News & Commentary

June 24, 2015

Airport workers are fighting for—and winning—contracts that guarantee higher wages. The Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis writes that the Philadelphia City Council signed a lease with several airlines that requires a wage increase for airport workers to $12 per hour. San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Seattle all require wages or benefits above the state minimum for airport workers. But SEIU and UNITE-HERE continue to face obstacles to unionization and wage increases in campaigns in other cities.

Trade unions warned European Union member states that they might push for Britain to quit the EU if the states allow Prime Minister David Cameron to weaken worker rights. The Guardian reports that the GMB, a 631,000-member trade union and large supporter of Labour, sent warning letters to all 27 EU member states. Cameron has not announced his proposed changes, but trade unions speculate that he will seek an exemption for the UK from working time and agency workers directives.

The Department of Labor inducted Frank Kameny, an early leader in the gay rights movement, into its Hall of Honor, reports The Hill. Kameny founded the first gay rights organization in Washington, D.C. after being fired from his job and barred from federal government employment because of his sexual orientation. The late astronomer and civil rights activist joins women and men who have been honored for pushing for better workplaces in America.

Governor Scott Walker has taken on university professors as his latest target, by removing tenure protection from Wisconsin state law. According to the Los Angeles Times, the provision is included as part of the latest state budget, which cuts higher education funding by $250 million in the next two years. Although the board of regents approved language to maintain tenure protections, the state reserves the right to lay off professors because of budget issues.

In a New York Times column, Clair Cain Miller writes on the increasing political popularity of paid sick leave. Once a far-fetched idea, advocates now see hope for federal legislation on paid sick leave and family leave. Economists and researchers say that the keys to successful paid leave policies include spreading costs across employees or taxpayers (rather than exclusively on employers), and crafting polices that both men and women will use.

Politico forecasts that this week the Labor Department will likely announce a new proposed upper threshold for salaried workers to be eligible for overtime. The current threshold is $23,660; the agency is expected to nearly double this figure, qualifying more employees for time-and-a-half pay when they work more than 40 hours in a given week.

Los Angeles county Supervisor Sheila Kuehl has proposed an ordinance to raise the minimum wage in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. But Kuehl must confront opponents within the Board of Supervisors and a newly published study by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. According to the Los Angeles Times, the study’s executive summary stated that an increase in the minimum wage has “little impact, if any, on poverty.” Kuehl called the executive summary an “opinion piece” and its conclusions “dishonest.”

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Labor announced that women have been granted the right to work as chefs in hotel kitchens, writes the International Business Times. The permission departs from countrywide policy, in a state where women must ask a male guardian for permission to work.


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