizabeth Warren addressed the convention Sunday afternoon, assuring unions she’ll be one of their strongest allies in Congress, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Missouri lawmakers will convene a session on Wednesday in an attempt to override gubernatorial vetoes to a number of bills passed by Missouri’s Republican-led Legislature, according to the Washington Post. One of the bills, vetoed by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon, would require public employee unions to get annual written consent before deducting dues from paychecks or using them for political purposes. Missouri’s GOP commands a supermajority in both the Missouri House and Senate.
In the Washington Post, opinion writer Robert Samuelson links the feeble economic recovery with an imbalance of power between labor and capital. He argues that when labor’s share of income plummets, as it has in the last decade, consumer spending is curbed such that “[t]he economy will then falter if the recipients of capital income don’t offset the weakness with increased spending on buildings, equipment, research and new products. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be happening.” Samuelson calls on “the custodians of capital” to drop their “ultra-cautious” stance and spend more freely to boost the economic recovery.
“The decline of organized labor has helped worsen the racial wage gap,” write Professors Meredith Klaykamp and Jake Rosenfeld in an op-ed for the L.A. Times. Summarizing their research using 40 years of nationally representative data, they conclude that, “[h]ad union membership rates for women remained at late-1970s levels, racial wage inequality among women in private sector jobs today would be reduced by as much as 30%.” Moreover, if rates of union membership among African American men working in the private sector were as high today as in the early 1970s, weekly wages would now be around $50 higher.
Immigration reform will likely have to wait until the end of the year, writes the N.Y. Times, as Congress will focus instead on the debate over military action in Syria and a looming battle over the budget and the nation’s borrowing limit. Meanwhile, organizations pushing for reform plan a mobilization in early October, with rallies in at least 40 cities on October 5 followed by a march and rally in Washington on October 8. “We don’t control the timing. What we do control is the pressure,” said Eliseo Medina, who leads the immigration campaign for the Service Employees International Union. “They will get this done when the pressure is so great they have to act.”
Economists surveyed by the National Association of Business Economics predict 3 percent growth in the economy by the second quarter of next year, reports the Washington Post. Employment is expected to improve while inflation remains low. The economists lowered their predictions for growth in the second half of 2013, in part out of a concern over low consumer spending and industrial production.