News & Commentary

March 5, 2015

[Updated] Today, the Wisconsin Assembly begins the final stages of debate on a “right to work” bill, Reuters reports. Assuming it passes, Governor Scott Walker could sign it as early as next week. Reuters spoke with Ben Sachs, who explained that the law could weaken unions over time, and because unions typically support Democrats, this could eventually “disable[] the political opposition.”  We’ve explained the background of this bill and posted a legal analysis.

An op-ed in the Wall Street Journal argues that Wisconsin’s new “right to work” bill will increase economic competitiveness in that state. It cites evidence from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that “right to work” states have seen a faster increase in job growth between 2003 and 2013 than non-“right to work” states. CNBC News, however, writes that other researchers have found that “right to work” laws do not increase job growth at all.

The Washington Post and ProPublica both have reports on newly emerging flaws in the nation’s workers’ compensation system. The ProPublica investigative report documents how states have dramatically weakened workers’ compensation in the past two decades. It found that since 2003, 33 states have past laws limiting which employees can access compensation, and how much payment they can receive. It argues that this shifts the costs of workplace accidents to taxpayers and the injured worker. The Post adds that a on a recent Department of Labor report found that low-wage workers, and especially Latino workers, are disproportionately injured on the job. And because many of these workers are misclassified as independent contractors, they are less likely to report the injury, and less able to seek compensation.

In sports news, the New York Times reports that Major League Soccer players may go on strike. The players’ union and the league are in a dispute over salaries and free agency rules. Last year, the minimum salary was $36,500, and free agents (players who could be redrafted by another team) could only be paid at their pre-existing salary rate. The players union wants free agents to have the ability to negotiate for a higher salary and then choose which offer to accept, rather than being assigned to a new team with no say in the matter. A strike could be called as early as Wednesday.

The Center for Popular Democracy and the Economic Policy Institute, two liberal groups, have issued a new report calling on the Federal Reserve to “craft a monetary policy” that is conscious of the racial disparity in the job market, the New York Times reports. According to the Times, black unemployment remains higher than white employment, and black workers have seen a greater decrease in median wages since the recession began than white workers have. However, the Times argues that the Fed’s monetary policy can have little effect on this disparity.

The Washington Post published an interview with Larry Summers about the effect of automation on middle class jobs. Summers argued that technology is contributing to the elimination of middle class jobs and leading to income inequality. Moreover, he argued that providing more education won’t fix the income inequality problem—rather, workers need more power, and the country needs more progressive taxation.


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