News & Commentary

January 14, 2019

Martin Drake

Martin Drake is a student at Harvard Law School.

A group of federal employees working without pay are suing President Trump and their bosses for a violation of the 13th Amendment, the Washington Post reports.  The lawsuit is not the first by federal workers during the shutdown, but it is the only one likening the workers’ predicament to involuntary servitude, which the 13th Amendment abolished after the Civil War.  The government shutdown enters its 24th day today; it is the longest shutdown in American history.

As federal workers remain furloughed, thousands flock to D.C.-area pop-up food banks in an effort to survive, NPR reports.  The Capital Area Food Bank says it distributed over 30,000 pounds of produce Saturday in its pop-up food distribution efforts.  More than 250,000 federal workers live in the D.C. area, and some workers in the food bank lines said they were considering applying for other jobs during the shutdown.

Fast food workers continually face danger and violence while at work, Business Insider reports.  After an attack on a McDonald’s employee went viral earlier this month, several other stories of violence against fast food workers have surfaced, including customers assaulting workers and burning them with hot coffee.  A 2015 survey showed that 12 percent of fast food workers had been assaulted in the past year, while 87 percent had faced some injury on the job.  Among other dangers, fast food workers often face improperly discarded syringes in bathrooms, drive-thrus, and other locations in the store.

A recent report from a Seattle-based salary comparison site, PayScale, shows that the median American worker saw their real wages drop 1.3 percent over the course of 2018 when adjusted for cost of living, MarketWatch reports.  The report is a counterpoint to Bureau of Labor Statistics data that uses average wages, rather than median, to show a more rosy wage picture.  PayScale uses the median “so outlier growth doesn’t bias the results,” according to representatives.  The data also contrasts with positive labor market news that the U.S. unemployment rate remained near a 49-year low of 3.9% in December.


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