News & Commentary

April 28, 2017

Leora Smith

Leora Smith is a student at Harvard Law School.

Alexander Acosta will head up the Labor Department under President Trump after the Senate voted yesterday to approve his appointment. Acosta formerly served as a member of the National Labor Relations Board, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and dean of the Florida International University College of Law in Miami.

A new study published in the American Journal of Public Health provides some surprising, and some not so surprising, findings about the state of family leave in the United States. The authors tracked trends in family leave between 1994-2015 and found that men are much more likely to be paid while on leave than women (66.1% vs. 47.5%), and that the number of men taking family leave has greatly increased —from 5800 per month to 22000 per month —while numbers among women have hardly changed. In less surprising news, the authors share that women on leave are disproportionately likely to married, have attended some college, and to be white.

American Airlines announced that they will be giving pilots and flight attendants a raise —an 8% increase for pilots and 5% for flight attendants —two years in advance of contract negotiations. Employees of the airline have long said that they are paid less than their counterparts at other airlines. Investors were not happy about the announcement, and the company’s stock was down 5.2% yesterday. An analyst at Citi wrote to clients, “This is frustrating. Labor is being paid first again. Shareholders get leftovers.”

In the United Kingdom the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union is also claiming a victory because McDonald’s will be offering their 150,000 UK workers the choice to move from zero-hours to fixed hours contracts. So far, about 20% of those offered have opted for the switch.

And one more bit of good news – workers in St. Louis will get to see their wages rise now that the Missouri Supreme Court declined to reconsider its ruling in a lawsuit over the city’s wage hike. Industry groups had sued, saying that the city should not be permitted to set its own minimum wage at a rate higher than the state’s. Now that the ordinance can go into effect, workers will see their hourly wage rise to $10, and again to $11 next year.

Finally, at Yale University four graduate teachers started a hunger strike this week, hoping to pressure the university into negotiations. Graduate teachers in eight academic departments at Yale voted to unionize at the end of February, but they say the university has been unreasonably slow to come to the table.

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