Today's News Commentary — February 6

Published February 6th, 2014 -  - 02.06.14


Yesterday, we covered the NLRB’s proposed new rule to expedite union elections.  Stay tuned for a more in-depth post on the proposed rule later today.

In international news, the New York Times reports that transit workers on the London underground began a 48-hour strike on Tuesday night to protest a plan to cut approximately 950 jobs.  The strike shut down part of the subway system, disrupting the commute for millions of travelers.  The Transport Salaried Staff’s Association, one of the two unions that called the strike, reported “overwhelming support” for the strike from its members.  The city’s transportation authority, Prime Minister David Cameron, and London Mayor Boris Johnson, all condemned the strike as unnecessary and counterproductive.  The Times, however, reports that Mr. Cameron has been considering legislation that would make it harder for some unions to strike; this could help his political effort.

Closer to home, UPS and the pilots union will take their contract dispute to the federal mediation agency, the National Mediation Board, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The parties have been renegotiating their contract for the past two years, but have not yet reached an agreement.  Because UPS falls under Railway Labor Act, the pilots union may not go on strike until all negotiation options (including mediation) are exhausted.

The Washington Post reports that over half of Americans who are under 65 years old and are without health insurance live in just 116 counties.  There are a total of 3,143 counties in the country.  The Post also reports that half of those who are 19-39 years old and without health insurance live in just 108 counties.  The five counties with the highest number of uninsured are: Los Angeles County, California; Harris County, Texas; Cook County, Illinois, Miami Date County, Florida; and Dallas County, Texas.   We’ve previously covered the Affordable Care Act’s implementation, including Medicaid expansion, various aspects of the insurance exchanges, and how the ACA interacts with unions.

Following President Obama’s push for a federal minimum wage increase in the State of the Union last Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports that the women in Congress have taken the lead in advocating for this issue.  They point out that women “make up two-thirds of the minimum-wage earners in the country.”  Not waiting for the federal minim wage to rise, some states have already increased their own minimum wages.  The New York Times presents a profile of Dolores Riley, who owns a small business in New Jersey and is adapting to the new $8.25 minimum wage (increased from $7.25).  The Times also speaks with Charlene Conway, who owns small business in Massachusetts, which is considering increasing the minimum wage to $9 from $8.

In political news, the Washington Post covered Vice President Biden’s speech to the annual conference of the UAW.  Vice President Biden warned that the “war on labor,” led by the Chamber of Commerce and state-level right-to-work committees, is weakening the power of unions to bargain on behalf of workers.

The Los Angeles Times has a profile comparing Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles.  The Times argues that while both are liberal leaders, and the cities face similar challenges, the Mayors have different agenda’s because of the manner of their elections.  The strength of the Working Families Party in New York, and the fact that community organizers canvass about issues even when there aren’t elections, means there is widespread support for the Mayor’s agenda on issues like paid sick leave.  Los Angeles, on other hand, doesn’t have the same political infrastructure and as a result Mayor Garcetti doesn’t have the mandate to make such changes, the Times argues.

The New York Times reports that the service sector added jobs in January, as measured by private data collection agencies.  Some economists had been concerned that the severe winter weather in January would have a negative effect on jobs.

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