Today’s News & Commentary—July 3, 2019
On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that a group of prominent Republicans will file an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to rule that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination against gay men, lesbians, and transgender people in the workplace. After returning from its summer recess, the Court will hear three cases concerning Title VII’s application to sexual orientation discrimination. Most federal courts have interpreted Title VII to exclude sexual orientation discrimination, but the Second and Sixth Circuits recently reached the opposite conclusion. Signers of the amicus brief include Alan Simpson, the former senator from Wyoming; Mark McKinnon, the media advisor for George W. Bush; Meg Whitman, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard; and Ken Mehlman, the former chairman of the Republican National Committee.
In the Midwest, farmers are struggling in the wake of unprecedented rainfall. The Washington Post reported that heavy spring rains have destroyed smaller farms that lacked insurance coverage, and prevented all farmers from planting corn and soy beans on schedule. Corn and soy growth are farther behind than they have ever been at this point in the year, according to nearly four decades of data from the Agriculture Department. A large but unknown number of farmers have been forced to exercise a crop insurance provision that allows them to take a limited payout if they were unable to plant certain acres, but many have also begun to accrue late-planting penalties from crop insurance providers that reduce final coverage. Those losses may force many farms out of business. “Right now, farmer stress levels are really high,” said a soybean specialist. “Farmers are worried about losing their farms.”
Also on Tuesday, Vox reported on the results of the first study analyzing the effects of a $15 federal minimum wage, by economists at the University of California Berkeley. The study, which analyzed pay data for households in more than 750 counties, is the only major pay study to rely on county-level income data, making its conclusions more precise than previous studies. It also focuses on the impact of raising pay in areas with the largest share of minimum wage workers, while previous research focused on cities and states that have already raised the minimum wage, where workers tend to make more money. The study found that a $15 minimum wage would result in little to no job loss and dramatically reducing inequality. For workers in rural counties, the effects of a $15 minimum wage would be particularly significant.
Members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra are entering the third week of a picket outside of their concert hall. The musicians have been picketing since June 17, when the orchestra’s management locked them out without pay to try to pressure them to agree to a contract guaranteeing fewer weeks of work and reduced salaries. Under the proposed contract, the musicians would make less than half of the salary earned by members of the neighboring National Symphony Orchestra, in Washington, DC. While the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has thrived under the leadership of Marin Alsop, the only female music director of a major American orchestra, its negotiating committee fears that the proposed contract will cause it to lose musicians to better-paying orchestras. Management claims that the cuts are desperately needed, as philanthropic donations have been diverted toward education, healthcare, and economic issues.