Today's News & Commentary — February 23, 2015

Published February 23rd, 2015 -  - 02.23.1511


In immigration news, the Obama Administration has filed a legal brief with Judge Andrew S. Hanen in the United States District Court in Brownsville, TX asking for an injunction blocking the president’s immigration program to be lifted. The New York Times reports that in its legal brief, the Department of Justice argued that the injunction impinges on core executive functions concerning the exercise of discretion in enforcing immigration laws. The DOJ lawyers stated that if Judge Hanen does not act quickly, they will file an appeal with the Fifth Circuit by Wednesday.

The Washington Post ran a profile on the state of union activity in Wisconsin in the four years since Governor Walker signed legislation that would force public employees to contribute more to retirement and health insurance funds. They interview a number of individuals in traditionally unionized public sector positions stating they no longer see the benefit of being a union member. These changes have fueled Republican efforts to pass right to work legislation in Wisconsin that would allow private sector workers to opt out of paying union dues. Walker stated that he would sign such a bill. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Wisconsin labor leaders have vowed to fight such efforts.

Reuters reports that the Canadian National Railway Company and the Unifor labor union which represents 4,800 of its mechanical, clerical, and trucking staff resumed contract talks today. This reengagement with talks happened just hours before CN Rail was scheduled to lock out the workers. If there is a lockout or strike, the railroads would likely be impacted quickly as Unifor represents workers in charge of maintenance work and safety inspections.

According to Fox59, Hoosiers rallied in the Indiana state house today to support Senate Bill 41, which is proposed to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. A second bill, SB 160, would pursue a gradual approach, moving the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour this year and $10.00 in 2016.

The New Yorker features a story about Borderland Books in San Francisco’s Mission District. Alan Beats, the owner of this science-fiction book store, has stated that San Francisco’s minimum wage increase to $15 an hour has driven him out of business. However, he recently announced that he is now considering keeping its doors open with the support of paid sponsorships.

In BloombergView, Barry Ritholtz argues that Wal-Mart’s recent wage announcement suggests that its “business model is broken.” Wal-Mart announced last week that it would increase its wages for its lowest paid workers from the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour. By next February, it will reach $10.00. He argues that Wal-Mart stores have stopped growing and that sales have plateaued because Wal-Mart was preoccupied with keeping wage costs low and ignored the resulting, expensive turn over in employees.

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