News & Commentary

August 5, 2015

A federal court in Kentucky heard arguments on local right-to-work laws, reports the Lexington Herald Leader. Unlike 25 other states, Kentucky is not a right-to-work state, but at least 12 counties have passed their own right-to-work laws. Counties contend they are struggling to attract new jobs to the area because they must compete with neighboring right-to-work states, where employees on average are paid less.

Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) has harshly criticized presidential hopeful Governor Martin O’Malley for his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. LIUNA accused O’Malley of disregarding the jobs of employees, and instead “pandering to extremist and elitist elements within the environmental movement,” according to Bloomberg. Keystone represents a sharp division among Democrats, splitting labor supporters and environmentalist opponents, and LIUNA renounced its members in the Blue Green Alliance.

The State Department’s senior officials went against recommendations from local offices when grading countries in this year’s Trafficking in Persons report, which assesses countries based on their forced labor practices. A Reuters investigation revealed that analysts in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons disagreed with U.S. diplomatic bureaus on the ratings for 17 countries, including Malaysia, Cuba and China. Although the State Department maintains that the rankings are not political, skeptics question the link between strategic relationships between the U.S. and certain countries, and those countries’ increased tier rankings, despite reports of worsening labor conditions.

The American Federation of Teachers and the National Educators Association are on the defensive. On CNN this weekend, Governor Chris Christie said that the national teachers union deserves a punch in the face, according to Slate. In calling the union “the single most destructive force in public education in America” Christie’s conjured up his prior criticisms of the American public education system and his statewide battles with the unions of budget cuts and pay freezes.

Bloomberg explains why presidential candidates shouldn’t expect an endorsement from the AFL-CIO anytime soon. Even after the candidates’ speeches in Iowa this week and last week’s private meetings with labor leaders in Washington, D.C., the AFL-CIO will not give an endorsement—and has advised state subsidiaries and local affiliates not to either. The federation prefers to keep the unions together on the issue of endorsements, so that labor can speak with a collective voice. The AFL-CIO decide not only whom to endorse, but also what endorsement strategy will produce the most pro-labor president possible.

Fifteen dollars goes much further in Georgia than Hawaii, a Pew Research Center Study finds. The Washington Post published graphics on the estimated real purchasing power of a $15 minimum wage in each state. Given the differing costs of living by state and even county, a $15 federal minimum wage may be unnecessary and unfeasible, argues author Roberto Ferdman as well as Hillary Clinton. Ferdman advocates regional pay floors to ensure a living wage, whatever that wage may be in each state.

D. Taylor, president of UNITE HERE, sat down for an interview with Poynter to discuss why both hotel workers and journalists need unions. He explains why it makes sense that younger-skewing media workers, including at Salon, Gawker and the Guardian, have opted for union representation.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.