News & Commentary

December 1, 2014

The Associated Press reports on a loophole in Social Security laws that denies survivor benefits to some same-sex spouses. LGBTQ couples were only recently extended inheritance of a spouse’s Social Security benefits and pensions. However, unlike many other government benefits programs, the Social Security law relies on individual state’s definitions of marriage to determine eligibility. In states where same-sex marriages are not recognized or in those that rely on domestic partnerships, survivor spouses are not legally entitled to increased benefits. The Associated Press finds this particularly problematic for retirement age LGBTQ boomers. According to a report by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs research, gay baby boomers have on average saved far less for retirement, pointing to both the lasting financial and psychological damage of the AIDS crisis, on average lower pay, and decades of workplace discrimination.

According to the New York Daily News, the Hotel Trades Council, which represents 32,000 hotel workers, has pledged to spend thousands of dollars to bring the Democratic National Convention to Brooklyn in 2016. The two other competing finalists are Philadelphia and Columbus, Ohio. Hotel Trades political director Josh Gold argues that New York is the better fit for the union-support party, as New York has 80,000 union-staffed hotel rooms whereas Philadelphia has 5,000 and Columbus has none.

Amsterdam News reports on the release of SEIU 32BJ’s new report, “Grounded Before Takeoff,” which describes rampant wage theft among subcontracted workers at New York area airports. A survey found that 88 percent of subcontracted workers reported at least one violation of wage and hour laws by their employers and 69 percent reported multiple violations. These violations impact airport employees like baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants, and skycaps.

In international news, the German pilots’ union Vereinigung Cockpit has called a two day strike at the Deutsche Lufthansa airline lasting from midday today until midnight tomorrow. According to Reuters, the source of the dispute is a demand by pilots that they be allowed to retire at 55. The Associated Press reports that Lufthansa has canceled 1,350 of its 2,800 flights.

In minimum wage related news, features a piece discussing efforts to raise the minimum to $15 an hour in Philadelphia, PA. It discusses a 2006 preemption clause in the state’s 1968 wage laws that some read to ban municipal increases in the minimum wage. However, a group called 15Now Philly has argued that the intent of state law was to protect workers from low pay, not cap it.

The Chicago Sun-Times has published an editorial arguing that the Illinois legislature should raise the state minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $11 by July 1, 2017. Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago has stated he would like to see an increase to $13 an hour. The editorial argues that, while the Chicago Sun-Times has endorsed federal increases over state-by-state reforms in the past, there is now almost no chance of action in Washington.

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