Today’s News & Commentary — January 17, 2017

Published January 17th, 2017 -  - 01.17.172


Donald Trump’s nominee for Labor Secretary, Andrew Puzer, may be having second thoughts about taking the job following intense criticism of his nomination.  CNN reports that Puzder “has voiced second thoughts in recent days, because of a relentless barrage of criticism from Democrats, labor unions and other liberal groups, a business ally and GOP sources tell CNN.”  Puzder is apparently discouraged by the required paperwork and attacks on him by Democrats, organized labor and worker advocates.  At the earliest, Puzder’s confirmation hearing would be next month.  In response to the report, Puzder tweeted that he looks forward to his hearing.

Meanwhile, Trump’s plans to increase American jobs through increased American production of goods continues to generate significant skepticism.  With respect to production of iPhones, according to technology site BGR, “if iPhone factories came to the US, you can be sure that robots would be the only ones getting more jobs.”  Any increased American production would reflect that the “relative cost of skilled labor in the US and China is such that it’s cheaper to build a robot than it is to hire one US worker to replace one Chinese worker in the supply chain.”

Education increasingly defines the ability of Americans to succeed economically.  The Associated Press notes that “Americans with no more than a high school diploma have fallen so far behind college graduates in their economic lives that the earnings gap between college grads and everyone else has reached its widest point on record.”  College-educated workers have disproportionally benefited from new jobs and wage increases following the 2008-09 Great Recession, and are far more in demand by employers.  The education gap is most significant for white men, but is true across the board, and developing the skills of non-college-educated workers is critical.

In one of its final actions during the Obama Administration, OSHA will begin rulemaking to “protect healthcare workers from violence.”  Per BLR, the assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health, David Michaels, “granted five petitions to promulgate an OSHA workplace violence standard to protect workers in health care and social assistance.”  Enacting quick fixes to keep healthcare workers safe can be fundamentally flawed, so there is a particularly need for nuanced policy.

Finally, New York City transit workers and riders can look forward to a period of labor peace (if not phone-free quiet.)  The New York Times reports that “the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday reached a tentative contract agreement with the union representing New York City’s subway and bus workers.”  The “28-month contract would provide a 2.5 percent raise for all workers in the first 13 months, a 2.5 percent raise in the following 13 months and a $500 payment for the final two months, according to an official who was briefed on the negotiations but was not authorized to discuss them publicly.  The raises would take effect after the contract is ratified.”

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