News & Commentary

April 22, 2015

In an interview with the Washington Post, Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez sought to push back on claims that the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal currently being considered by Congress would hurt American workers.  Perez argued that unlike previous agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the TPP would “bake labor provisions into the core of the agreement.”  Moreover, he said, by requiring improved labor rights in countries like Vietnam that currently have few protections for workers, the deal would drive up wages for foreign workers, thus increasing U.S. exports.

A year after the United Auto Workers lost a certification election at a Tennessee Volkswagen plant, the union has not given up on organizing the plant’s workers, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.   The UAW claims that it has the support of more than half of the plant’s workers and has asked Volkswagen to recognize it as the employees’ bargaining representative via card check.  The union argued that outside interference tainted last year’s election.  Meanwhile, a rival group, the American Council of Employees, is seeking to establish a European-style works council at the plant.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education has unanimously approved a tentative agreement with the teachers’ union.  The agreement “would give the teachers a 10% raise over two years—their first pay increase in eight years.”  The agreement heads off the threat of a strike after months of tension.  The president of the union called the deal “a fair agreement that brings us closer to the schools that L.A. students deserve.”

The Associated Press reports that despite federal laws banning the import of good made with forced labor, the U.S. has continued to import seafood caught by slave laborers from Thailand.  Some experts have blamed two major loopholes in the law for ongoing problem: First, “[g]oods made with forced labor must be allowed into the U.S. if consumer demand cannot be met without them.”  And second, “it’s hard, if not impossible, to prove fish in a particular container is tainted, because different batches generally mix together at processing plants.”  However, the report also found that the federal government has “spared Thailand from sanctions slapped on other countries with similar records because of a complex political relationship that includes cooperation against terrorism.”

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