News & Commentary

January 14, 2015

A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that employers were seeking to fill nearly 5 million open positions, the most since 1999, according to the Los Angeles Times.  However, the strong jobs numbers were accompanied by less encouraging news about wages: a report released on Friday found a drop in average hourly wages.  The Times reports that “economists were befuddled” by the numbers, since a falling unemployment rate is typically accompanied by a rise in wages.  Commentators at the Washington Post and Five Thirty-Eight weighed in on the discrepancy.

The Associated Press reports that U.S. labor unions have been campaigning aggressively against a proposed free-trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, “a measure expected to call for lowering or eliminating most trade barriers among the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations.”  The unions argue that the deal would encourage U.S. employers to “funnel manufacturing jobs to lower-wage countries.”  Environmental and human rights groups have also voiced strong opposition.

Wisconsin voters appear conflicted in their attitudes towards unions, according to a new poll conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank.  According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, 58% of those surveyed said they support unions, but 62%, including majorities of both Democrats and Republicans, said they would vote for a right-to-work law.

In international news, the Associated Press reports that Swiss voters will soon decide whether their government should provide compensation to thousands of former child laborers.  In what was a “common practice in Switzerland well into the 20th century,” these so-called “contract children” were sent away from poor families to work on farms, often in abusive conditions.

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