In today’s news and commentary, the U.S. labor market proves resilient, experts look back on — and ahead at — President Biden’s pro-worker agenda, and union momentum reaches Chipotle.
The latest Labor Department numbers describe a strong labor market, despite high inflation and rising interest rates. The U.S. economy added 372,000 jobs last month — much better than what many forecasters had predicted. Some of that growth, one economist explained, “reflects a lot of consumer demand. There’s a lot of people out there traveling, going out to eat, and so I think there’s still a lot of demand for those workers.” “The labor market,” another economist described, “is a bright spot” in the country’s economic recovery. “We are continuing to see a strong job market despite concerns about a recession elsewhere in the economy.” This has led to some “cautious optimism” among White House officials that the economy will avert a recession: “Numbers like this are just very much inconsistent with any kind of recession call.” But other economists aren’t so sure.
President Biden has repeatedly pledged to be “the most pro-union president in American history.” A year and a half into his presidency, has he delivered on that promise? A recent report by Steven Greenhouse in the Century Foundation details “what Biden has done — and still can do — for workers.” “Biden,” Greenhouse notes, “can make a strong case that he has delivered to blue-collar America.” He’s been, one expert says, perhaps “the most pro-worker and pro-union president” in decades: “You’d have to go back to F.D.R. to get anybody close.” That’s played out at the level of both rhetoric and policy.
“But,” Greenhouse acknowledges, “along with the praise comes plenty of disappointment” — chief among the President’s failures, his inability to get the narrow Democratic majorities in Congress to enact his signature Build Back Better plan. These shortcomings are in part responsible for the President’s poor public approval ratings — a trend that “bodes ill for the Democrats’ chances in this fall’s elections.” “[T]o show America’s workers that their concerns are indeed being addressed and that they are being listened to,” Greenhouse urges, the President and his administration should “redouble their efforts” to push for a bold pro-worker piece of legislation — something like paid family leave or a major childcare subsidy.
A rejuvenated labor movement is gradually sweeping the country — and Chipotle workers appear poised to join it. Weeks after a Maine Chipotle location was the first to file a petition for a union election, employees at a Detroit Chipotle are doing the same. Chipotle union activity comes at a time when over a dozen Chipotle workers in New York City alleged that they were fired or had their hours slashed without cause — in violation of the city’s new wrongful-discharge law.