Today’s News & Commentary — March 15, 2017

Published March 15th, 2017 -  - 03.15.174


Labor and employment issues are in the spotlight this week as advocates continue the battle over the President’s pending nominees. Politico reports that “Democrats have settled on their line of attack against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee: He’s anti-worker!” Critics of Judge Gorsuch have focused on his ruling against a professor who lost her job after taking time off to recover from cancer and his dissent arguing that a truck driver who was fired for leaving his load to seek shelter after 2 1/2 hours without heat on a sub-freezing night was not protected by the Surface Transportation Assistance Act. Meanwhile, the conservative group America Rising Squared released a TV ad in favor of Alex Acosta, the President’s nominee for Secretary of Labor. The highlights include: a spotlight on the Acosta’s time at Harvard Law School, his history of fighting “radical Islamic terrorists,” and a ringing endorsement from Sen. Ted Cruz.

The New York State Board of Regents is getting rid of a teacher literary test found to have a disparate impact on prospective black and Hispanic teachers. The test, called the Academic Literary Skills Test (ALST), is one of four that prospective teachers must currently pass in New York. In 2015, a federal judge held that the ALST was not discriminatory, despite a 2014 study found that only 46 percent of Hispanic candidates and 41 percent of black candidates passed on the first try, compared with 64 percent of white candidates. The test also costs $131. Eliminating the test underscores New York’s commitment to increasing the number of non-white teachers, who currently make up less than 20% of the country’s public school teachers.

Politico  provides an excellent preview of the ways the rest of the world is “prepar[ing] to move on without [the] U.S. on trade” in the aftermath of the failed TPP. In sum, “other countries are ready to rush into the vacuum the U.S. is leaving behind.” New deals are already being negotiated by new blocs of countries – with China most notable among them. While the TPP was controversial among labor groups, the U.S. now stands to lose billions of dollars per year in export sales if it is edged out of new free trading blocs. Read more on labor standards under the TPP here.

Finally, Theresa May indicated this week that the U.K. will undergo a sharp break from the E.U. Millions of workers will be affected, and Science explained yesterday how scientists and researchers in particular are bracing for the shock. Between 2007 and 2013, scientists brought in over 7 billion Euros in EU funding, second only to Germany. However, it is now possible that U.K. researchers will no longer be able to apply for E.U. grants, nor recruit students and other researchers easily from other parts of Europe. And of course E.U. scientists who are not citizens of the U.K. are unsure if they will be able to remain in the country. To mitigate some of the effects, the U.K. government has pledged to increase its funding of  R&D by 23% over the next four years, and launching efforts to partner with non-E.U. countries on joint innovations. However, the situation is very much still “in limbo,” and some scientists fear they will be forced to spend the next 5-10 years focused on “damage limitation.”

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