News & Commentary

January 15, 2015

President Obama will direct federal agencies to give their employees up to six weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child, the New York Times reports. If the President does not receive Congressional approval, he will sign a memorandum mandating federal agencies to provide the paid leave. His senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, said, “the President intends to ensure that the federal government is a model employer. We’ll have the most skilled and productive workforce as a result.” President Obama will also call on Congress to pass a bill providing all American workers to earn seven paid sick days, and will create a $2 billion incentive fund to help states pay for the program.

The Wall Street Journal reports that federal prosecutors and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters have reached an agreement, ending more than two decades of government oversight. In 1988, the U.S. government sued the Teamsters, alleging that the union leadership was engaging in a campaign of fear against its members. The union agreed to government oversight and to implement reforms. Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, Jimmy Hoffa’s son, said, “After decades of hard work and millions of dollars spent, we can finally say that corrupt elements have been driven from the Teamsters and that the government oversight can come to an end.” The New York Times reports that the union will still be subject to its own internal disciplinary process, which officers approved by the government oversee.

Strikes over the ride-sharing app Uber have spread to China. The New York Times reports that taxi drivers in Chinese cities are protesting competition from the app, increasing costs, and decreasing income. The government announced last week that only licensed taxis could use the app, prohibiting privately owned vehicles from using Uber. While Uber drivers have been fined in several cities, the service remains available. Geoffrey Crothall of the China Labor Bulletin said the focus on apps like Uber obscure the large fees that fleet companies charge drivers.

In an interview with the New York Times, Georgia Tech professor Ayanna M. Howard challenges the idea that robots will replace jobs. Howard said that new technology always changes the nature of jobs, which could lead to job creation. “Right now there’s this whole thing of we don’t have enough jobs, even though we’re seeing the economy’s a little better, there’s more job creation. I’m hoping that as robotics allow more jobs to come on shore, that we won’t have these discussions five years from now.”

Employers advertised more jobs in November than they have in 14 years, the New York Times reports. The numbers suggest that companies are optimistic about economic growth. However, wages only increased by 1.7 percent, while inflation rose 1.3 percent.

In immigration news, House Republicans voted yesterday to block President Obama’s immigration plans and end a program deferring deportation of “dreamers,” the Los Angeles Times reports. The package passed in the House could shut down the Homeland Security Department because the vote attached the restrictions to an essential funding bill for the Department. It’s unclear if the bill will pass the Senate, partly because some Senate Republicans are uncomfortable about using Homeland Security as leverage in immigration debates.

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