Today's News & Commentary – February 16

Published February 16th, 2015 -  - 02.16.1513


Strikes at U.S. oil refineries have entered their third week, and both employers and employees have begun to raise safety concerns.  As replacement workers join the ranks at the nine striking refineries, questions are arising about potential safety and production risks from an extended walkout.  While such warnings may seem like a negotiating tactic for management, some striking employees are concerned about the training for contract workers.  “Management says it’s safe. I disagree,” said John Ostberg, a non-union control engineer who works in the main computerized control center at Toledo and quit his job on Monday weeks before he was scheduled to retire.

The New York Times‘ Editorial Board writes that “the deaths of some 300 migrants on Wednesday in the icy February waters of the Mediterranean and of 29 others who died of hypothermia after being rescued last week were predictable and preventable.”  Though European Union government officials are quick to blame the smugglers who brought the migrant workers to Europe, the Editorial Board believes that the EU shares the blame and should work to increase public safety measures.

The Wall Street Journal writes that the Canadian government may introduce back-to-work legislation as early as Monday to end a strike by unionized workers at Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) that is “snarling freight service across Canada.”  The collective action started with a walkout on Sunday, and the Canadian government has moved swiftly to respond.  Canada’s Minister of Labour Kellie Leitch issued a “strongly worded statement” on Sunday that blamed the union representing CP’s locomotive engineers and conductors for the breakdown in contract talks over the weekend, calling on CP union officials to abandon their strike and begin earnest negotiations with management.  Secretary Leitch, who personally intervened in the dispute, stressed the government would move swiftly to end the job action.

New York City job creation is at a five-year high currently, but unlike past recession recoveries, Wall Street job growth is conspicuously absent, The New York Times reports.  New York City is proving that it can grow at a rapid pace without leaning on Wall Street.  The City has added 425,000 jobs since the end of 2009, raising total city-wide employment to 4.1 million jobs.  Many new jobs are in lower-paying businesses, such as hotels and restaurants.

The New York Times highlights the story of Brian Fusco, the policeman who has “vowed to unseat [union president] Patrick J. Lynch, the fiery president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, New York City’s largest police union.”  Fusco is a 27-year veteran of the force and a longtime union trustee who is campaigning against his ostensible boss – Lynch and Fusco have offices on the same floor of the union’s headquarters and have worked together for many years.  New York police have been working without a contract since June 2010, and morale is low.  Lynch, “an influential and wily tactician who has led the union since 1999, has not faced a challenge since 2003.”

The Daily Beast writes about “America’s forgotten mass lynching,” an incident in 1919 where African-American sharecroppers unionized in Arkansas, unleashing a wave of racial tension and mass murder that left 237 people dead, according to a report from the Equal Justice Initiative.

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