News & Commentary

March 30, 2016

If Chicago students arrive to teacher-less schools Friday, it won’t be an April Fools joke. The Chicago Teachers Union is preparing for a one-day strike with teach-ins and rallies, in response to alleged school closings, furloughs and layoffs next year. Through the walkout, the union intends to highlight its contract dispute with Chicago Public Schools as well push Illinois Governor Rauner to approve funding for public education and social service agencies, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Amidst a contentious election season, one political issue unites disgruntled voters: blaming economic woes on foreign trade. According to the New York Times, many voters think international trade deals have hurt American workers, and politicians’ rhetoric fans their flame. Economists accuse politicians of “following in the footsteps of politicians of all stripes who have found it convenient to blame the boogeyman of unfair trade for domestic economic problems.” But voters for both Trump and Sanders reflect a disappointment with the politicians’ and economists’ long history of “understat[ing] the costs of globalization, which tend to be more concentrated than the benefits.”

Trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership made one meaningful difference this week, though. US Customs and Border Patrol seized a shipment of goods produced by forced labor for the first time in 15 years, which they could at last do because the TPP closed a loophole in enforcement mechanisms. Quartz explains that the TPP now prohibits goods made with forced labor from entering the US, even if they meet “consumptive demand.” China’s confiscated shipment of soda ash made by forced prison labor may be the first of many goods to now come under US scrutiny.

In the wee hours of the morning, every minute matters. On Monday, a company at the Port of Oakland terminal fired 22 workers who refused to begin their workday at 6:45 a.m., instead of the 7:00 start time agreed upon in their contract. SF Gate describes the shutdown at the port that left a ship and a long string of trucks idle. After several hours, an arbitrator was summoned and ruled that both the firing and the work stoppage by the other workers were improper.

Not to be outdone by California, New York considers a $15 minimum wage deal. The American Prospect calls New York’s dynamics even more complex than the Golden State’s, as Governor Cuomo must convince the Republican-controlled Senate to pass an increase. In exchange, upstate Republicans will likely seek industry-based exemptions and a longer implementation period, or perhaps even tax cuts and looser business regulations. Heading in the opposite direction, North Carolina and Arizona are using preemption to prevent cities from passing wage hikes.

The gender gap is about more than pay; it also shows up in labor force participation. Although young men and women enter the workforce at comparable rates, the gap begins to widen at age 25 and peaks among 35 – 44 year olds (and is more striking after taking part-time work into account). Forbes notes the unsurprising link between child rearing and workforce participation. As American families face a society without paid family leave and with prohibitively high childcare costs, wom

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