Today’s News & Commentary — March 19, 2018

Published March 19th, 2018 -  - 03.19.189


Reuters reports that the United States State Department, Coca-Cola, and two additional companies are planning to commence a pilot program using blockchain technology to battle forced-labor practices across the globe.  Currently, approximately 25 million people are victims of forced labor worldwide, and nearly half of those victims reside in the Asia-Pacific region.

The United States Department of Labor released new employment data on Friday, and the labor market continues to tighten, nearing equilibrium.  Indeed, the demand for workers (i.e, the number of available jobs) continues to increase while the supply of available workers (i.e., the number of unemployed workers) continues to decrease.  As such, the Wall Street Journal asks: “Is America Running Out of Unemployed People to Fill Jobs?” 

The South Bay AFL-CIO and the California Nurses Association AFL-CIO–boasting approximately 100,000 union members and 80,000 union members, respectively–have officially endorsed the “Recall Judge Aaron Perksy” campaign.  A recall election for Judge Perksy, who was widely criticized nationally for his lenient sexual assault sentencing of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, is scheduled for June 5 in California.

Labor unions that represent pilots from the budget-airline Ryanair reached an agreement on Saturday “to form a transnational pilot group to negotiate at a pan-European level,” reports Reuters.  In December, after long refusing to recognize pilot unions, Ryanair announced a willingness to change its position amid threats of Christmas strikes.  However, to date, union recognition talks are still ongoing, and Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has suggested that the company is not close to an agreement with unions in Portugal and Ireland.

Betty Pina, an Alaskan Airlines co-pilot, says that she was drugged and raped by a Paul Engelien, a fellow pilot, on an overnight layover in Minneapolis last June.  The Seattle Times reports that she is now suing Alaskan Airlines, her employer, for the actions of Engelien and the airline’s “subsequent failure to hold him accountable.”  After reporting the event, Pina was placed on paid leave from June to January.  Despite the allegations, Engelien is still employed by Alaskan Airlines, having been on paid leave since June.

The Japanese Trade Union Confederation, also known as Rengo, has announced a preliminary 2.16% wage increase for workers in many of Japan’s larger companies.  (Importantly, this number does not include data from many smaller companies; final results are expected be announced over the summer.)  While a 2.16% gain is an improvement from last year’s 1.98% increase, corporate profits in Japan are currently at record highs.  Late last year, Prime Minster Abe Shinzo began urging Japanese companies to increase wages by 3% in 2018 to help the country reach its goal of 2% inflation.

The New York Times examines the impact of FedEx’s integration of robots into its Kernersville, North Carolina shipping hub, and the early consensus isn’t nearly as bad as many employees initially feared.  Since the first robot arrived in Kernersville early last year, the number of jobs created at the hub continues to greatly outweigh the number of roles that have been replaced through robotics.  This reflects the greater trend seen at Amazon generally, as its workforce has grown by 300,000 people since introducing its first robots.  At least for now, the article suggests, “a robot might take your role, but not necessarily your job.”

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