Today’s News & Commentary — December 5, 2018
The Fight for $15 movement has raised wages by $68 billion for 22 million low-wage workers, according to a new study published by the National Employment Law Project (NELP). In a remarkable sign of the campaign’s effectiveness, NELP found that the $68 billion of additional income for minimum-wage workers is “more than 14 time larger than the total raise under the last federal minimum wage increase, approved in 2007.” According to NELP, 70 percent of the increase is the result of state and local $15 minimum wage laws secured by the movement, with the rest coming from actions that prompted employers to raise their companies’ pay floors. NELP points out that an additional 119,500 workers in Alabama, Iowa, Florida, Kentucky, and Missouri would have benefited from local laws to raise the wage — but state legislatures blocked the raises by “adopting corporate-backed ‘preemption’ laws that bar cities from raising their minimum wage.”
2,500 striking hotel workers returned to work today, ending San Francisco’s largest hotel strike in decades. As Vail wrote yesterday, Marriott workers in nine cities across the country went on strike in October — but San Francisco was the last city where striking hotel workers and Marriott reached a contract. Under the San Francisco contract, housekeepers will get a $4 raise over the next four years and retiring employees will earn a small pension. A major concern during contract negotiations for Marriott workers was widespread sexual harassment against hotel workers. As part of all new contracts, Marriott will provide “panic buttons” that housekeepers can use to alert security if a guest harasses them or otherwise makes them feel unsafe.Plus, for the first time, according to Vox, the company has agreed to ban guests who have a history of sexually harassing hotel workers.
President Trump is threatening again to withdraw from NAFTA “within a relatively short period of time,” in an attempt to pressure Congress to ratify a proposed treatment known as the USMCA. The proposal has received bipartisan pushback: Democrats object that the agreement does too little to protect American jobs, whereas some Republicans argue it is too protectionist. Trump’s ability to unilaterally tear up NAFTA remains in doubt. No domestic law prohibits Trump from single-handedly invoking Article 2205 of the treaty, to trigger withdrawal from NAFTA — but that would not repeal the 1993 NAFTA Implementation Act, under which some parts of the agreement would remain in force.
The nation’s first ever charter teachers’ strike began yesterday in Chicago as 500 teachers for the Acero Schools charter network walked out to demand higher pay and smaller class sizes. According to the Chicago Teachers Union, teachers at the Acero charter network earn as much as $13,000 less than Chicago public school teachers and the classes are as large as 32 students at each grade level. The strike follows massive nationwide teachers’ strikes this spring. But the Chicago Acero charter strike could mark a new watershed moment. According to the New York Times, only about 11 percent of charter schools nationwide are unionized.
Women’s law associations at the top law schools across the country are joining a campaign to take on forced arbitration. Over a dozen groups representing women law students announced Monday that they would “no longer accept any funds from any law firm that requires employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements” or promote those firms in any way. The move follows growing opposition among law students to forced arbitration agreements that force workers to waive the right to sue over workplace abuses like sexual harassment and wage theft. The campaign, which is led by the Pipeline Parity Project, a group of Harvard Law students opposed to mandatory arbitration, has successfully pressured some of the world’s largest law firms to drop forced arbitration agreements for their employees.