News & Commentary

August 5, 2016

Leora Smith

Leora Smith is a student at Harvard Law School.

Many people are staying in the workforce longer than they ever expected in order to fund their retirement. But older workers say they are facing age discrimination and the laws meant to protect them are not working. The Washington Post reports that “Long-term unemployment, defined as being jobless for 27 weeks or longer, is markedly worse for workers over age 55 than for the general population.” Making things harder – older workers do not find much sympathy among younger members of the workforce, who are also struggling to find good jobs.

The Fight for $15 national convention will bring thousands of workers together in Richmond, Virginia next week. Given its location in the capital of the old Confederacy, the event will be paying particular attention to the long and far-reaching impacts of slavery on the wages of African Americans, more than half of whom make less than $15/hour. Almost 60% of Latinx workers are making less than the campaign’s demanded wage. The conventions will also focus on legislation passed by a number of southern states that bars municipalities from passing local minimum wage laws. On a related note, in Forbes magazine, the owner of Wetzel’s Pretzel’s and employer of around 3000 people, writes that recent increases in California’s minimum wage have been great for business.

In more Virginia-related news –  Politico reports on Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Tim Kaine’s inconsistent record regarding right-to-work legislation. When Kaine was governor in Virginia, a right-to-work state, he supported states’ rights to determine their stance on right-to-work legislation. Speaking to the AFL-CIO Executive Council on Wednesday, however, Kaine stated his opposition to right-to-work policies. Such opposition appears to be the official line of the Democratic ticket and it’s likely to be the line that Kaine sticks to in his current role.

Finally, failure to provide safe workplaces just became much more expensive. On August 1st, OSHA penalties increased for the first time in nearly two decades. Penalties for “failure to abate” and posting violations have nearly doubled, and the penalty for willful or repeated violations is up from $70,000 per violation to nearly $125,000.




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