News & Commentary

April 21, 2015

At Vox, AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka discusses the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the problems it may pose for organized labor. The AFL-CIO has pulled all donations to congressional campaigns in opposition to the TPP, which is currently on a “fast track” for approval by Congress. As Trumka discusses, the AFL-CIO is deeply concerned about certain aspects of the trade agreement, including a failure to discuss currency manipulation or environmental standards, weak “rules of origin” standards, and the creation of a non-transparent investor-state dispute resolution system available only to foreign investors. Trumka discussed these and other concerns at a hearing before the United States Senate Committee on Finance today.

A union is seeking an injunction against Wal-Mart, demanding that 2,200 workers be reinstated. The workers in the dispute were laid off when five Wal-Mart stores were suddenly closed for purported plumbing repairs. The closed stores included sites where workers had been active in campaigns to raise wages and improve working conditions. In a filing with the National Labor Relations Board, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union alleges that the closing was in fact retaliatory, and sought to punish activist workers. The L.A. Times and New York Times report.

Unionized passenger and cargo-train drivers in Germany are planning to strike throughout this week, continuing a string of transit strikes in the country. Union workers and the national railway company Deutsche Bahn disagree over wage increases, work hours, and future negotiation representation. The Wall Street Journal reports

The New York Times discusses a new report from the Hamilton Project detailing wage depression among less-educated American workers. (The median earnings of working men aged 30 to 45 without a high school diploma has fallen 20% from 1990 to 2013.) The report identifies two major driving factors in the decrease of wages among the less-educated. First, “less-educated Americans, especially men, are shifting away from manufacturing and other jobs that once offered higher pay, and a higher share are now working in lower-paying food service, cleaning and groundskeeping jobs . .  Simultaneously, pay levels are declining in almost all of the fields that employ less-educated workers, so even those who have held onto jobs as manufacturers, operators and laborers are making less than they would have a generation ago.”

The hiring practices of the Boy Scouts of America are under scrutiny by the New York state attorney general, which is investigating whether the group discriminates against gay job applicants. In 2013, the Boy Scouts’ national board developed a policy which permitted openly gay scouts to join the ranks if they were under 18, but excluded gay leaders 18 and older. These policies, however, may be in violation of New York State Law, which prohibits an employer for refusing to hire a person based on sexual orientation. The New York Times reports

In an amicus brief, the National Labor Relations Board has argued that local right-to-work ordinances in a dozen Kentucky counties are preempted by Taft-Hartley. The Board’s brief was filed in an ongoing case between Hardin County – a Kentucky county which enacted a right-to-work ordinance – and several local unions.

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