Today’s News & Commentary—January 5, 2016
A new report has found that, since the adaptation of new rules by the National Labor Relations Board, unionization elections have both sped up the elections process and increased the number of union wins. Bloomberg BNA reports that when comparing a four-month period following the rule change to the same period the previous year “the NLRB resolved more elections than in the same period the previous year; these elections were resolved more quickly; unions prevailed more frequently; and the overwhelming majority of the quickest elections went labor’s way.”
Wisconsin’s public-sector unions have regrouped and changed tactics in response to laws passed at the urging of Gov. Scott Walker. Steven Greenhouse writes in The Guardian that unions have used messaging to emphasize the importance of unions to encourage the payment of dues. According the union leaders, the state legislation has had a crippling effect on the ability of workers to complain about problems like under-staffing.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised the minimum wage for state university workers to $15 an hour, but not everyone is happy. The New York Times reports that the executive measure will affect about 28,000 workers for the State University of New York system and entail gradual, geographically-segregated wage raises. While a representative of the Civil Service Employees Association welcomed the action, Politico New York reports that that it will not apply to workers for the City University of New York system. Barbara Bowen, the head of CUNY’s faculty and staff union, said that “Lifting the wage floor for fast-food workers, state employees and now SUNY workers is the right thing to do…Governor Cuomo listened to the growing demand from workers, students, labor unions, faith leaders and others. But singling out CUNY’s workers on the state payroll for exclusion is a monumental failure of progressive leadership.”
The mechanization of labor might be more to blame than other countries for the loss of American manufacturing jobs. The New York Times reports that pledges by presidential candidates to revive lost manufacturing jobs “are meant to appeal to disaffected workers, but they both oversimplify the problems and ignore the real source of trouble.” Economists and policy experts note that mechanization has been occurring since the 1950s and changed the skills needed to succeed in the modern workforce, so candidates should focus on education and innovation rather than restoring jobs that have been permanently lost to robots. Lawyers and others, however, might have less to worry about. The New York Times also reports that new studies suggest relatively few jobs can be completely automated. Furthermore, “even the most advanced A.I. technology would at best make only modest inroads into the legal profession.”
Finally, The American Prospect has highlighted a list of labor and employment issues to watch in 2016. They include right-to-work laws, the fate of public sector unions, the Fight for $15 movement, Department of Labor rules, the gig economy, and media coverage of organized labor.