Today's News & Commentary – December 12th

Published December 12th, 2014 -  - 12.12.148


The New York Times has initiated a new series entitled “The Decline of Work,” which today takes a particular focus on the unemployment of men between the ages of 25 and 54. According to the Times, in the 1960s, roughly 5% of men did not work, but that number is now up to 16% of all “prime age men.” The number isn’t explained simply by those looking for a job, as more men also consider themselves disabled or voluntarily unemployed, with many of these men not reentering the workforce as the economy experiences growth. The Times partnered with the Kaiser Family Foundation and CBS News to conduct a survey of 1,002 people between the ages of 25 and 54 who weren’t working and have published three pieces: a detailed account of men not working; an graphic showing the change in employment of these men since 2000; and a national map that documents this phenomenon by census tract.

Last night, the House of Representatives narrowly voted to pass the so-called “Cromnibus” spending bill, less than 3 hours before a midnight deadline that threatened a federal shutdown. Politico reports that several labor organizations have spoken out against specific aspects of the bill, with the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and CWA all coming out against the final bill. In particular, these labor groups were vehemently opposed to a provision of the bill that rolls back part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank law limiting taxpayer exposure to risky derivatives trading by big banks. The provision was the cause of the near-shutdown, with Senator Elizabeth Warren leading the charge against its adoption.

According to the New York Times, the National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday that employers cannot prohibit employees from using company email to communicate and engage in union organizing on their own time. The 3-to-2 decision overturned a 2007 ruling that forbade such use of emails, arguing that it was “clearly incorrect,” since technological advances have made the use of email a common form of workplace communication. The NLRB did state that a blanket-ban of non-work use of email could be allowed if “necessary for productivity or discipline,” but as long as workers are allowed to send non-work-related emails, employers cannot single out messages about union organizing as being uniquely prohibited.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Mayor Bill de Blasio has reached an agreement with a coalition of eight labor unions representing supervisors in police, fire, sanitation and corrections. The agreement will give uniformed workers an additional 1% wage increase over the first year and an 11% raise over the full seven-year contract. It will cost the city about $413.7 million, which, according to the Journal is $145 million more through 2018 than previously expected. If ratified, unions representing 71% of the city’s workers will have a contract, with 100,000 workers still without one. According to the New York Times, the mayor has yet to reach any agreement with the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the city’s largest police union, or the Sergeants Benevolent Association.

Bloomberg reports that 90 leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the union representing West Coast port workers, will meet in San Francisco next week. The union will be entering the eighth month of negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shippers and terminal operators at the 29 West Coast ports. If a deal is not reached and a shutdown occurs, the National Association of Manufacturers estimates that any work stoppage would cost the economy more than $2 billion a day.

In Germany, the government has acted to limit the power of small labor unions by adopting a bill that gives the largest union in any company the right to negotiate pay and working time for the entire staff. According to Reuters, the bill was approved in response to strikes by these smaller unions that have recently ground train and air traffic to a halt. The bill would allow only one trade union to represent employees of any one company in negotiating agreements, which will favor unions that represent the largest share of employees.

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