News & Commentary

May 1, 2019

Joe Biden kicked off his presidential campaign by making an appeal to labor unions.  At a union hall rally in Pittsburgh on Monday, Biden spoke before 600 people, promising to advocate for middle-class families and painting himself as a “union man.”  While the 300,000-member strong International Association of Fire Fighters has since endorsed Biden, other unions are more hesitant.  AFL-CIO spokesman John Weber stated that his union was in “no rush to settle, and [not] interested in anything short of a full-throated, unapologetic advocate for the labor movement[.]”  Meanwhile, the presidents of both the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union praised Biden but pointed out that they have equally strong relationships with other pro-union Democratic candidates, such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

According to the Wall Street Journal, women are filling an increasing number of blue-collar jobs.  Since 2000, the number of women working in the transportation sector, which includes truck drivers, delivery people, and warehouse workers, increased by 43 percent; women now comprise almost 9% of all truck drivers.  Over that same period, representation of women in police and protective service jobs increased by 40 percent, and in construction by 23 percent.  The Journal credits a number of factors for these gains, including broader recruiting efforts by companies, a tight labor market, and an increasing number of men attending college.  However, the publication warns that, in the past, similar gains have been wiped out during economic downturns.

Raising the minimum wage could reduce national suicide rates, reports New York Magazine.  According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, the national suicide rate increased 33 percent between 1999 and 2017.  But researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found that a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage “dropped suicides among men and women without college degrees  aged 18 to 64 by 3.6 percent.”  When combined with a 10 percent increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit, Berkeley researchers anticipate that a higher minimum wage could save 1,230 lives per year.  Other reports have previously linked a higher minimum wage to a reduction in mortalitySome 18.6 million American workers are currently paid below the country’s average minimum wage of $11.80.

On Monday night, the Mexican Senate voted unanimously in favor of overhauling the country’s labor law.  Workers in Mexico will now have the right to vote for union representation and to approve labor contracts via secret ballots.  The legislation was introduced at the request of U.S. House Democrats, who refused to debate passage of the United States-Canada-Mexico Agreement before receiving Mexico’s assurance that it would protect its workers’ right to unionize.  The reforms will take effect after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ratifies the law.

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