Today's News & Commentary – April 3, 2015

Published April 3rd, 2015 -  - 04.03.1511


Following McDonald’s announcement that it would raise wages for only workers employed directly by the company (about 5% of McDonald’s entire workforce), low-wage fast food workers in Boston expressed their outrage at the company’s “publicity stunt that provides insufficient benefit to few people.” Massachusetts has approved an increase in the state minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016 and $11 an hour by 2017. However, many advocates argue that this minimum wage hike and McDonald’s increase to $10 an hour to only 5% of its workforce are still inadequate for low-wage workers to sustain a living in the state. According to advocates, the minimum wage for fast food workers should be $15 an hour. Lew Finfer of Raise Up Massachusetts, a group that has lobbied the state for $15 an hour, stated that McDonald’s action is “cynical and mean-spirited when they could do a lot more.”

The LA Times reports that initial jobless claims decreased last week and almost reached “their post-Great Recession low.” Approximately 268,000 people filed for first-time unemployment benefits, a 20,000 decrease from the previous week’s figures. U.S. businesses also announced 28% fewer layoffs in March than in February. However, layoffs were still 15.6% greater in the first quarter of 2015 than in the same period last year, many of which were attributed to cuts by energy companies due to declining oil prices. At the same time, U.S. companies only added only 189,000 net new jobs in March, a number “well below expectations.”

According to The Wall Street Journal, Judge Gloria Navarro of the U.S. District Court in Nevada ordered pilots at Allegiant Travel Co. to stop their planned strike on Thursday. The move came as a “last-minute court decision to prevent spiraling labor discord at the discount carrier from disrupting thousands of travelers.” Judge Navarro agreed with Allegiant that the strike would likely be illegal and cost the company “irreparable harm” based on “[e]vidence of threatened loss of prospective customers or goodwill.” The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 1224, the pilots union, contested the legality of the proposed strike but said that the union would cooperate at an upcoming hearing with company representatives and federal mediators. The union had sued Allegiant in 2013 for stopping a disability program for pilots and transforming their scheduling system without negotiations. According to Daniel Wells, union president, a federal judge had ordered Allegiant to comply and reinstate many of the unilaterally changed labor terms but the company still has not done so.

The New York Times recently reported on the reception of the states to undocumented immigrants. Ten states and the District of Columbia currently allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses using a foreign passport, a birth certificate, or evidence of current residency in that state. On the other hand, most states stipulate that applicants for driver’s licenses must present a Social Security number, which effectively excludes undocumented immigrants. In the area of education, 20 states allow undocumented immigrants to attend public colleges with the same in-state tuition rate as other students. A small number of states, including California, allow those immigrants to apply for financial aid. Following President Obama’s announcement of his plans under executive action, 26 states have filed legal opposition to giving work permits and deportation protection to about four million undocumented documents. Included in these 26 states are Texas, Florida, and Georgia, which house some of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants. On the opposite side, 14 states and the District of Columbia have asked a federal appeals court to allow the president’s executive action programs.

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