Today’s News & Commentary — February 22, 2019
Google is ending forced arbitration for all current and former employees, a policy that will go into effect on March 21. This change comes after months of advocacy efforts from employees, who staged a 20,000 employee walk out in November and took to Twitter and Instagram last month to educate the public about forced arbitration.
West Virginia teachers returned to class on Thursday just in time for Oakland teachers to strike. The Oakland Education Association is demanding a 12% retroactive raise to compensate for some of the lowest salaries for public school teachers in the Bay Area. Oakland teachers have raised similar concerns as the United Teachers Los Angeles (who went on strike in January) including large class sizes and a lack of support staff such as nurses and counselors. Their walkout affects 36,000 students at 86 schools. As in Los Angeles, the district has announced that schools will remain open during the strike, staffed by substitute teachers.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new paid family leave law, which doubles the length of the state’s paid family leave from 6 to 12 weeks and increases the average weekly benefit from $632 to $859. The new law also expands the list of family members that are covered as caregivers and updates the definition of family to include those who “have a close association with the employee which is the equivalent of a family relationship.” Katherine Gallagher, policy director at the Center for American Progress, notes that this change will likely improve economic security for LGBTQ employees and employees with disabilities.
A new study by the Economic Policy Institute found rising inequality and also “the persistence, and in some cases worsening” of wage gaps by gender and race over the last 18 years. The EPI data show that the median wage gap between African American and white workers has grown by 6 percentage points since 2000, from 10.2% to 16.2% in 2018. The gender wage gap is also still sizable, with a typical woman in 2018 making 84 cents on the typical man’s dollar (a 16% wage gap).
This weekend’s New York Times Magazine is about the future of work in America. One piece examines the new “corporate culture” developed by co-working spaces like WeWork. Another asks why the wealthiest professionals in America are also the most miserable (hint: “oppressive hours, political infighting, [and] increased competition” but also an inability to find deeper meaning from work). Finally, one piece profiles the National Domestic Workers Alliance, which is helping to organize the two million domestic workers in the United States. The N.D.W.A. is pursuing legislation that would ensure a floor of basic legal protections for domestic workers, most of whom are women of color and immigrants.