Today's News & Commentary — January 30
In continuing news from Ferguson, Missouri, the city’s public safety committee meeting grew tense after a participant accused Jeff Roorda, a police union official, of pushing her. The Los Angeles Times reports that Mr. Roorda, who was wearing a “I am Darren Wilson” bracelet, appeared to bump into the woman and grab her arm. The St. Louis Police Department is investigating the incident. St. Louis City Alderman Antonio French said the confrontation was “another example and a reminder of how divided our community remains right now.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that a three judge panel in a New York appeals court will take up the question of unpaid internships today. The Labor Department requires that unpaid interns do not replace staff or perform the work of regular staff. Former interns for Hearst, a magazine publishing company, and Fox Searchlight Pictures (the “Black Swan” case) have sued their former employers claiming that they did “productive work” and should have been paid.
A U.S. District Judge ruled yesterday that Lyft drivers may be employees, rather than independent contractors, under California law, Politico reports. Drivers have sued both Lyft and Uber for misclassification. A different judge will hear the Uber case today.
The New York Times looks at three states that offer paid parental leave: California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. Economists find that while paid leave does not necessarily help businesses, the policy does not seem to harm them either. Paid leave policies increase the number of people who take time off, particularly low-income parents who might have taken no leave or stopped working. Paid leave also increases the probability that mothers will return to work after taking time to spend with their children, eventually working more hours and earning higher wages. Social scientists warn that paid leave policies could backfire if employers penalize parents by denying promotions or raises. President Obama, who recently gave federal employees six weeks of paid parenting leave, said, “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is.”
Politico reports that Wisconsin State Senate Leader, Scott Fitzgerald, wants the Senate to take up right to work legislation. Governor Scott Walker has called right to work legislation a “distraction” from other priorities.
Lydia DePillis, in the Washington Post, writes about why internet journalists are not organizing. De Pillis points to loss of employee leverage combined with a younger generation of workers less familiar with unions. The new media workforce also tends to see management as an ally, rather than an adversary.
New claims for unemployment insurance have dropped to their lowest level since 2000, the New York Times reports. Claims dropped by 43,000, the biggest weekly decline since November 2012. Homeownership rates remain low, but might increase with the labor market improving and the government moving to increase access to credit.
In Paris, a spontaneous strike, in response to a passenger assault of a driver, has halted service on Europe’s busiest commuter line. The disruption occurs after the implementation of heightened security measures in France in response to terrorist attacks that killed 17 people, the New York Times reports.