News & Commentary

July 17, 2015

The number of Americans claiming first-time unemployment benefits fell by 15,000 last week to about 281,000, The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.  According to the New York Times, this drop, along with reported 10-year high of confidence among home builders, indicates “underlying momentum in the economy.”  Nevertheless, the Times explains that while the labor market and housing industry may be solid, the manufacturing industry continues to struggle, due largely to a stronger dollar and lower oil prices.

Walmart is trying to revive the American manufacturing industry, Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post reports.  Walmart is two years into its 10-year plan to buy $250 billion more in products from U.S. factories.  Critics point out that $250 billion is only about 5% of Walmart’s net sales over the past decade, and that even if Walmart does live up to its pledge, it still remains the nation’s biggest importer.  While skeptics also say it’s a PR stunt to get back into America’s good graces, the advances in technology and rising standard of living and wages in China may help Walmart make good on its promises.  At Walmart’s third annual manufacturing summit, would-be suppliers pitched their products in an Open Call meeting with Walmart. The catch, DePillis explains, is that “the same technology that helps factories compete eliminates the need for many workers.”  As a result, Walmart’s investment is going to need to be greater than ever before in order to replace the jobs that have been lost.

According to TIME, U.S. District Judge William Alsup has certified a class of over 12,000 current and former Apple retail workers in their suit against Apple seeking compensation for the time taken to search their bags to make sure they haven’t stolen merchandise.  Reuters reports Apple argued, in its opposition of class certification, that not all store managers conducted bag searches, and that any searches that did occur took a tiny amount of time.  Named plaintiffs Amanda Frlekin and Dean Pelle are seeking an $5 million in lost overtime wages, due to the checks and an injunction requiring Apple to terminate or modify its policy, which they allege as being both time consuming—including waiting in line to be checked—and demeaning—since they were often performed in front of customers.  This is the most recent update in the suit, which was originally filed in 2013, and dismissed in 2014 after the Supreme Court ruled against Amazon employees suing the company’s temp agency for overtime wages to compensate for waiting in line for security checks.  The case is Frlekin et al. v. Apple Inc., 3:13-cv-03451 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Huffington Post reports that a former engineer and employee of Ford Motor Co. is suing the automaker for firing him for posting an anti-gay comment on the company website.  Thomas Banks, the plaintiff, describes himself as a Christian, and alleges that his termination constitutes religious discrimination.  His supervisors told him his comments violated Ford’s anti-harassment policy.  He filed a complaint with the EEOC, which declined to pursue it.  The case is in the Eastern District of Michigan and available here.

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