Today’s News & Commentary — January 25, 2018

New tariffs announced by the Trump administration on Tuesday for the import of solar panels will have ripple effects on the solar industry and undertaking of solar projects in the U.S.  Though the tariffs, starting at 30% next year, were implemented to “protect U.S. manufacturing,” less than 2,000 of the over 260,000 Americans employed in the solar energy sector actually work in the manufacturing of solar panels.  Most are employed in making steel racks for the panels, or installing and maintaining the projects.  An increase in the cost of solar panels will likely cause solar to be less competitive with other industries like gas and wind, and may impact employees relying on industry growth.  The New York Times reports.

In other energy news, despite President Trump’s promises to revitalize the coal industry, coal consumption continues to fall, reaching its lowest level in nearly four decades last year.  Successful mines produce metallurgical coal for steelmaking in the U.S. and abroad, for countries like China.  As mines are closing, the impact is being felt in the economy of the local communities where miners live, work, and spend their money.  The New York Times reports.

Next month, the Culinary Union, which represents tens of thousands of hotel workers in Las Vegas, will ask casino-resort operators to give every housekeeper a “panic button” amid the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct and harassment.  The hospitality industry in New York City has been supplying panic buttons since 2013, and Seattle passed a city ordinance requiring panic buttons for employees working alone in hotel rooms in 2016.  The Washington Post reports.

The United States is the only industrialized country to not mandate paid parental leave.  Leave policies have largely been set by individual employers and have often resulted in a large gap between salaried and hourly workers.  Now, some companies like Walmart are providing salaried and hourly workers the same parental benefits.  An analysis of companies and their policies is here.  The New York Times reports.

Fear that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 320 union would strike at the University of Minnesota and cause delays at the Superbowl has been allayed.  The union represents nearly 1,500 custodial and food service workers at the University.  Previously, NFL players had sent a letter of support of workers to the University president. The details of the negotiation reveal that the union has accepted, among other things, a new base wage of $15 an hour for some of its employees, setting a new wage floor.

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