News & Commentary

January 7, 2015

The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. Steel Corp. will idle plants in Ohio and Texas and lay off 756 workers as a result of the recent collapse in global oil prices. Because oil prices have plunged to about $50 per barrel, U.S. Steel, which makes steel pipes and tubes for oil and gas exploration and drilling, has seen demand for its products decrease as energy companies have cut back drilling. The layoffs will take effect by early March.

Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the main New York City police union, reported yesterday that the union has not initiated or supported a deliberate slowdown of police enforcement, despite evidence that there has been a steep reduction in arrests and summonses for the last two weeks. Lynch explained the reduction by citing “precautions” the police department is taking to protect police officers, alluding to the recent shootings in the Bronx this past Monday and in Brooklyn two weeks ago. The Wall Street Journal reports that such precautions have resulted in a 55.9% decrease in arrests and a 91.5% drop in criminal summonses. To address so-called NYPD slowdown, Commissioner Bill Bratton has called a meeting for tomorrow to address relations between officers and Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Think Progress reports that nearly 3,000 mental health employees in California plan to strike next week to protest Kaiser Permanente’s failure to hire mental health clinicians to meet growing patient demand. The mental health workers, who are represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers, will organize picket lines at over 35 locations beginning on January 12. The union has argued that patients should not have to wait months for therapy appointments and their whistleblower complaints resulted in a $4-million fine from the California Department of Managed Health Care in June 2013. However, according to NUHW, Kaiser has failed since then to remedy the shortage of mental health workers.

The Allied Pilots Association (APA), the pilots union at American Airlines, has agreed to the carrier’s final contract offer, which will reduce in a retroactive 23% wage increase if the members accept the deal when they vote later this month. However, APA voiced concerns about the contract, despite agreeing to it, calling some of the language incomplete with regard to the bidding process for domestic and international flights. Nevertheless, APA will work with management this week to finalize the contract before putting it up for a vote later this week.

In international news, the Guardian reports that a policy implemented in July 2013, which introduced fees for employees pursuing discrimination claims in employment tribunals, resulted in a 81% drop in claims from 2013 to 2014. The introduction of fees for filing a claim (up to £250) and for hearings (up to £950) has corresponded in a decrease in all types of claims, the steepest of which was in sex discrimination cases (81.4% down). Although the fees were introduced to minimize frivolous claims, Citizens Advice, an independent charity, has reported that the fees are prohibitive or deterrent for four out of five workers.

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