News & Commentary

July 30, 2015

Hannah Belitz

Hannah Belitz is a student at Harvard Law School.

Presidential candidates are vying for the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, the New York Times reports. On Wednesday, Mike Huckabee, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley spoke before the AFL-CIO’s executive council, and Hillary Clinton and Jim Webb are scheduled to speak today. O’Malley acknowledged that he is unlikely to win the federation’s endorsement, but said that he would “work very hard to get as many endorsements” as possible. Sanders told reporters that he stressed his voting record and unsurpassed regard for the labor movement.

In what the New York Times described as “a rare appearance by a Republican candidate,” Huckabee said that he emphasized the necessity of dialogue between labor groups and the Republican party. Speaking to reporters after the closed-door session, Huckabee stated, “I don’t think that it’s fair to think of labor unions as the enemy of the Republican Party — I don’t see them as the enemy. I see them as millions of American workers who want good jobs for their families.” Huckabee is the only Republican candidate scheduled to meet with the executive council.

Politico explains that the AFL-CIO will not issue an endorsement without “policy specifics from the presidential candidates.” In particular, the federation “want[s] to know what their plan is to raise wages, what economic advisors they will listen to, and what actions they will take to make our economy fairer for working families.” The AFL-CIO will also weigh the candidates’ views on Joseph Stiglitz’s recent report calling for strengthened collective bargaining, and how serious they are about “rewriting the rules” of the economy,” Vox notes.

At the Washington Post, Lydia DePillis asks if there will “ever be an organics label for worker rights.” Unlike the organic label, which is now ubiquitous, labels ensuring humane working conditions are much harder to find. However, the seeds of progress have been planted — at least when it comes to tomatoes. In the past seven years, retailers from Whole Foods to Wal-Mart have joined the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program, a “partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms.” Beginning in September, Stop & Shop will join the program, too — but just for tomatoes. According to Greg Asbed, the Coalition’s co-founder, one has to be careful regarding the speed with which the program moves. “Because we take the enforcement so seriously,” he said, “we take a deep and incremental approach towards expansion, so when we say the protections are in place, they really are.”

Federal Reserve policy makers say that the labor market is continuing to improve, according to Bloomberg. As a result, the Fed may raise interest rates this year for the first time in almost a decade, although it remains to be seen if and when it will do so. In order to justify a rate increase, the Fed explained it needs to see “some further improvement in the labor market,” and it must be “reasonably confident” that inflation will move back to its 2 percent goal over the medium term.

Controversy surrounding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) continues. On Monday, John Kerry released the annual Trafficking in Human Persons report (TIP), moving Malaysia from Tier 3, the worst designation, to its “Tier 2 Watch List.” Human rights groups, Malaysian activists, and a number of U.S. Senators have accused Obama’s administration of manipulating the records in order to allow Malaysia to join the TPP. As Vice explains, the upgrade enables the administration to “fast-track” Malaysia’s membership in the TPP, because countries with a Tier 3 designation are barred from participating in the trade deal.

Enjoy OnLabor’s fresh takes on the day’s labor news, right in your inbox.