Today’s News & Commentary — August 9, 2019
ICE agents raided companies across Mississippi on Wednesday, arresting about 680 undocumented immigrants in what might be the largest worksite enforcement action ever in a single state. The facilities raided included four poultry plants; the New York Times reports that this industry has long relied on immigrant labor to do “the physically taxing work of cutting, cleaning, deboning and packing chicken in cold, sometimes dangerous conditions.” Worker safety advocates note that these kind of raids could increase safety hazards in poultry plants—workers facing deportation are less likely to report health and welfare issues, and depleted plants are more vulnerable to health hazards and accidents. Payday Report notes that this isn’t the first time immigrant workers employed at one of these plants have suffered—in 2018, Koch Foods, Inc. (which owns one of the raided poultry plants) settled a $3.75 million EEOC suit alleging racial discrimination and sexual harassment of workers at its Mississippi plant.
Politico reports that the U.S. Soccer Federation has hired two lobbying firms to dispute claims that it pays the women’s national team less than half of what it pays the men’s team. The pay gap faced by the U.S. women’s team received international scrutiny this summer after the team won the women’s World Cup: the Guardian’s analysis of each team’s collective bargaining agreements found that the women players earned $90,000 each in World Cup bonuses but would have made $550,000 each if paid like the men’s team. U.S. Soccer disputes the pay gap, and has circulated a presentation emphasizing the benefits the women’s team receives—including maternity leave and retirement perks—that the men’s team does not receive. U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) told Politico that lobbying efforts would not stop her from pushing for a bill mandating equal pay for women’s national and Olympic teams, stating, “No matter where she works—on a soccer field, in an office or in a restaurant—no woman should be paid less than her male colleagues for the same work.”
Bloomberg reports that GE reached a tentative agreement with its largest unions, likely ending the threat of a strike scheduled to begin August 12. The agreements include “56% better wage increases, 18% more total cash, and an average of 18% fewer employee medical contributions than an original tentative agreement reached in June.” The June agreement was rejected by the unions that represent most GE workers, the IUE-CWA and the International Association of Machinists. Both unions are recommending that their members accept the new agreement, and will vote August 9 and August 13.
In an Op-Ed for the Detroit News, Teamsters President James Hoffa writes that 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidates need to pay more attention to worker concerns, particularly issues of pensions and retirement security. Hoffa emphasizes the need for multi-employer pension reform, noting that “all of us also need to look forward and elect candidates who pledge to stand up for retirement security more broadly.”