Today’s News & Commentary — Friday, Dec. 7, 2018
This morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report: unemployment remains at 3.7% for the third month, and the U.S. added 155,000 nonfarm jobs. Reactions are mixed; while the report is “weaker than expected,” it is also a sign of an expansive and overall healthy economy, note commentators in the New York Times.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, the Italian-American auto maker, plans to open a new assembly plant in Detroit, the Detroit News reported Thursday. Foreign automakers increasingly have been building in the U.S., and Mazda and Toyota together are building a Huntsville, Alabama plant, with plans to start production in 2021 (and create up to 4,000 jobs). But Fiat Chrysler’s plant will be the first of a major domestic automaker to break new ground in the U.S. in over a decade, and the first to open in Detroit in over 27 years. Of note, General Motors’ soon-to-be-shuttered Ohio and Michigan plants produce sedans, while Fiat Chrysler’s truck and SUV sales have been booming, since the latter eliminated its sedan lines in 2017. Also of note, while President Trump is publicly dissatisfied with GM CEO Mary Barra, he’s previously lathered praise on Fiat Chrysler’s CEO Mike Manley, who took over the job in 2017 after running the Jeep brand.
More than 100 U.S. executives signed a public comment outlining the financial and social harms of a proposed Department of Homeland Security rule, which would broaden the definition of “public charge” in order to deny visas to those immigrants who utilize public benefits, including Medicare, Medicaid part D, SNAP, and housing assistance. According to Warby Parker CEO Dave Gilboa, the new rule would “drastically narrow the opportunity for brilliant talent to come to the U.S.,” and would impose “excessive and nonsensical boundaries.” This latest critical comment is only one of many from a variety of industries; medical doctors, among others, have been voicing concerns and condemnation for the proposal.
Three restaurant industry groups in New York City are challenging 2017’s Fair Work Week Law, arguing that the city mandate for predictive scheduling is preempted by state labor law. The city law requires fast-food restaurants to set schedules for employees at least two-weeks in advance; shift changes result in (cumulatively) steep fines. According to the International Franchise Association, the National Restaurant Law Center, and the New York State Restaurant Association, who filed a complaint in the New York Supreme Court on Monday, the law has significantly burdened 1,796 affected restaurants with the high administrative costs for compliance and the weight of “premiums” for scheduling under the two-week notice. In Nation’s Restaurant News, IFA spokesperson argues that this law uniquely harms and disadvantages many of the city’s small-business owners – franchise owners who operate under national names.
The right-wing, anti-labor organization the Buckeye Institute is backing a post-Janus case that might “assassinate” unions, so comments Splinter News. A St. Cloud State professor petitioned for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court on a denial of a motion for preliminary injunction on the right of a public sector union to represent non-union members in the public workforce. Should the Court grant certiorari on Uradnik v. Inter Faculty Org., the Court would consider the First Amendment implications, under Janus, of “forced representation”; Uradnik argues that when the union negotiates on her behalf, she suffers compelled speech. Splinter’s Hamilton Nolan anticipates that, down the line, a complete degradation of labor rights will impel class warfare and strife.
Left-progressives newly emboldened and newly in power face the hurdle of neoliberal hegemony as they mobilize – and so they should learn from the very triumphs of the “neoliberal revolution” that remade economic thought throughout the second half of the twentieth century, argues Kate Aronoff in the Nation. While the policy demands of new representatives like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14th Dist.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI 13th Dist.), and the core concerns of increasingly vocal activists, are “radically egalitarian,” their traction may depend on how well the left changes the terms of the national debate. Aronoff explains how free marketeers were able to “tell a compelling story” about economic principles and goals, “and then repeat and tweak that story ad nauseam for anyone who would listen”; they funded this storytelling through organizations, networks, and think tanks that have no rival on the left. Aronoff situates the rise of free-market ideology within the right’s “concerted attempt to break up unions and shift the balance of class power.”
Lyft, Inc., is steering toward a public offering in early 2019, the Wall Street Journal reports. Lyft filed confidential paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission this week, and now appears likely to beat competitor Uber to an IPO. The IPOs for both Silicon Valley ride-hailing companies – key “disrupters” not only in the transportation industry, but also of labor and employment norms – have long been highly anticipated events. Lyft was most recently valued at $15 billion, while Uber has been valued up to $120 billion.