News & Commentary

January 29, 2020

In Virginia—the best state for business in 2019, according to CNBC—Democratic State legislatures are pushing to increase pay for workers. In November, 2019, Democrats took control of the state legislature for the first time in over two decades. Since then they have advanced gun control legislation and protections for LGBTQ people, and ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Now, Democratic state legislatures are advancing legislation that would increase the state minimum wage and provide 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, to recover from illness, or to care for a family member. The legislators disagree, however, over the extent to which the minimum wage should be increased. A bill introduced in the state senate would increase the minimum wage to $9.75 in July, 2020, and ultimately to $15 by July 2025. Legislators in the state house have proposed more generous bills, including one that would raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2023.

The New Republic reports on the largely successful efforts of Mike Siegel, a Democrat hoping to unseat the Republican Representative from Texas’s 10th Congressional District, to navigate the complicated relationship between environmentalists and organized labor. Seigel, a civil rights lawyer, labor activist, and supporter of the Green New Deal, has won the endorsement of several unions, including the Texas AFL-CIO, in a primary race against Shannon Hutcheson, a corporate lawyer from Austin. His support for the Green New Deal, Seigel tells the New Republic, has brought him more opposition from union voters than any of his other positions. In response to that opposition, Seigel has emphasized the jobs that energy transition will create. He has also committed to hiring a labor representative to work on the implementation of Green New Deal policy, and points out that “we can put labor guarantees into this legislation that reinforce the right to collectively organize and even demand sectoral bargaining.”

The Washington Post reports on efforts by hotel operators to entice guests to forego housekeeping services, and the consequences of those efforts for hotel workers. Citing environmental responsibility, an increasing number of hotels are offering incentives to guests who choose not to have their rooms serviced.  Such programs have adverse effects for hotel workers; because deferred service programs result in fewer rooms to clean, hotels routinely staff with fewer workers or place more workers on on-call scheduling. According to a recent report by Unite Here, workers at Marriot International’s Starwood Hotels in Boston, where guests can opt out of room service under Marriot’s “Make a Green Choice” program, lost over 6,800 shifts and $1.7 million in wages and benefits in a single year.

On Tuesday, the University of California and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 came to a tentative agreement on a four-year labor contract for approximately 19,000 patient-care workers employed by the university. The patient-care workers had been working without a contract for almost three years. (In December, 2019, Democratic presidential candidates vowed to boycott a debate scheduled at the UCLA campus in solidarity with the workers, causing the Democratic National Committee to move the debate to Loyola Marymount University.) The contract includes wage and benefit increases, and limits the university’s ability to outsource jobs to private contractors. The patient care workers will vote on the contract on February 4th and 6th.

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