Today’s News & Commentary — July 13, 2018
Thousands of workers rallied in Columbus, Ohio yesterday, pushing for a solution to the country’s growing pension crisis, the Associated Press reports. Congressional field hearings on the issue will be held today in Columbus at 2 p.m., and will include both of Ohio’s U.S. senators. The hearings will examine the financial effects of potential pension failures —pensions which were guaranteed by the federal government. Columbus was chosen for the field hearings in part because of the state’s deep connection to the pension crisis, with 66,000 Ohioan pensioners in the at-risk plans.
House Republicans are attempting to block the District of Columbia from raising wages for its tipped workers, Vox reports. This week Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Gary Palmer (R-AL) introduced an amendment to the House’s spending bill in order to block a D.C. ballot initiative from going into effect. The ballot initiative, passed by D.C. voters in June, would raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.33 to $15 and hour by 2025. The Republican amendment utilizes the federal government’s control over the D.C. budget to block the city from using any funds “to carry out” the new minimum wage law.
Seven national fast-food chains are ending their “no-poach” policies, which prevent franchises from hiring workers away from other franchises of the same chain, the Associated Press reports. The move comes after the threat of legal action against the companies by the state of Washington. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced binding agreements with the companies—McDonald’s, Auntie Anne’s, Arby’s, Carl’s Jr., Jimmy John’s, Cinnabon and Buffalo Wild Wings—on Thursday. The anti-competitive practice blocked workers from one franchise from leveraging their experience into a higher paying job at another franchise. Ferguson told the Associated Press, “Our state antitrust laws are very clear: Businesses must compete for workers the same way as they compete for customers.” For more on the crucial connection between antitrust and labor policy see Wednesday’s OnLabor post from Sharon Block, Benjamin Elga, and David Seligman.
Inflation hit its highest rate in six years this June, fully offsetting wage growth for the second month in a row, the Wall Street Journal reports. Consumer prices rose .1 percent in June, according to the Department of Labor, bringing yearly inflation to the 2.9 percent, the highest level since February 2012. Taking inflation into account, workers’ hourly earnings are the same as a year earlier, and non-supervisory workers saw their hourly earnings fall .2 percent. The low wages come despite historically low numbers of unemployed workers, which would typically be accompanied by wage growth. Los Angeles Times journalist Michael Hitzik argued in a column this week that these low wages are the result of companies funneling their profits to shareholders instead of workers—all while bemoaning their inability to find skilled employees.