News & Commentary

May 14, 2015

The American Civil Liberties Union is urging the EEOC and other state and federal agencies to investigate potential gender discrimination in Hollywood’s hiring practices, the Los Angeles Times reports. Citing various studies, the ACLU points out that the number of female film and television directors remains low. If the authorities find a pattern of gender discrimination, they could take legal action or try and mediate a solution. A legal challenge might be difficult, as many directors are independent contractors and employment discrimination laws only cover employees, the New York Times reports. While the ACLU”s effort could put pressure on an industry that considers itself progressive, some female directors are worried about backlash. Lexi Alexander, director of the 2008 comic book movie “Punisher: War Zone,” said, “we are totally getting punished for speaking out about this. Even if there’s noise to hire more women, it’s the quiet ones who will get hired.”

NPR reports that Senate leaders have reached a deal on moving forward with legislation granting President Obama fast-track authority to enter into the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The trade deal remains controversial. If senators want to read the TPP, they must go to a secured, sound-proof room with an official from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office present, surrender their cell phones, and leave any notes in the room. The White House says that the secrecy is necessary while the 12 countries involved continue to negotiate the agreement. Labor unions have been especially critical of the TPP. According to the AFL-CIO, “negotiations are largely secret—but what little evidence is publicly available does not indicate the agreement is likely to break new ground for working families.”

In the Washington Post, Lydia DePillis reports on Facebook’s new policy to pay contract workers $15 an hour and offer more time off. She points out that the new benefits package for janitors and cooks falls far below the benefits for Facebook employees, which include 21 vacation days, unlimited sick days, and four months off for new parents. And $15 is still a low hourly wage in Silicon Valley. Contract workers who have unionized, like shuttle bus drivers at Apple, Yahoo, eBay, and Facebook, have done better: under their new contract, these workers will make upwards of $21 an hour and enjoy 11 paid holidays, 9 paid sick days, and full employer-paid healthcare. Facebook’s new policy could also face potential compliance issues. Facebook says it does not know how many employees the new policy will cover. With no government inspectors or union shop stewards to ensure that workers receive the right benefits, the rules may not be enforced.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some employers are telling same-sex couples that they must marry or they will lose their benefits. The companies previously offered benefits to the partners of gay employees because marriage was not an option. Now that same-sex marriage is legal in 37 states and the District of Columbia, some of these companies say their employees must marry to maintain healthcare insurance for their partners.

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