News & Commentary

March 25, 2015

The Los Angeles Times reports that negotiations are set to resume in the Baja California farmworkers’ strike that has “all but stopped the winter harvest, right at its peak.”  Mexican authorities have sent more than 1,000 police and military personnel to the region, and protesters have “complained of unlawful arrests and police mistreatment.”  According to local labor leaders, growers in the region “haven’t given raises in years, refuse to pay overtime and government-required benefits, and allow crew bosses to sexually harass female workers.”  The striking workers are asking for a substantial increase in wages, as well as a commitment to comply with all labor laws.

Public-sector unions in Illinois have won an initial victory in their fight against Governor Bruce Rauner’s executive order blocking the collection of fair-share fees, according to the Chicago Tribune.  After unions sued to challenge the order, the Governor sought to remove the case to federal court.  But the U.S. District Court held that the suit should be decided in state court.  As the Tribune notes, “Unions contend that Rauner is deliberately choking their resources in an attempt to weaken their position as they head into negotiations for a new employment contract, which is supposed to take effect July 1.”

Writing in the Washington Post, political science professor Matt Buehler describes how labor unions in Morocco took advantage of the political climate of the Arab spring, when “popular protests . . . created exceptional opportunities during which political movements could vocalize demands, pressure regimes and force concessions.”  In Buehler’s account, the unions, “[f]orcing the hand of the regime,” won significant concessions including an increase in wages for all public employees and a “70 percent increase in retirement pensions.”

In further international news, the Washington Post reports on an Associated Press investigation on the use of slave labor in the global seafood trade.  The investigation focuses on a number of Burmese men who were “brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish.”  According to the report, the complexity of global markets makes it extremely difficult to accurately determine when seafood has been caught with slave labor; the “intricate web of connections [that] separates the fish we eat from the men who catch it . . . obscures a brutal truth: Your seafood may come from slaves.”

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