Today’s News & Commentary — July 2, 2015

Published July 2nd, 2015 -  - 07.02.151


Los Angeles is set to ease the minimum wage requirements for some nonprofits, according to the Los Angeles Times. On Tuesday, the City Council agreed that nonprofits that hire and train disadvantaged workers, such as former inmates and the homeless, will not be required to pay them L.A.’s new minimum wage for the first year and a half of their employment. The proposal came in response to warnings by certain nonprofits that without such an exemption, they would not be able to help as many people. The L.A. County Federation opposed the plan, but a number of workers being assisted by these nonprofits, as well as the SEIU Local 72 and various business groups, supported it.

The Los Angeles Times also reports that in response to a “billing debacle” at the L.A. Department of Water and Power, in which the DWP sent inaccurate bills to many customers, a watchdog group has issued a report criticizing the way the agency hires and contracts workers. It claims that municipal rules and union agreements slow down the hiring process, which rendered the DWP unable to hire enough new workers to deal with the erroneous billing system and respond to customer complaints. The report recommends various changes to current hiring practices, and hopes that some of these changes will rectify what it sees as an “imbalance between labor and management.”

The private sector added 237,000 jobs in June. This figure comes from a national employment report compiled by payroll processor Automatic Data Processing (ADP) and reported in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. The ADP report comes ahead of the Labor Department employment report, which will be released later today. Economists expect that the Labor Department will report an increase of 233,000 non-farm jobs (which include government positions). This will push the unemployment rate to 5.4%. Although many expect the unemployment rate to continue to drop, the Wall Street Journal notes that it may take more time than economists think.

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel has “called for a broad rethinking of how teacher pensions in Illinois are funded,” reports the New York Times. His call came in response to a $200 million budget cut, which Mr. Emanuel labeled “intolerable, unacceptable and unconscionable” — and yet nonetheless necessary after the district borrowed money to make a required $634 million pension payment. Currently, Illinois law separates Chicago teacher pensions from the fund for educators in the rest of the state. The mayor has called for either a single pension system for all Illinois educators, or for a compromise that would have the state take on more pension responsibilities, Chicago property-owners pay higher taxes, and city teachers contribute more toward their pensions.

Politico has more coverage on the Supreme Court’s cert grant to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Ass’n. As Professor Sachs told Morning Shift, “[i]t’s very much an open question” whether there are five votes to overturn Abood, but as Professor Fisk has pointed out, Justice Scalia may turn out to be the critical vote.

Lydia DePillis at the Washington Post has also weighed in on Friedrichs. According to DePillis, “[t]he Friedrichs case has advanced on the labor movement like an unexpected hurricane.” Although the case caught the union movement off guard, however, it is also spurring it to action. Unions have revamped their efforts to attract new members, and AFSCME has launched a particularly comprehensive and successful campaign: since the beginning of last year, it has gained 140,000 more full members.

In other union news, Govern for California, a loose network of Bay Area investors, is trying to “bust the government-union monopoly in Sacramento.” The Wall Street Journal describes how, by funding legislative candidates who are willing to take on unions, Govern for California hopes to effect change in the areas of education and fiscal reform. 

Finally, the war in Syria continues to have devastating effects. A new report on child labor has found that many Syrian children — some as young as 6 — are working to supplement family incomes. Although this news is perhaps unsurprising, the New York Times explains that the report adds “a largely overlooked dimension to the crisis that has engulfed [Syria] and its neighbors since the war began in March 2011.”

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