Today's News & Commentary — June 10, 2015

Published June 10th, 2015 -  - 06.10.152


Thousands of Chicago public school teachers and their supporters marched through the city on Tuesday evening, amidst contract negotiations between the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and the Chicago Board of Education. According to the Chicago Tribune, CTU is seeking a one-year contract with a three percent raise, while the Chicago Board of Education is wants a three-year deal with a one percent raise in the final year. The union and Chicago Public Schools reached an agreement over their last contract after a seven-day strike in 2012.

New York became the third state to grant undocumented immigrants admission to the state bar, the New York Times reports. Last week, an appellate panel of the State Supreme Court approved Cesar Vargas’s application to the bar, which he first filed in 2012. Vargas qualifies for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, and the court wrote that “it found ‘no legal impediment or rational basis for withholding the privilege of practicing law in the state of New York from undocumented immigrants who have been granted DACA relief.” Last year, the New York state legislature failed to pass a bill that would allow unauthorized immigrants to practice law.

In an effort to curb rising unemployment rates, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled measures to incentivize small and medium-sized companies to hire more employees, reports France 24. The measures include a bonus for companies the hire an employee for a yearlong contract, a cap on damages awarded to employees found to be fired unfairly, and a suspension of obligations to use staff for a certain number of hours. French employers claim that current labor laws discourage them from hiring new workers, for fear that they will be unable to later fire them.

HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, announced plans to lay off up to 50,000 employees, one-fifth of its total workforce. According to the New York Times, the bank aims to cut down on costs by selling underperforming businesses and increasing its investment in Asia. Several rival banks have also announced plans to reduce the size of their workforces.

Several reports indicated that the U.S. economy is improving, leading to a reduction in unemployment levels and a rise in worker leverage. Business Insider reports that the U.S. may reach “full employment” as soon as 2016. According to the New York Times, job openings increased to their highest level since 2000, while the number of unemployed job seekers per open job is down. In Massachusetts, reports the Boston Globe, the return of the employment rate to pre-recession levels has shifted the balance of power from employers to employees. But the benefits do not affect workers equally: the unemployment rate among nonwhite minorities and Hispanics is more than double the average rate for whites.

The U.S. Department of Labor will release an administrator interpretation of the criteria to properly classify a worker as an independent contractor. Law 360 quotes Wage and Hour Division administrator David Weil, stating that the determination of an independent contractor is “not a mechanical process, but it’s a holistic process of assessment.” Weil also announced that the DOL would soon reveal its proposed revised guidelines to the white collar exemptions from the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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