News & Commentary

April 25, 2018

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) announced a groundbreaking job guarantee plan this week. Sanders’ plan would guarantee a job paying $15 an hour to any American “who wants or needs one,” by funding large-scale public works projects aimed at national needs like infrastructure, education, and care-giving. Jobs guarantee advocates told the Washington Post that the policy would not only fight unemployment, but also reduce racial inequality and drive up wages by incentivizing employers to offer competitive salaries. A jobs guarantee is gaining mainstream support among Democrats: Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker have both embraced the idea and two influential progressive think-tanks have issued job guarantee proposals in the past year.

As Colorado teachers prepare for a day of action at the state capitol, two Republican legislators proposed legislation threatening striking teachers with prison time. The bill, sponsored by state Sen. Bob Gardner and Rep. Paul Lundeen, would impose a six month sentence on any educator “instigating, encouraging, ratifying, or participating in a strike against any public school employer.” It is unlikely to pass.

Columbia grad students began a one-week strike yesterday, after the University for months refused to bargain with their union. In 2016, Columbia students voted overwhelmingly to form a union after the National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate teaching and research assistants have a right to unionize under federal law. Classes taught by graduate students, including core classes, were cancelled Tuesday as graduate workers marched in a picket line across campus. Undergraduate students told the New York Times that they were sympathetic to graduate workers and prominent speakers cancelled events in solidarity.

As #MeToo empowers workers to speak out about sexual harassment, official complaints to the federal and state regulators have dropped 41 percent since 1997, data obtained by Bloomberg shows. The EEOC and its state-level counterparts received just over 9,600 complaints in 2017, down from more than 16,000 in 1997. Experts note that harassment has not dropped dramatically, but because few victims report harassment to the EEOC, especially as complaint and resolutions procedures have become more private — especially an increasing number of cases are resolved in opaque, mandatory arbitration procedures with limited oversight.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed sweeping pay equity legislation yesterday, after years of vetoes by his predecessor, Chris Christie. The new law, which takes effect on July 1st, prohibits unequal pay for “substantially similar work,” allows employees to discuss their compensation with each other without employer retaliation, and allows employees to receive up to six years of back pay. Murphy’s first act as governor was to sign an executive order that banned state agencies from asking job applicants about their salary history, a practice that perpetuates the wage gap.

The New Republic voluntarily recognized a staff union after members of its editorial staff began a unionization campaign this year. The magazine’s staff will be organized with the NewsGuild of New York. The news follows a wave of high-profile unionization campaigns at digital media outlets, including HuffPost, Vox Media, and Buzzfeed.

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