Today's News & Commentary – January 19
In honor of Martin Luther King Day, Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez penned an editorial about the role of labor unions in the American Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Calling the holiday “the other Labor Day,” Perez detailed the strong ties between Dr. King’s actions and the labor movement, highlighting that “[m]any people are aware that King was assassinated in Memphis in the spring of 1968. Less well-known is what drew him there: solidarity with city sanitation workers, who, without the benefit of union representation, were rising up to protest humiliating pay and deplorable working conditions.”
The Washington Post‘s Lydia DePillis writes about cab drivers’ collective action in the age of Uber and Lyft ridesharing. DePillis reported that last Friday, in the Taxi Workers Alliance’s Queens offices, union cab driver activists from across American and Europe “convened for a council of war” against the popular apps. “We will send this message to every country, every government, that Uber is not welcome,” said Mac Urata, the London-based head of surface transportation for the International Transport Workers Federation. “They have no place to hide. Everywhere they go, we will fight them, shame them, and get them out of business.” Taxi driver unions have been successful in banning Uber in many European cities, as well as raising awareness through campaigns in many American metro areas.
President Barack Obama will deliver his State of the Union address on Tuesday, and many media outlets have predicted that the President’s speech will touch on labor-related issues. The Los Angeles Times reports that President Obama will focus on “middle-class economics,” including raising taxes on top earners and impose a new fee on large financial firms to pay for tax credits aimed at low- and middle-class families. The Wall Street Journal published graphs entitled “The State of the Economy” that include visual representations of unemployment statistics, income, industry strength, and manufacturing numbers.
In international news, the Prime Minister of Hungary urged the European Union to limit immigration numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports that Prime Minister Viktor Orban said “he believes the EU’s laws on asylum should be tightened, just a week after he said in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris that immigration into Europe should stop.”
In Germany, Lufthansa employees have agreed to mediation in their dispute over retirement benefits, the airline and trade union UFO said on Monday. Lufthansa pilots staged 10 separate strikes over an early retirement scheme last year, costing the airline close to 200 million euros ($232 million) in profits. Last week, the pilots threatened to strike again if no agreement abour retirement benefits was reached.