News & Commentary

March 26, 2015

On Wednesday agribusinesses will begin negotiations with the coalition of Baja California farmworkers who are on strike, the Los Angeles Times reports. After more than 200 people were arrested in last week’s protests, 1,000 police and soldiers have been sent to the area. Mexico’s National Commission for Human Rights have also sent observers to Baja California in response to complaints of unlawful arrests and police mistreatment.

Microsoft is requiring contractors that do business with the company to provide workers with 15 days of paid sick leave, the New York Times reports. Bradford L. Smith, General Counsel for Microsoft, said, “the research shows that employees who do get these kinds of benefits are far likelier to be happier, have higher morale and are far more likely to be productive.” Workers’ rights advocates have increasingly expressed concern about contract workers. In the tech industry full-time workers often earn six figures and enjoy generous benefits while contract workers make poverty-level wages and do not receive benefits. Under pressure from workers and labor groups, other tech companies have also implemented worker-friendly policies. Apple and Google have hired security guards as full-time employees rather than contract workers, while Facebook agreed to substantial wage increases after its shuttle drivers unionized. Lydia DePillis, in the Washington Post, also covers the development.

Politico reports that the White House will launch a “Lead on Leave–Empowering Working Families Across America” tour. Senior administration officials will meet with employers, workers, and officials to discuss the benefits of paid sick leave. According to polls, there is widespread national support for mandatory paid family leave. 

The Los Angeles Times reports that the number of applicants for unemployment benefits dropped again last week. For the last three weeks the claims have been below 300,000, which economists say is consistent with strong growth.

The United Auto Workers is trying to organize a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi, according to the Wall Street JournalThe UAW was unsuccessful in its previous efforts to organize employees at Japanese auto factories based in the U.S. The union plans to focus this campaign on the abuse of temporary workers and points to progress at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which On Labor has covered extensively.

The UAW will begin negotiating a new labor contract for Detroit auto workers this summer. The Wall Street Journal reports that the focus will be healthcare rather than wages, due to the Affordable Care Act’s so-called Cadillac tax. The new law imposes a 40% excise tax on high cost healthcare plans. The union and employers are arguing over which party will be responsible for the new costs.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Boeing employees in South Carolina will vote on whether they want to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers at the end of April. Boeing and IAM have had conflicts for over a decade, which played a role in Boeing’s decision to choose South Carolina as the site for a nonunion assembly line.


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